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BGen Paul Semmes' Official Reports

Reports of September & October 1862 of Boonsborough & Sharpsburg

Paul Semmes

[author biography]

[Boonsborough/Crampton's Gap]

Assistant Adjutant-General.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit herewith the report of Major Holt, commanding the Tenth Georgia Volunteers, of the conduct of his regiment in the battle of Crampton's Gap, on the 14th instant, together with a list of the casualties in his regiment; also Captain Manly's report of the part taken by his battery in the same action.

By order of Major General McLaws, a picket, consisting of a company, was posted in Burkittsville Gap, which, by my orders, was afterward increased to three regiments and five pieces of artillery, thus employing all the regiments of my brigade, except the Tenth Georgia, which had been previously sent to picket the Rohrersville road and other avenues leading down Pleasant Valley in the direction of Harper's Ferry. On the 13th instant, Colonel Parham, commanding Mahone's brigade, reported with his command to me by order of Major-General McLaws, with directions to post one of his regiments as a picket in Solomon's Gap.

Having soon become more familiar with the roads and passes, on the morning of the 14th instant I ordered Colonel Parham, with his three remaining regiments and battery, to Crampton's Gap, for the purpose of guarding that pass; and directed him, if he should need support, to call upon Major Holt, commanding Tenth Georgia Volunteers, for his regiment, then posted on the Rohrersville road. On the morning of the 14th instant, Brigadier-General Cobb, with his command, was ordered up the valley to his old camp near mine, by Major-General McLaws. General McLaws informed me that General Cobb would take command of Crampton's Gap, and directed that the troops under my command should be withdrawn therefrom. When General Cobb returned to his old camp, I called on him, and communicated General McLaws' orders, and soon after set out to visit the picket guard in Burkittsville Gap. While on the mountain, the enemy engaged Colonel Parham's troops with artillery and infantry at the base of the mountain. I immediately dispatched this information to General Cobb, with the request that he would hurry forward his troops to Crampton's Gap, to the support of Colonel Parham, and in a few minutes I followed hurriedly on horseback, for the purpose of offering General Cobb whatever assistance it might be in my power to render him. Arriving at the base of, and soon after commencing the ascent of the mountain at Crampton's Gap, I encountered fugitives from the battle-field, and endeavored to turn them back. Proceeding farther up the mountain, the troops were met pouring down the road and through the wood, in great disorder, where I found General Cobb and his staff, at the imminent risk of their lives, using every effort to check and rally them. I immediately joined my efforts, and those of my staff who were with me, to General Cobb's, and co-operated with him for a considerable time in the vain efforts to rally the men. Finding it impossible to rally them so near the enemy, it was determined to post artillery about half a mile farther to the rear and bring up two of my regiments from Burkittsville Gap, which had been previously ordered forward, and make a stand there to arrest the farther advance of the enemy during that night. Line of battle was finally formed here. The enemy made no farther advance.

Colonel Parham, commanding Mahone's brigade, and Colonel Munford, of the cavalry, as I was informed, jointly made the dispositions for the battle, which was conducted under their orders, and the troops under their command had been thrown into disorder and were retiring from the field before General Cobb's command came up.

Major Holt's report shows that up to the time he was disabled his regiment behaved well, and I can testify from my own observation that Captain Loud, upon whom the command devolved, conducted himself most gallantly. A section of Captain Manly's battery, and three pieces of the Reserve Artillery, under command of Captain Macon, which had been ordered to Burkittsville Gap by myself, did good service in breaking the enemy's lines, checking his advance, and inflicting loss on him.

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




Camp near Martinsburg, W. Va., September 24, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

MAJOR: I have the honor to report briefly the part enacted by my brigade, composed of the Fifteenth and Thirty-second Virginia and the Tenth and Fifty-third Georgia Volunteers, and Manly's battery, in the battle of Sharpsburg, on September 17:

Moving forward by the flank in the direction of the enemy, before coming in view, two brigades were met retiring from the front apparently badly cut up. An incessant current of wounded flowed to the rear, showing that the conflict had been severe and well contested. Coming in full view, of the enemy's line, Major-General McLaws, in person, ordered me to move forward in line to the support of Major-General Stuart, on our extreme left. Immediately the order was given, "by company into line," followed by "forward into line," both of which movements were executed, in the presence of the enemy, under a fire occasioning severe loss in killed and wounded. The brigade advanced steadily for 200 yards under fire before the order was given to commence firing. This order was then given at long range for most of our arms, for the purpose of encouraging our troops and disconcerting the enemy. The troops, it is true, needed little encouragement. Their officers had already inspired them with enthusiasm, and they continued to advance with vivacity. The effect on the enemy's fire of the order to the regiments of the brigade that had formed in line to commence firing was distinctly visible in the diminished numbers of killed and wounded.

