HEADQUARTERS NINTH NEW. YORK VOLS., NEAR SHARPSBURGH, MD.,
Sept. 20, l862.
Col. H. I. Fairchild,
Commanding 1st Brigade, 3d Division, 9th Army Corps.
COLONEL : I beg to report that in accordance with your orders I left Frederick with my regiment on the morning of the 13th, and took position about three miles on, the Jefferson road. I here received orders from Col. Bush, of the United States Lancers, to reconnoitre the enemy, who was reported in front in position with artillery and cavalry. I did so by throwing forward company B, Lieut. Bartholomew, on the left, who soon reported the enemy as having left the position he occupied the night before, with three guns and a small cavalry force, and the road in front clear. Meanwhile, I detached companies C and H, Capt. Parisen and Lieut. McKechnie, to the right in the woods, who soon discovered, engaged and drove a large picket force of the enemy's cavalry across the fields toward Middletown. While the operations were going on, I advanced the main body of my regiment, consisting of five infantry and one battery company, with five howitzers, on the main road as far as Jefferson, as support to the lancers. It was my intention to cut off the retreat of the enemy's cavalry, at the junction of the roads between Middletown and Jefferson, but the pursuit and fire of Capt. Parisen was too vigorous, and the enemy's horses too fleet, for the accomplishment of this purpose. I then received your order to return and bivouac at Frederick, which I accomplished about eleven o'clock at night, after a hard day's work of sixteen hours and a march of eighteen miles. Although meeting no large force of the enemy, I may properly say that this was the commencement of the series of successes which for the next six days crowned the efforts of our army, and resulted in driving the rebel troops from Maryland soil.
After returning to Frederick an alarm of fire was given, and it was discovered that the jail was in flames. By your order I detailed companies B, G and K, to assist the provost guard on the occasion, which duty they performed with alacrity, assisting to work the engines and guarding the, prisoners till two o'clock on the morning of the fourteenth. The utmost praise is due to officers and men for their patience and determination during the entire day and night, to be ready for any emergency that might offer. In an hour after we took up our line of March on the Middletown road, and proceeding about ten miles at a quick pace, we found the enemy in a very strong position, high up in what is called the South Mountain, where we arrived at about four o'clock in the afternoon. Our troops had already engaged the enemy's right wing, and were forcing him back with great slaughter, when your brigade was ordered to take position on the left of the road and support a battery of four pieces, which it did successfully, the Eighty-ninth regiment resisting, at the point of the bayonet, a charge of the enemy, in the most gallant and admirable manner. Being upon the extreme left of the brigade, the ninth did not receive the main attack of the enemy which was so furiously made on the left, although in position to take any advantage of any circumstance that might offer. In this battle we lost one man wounded, who was at a little distance from the regiment.
The slaughter of the enemy during the afternoon had been most awful. The Ohio troops being the principal ones engaged on our side, and pitted against the enemy, consisting mostly of North Carolina troops. Upon seeing the arrival of fresh troops, the rebels broke and fled in disorder. This ended the second day's campaign from Frederick. Again I have to thank all officers and men of the regiment for the discipline exhibited on this occasion, and cheerful obedience to every order, although nearly exhausted with fatigue, hunger and want of sleep.
After bivouacking on the field, we again marched on the 15th, and on the evening of the 16th, after dark, took position in front of the enemy's right wing, your brigade being on the extreme left of our own forces, and a small creek (the Antietam) between us and the enemy.
In accordance with your orders I immediately threw forward company C, Capt. Parisen, to act as picket guard and skirmishers, which duty was most admirably performed, our pickets frequently engaging the enemy's sharpshooters during the night and keeping them at bay.
At daylight on the morning of the 17th, six of the rebel guns commenced shelling us with such effect as to compel us to change our position. The Ninth lost here in wounded twelve men. After changing our position still further to the left, I directed, in accordance with orders from the General commanding the battery. Company K, Captain Whiting, to open fire on the enemy's battery across the creek, which he did, soon silencing it. Immediately after this we were ordered to ford the creek and form in line of battle on the bluff opposite, directly in front of the enemy, which order was promptly executed, pushing his entire line of skirmishers back from the creek, and compelling him to retire to his main force on his left, we proceeding by the right flank along the bluff of the creek for about three-fourths of a mile to the brow of a hill, till within about eight hundred yards of the enemy's main body of artillery and infantry.
Here we halted for rest, when the rebel batteries opened an unmerciful fire of shot and shell upon us, killing and wounding a number of my regiment. We were soon ordered to advance, which was promptly done, the different battalions moving in line of battle, and dressing on their colors with as much coolness and accuracy as though upon the drill ground instead of the battlefield.
