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MGen Fitz John Porter's Official Report

Report of October 1, 1862 of Operations of September 11 - 20

F-J. Porter

[author biography]

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 1, 1862.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,
Asst. Adjt. General, Hdqrs. Army of the Potomac.

GENERAL: I have the honor to present the following report: I received at Arlington, Va., about midnight on the 11th ultimo [September], orders from the General-in-Chief to report on the following day, with my corps, to Major-General McClellan at Brookeville, Md. The only portion of the Fifth Corps then under my control was Morrell's division, thus distributed: One brigade at Upton's Hill, one at Hunter's Chapel, and one at Fort Corcoran. At 6 a. m. on the 12th, the division (about 6,000 strong) was in motion via Leesborough to join the active army. Tyler's and Allabach's brigades, constituting then Whipple's now Humphreys' division, were assigned to me on the 12th on personal application to the General-in Chief, and on the morning of the 14th (having been delayed by exchanging unserviceable arms in five regiments and obtaining transportation and provision), that division, about 6,000 strong, marched to join me near Middletown, Md.

On the morning of the 14th September, I reported in person to the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac and troops engaged in the defense of Washington, and resumed command of Sykes' division and that portion of the Reserve Artillery not distributed to corps. This portion of the command was held in readiness to take part in the battle of South Mountain, but so gallantly and effectually was the enemy driven from the heights by Burnside's and Sumner's [Hooker's?] commands, that its services were not called for.

On the 15th, in compliance with instructions to pursue the enemy until I came upon him in large force or in position, and then to take position, and await arrival of other corps, I passed through Burnside's command, which had halted for some hours on South Mountain, and moved on the direct road to Sharpsburg as far as the Antietam Bridge, where, on the right, I found a portion (Richardson's division) of Sumner's corps in line of battle opposite the enemy, then formed on the Sharpsburg Heights. Sykes at once took position behind commanding heights to the left of the road approaching the bridge, and, protected by him, artillery was posted to command the bridge, the roads, and the ground in front of both. The Reserve Artillery, having been accidentally cut off by infantry of another corps (Burnside's), arrived too late to be located that night.

Soon after daybreak of the 16th the enemy's artillery opened from the Sharpsburg Heights, and as soon as our guns were in proper position it was vigorously replied to, and the guns brought to bear throughout the day effectively upon the enemy in front of Sykes, Sumner, and Hooker. Morell's division arrived at about noon, and on the 17th replaced Richardson's division in support of the batteries on the right of Antietam Bridge. Two brigades of Morell's division were dispatched in the afternoon to the aid of General Sumner, then hard pressed. They were halted near their destination by the Major-general commanding, who had sent for them. They returned after dark.

From early in the morning of the 17th till dark the artillery was engaged with great effect upon that of the enemy, or upon his infantry, whenever it showed itself. The men were in many cases driven from their guns, and serious injury was inflicted upon the infantry, which in several instances broke and fled from our shot.

By the same authority a portion of Sykes' division was advanced to support the horse batteries and cavalry immediately in front of Sharpsburg, under Brigadier-General Pleasonton. I was also instructed to replace Pleasonton's batteries till their ammunition could be replenished. Having sent off to other corps all batteries of reserve artillery, they were relieved by Sykes' guns, the only ones available. Their range was too short and they were soon returned. On his call for more support, four more battalions were sent over in the afternoon. They were sent as support to the batteries and to keep to enemy's skirmishers from disturbing our cannoneers. They were, however, diverted from that service, and employed to drive the enemy's skirmishers to their reserves. Their many losses attest the serious work they had to perform.

Still later in the afternoon I received from General Pleasonton a call for a division to press the success obtained by this small band of regulars, accompanied by the statement that Burnside and Sumner were driving the enemy. Between the dispatching and receiving of that call the tide of battle had changed. Our troops on the left under Burnside had been driven from the heights which they had so gallantly crowned, while those on the immediate right, under Sumner, were held in check. The army was at a stand. I had not the force asked for, and could not, under my orders, risk the safety of the artillery and center of the line, and perhaps imperil the success of the day by further diminishing my small command, not then 4,000 strong-then in the front line and unsupported, and protecting aall our trains. Before dark General Sykes had ordered Lieutenant Miller to report with his battery to General Burnside. Colonel Warren, with his brigade, had been sent earlier in the day.

Humphreys' division arrived on the 18th and relieved Morell, who was ordered to the left in support of Burnside. Sykes' and Humphreys' were held ready for any emergency, but were not called to active operations. The heavy batteries had expended their ammunition, and did not receive a supply until the 19th. Morell's division, on reporting to General Burnside, relieved his corps, which was at once recalled from its position in front of Antietam Bridge.

At an early hour on the 19th it was discovered that the enemy had nearly evacuated Sharpsburg, and the Fifth with other corps was directed to take up a position in line beyond the town, but afterward order to pursue the enemy and give aid to the cavalry brigade, then in advance. I found that the enemy, pressed by Pleasonton, had crossed the river, and was holding the right bank, defending the fords with artillery well posted. I determined to clear the fords, and, if possible, secure some of the enemy's artillery. With this view I caused the banks of the river and canal to be well lined with skirmishers and sharpshooters, supported by portions of their respective divisions (Morell's and Sykes'), while their artillery and that of the reserve was posted to control the opposite bank.

