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Col JB Walton's Official Report

Report of December 4, 1862

[author biography]

December 4, 1862

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Right Wing, Army of Northern Virginia.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the several batteries composing the battalion Washington Artillery under my command in the engagements before Sharpsburg, Md., on September 16 and 17 last:

On September 15 the battalion, attached to the right wing of the Army of Northern Virginia, reached Sharpsburg, Md. Here a line of battle was formed, with the Antietam in our front, and here the forces under Generals Lee and Longstreet awaited the approach of McClellan's army. The four companies of this battalion were posted on the line as follows: The first company, Capt. C. W. Squires, Lieuts. E. Owen, Galbraith, and Brown, with two 3-inch rifles and two 10-pounder Parrott guns, on the right of the turnpike running through the center of and to the front of the town; the third company, Capt. M. B. Miller, Lieutenants McElroy and Hero, with four 12 pounder Napoleons, to the right of Captain Squires; to the right of Captain Miller, across a ravine and in an orchard in front of General D. R. Jones' position, were placed the second company, Capt. J. B. Richardson, Lieutenants Hawes, Britton, and De Russy, with two Napoleons and two 12-pounder howitzers, and the fourth company, Capt. B. F. Eshleman, Lieutenants Norcom, Battles, and Apps, with two 6-pounder bronze guns and two 12-pounder howitzers. During the afternoon the enemy made his appearance across the Antietam, and opened upon our lines with his long-range batteries. We did not reply, our guns not being able to reach his position.

The next morning (16th), the enemy having planted some batteries nearer our position and becoming annoying, I ordered the batteries to open all along our line, and engaged him in an artillery duel. This commenced at 11 a.m. and ended at 11.40, a period of forty minutes. Some of his batteries were silenced, others we could not reach, and, having no ammunition to spare, we ceased firing, by order of General Longstreet, and drew the guns under cover of the hill. Captain Squires' battery of rifles was the only one of the battalion engaged in this conflict. Shortly after this firing ceased, Captain Richardson, having been placed in a position to watch the bridge over the Antietam in front of General Toombs' brigade, with his two Napoleons, opened fire with one gun upon a column of the enemy to the left of the bridge. After firing five rounds they retired out of his range.

On the morning of September 17 (our batteries still remaining in the positions of the day before). the enemy crossed large bodies of infantry in front of Captain Squires' position; they also opened their batteries upon him. Paying little attention to the artillery practice of the enemy, he quietly awaited the advance of his infantry, and concentrated his fire upon them, and succeeded in driving them from view. He then withdrew his guns and allowed the batteries of the enemy to expend much ammunition.

Shortly afterward, the enemy advanced one regiment of infantry. Captain Squires then turned all his guns and those of Garden's battery upon him, which drove him back. He rallied a second time, but again he was driven behind his hill. Here he was re-enforced and advanced again. He was again broken, but rallied within 400 yards of the batteries, from which position he deployed skirmishers and annoyed our men with the bullets of his sharpshooters. He again sounded the charge, and advanced within canister range. We opened a heavy fire upon him; he broke, and our supports, under General Garnett, charged him. Being nearly out of ammunition, Captain Squires withdrew his battery to refill his chests. One 10-pounder Parrott gun, under Lieutenant Galbraith, afterward engaged the enemy on our right until dark; the other 10-pounder Parrott was disabled during the action and sent from the field.

During the action, Captain Squires was deprived of the valuable services of Lieut. E. Owen, who was wounded in the thigh by a piece of shell, while acting with his usual gallantry with his guns. Captain Squires, in his report, compliments highly his lieutenants, Owen, Galbraith, and Brown, who were in the hottest of the action, and proved themselves brave and efficient officers - worthy leaders of brave men, Sergt. Maj. C. L. C. Dupuy went into action with his battery and did good service.

At 9.15 a.m. Captain Miller's battery, of four Napoleons, was ordered from its original position to a point to the left of the main road and near our center. Here Captain Miller was so fortunate as to meet with General Longstreet, who assigned him a position. He immediately opened upon the enemy's infantry, which were advancing upon our left and front. Here he suffered considerably from the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, losing two of his gunners and several of his cannoneers, wounded, when, ascertaining that the enemy was beyond effective range, he was ordered by General Longstreet to cease firing and go under cover. Here he remained twenty minutes, when, the enemy again advancing, he ordered his battery again into position. Lieutenant Hero having been wounded and Lieutenant McElroy having been left to watch the movements of the enemy on the right, Captain Miller found himself the only officer with his company, and, having barely men enough left to work a section effectively, he opened upon the enemy with two pieces with splendid effect.

After an action of half an hour, he removed his section to a more advantageous position 100 yards to the front and right, placing the remaining section under Sergeant Ellis, directing him to take it completely under cover. He then continued the action until the ammunition was nearly exhausted, when Sergeant Ellis brought up one of the remaining caissons. The enemy had made two determined attempts to force our line, and had been twice signally repulsed. They were now advancing the third time, and were within canister range, when Sergeant Ellis, who had succeeded in rallying some infantry to his assistance, brought one of the guns of his section into action on Miller's left, and gave them canister, with terrible effect. The three guns succeeded in checking the enemy's advance, and remained in action until the ammunition was exhausted, when they were retired to be refilled. After procuring the required ammunition, Captain Miller was returning to his former position, when he was directed by General Lee to an elevated and commanding position on the right and rear of the town, where General A. P. Hill had but just begun his attack. Here I placed him in charge of the guns that had been ordered to this position, leaving Lieutenant McElroy to command his section, and he continued the fight until its close at nightfall.