After proceeding about two hundred yards you ordered the charge to be made, when we rushed forward with a wild huzzah, peculiar to the Zouaves, and immediately received the fire of thousands of the enemy's fresh troops, consisting of infantry and artillery, which had been brought forward to meet us. At this time the gallant Cooper fell. A shell fell in my lines, killing eight men at one explosion, and a round shot took off private Conway's head. While the infantry fire was like hail around and among us, producing the most dreadful carnage, not a man who was not wounded, wavered or faltered, but all pressed on with charged bayonets to the top of the hill, and drove the enemy from his position. At this time our color-bearers and guard had all been shot down, when Captain Libaire of Company E, seized one, and Captain Leahy of Company I, the other of our standards and advanced them to the wall near the road, when the rout of the enemy at this point became complete. After crossing the road and ravine the enemy promptly rallied and attempted to turn upon us by a flank movement on our left, but were prevented by the 89th New York, under command of Major Jardine of the Ninth, who gave them the bayonet, and captured their colors, which proved to be those of a South Carolina regiment, and completing the victory at this point. After resting here for a short time and finding the enemy massing fresh troops in large force on our left, we were ordered to retire and take position about four hundred yards in the rear of the position we then occupied, which change was executed in good order and without confusion. After remaining in this position for a short time we were positively ordered to withdraw from the greater part of the field we had won.
The men retired in good order at a slow step, and with tears in their eyes at the necessity which compelled them to leave the field they had so dearly won and bivouacked for the night. Thus ended one of the hardest battles ever fought on this continent. While all behaved so gallantly it would be invidious to mention one as distinguished above another.
Captain Libaire, Company E (color company) did splendid service, and seized and carried the colors when the sergeant bearing them was shot down. Captain Childs, Company G, wounded by a shell early in the morning, was prevented from taking further part in the action of the day. Captain Leahy, Company I, acted in the most gallant manner, seizing and advancing to the foremost front one of our standards when the regular bearer thereof was killed. Lieutenants Bartholomew, Burdett, McKechnie, Klingsoehr and Powell, all performed their duty in the most gallant manner, and to my entire satisfaction.
Lieutenant Graham, commanding Company A (Captain Graham being sick in hospital) was wounded, and since has had his leg amputated, behaved in a most admirable manner. Lieutenant Horner, acting adjutant (Adjutant Barnett being sick), behaved splendidly and performed every duty in the coolest manner and to my entire satisfaction. Captain Whiting and Lieutenant Morris, of battery Company K, although not under my immediate notice, being detailed on artillery service in another part of the field, I learned behaved well, Lieutenant Morris making some excellent shots with his rifled guns, and silencing one of the enemy's batteries. The thanks of the entire regiment are due to Surgeon Humphreys and Assistant-Surgeon Harding, who were indefatigable in their attentions to the wounded.
We have to lament the death of 2d Lieut. E. C. Cooper, who was wounded just as we entered the charge, who thought his wounds slight and refused to be carried from the field. He was a good officer, a brave and gallant soldier, and much beloved, and his loss is deeply regretted by the regiment.
I cannot close this report without calling your special attention to the Quartermaster-Sergeant Pannes (slightly wounded), Sergeants Dews, Whitney (wounded), and Schmidt; Corporals Farrell (wounded), Cornell and Roberts, Company B; Sergeants Forbes, Salisbury and Corporal Vanduzer (all wounded), Company A; Sergeants Geayer, Stiles, Corporals Fields and Stephens (all wounded), Company C; Sergeants Fitsgerald and Searing, Company D; Smith, Hankinson, Jackson and Keating (the latter both wounded), Company E; Riley, River, Connor (wounded), Company I; Color-Sergeant Myers (wounded) Company C; and Color-Corporal Van Cott, Company A.
I would also call your special attention to Bugler Horn, who, until wounded, sounded the various commands with as much coolness and nonchalance as though on a parade-ground instead of a battle-ground.
The Pioneer Corps under Corporal Van Duzer behaved well, indeed.
There are many non-commissioned officers and privates to whose names I would be pleased to individually call attention, did space permit, but suffice it to say that all behaved gallantly and are entitled to credit for good conduct on the field. * * * In conclusion, my thanks are due to the 89th New York, Major Jardine, and the 103d New York, Major Ringgold, for the efficient and united support rendered us during the entire engagement. It is proper to add that on the 19th, I made a detail from my regiment under Lieutenant Powell, who buried our entire dead and marked the bodies for identification.
Thanking you in behalf of my regiment for the gallantry and coolness with which you commanded us, and the confidence with which you led us.
Commanding 9th New York Volunteers.
Sources: New York Bureau of Military Statistics, 3rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Military Record, Albany: G. Wendell, printer, 1866, pp. 98-101
Graham, Matthew John, The Ninth Regiment, New York Volunteers (Hawkins' Zouaves), New York: E.P. Coby & Company, Printers, 1900, pp. 316-322