While these were driving from their guns the cannoneers and horses, and silencing the fire of the infantry, an attacking party from Griffin's and Barnes' brigades, composed of the Fourth Michigan and parts of the One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania and the Eighteenth and Twenty-second Massachusetts Regiments, volunteers for the occasion, was formed under the immediate direction of General Griffin, and moved across the river in face of a warm fire from the enemy's infantry. Through some misunderstanding, an order for Sykes to move over a similar party did not reach him. His skirmishers, under the immediate direction of Colonel Warren, were busy keeping down the fire of the enemy's infantry, and with the artillery effectually prevented the enemy's cannoneers from manning their guns.

Darkness concealed the movements of the enemy and enabled them to remove a portion of their artillery before our attacking party scaled the heights. The result of the day's action was the capture of 5 pieces, 2 caissons, 2 caisson bodies, 2 forges, and some 400 stand of arms; also 1 battle-flag. Our loss was small in numbers. Some excellent officers and men were killed and wounded. The party was recalled during the night, and the whole command bivouacked within reach of the fords.

Cavalry having been directed to cross the river at daybreak and the commander to co-operate with me in an advance, I directed Generals Morell and Sykes to cross about 7 a. m. on the 20th their divisions, preceding their main columns by advanced guards thrown well forward on the roads to Shepherdstown and Charlestown. About 8 a. m. I was informed by General Sykes that the skirmishers of his advanced guard (cavalry not having then crossed) had met the enemy advancing in large force on the Charlestown road. I directed the recall at once of this force, and proceeded immediately to the ford, over which I found rapidly returning such of the cavalry as had crossed. Seeing the small force of infantry on the opposite bank (two brigades of Sykes' and a part of one of Morell's), and the impossibility of getting over and forming sufficient force in time to meet the attack, I ordered all to withdraw and take shelter within the canal, which afforded admirable protection and means of using effectually our own fire. At the same time the hills immediately on the banks of the river were well lined with skirmishers, and the artillery, well posted, commenced playing on the advancing foe. Under cover of our guns the whole command recrossed with little injury except to the One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, a small portion of which became confused early in the action. Their arms (spurious Enfield rifles) were so defective that little injury could be inflicted by them upon the enemy. Many of this regiment, new in service, volunteered the previous evening, and formed part of the attacking party which gallantly crossed the river to secure the enemy's artillery. They have earned a good name which the losses of the day did not diminish.

The attacking column was from a part of Jackson's corps, the main portion of which lay concealed in the adjacent woods. The loss of the enemy that day is not known. Under the fire of the artillery and a portion of the infantry which was poured into his advancing columns, it must have been heavy.

Some of the guns from which the enemy had been driven the day previous by the combined fire of the corps artillery and infantry, and whose supports were routed the evening previous, were secured and brought to this side. I am pleased to be able to state that Company D (Griffin's), Fifth Artillery, regained one of its guns lost at the first battle of Bull Run, and will retain it with the permission of the major-general commanding. A return of ordnance captured accompanies this report; also a list of casualties.

I respectfully refer to the reports of Brigadier-General Sykes and Colonel Hays and their respective brigade and battery commanders for the details of the operations of their commands, and to commend to the major-general commanding and to the Government the recommendations for promotion well earned by each on these as well here as on other fields of battle.

I desire to express my thanks to Brigadier-General Hunt, chief of artillery, for services rendered voluntarily, and to Captain Ingraham, Fourteenth Infantry, on provost duty at headquarters Army of the Potomac, who volunteered and accompanied the storming party on the 19th ultimo.

As soon as the reports of other commanders are received I shall take pleasure in bringing to notice the names of many other officers of my own command conspicuous for their gallant services.

I desire to call attention to the generous and brave conduct of a citizen, reported by Captain Graham, who took from under the fire of the enemy's artillery the wounded of Captain Graham's battery.

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

Major-General, Commanding.


Itinerary of the Fifth Army Corps, from September 1 to November 21, 1862.

September 1, the corps marched to Fairfax Court-House and Flint Hill, at which latter place it arrived at 10 a. m., September 2, and left at 3 p. m. for Chain Bridge.

September 3, arrived and encamped at Minor's and Hall's Hills, by order of General McClellan, till September 6, on which evening Sykes' division marched to Rockville, and Morell's to Upton's Hill and the Seminary. The latter marched to Arlington on the 9th, and on the 12th to Leesborough, en route to the Army of the Potomac, near Frederick.

September 16, joined the main army. Sykes' division, Reserve Artillery, and Morell's division were again united, and were engaged in the battle of Antietam. Humphreys' division joined on the 18th, and on the 19th the corps was engaged with the enemy near Shepherdstown, and captured six guns and much ordnance material.

October 16 and 17, 6,000 men, under command of General Humphreys, made a reconnaissance from the vicinity of Shepherdstown, Va., to near Leetown, Va. The command returned on the 17th.

On October 30, left Sharpsburg, Md., at 7 p. m., and encamped near Hillsborough, Va., about 6 p. m. on the 31st.

November 2, left camp near Harper's Ferry and marched to Snickersville.

November 5, left Snickersville and marched to Middleburg.

November 6, encamped near White Plains.

November 8, left White Plains and encamped near New Baltimore.

November 9, marched to camp near Warrenton, Va.

November 17, from camp near Warrenton to Warrenton Junction.

November 18, from Warrenton Junction to Spotted farm.

November 19, from camp near Spotted Farm to camp near Hartwood Court-House, Va.

November 21, marched from camp near Hartwood to camp near Potomac Creek, Va.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 338 - 341


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