The enemy at first met our advance by a corresponding one. Our troops continued to press steadily forward, pouring a deadly fire into his ranks, and he, after advancing 100 yards, gave way; and we continued to drive him from position to position, through wood and field for a mile, expending not less than 40 rounds of ammunition. My brigade was thrown farther to the front than the troops on my right by about 300 yards, and for a time was exposed to a terrible front and enfilading fire, inflicting great loss.

It gives me satisfaction to be enabled to state that my brigade fought under an inspiration of enthusiasm which impelled the men forward with the confidence of victory. Had it been possible to have strengthened it by a supporting force of 2,000 or 3,000 men, there was not then, nor is there now, a doubt in my mind that the enemy's right, though in vastly superior numbers, would have been driven upon his center and both, in confusion, on his left, utterly routing him. The victory, though decisive, would thus have been rendered signal, and the enemy's lines broken and dispersed.

The loss in killed and wounded was, of the Fifty-third Georgia Volunteers, 30 per cent.; Thirty second Virginia, 45 per cent.; Tenth Georgia, 57 per cent.; Fifteenth Virginia, 58 per cent., detailed statements of which are herewith submitted. The disparity in the loss of some of the companies of the same regiment is very marked. Three of the four regimental commanders were wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Sloan, commanding Fifty-third Georgia, fell, it was then supposed, mortally wounded, while gallantly leading his regiment forward into line on the extreme left of the brigade.

The regimental commanders displayed conspicuous gallantry and by their example inspired their commands with the confidence of positive success. Troops never fought more persistently, intelligently, and with more valor.

My staff, Lieutenant Briggs, aide-de-camp, and Lieutenants Redd and Cody, volunteer aides, were present during the entire action, and were more exposed, if possible, than any of the troops, being often employed in bearing orders to the different parts of my line and to commanders of other troops in the vicinity, displaying coolness and gallantry of the highest order, and all escaping untouched except Lieutenant Redd, who received a slight wound on the body from a spent bullet.

Calling for a staff officer to bear an order to the regiments on the left, none being at hand, Captain Henley, acting commissary of subsistence, Thirty-second Virginia, who had been shot through the arm but refused to quit the field, offered himself to become the bearer, which was declined, on account of his wound; whereupon, stating that his wound was slight and that he was not disabled, he was allowed to proceed. While doing so, he fell, severely wounded, pierced with two bullets.

This is only a prominent example of many acts of signal daring and valor displayed on that bloody and memorable field by officers and men of all the regiments.

After the enemy was thus driven back, and the fire of his small-arms had for some time entirely ceased, the troops, having been under an incessant musketry and artillery fire for two hours and twenty minutes, were so thoroughly exhausted and their ammunition so nearly expended as to render necessary the order to retire for the purpose of reforming and obtaining a fresh supply of ammunition. Remaining myself an hour longer in front, with Lieutenant Davis and 6 men of the Tenth Georgia Volunteers, I then withdrew and reported to Major-General McLaws, who ordered my brigade to be reassembled in reserve.

Thirty six prisoners, including a lieutenant colonel and first lieutenant, were captured at a farm-house, the most advanced position held by my brigade, which is some hundreds of yards in advance of the other portions of our line of battle.

The reports of regimental commanders are herewith submitted, to which reference is respectfully asked for further details.

Manly's battery was detached from my command during the battle. His report is herewith submitted.

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


[Supplemental Report]

October 27, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

MAJOR: In answer to the inquiry by Major-General Longstreet as to the number of colors lost by our troops in the battles in Maryland, I have the honor to state that no colors were lost by the regiments of this brigade. In the battle of Sharpsburg the colors of the Fifty-third Georgia received two shots; that of the Fifteenth Virginia, ten, and the pike was once cut in two; 2 color-bearers were wounded, and 1 of the colorguard was killed and 1 wounded. The colors of the Thirty-second Virginia received seventeen shots, and the pike was once cut in two and 1 of the color-guard killed. The colors of the Tenth Georgia received forty-six shots, and the pike was once hit and twice cut in two; 1 color-bearer and 1 of the color-guard were killed, and 1 color-bearer and 1 of the color-guard wounded. These facts were not incorporated in the report of the operations of this brigade in the battle of Sharpsburg. It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that this communication be regarded as a supplement to that report.

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


Source: The Official Records 1


1   US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Ser. 27), pp. 872-876  [AotW citation 17521]


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