Too much praise cannot be bestowed on Captain Miller for his stubborn defense of the center for several hours; to Lieutenants Hero and McElroy and Sergeants Ellis, Bier (chief artificer), and Dempsey (artificer), for their gallantry.

This part of the action was under the immediate eye of General Longstreet, commanding, and his staff, who, when Captain Miller's cannoneers were exhausted, dismounted and assisted the working of the guns. Captain Miller was compelled, owing to his loss of horses, to leave one caisson on the field. He endeavored to bring it off the next day, but it was deemed unadvisable, it being in range of the enemy's sharpshooters, and it was abandoned and subsequently destroyed.

Captain Richardson engaged the enemy in his front with the two Napoleons of the second company until 1 p.m., when one of his guns was disabled by a shot from one of the three batteries that had been playing upon him, and he withdrew through the town of Sharpsburg and joined his section of howitzers on the right and rear. Procuring ammunition and repairing his disabled gun, he reported with his full battery to General Toombs, and took position on the right and began firing at the enemy's infantry, who at this time had crossed the bridge and was advancing in large force up the hill to his left, and finally getting out of his range, when he retired to a new position.

I afterward ordered Captain Richardson forward with his section of Napoleons and the 10-pounder Parrott gun of the first company, under Lieutenant Galbraith, to the position on the right, near the guns under Miller, when he opened fire and continued in action until the close of the engagement at nightfall. The section of 12-pounder howitzers, under Lieutenants Hawes and De Russy, were brought forward at the same time and assigned a position by General Toombs near his brigade. Here they opened on the enemy at a distance of 500 yards, and continued firing until the enemy was driven out of range.

Lieut. J. D. Britton was wounded in the arm late in the evening after making himself conspicuous during the action for his coolness and soldierly bearing.

Captain Richardson, in his report, expresses himself entirely satisfied with the conduct of his officers, non-commissioned officers, and men. They behaved in such a manner as to reflect credit upon the second and of the corps of which they are a part.

The fourth, under Eshleman, was not idle during this eventful day, when the battalion was so actively and effectually employed. About noon on the 17th he was directed by General Jones, in front of whose position he was placed, to remove his battery to a position to guard the ford below the bridge held by General Toombs. The battery was placed in position between the Blackford House and the ford, and opened fire upon the enemy, who were crossing in force. A long-range battery of the enemy on the opposite bank of the stream opened upon and enfiladed his guns, and he was compelled to retire, not, however, before he had driven the enemy back from the ford. He then received orders from General D. R. Jones to hold the enemy in check, if possible, until the arrival of General A. P. Hill, whose division was near at hand. The enemy soon made another attempt to cross with infantry and cavalry. Captain Eshleman took a position nearer the ford, and, under cover of a hill which protected him from the enemy's battery, opened fire upon him with case and shell. At this juncture General Pender arrived with a portion of General Hill's command and came to Eshleman's support. After driving the enemy back a second time, he kept up a moderate shelling of the woods near the ford until night, when he was ordered to retire and bivouac.

Captain Eshleman pays his lieutenants (Norcom, Battles, and Apps) a just compliment for their gallant conduct throughout the day, and especially during the steady and unflinching defense of the ford. His non-commissioned officers and men vied with their comrades of the first, second, and third companies, and added fresh laurels to the high standing of the corps. Captain Squires, in the latter part of the day, succeeded in refilling the chests of the remaining section of his battery, and reported to General Toombs with his two 3-inch rifles and a section each of the Maryland Light Artillery and Reilly's battery, but his services were not then required; the enemy had been driven back at all points.

The casualties in this engagement were 4 killed, 28 wounded, and 2 missing. This closes the imperfect record of the action of the several companies of the battalion Washington Artillery in the eventful battle before Sharpsburg, Md. It is to be hoped the general commanding, under whose immediate eye we fought on both days, will find in it enough to satisfy him that, without the incentive of revenge for wrongs, the soldiers of Louisiana are ever among the foremost in the performance of patriotic duty to their country.

Always ready and ever watchful and zealous, Adjt. W. M. Owen has again placed me under obligation for services on the field. Frequently, in my capacity of chief of artillery, during the two days, had I occasion to send him to distant parts of the field under the heaviest fire. Gallantly and unhesitatingly he executed every order.

Color-Sergeant Montgomery, as at the battle of Manassas, served me as aide, and was generally under fire during the engagement of the two days. He is a deserving and brave gentleman.

Ordnance-Sergeant B L Brazelman deserves special mention for his assiduity and unflagging devotion in supplying ammunition and in the performance of all his duties. He, on this occasion, added to his well-established reputation of an intelligent, brave, and meritorious soldier.

I am, major, very respectfully,

J. B. Walton,
Colonel, commanding.


Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 848 - 951


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