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BGen Alfred Pleasonton's Official Report

Report of September 19, 1862 on the Maryland Campaign

A. Pleasonton

[author biography]

Camp near Sharpsburg, September 19, 1862.

Brigadier General R. B. MARCY,
Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of service performed by this division in the late operations of the Army of the Potomac, comprehending the expulsion of the enemy from Maryland:

On the 4th instant the command moved from Falls Church, on the south side of the Potomac, passed over the Aqueduct Bridge to Tennallytown, and from thence proceeded to reconnoiter all the fords on the Potomac as far as Seneca Mills, finally assuming a position at Muddy Run. This occupied the 4th, 5th, and 6th instant.

On the 6th instant the First New York Cavalry moved to Middleburg, and sent four companies to occupy Clarksburg, at the same time scouting the country to Hyattstown. The First U. S. Cavalry proceeded to Brookville, to scout in the direction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The Eighth Illinois and Third Indiana Cavalry moved the same day in advance of Darnestown, picketing the roads in the direction of Poolesville and the fords on the Potomac.

On the 7th instant two squadrons of the Eighth Illinois and two of the Third Indiana, under Major Chapman, of the Third Indiana, made a dash on Poolesville and captured two cavalry vedettes, all of the enemy in the town at the time. The next day, the 8th instant, Colonel Farnsworth moved his command-the Eighth Illinois, Third Indiana, and a section of horse artillery of Company M, Second Artillery, under First Lieutenant Chapin - to occupy Poolesville and picket the roads to Conrad's Ferry, Edwards Ferry, Barnesville, and the Monocacy. As this force neared Poolesville, the enemy's cavalry were observed retreating on the road leading to Barnesville, and some squadrons of the Third Indiana pushed after them. They had not proceeded far before the enemy opened a fire from some guns strongly posted on the right of the town. The section of artillery, under Lieutenant Chapin, soon silenced these guns, which made off in the direction of Barnesville. The squadrons of the Third Indiana, under Major Chapman, were now ordered to charge the battery, which was handsomely done, the enemy's cavalry and artillery being driven over 3 miles, when the Eighth Illinois coming up, under Major Medill, the chase was continued until after dark.

In this affair the Third Indiana lost 1 killed and 11 wounded; the Eighth Illinois 1 wounded. The rebel loss amounted to 8 killed, 16 wounded, and 6 prisoners-all cavalry.

On the 9th instant Farnsworth with his command proceeded toward Barnesville, and observing a squadron of the enemy's cavalry near Monacy Church, he directed Captain Farnsworth's squadron, of the Eighth Illinois, to gain their rear and cut them off. This movement succeeded dividing the enemy and in capturing their battle-flag (that of the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, called the Ashby Cavalry), besides several prisoners. The march being continued toward Barnesville, Captain Kelley's squadron, Eighth Illinois, being in advance, encountered the enemy's vedettes on the edge of the village. A dash was made on them through the village and some 2 miles beyond, the troops being engaged twice in a hand-to-hand fight. The day's work resulted in killing 4 of

the enemy, wounding 5, and taking 27 prisoners, while we lost not a man or a horse.

On the 10th instant Captain Sanders, Sixth Cavalry, with a cavalry force and two guns, attempted to dislodge the enemy from the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain, but the latter was too strongly posted to be moved except by a larger than was at my disposal. Franklin's corps arrived in the afternoon, and on the 11th instant the rebels were soon in retreat, Hancock's brigade, of Franklin's corps, and Farnsworth's brigade of cavalry being the forces engaged.

On the 12th instant Farnsworth's brigade moved by the way of Clarksburg to Frederick City, and also Robertson's and Hains's batteries. The Sixth Cavalry, and a section of artillery, under Captain Sanders, moved to the Monocacy, and was afterward under the orders of Franklin at Jefferson.

About 5 o'clock in the evening I entered Frederick with my command, having been joined by the First New York, under Colonel McReynolds, and a portion of the Twelfth Pennsylvania. The enemy's pickets were driven out of Frederick as we advanced on the Urbana road, while Burnside's corps pushed them on the New Market road, from which direction he entered about half an hour before my advance.

