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Col James A. Suiter's Official Report

Report of September 20, 1862

[author biography]

Battle-field near Sharpsburg, Md., September 20, 1862.

Captain J. W. GORMAN,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: I would most respectfully make the following report of the battle of the 17th instant:

We lay in camp near Keedysville, Md., on the 16th instant. In the evening of that day I received an order to be prepared to march at daylight on the morning of the 17th instant. In obedience to said order, I was under arms with my command, and so remained until the order was given to move, which was about 7.30 o'clock a. m. We moved in a northwesterly direction. Having arrived within about 1 1/2 miles of the battle-field, where General Hooker's forces had been engaged with the enemy, we were formed in line of battle by brigades, Gorman's to the front, First Minnesota Regiment on the right, Eighty-second Regiment New York Volunteers second, Fifteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers third, and my command, Thirty-fourth Regiment New York Volunteers, on the left. General Dana's brigade formed the second line, and General Howard's brigade formed the third line. We were moved at double-quick. Arriving near the battle-field, we were moved by the right flank through a piece of timber-land in three columns. At this point we were considerably crowded, the three columns occupying an extent of not more than 40 paces from our left to the right flank of General Howard's brigade, the Seventh Regiment Michigan Volunteers being crowded in my ranks, causing considerable confusion.

Arriving at the open field, we were again ordered in line of battle, being still at double-quick. We moved over this field to the pike road leading to Sharpsburg. Fronting this was a piece of timber land, into which I moved my command, still at double-quick, arriving at about 20 yards in rear of a school-house, when I discovered the enemy under the hill. I immediately ordered my command to fire, which they did in gallant order.

From some cause to me unknown, I had become detached from my brigade, the one hundred and twenty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers being on my right. On my left and rear I was entirely unsupported by infantry or artillery. The enemy were in strong force at this point, and poured a tremendous fire of musketry and artillery upon me. At this time I discovered that the enemy were making a move to flank me on the left. Lieutenant Howe arriving at this time, I informed him of my suspicions. He replied that he thought they were our friends. Lieutenant Wallace, of Company C, proposed going to the front, to make what discovery he could, which I granted. He returned, saying that the enemy were moving upon my left flank with a strong force. I turned and discovered Lieutenant Richard Gorman, of General Gorman's staff, and requested him to inform the general that the enemy were flanking me. He immediately returned for that purpose. Presently General Sedgwick arrived upon the ground. Moving down my line, he discovered the situation of my command, and that the point could not be held by me, and gave the order for me to retire, which I did. Rallying my command, I formed them in line of battle, supporting a battery some 400 yards in rear of the battle-field.

In this engagement the casualties were as follows, viz: 32 killed, 109 wounded, and 9 missing. Commissioned officers: 1 killed, 2 wounded, 1 taken prisoner.

In connection with this I cannot speak in too great praise of my officers. When all acted gallantly it is impossible to single out any. I would therefore say that all did well and behaved in the most gallant manner. Of Major Beverly I would say that he was invaluable to me in assisting me on the left of my line in the most trying time. Of my color sergeant I cannot speak in too high terms. He (Sergt. Charles Burton) had carried the banner through all of the battles in which we had been engaged while on the Peninsula without receiving a wound. Here it was his fate to be struck five times, and when he was compelled to drop his colors he called upon his comrades to seize them and not to let them fall into the hands of the enemy. This was done by Corpl. G. S. Haskins, who nobly bore them from the field.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

Colonel, Commanding.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS; Series 1, Volume 19, Part I (Antietam - Serial 27), Pages 315 - 316


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