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BGen Howell Cobb's Official Report

Report of September 22, 1862 on Boonsborough (Crampton's Gap)

H. Cobb

[author biography]

September 22, 1862.

Captain C. R. HOLMES,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: On the 13th instant I was ordered by you to take and hold possession of Sandy Hook, near Harper's Ferry; which was done, without serious opposition. On the 14th my command was ordered by you to return to our former camp, at Brownsville. This order was received about 1 o'clock p. m., and the brigade was immediately marched to that point, reaching there about 4 p. m. I had been in camp about an hour when I received a message from Colonel Munford, at Crampton's Gap, distant about 2 miles, recommending the removal of my command to that point, as the enemy were pressing the small force at the gap. I immediately ordered my two strongest regiments to march to their support. Before, however, the head of the column had filed into the road I received a message from Colonel Parham, who was in command of Mahone's brigade at the gap, to the effect that the enemy was pressing him hard with overwhelming numbers, and appealing for all the support I could bring to him. I immediately ordered the remaining two regiments to march, and accompanied the command in person. As I was marching the last of the column, I received a message from you, through your assistant adjutant-general (Major McIntosh) that I must hold the gap if it cost the life of every man in my command. Thus impressed with the importance of the position, I went forward with the utmost dispatch. When I reached the top of the mountain, I found that the enemy had been repulsed and driven back in the center and had been pursued down the other side of the mountain by Mahone's brigade. I soon discovered, however, that the enemy, by their greatly superior numbers, were flanking us both upon the right and left. Two of my regiments were sent to the right and two to the left to meet these movements of the enemy. In this we were successful, until the center gave way, pressed by fresh troops of the enemy and increased numbers. Up to this time the troops had fought well, and maintained their ground against greatly superior forces. The Tenth Georgia Regiment, of General Semmes' brigade, had been ordered to the gap from their position at the foot of the mountain, and participated in the battle with great courage and energy. After the line were broken, all my efforts to rally the troops were unsuccessful. I was enabled to check their advance by momentary rallies, and, the night coming on, I made a successful stand near the foot of the mountain, which position we held during the night, and until a new position was taken about day-dawn the next morning, in the rear of Brownsville, which position was held until the surrender of Harper's Ferry. General Semmes' brigade and Wilcox's brigade, under the command of Colonel Cumming, of the Tenth Georgia Regiment, had been ordered, the former by General Semmes, the latter by yourself, to my support. They came up to the position I occupied during the night; they could not have reached me sooner. The whole number of troops engaged on our side did not exceed 2,200, whilst the force of the enemy was variously estimated from 10,000 to 20,000 men. It could not have been less than 10,000 and probably reached 15,000.

It is impossible for me to report the casualties, as the fate of only a few of the large number missing is certainly known. On the number who went into the battle there are now missing and unaccounted for over 800. The larger portion of this number is believed to be prisoners, as we were flanked on both the right and the left by the enemy, and, thus surrounded, our men were compelled to surrender. For the most successful rally made on the retreat from the crest of the mountain I was indebted to a section of the Troup Artillery, under Lieutenant [Henry] Jennings. They had been ordered forward, and had reached a point where, under the terrific fire of the enemy, their pieces were placed in position, and, by their prompt and rapid firing, checked for a time the advance of the enemy. One of the pieces was brought off safely; the other was lost by an accident to the axle. When I reached the gap I found both Colonel Munford and Colonel Parham active and energetic in the discharge of their duty, which continued to the end of the fight. Shortly after the lines were broken, and I was endeavoring to rally the troops, General Semmes appeared on the field, and, at great exposure and with great coolness and courage, gave me his cordial aid and co-operation. All of the members of my staff were on the field, and did all that could be done under the circumstances. One of them, Colonel John B. Lamar, of Georgia, volunteer aide, whilst near my side, earnestly rallying the men, received a mortal wound, of which he died the next day. No nobler nor braver man has fallen in this war. There were many other acts of personal courage which circumstances prevent me from mentioning at present. The remnant of my brigade marched with the rest of your division from Harper's Ferry, and was engaged in the battle of the 17th, at Sharpsburg. I was necessarily absent for two days from the command, and reached, in the morning after the battle, and the present absence of the officer then in command of this brigade prevents a report at this time of that day's operation.

Accompanying this report is a list of the killed, wounded, and missing, made out with as much accuracy as practicable under existing circumstances.

I am, very respectfully, yours, &c.,


Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 870 - 871


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