HDQRS. SECOND REGIMENT MASSACHUSETTS
Camp near Sandy Hook, Md., September 23, 1862.
Brigadier General GEORGE H. GORDON,
Commanding First Division, Banks' Army Corps.
SIR: In compliance with orders from division headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Second Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers in the battle of September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Md.:
The evening preceding, the regiment was ordered forward to a place near the battle-field, to be in readiness, with other forces, to support General Hooker. The men were here allowed a few hour's rest. At about 6 o'clock in the morning of the 17th the Regiment moved with the rest of the Third Brigade, in column, to a point still nearer the scene of action, which had already commenced. From this point, after a short interval, a part of the brigade, including this regiment, which was on the right, was marched forward in column by battalion, with deploying intervals. Having reached the farther edge of a wood in front, the enemy, who occupied a wood opposite the left of the brigade and a corn-field in front of the center and right. This regiment, with the rest of the brigade, advanced, passing through one of our batteries, by which its movements were necessarily much impeded, and was halted in an orchard, some 75 yards in advance of the position taken by the other regiments of the brigade. I formed the regiment in a broken line; the left perpendicular and the right parallel to the line of the other regiments. In front of the right, about 50 yards distant, were two regiments lying down. From my position a fire was opened so directed as to cross that of the rest of the brigade, and which was delivered with perfect coolness, and evidently with great effect. I here witnessed the gallant manner in which the Third Wisconsin, under Colonel Ruger, sustained and replied to a destructive fire. The enemy was soon driven from his position, when our line was ordered to advance through the corn-field. The enemy fled from this part of the field, leaving it thickly strewn with his dead and wounded. The regiment was halted near one of our batteries, which was playing upon the enemy, receiving his fire in return. Up to this time the loss in this regiment had been very small.
Soon after this, the corps of General Summer passed us, advancing to attack the enemy in his near position, which was in a thick wood - his line being nearly at right angles with that of the Third Brigade when advancing to the attack. The front of the brigade was then changed so as to take a position in the woods from which the enemy had been driven, and which was directly opposite the wood above mentioned. At about 12 o'clock (m.) this regiment, with the rest of the brigade, was ordered forward to the support of General Sumner's corps. The regiment advanced in line, the Thirteenth New Jersey on its right, to a lane [Hagerstown Pike], fenced on both sides, which offered a partial cover, and which was about 100 yards from the wood held by the enemy. Here the regiment received a very heavy fire from a large body of the enemy posted in the woods. Our fire was opened in return; but the enemy having greatly the advantage, both in numbers and position his fire became very destructive.
Being unsupported, it was impossible to advance and a useless sacrifice of life to keep my position. The regiment was accordingly marched back in perfect order to the position from which it had advanced. This position, with some unimportant changes, was retained until evening, when the regiment, with the rest of the brigade, was ordered forward opposite the left of the wood held by the enemy, to support our batteries. Here it remained until the next morning.
Too much praise cannot be given to the officers and men of the regiment for
their bravery and steadiness under the fire of the enemy, and for their general
good conduct throughout the day. I would include in this commendation the few remaining men of the company of the Zouaves d'Afrique attached to this regiment; their only remaining officer was necessarily absent sick. Assistant Surgeon Stone with his attendants and the detachment of recruits detailed to take care of the wounded, rendered most efficient service.
Although there was little opportunity for individuals to distinguish themselves, yet several of the non-commissioned officers and privates were conspicuous for bravery,coolness, and good conduct in action. They will be properly noticed.
I have to lament the loss of Lieutenant Colonel Wilder Dwight, who fell, mortally wounded, at the lane above mentioned, while displaying his usual coolness and courage under the fire of the enemy. The loss of [..] but he has added another bright name to the glorious list of brave and noble men who have freely given their lives in the cause of their county. Captain Francis and Lieutenants Crowninshield and Mills were wounded, the latter severely. Of non-commissioned officers and privates, 12 were killed, 51 wounded, and missing. Of the company of Zouaves d'Afrique, 3 were wounded, 1 of whom is missing.
I inclose the list of killed, wounded, and missing, called for by orders from division headquarters.*
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEORGE L. ANDREWS,
Colonel Second Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers.
* This report not located by the compilers of the Official Records.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS; Series 1, Volume 19, Part I (Antietam - Serial 27), Pages 500 - 501