On the morning of the 13th instant McReynolds' brigade, with a section of artillery, was sent in the direction of Gettysburg by orders from your headquarters, while Rush's Lancers joined Franklin's corps at Jefferson. At the same time, after an arrangement with General Burnside as to the manner of proceeding, and in which he most generously offered every assistance, the remainder of my command started at daylight on the Hagerstown turnpike, and had proceeded some 3 or 4 miles when the enemy opened upon the advance with artillery from the ridge to the left of where the road passes over the Catoctin range of the Blue Ridge. Their batteries were supported by dismounted cavalry. A couple of sections from Robertson's and Hains' batteries were immediately opened on our side, and some squadrons of the Eighth Illinois and Third Indiana were dismounted, and sent up the mountain to the right as skirmishers . After a severe cannonading and several warm volleys with carbines, the enemy retreated hastily, having previously barricaded the road in several places. A rapid pursuit was made and a number of prisoners taken, when the enemy made a second stand on the east side of Middletown. Gibson's battery then came up, and soon in beautiful style induced another backward movement. Farnsworth's brigade then advanced, and engaged the cavalry until they were driven beyond the town about 1,000 yards, to a third position they had selected to defend. A section of Gibson's battery engaged them here, and in a few minutes the enemy retreated rapidly to Turner's Gap of the South Mountain; but before doing so they blew up the bridge on the Catoctin Creek, and set fire to the barn and other valuables of the persons residing at that point. As the creek was easily fordable, this did not prevent my advance to the foot of the mountain, which was found to be too strong a position to be carried by my force.


Being soon satisfied that the enemy would defend his position at Turner's Gap with a large force, I sent back to General Burnside for some infantry, and in the intermediate time I caused a force of dismounted with the enemy, and induced him to mass a considerable force on that side during the night. I learned a so that there were two roads, one on the right and the other to the left of the gap, both of which entered the turnpike beyond the gap, and would assist us materially in turning the enemy's position on both flanks. General Burnside's troops did not arrive in time to engage on the 13th, but on the morning of the 14th instant the general kindly sent me a brigade of infantry, under Colonel Scammon, and some heavy batteries. Scammon's brigade I directed to move up the mountain on the left hand road, gain the crest, and then move to the right to the turnpike in the enemy's rear. At the same time I placed Gibson's battery and the heavy batteries in position to the left, covering the road on that side, and obtaining a direct fire on the enemy's position in the gap.

Shortly after this, General Cox arrived with a second brigade of infantry, and upon my explaining the position to him, he moved to the support of Scammon, who was successful in his movement to gain the crest of the mountain. During the cannonading that was then going on, the enemy's batteries were several times driven from the gap, but the contest assuming on each side large proportions, and Major-General Reno having arrived on the field, I pointed out to him the positions of the troops as I had placed them, giving him at the same time those of the enemy. He immediately assumed the direction of the operations, passed to the front on the mountain height, and was eminently successful in driving the enemy, until he fell at the moment he was gallantly leading his command to a crowning victory. The clear judgment and determined courage of Reno rendered the triumphant results obtained by the operations of his corps second to none of the brilliant deeds accomplished on that field. At his loss a master-mind had passed away.

During this action the First Massachusetts and Third Indiana Cavalry were detached to serve with Hooker's corps.


At daylight on the morning of the 15th, I started in pursuit of the enemy with a part of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry. The advance came up with the enemy's rear guard of cavalry on entering Boonsborough, charged them repeatedly, and drove them some 2 miles beyond the town. A section of Tidball's battery came up at this time and gave them a few shells, when they broke and ran in every direction, leaving two pieces of artillery behind them, 30 dead on the field, some 50 wounded, and a very large number of prisoners, among whom were several hundred stragglers. Our loss was 1 killed and 15 wounded. Among the latter was the brave Captain Kelley, of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, who was shot while gallantly charging at the head of his squadron. In this affair the enemy outnumbered us three to one, and the number of desperate personal encounters that day shows the superiority of our cavalry. Colonel Farnsworth, Captains Kelley, Medill, and First Lieutenant and Adjutant Hynes, of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, were conspicuous for their gallantry on this occasion; also Captain Custer and First Lieutenant Martin, aides-de-camp on the staff of General McClellan, and who were serving with me at the time. In obedience to my instructions, I then moved in the direction of Sharpsburg, and came up with Richardson's division in line of battle in advance of Keedysville, the enemy being in position this side of Sharpsburg. General Richardson having no batteries with him, requested of cavalry to move up the mountain on the right of the turnpike, to examine the position on that side. This produced some skirmishing me Tidball's four guns, to reply to the enemy's batteries, which had opened at four different points of their line. Tidball was soon placed in position, and returned fire, and this was continued at intervals on this and the succeeding day by numerous batteries engaged on both sides.

