HDQRS. FIFTH REGIMENT, PENNSYLVANIA
September 22, 1862.
[Brigadier General T. SEYMOUR.]
GENERAL: I have the honor to present the following report of the battles of 14th, 16th, and 17th instant. I embrace the whole in one general report from the consideration that separate reports would cover more space than I wish to inflict upon you:
On Sunday, 14th instant, my regiment was ordered by you to take a position on the north side of a hill, a spur of the South Mountain, in the good old State of Maryland, near the Monocacy, and charge the enemy through a corn-field on the northern slope, go to the top of the hill, and hold it, and be sure to kill some of the rebels. In the march my regiment was the fourth in the brigade. I followed the skirmishers of the First Pennsylvania Rifles. On arriving on the summit of the first hill I discovered that the Rifles were engaged with a body of the enemy, which was giving them an undue share of the work. I then changed direction and marched by the left flank, where I gave them (the rebels) a raking fire, punishing them severely and causing them to break and retreat in great disorder. I at once pursued them over a high stonewall and through a corn-field, reaching the top of the hill before either of the other regiments, all the time keeping my line in perfect order. When I arrived at the summit I halted, called my rolls, and found only eight of my men unaccounted for. In this fight I lost 1 killed (John A. Hougendoubler, of Company K, a gallant and faithful soldier, who in seventeen months' service has not to my knowledge ever had to be reproved by his company or regimental commander), and 12 wounded. I wish to ask particular attention to the fact that although my regiment had been several hours engaged, I had but eight men absent at my evening roll-call.
On Tuesday evening, September 16, I was ordered by you to take a position on the left of your brigade and make my quarters for the night under a tree which you did me the honor to point out. When I halted I told my men where I might be found, but unfortunately the enemy, or at least a regiment of them, were lying in a piece of woods within twenty paces of my line, and heard all my arrangements for the night, and scarcely had I lain down when they opened a terrific fire upon me, but fortunately none of their missiles took effect as they intended, and in consequence I am here to tell the story. I immediately got my men into proper position, and returned their fire with such effect that I have understood from prisoners taken the next day that we killed or wounded about half of their men. I kept my men, although very tired, under arms during the night. About 2 a. m. they again opened on me, thinking no doubt that in the still hour of the night they would take me off my guard. But I have not so learned duty. I at once returned their fire, and although I punished them rather severely, I did not lose a man. I regret to say, however, in the first attack I lost Hardman P. Petrikin, of Company E, one of my most daring and gallant officers. I also had one man wounded. As soon as it became light enough to see what I was doing I charged across the piece of woodland in my front, routing the enemy and taking possession of the woodland, which I held until the regiments on my right fell back, when I very reluctantly retired, which was done in excellent order.
In all these battles my officers and men behaved with the greatest coolness and bravery, with very few exceptions. In this connection it is but right that I should mention the names of some of my officers and men who distinguished themselves by most remarkable bravery - among whom may and should be mentioned Major Zentmyer, Captains Larrimer, McPherran, Wolfe; Lieutenant Snay, Company A; Lieutenants Slater and Maus, Company B; Lieutenant McGaughey, Company C, who had been wounded at Bull Run and just returned to duty; Lieutenant Potter, Company C; Lieutenant Schaffle, Company D, who for his gallantry I have recommenced for a captaincy; Lieutenant Hildebrand, Company G; Sergeant McNally, who was in command of Company H; Lieutenants Porter and Zentmyer, of Company I; Sergeant-Major McCall, whose name has since been forwarded for a lieutenancy; Sergt. John M. Rhoads, of Company H, whose name has also been forwarded for a lieutenancy. Among the privates I am not prepared to say who most distinguished themselves, but my attention was particularly directed to Thomas Carney, of Company K; Mullin, of Company F; Betts of Company C, of whom I have had occasion to mention favorably in a former report. I will take occasion to forward at an early period a list of the names of private soldiers whom I regard as worthy of especial mention.
I must not, however, before closing this report, fail to mention the case of Major Chamberlin, of the One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. He was formerly a captain of my regiment, and severely wounded and taken prisoner at White Oak Swamp, on the Peninsula. Although having in his hands a commission as major of another regiment, he heard that the Pennsylvania Reserves were likely to get into active operation, he, although still suffering from his wound, came on and asked a place with his old companions, and went through the three above-named battles, rendering the most efficient services, clearly winning for himself the title of the bravest of the brave.
In thus speaking of the gallantry of my officers and men I regret that candor compels me to give the other side of the picture. Captain Collins, of Company K, by some strange fatality finds his health to fail about the commencement of almost every battle, and I regret to say that in our late struggle, on which so much depended, the captain did not make his appearance, and is now absent without proper leave. Lieutenant Shaw, of Company F, disgracefully fled when the regiment was fired upon in the night, and gave an alarm which to others, had they been as cowardly as himself, might have proved disastrous. My only regret is that his cowardly legs were not equal to the task of carrying him out of reach of the regiment. I will forward at an early day an application for his prompt dismissal. I cannot close this report without bearing testimony to the gallantry of commanders of the different regiments of the First Brigade and their entire commands: Colonels Roberts, McNeil, Sinclair, and Captain Byrnes, all of whom behaved well themselves, and their troops came up to the great work before them in such a manner that we were enabled constantly to present an unbroken front to the enemy.
I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. W. FISHER,
Colonel Fifth Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserves.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol LI, Part 1 (Supplements - Serial 107), Pages 145-147