On the 16th instant my cavalry was engaged in reconnaissances, escorts, and supports to batteries.


On the morning of the 17th instant, after the commencement of the action on the right, I was directed by Major-General McClellan, verbally, to advance with my division of cavalry and horse batteries of artillery on the turnpike toward Sharpsburg, to some suitable position beyond the bridge over the Antietam Creek, and support the left of Sumner's line of battle with my force.

Finding the enemy had a cross-fire of artillery on the bridge, and that his sharpshooters covered it in front, I first threw forward some cavalry skirmishers, and then advanced Tidball's battery by piece, under a heavy fire, to drive off the sharpshooters with canister. This plan in a short time succeeded in clearing the front sufficiently to obtain positions for Gibson's, Robertson's, Tidball's, and Hains' batteries, who opened on the enemy with great effect, having a direct fire in front and an enfilading fire in front of Sumner's corps on the right, and supporting the right of Burnside's corps on the left, the distance to Sumner's corps being nearly a mile, and something greater to that of Burnside's, my force being the only one in front, connecting the two corps. The fire was kept up over two hours, when the enemy's fire had slackened very much, and my batteries, requiring ammunition, retired by piece and by section to supply themselves, being replaced by Randol's battery and Kusserow's battery, from Sykes' division. I was also indebted to General Sykes for five small battalions of infantry he kindly placed at my disposal, to assist in supporting my position.

The following cavalry supports were to the right and left of my position, viz: The Fifth Regular Cavalry, Farnsworth's brigade, Rush's brigade, and two regiments of the Fifth Brigade, under Colonel Davis, of the Eighth New York. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon three of my batteries, Tidball's, Robertson's, and Hains', returned to their positions, Randol's battery being relieved and Gibson's being placed in position on the right of the road, in rear, to cover the bridge.

The fight was then renewed with increased vigor and energy, the enemy's batteries being soon driven from their position in front of us. At the same time a heavy column of dust could be seen moving behind the Sharpsburg Ridge toward Sumner's left. I directed the fire of the batteries into this dust, and soon the development of the enemy's line of battle, fully a mile long, could be seen bearing down upon Richardson's division on Sumner's left, then commanded by Hancock, Richardson having been badly wounded. The enemy's batteries were also playing heavily upon this division.

At this time Hancock requested some guns to assist him. None could be spared at that moment, but I directed the fire of some eighteen guns upon the enemy's line in front of him for twenty minutes, when we had the satisfaction of seeing this immense line first halt, deliver a desultory fire, and then break and run to the rear in the greatest confusion and disorder. A section of Tidball's battery was immediately advanced to the crest of a hill several hundred yards to the front, and in front of

the infantry of Hancock's left. This was a most favorable position for operating on a battery then in full play upon the center of Sumner's line. The fire from this section contributed in no small degree toward silencing this battery.

It was now 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Burnside's corps had driven the enemy back upon the hill upon which his batteries were placed, and, in conjunction with the repulse of the enemy in front of Hancock, left the field open to the Sharpsburg Ridge, to which point I desired to forward my batteries, to obtain an enfilading fire upon the enemy in front of Burnside, and enable Sumner to advance to Sharpsburg. I was so satisfied that this could be done at that moment, that I sent a request to Major General Fitz John Porter, asking for the assistance of some infantry to support my advance to the Sharpsburg Ridge. This request was not entertained by General Porter, and I have since been informed the force I needed was not then at his disposal. I held my position until 7 o'clock in the evening, when I was withdrawn, by the orders of Major-General McClellan, to the bivouac at Keedysville.

On the 18th instant my cavalry were engaged collecting stragglers and feeling the enemy on the different roads.

On the 19th instant I started in pursuit of the enemy, who had fled to the opposite side of the Potomac. Before reaching the river, I succeed in capturing 167 prisoners, one gun left behind by the enemy in his haste, and one color.

On arriving near the river on the turnpike, the enemy's batteries opened a heavy fire from several positions below Shepherdstown, covering Blackford's Ford. Gibson's, Tidball's, and Robertson's batteries replied with such that the enemy drew off the greater part of his guns. This cannonade lasted about two hours, when, a part of Porter's corps coming up, my command was relieved from this position, and withdrew to camp.

The services of this division from the 4th of September up to the 19th of the same were of the most constant and arduous character. For fifteen successive days we were in contact with the enemy, and each day conflicts of some kind were maintained, in which we gradually but steadily advanced. The officers and men have exerted themselves to insure the success of every expedition, and their efforts have been fortunate, as no mishaps have occurred beyond the casualties incident to such service.

The losses of the division in the campaign were as follows: 17 killed, 78 wounded, and 13 missing, making a total of 108.

The distinguished service rendered by the officers of the horse artillery renders it proper to mention their several names in this report. In Gibson's battery, Third Artillery, there were Captain H. G. Gibson, First Lieuts. E. Pendleton and H. Meinell, and Second Lieutenant F. D. L. Russell, Fourth Artillery. In Robertson's battery, Second Artillery, there were Captain James M. Robertson and Second Lieutenant Albert O. Vincent. In Tidball's battery, Second Artillery, were Captain John C. Tidball, First Lieutenant A. C. M. Pennington, jr., Lieuts. William N. Dennison and Robert Clarke. In Hains' battery, Second Artillery, were First Lieutenant Peter C. Hains and Second Lieutenant Robert H. Chapin.

The officers of the cavalry who are entitled to mention, from their position and gallant service, are as follows:

First Brigade.- Major C. J. Whiting commanding, and Capts. J. E. Harrison and Wesley Owens, of the Fifth Cavalry. Sixth Cavalry, Captain W. P. Sanders commanding, and Capts. George C. Cram and

Second Brigade.- Colonel J. F. Farnsworth, Eighth Illinois, commanding; Capts. W. H. Medill, E. S. Kelley, Alpheus Clark, E. J. Farnsworth, J. D. Ludlam; First Lieutenant D. J. Hynes, Adjt. Daniel W. Buck, Second Lieutenant I. W. Trask, of the Eighth Illinois Regiment. Third Indiana Cavalry, Major Chapman; Captains Patton and Lemmon. Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Captain Peter Keenan. First Massachusetts Cavalry, Captain Crowninshield.

Third Brigade.- Colonel R. H. Rush commanding; Lieutenant Colonel C. Ross Smith, Sixth Pennsylvania Lancers. Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Colonel J. H. Childs (who was killed); Lieutenant Colonel J. K. Kerr.

Fourth Brigade.- Colonel A. T. McReynolds commanding, First New York Cavalry; Major Adams, First New York Cavalry; Major J. A. Congdon, Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

Fifth Brigade.- Two regiments of which were engaged in the battle of Antietam, under Colonel Davis; Eighth New York, Colonel B. F. Davis; Third Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel Owen commanding.

A portion of the First Regular Cavalry were under my command in the pursuit of the enemy to the river, and did good service under Captain Marcus A. Reno.

To the following officers of my staff I am much indebted for their efficient and valuable services: Captain A. J. Cohen, assistant adjutant-general; First Lieuts. Isaac M. Ward, Sixth Cavalry, and C. Thompson, First New York Cavalry, aides-de-camp; First Lieutenant J. W. Spangler, Sixth Cavalry, division quartermaster; First Lieutenant J. A. Hall, First Cavalry, division commissary of subsistence. Also to First Lieutenant Leroy S. Elbert, Third Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp.

The five small battalions of regular infantry from Sykes's division on the 17th at the battle of Antietam kept a superior force from my guns for the greater part of the day. These men behaved splendidly throughout the fight, and Captain Hiram Dryer, of the Fourth Infantry, who was in command, distinguished himself by his gallantry and good service. This command was composed of a battalion from each of the following regular regiments, viz: The Second, Fourth, Tenth, Twelfth, and Fourteenth Infantry.

To the Signal Corps and to the members of the special service I have been indebted for important information furnished at various times.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 208 - 213


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