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BGen William Barksdale's Official Report

Report of October 12, 1862

W. Barksdale

[author biography]

Camp Lee, Va., October 12, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General, McLaws' Division.

MAJOR: On the morning of September 13 I marched at daylight to Brownsville, where it was supposed the enemy designed making an attack upon our troops. After I reached that place it was discovered that the enemy had disappeared, and the whole command was ordered to rejoin the main army. We reached its vicinity, in the neighborhood of Sharpsburg, at about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 17th. The battle was then, and had been, raging, for several hours. It is proper for me to say that a portion of men had fallen by the wayside from loss of sleep and excessive fatigue, having been constantly on duty for five or six days, and on the march for almost the whole of the two preceding nights, and that I went into the fight with less than 800 men.

About 10 o'clock I formed a line of battle in an open field, which was at that time being raked by a terrible fire of grape and canister from the enemy's artillery. Kershaw was on my right and Semmes on my left. I at once, in accordance with your orders, advanced upon the enemy, who occupied the woods immediately in front, and from which they had just driven a portion of our forces. In a few moments I engaged them, and, after firing several volleys into their ranks, drove them through the woods and into an open field beyond, and compelled them to abandon their artillery on the hill. At this point I discovered that a very large force of the enemy were attempting to flank me on the left. I therefore ordered the Eighteenth and Thirteenth to wheel in that direction, and not only succeeded in checking the movement they were making, but put them to flight, and pursued them for a considerable distance. As we advanced, the ground was covered with the dead and wounded of the enemy. I did not deem it prudent, however, without more support, to advance farther, and I therefore ordered these regiments to fall back to the woods in front of my first position. The Seventeenth and Twenty-first pursued the enemy across the open field, when, perceiving a very strong force moving to the right and attempting to flank them, and all of our forces having retired from that part of the field, they fell back, under protection of a stone fence, in good order.

About 2 o'clock I advanced with the entire brigade, and occupied the battle ground over which we had passed in the morning, General Ransom being on my right and General Early on my left, and continued to hold it until the night of the 18th, when, by your orders, I joined the column of the main army, when it retired across the Potomac.

To both officers and men much credit is due for the courage and daring they exhibited throughout the engagement. Major Campbell, commanding the Eighteenth Regiment, was seriously wounded and taken from the field while nobly leading his regiment in the fight. Lieutenant-Colonel [K.] McElroy, of the Thirteenth Regiment, although wounded, remained in command of his regiment until the battle ceased. Lieutenant-Colonel [John C.] Fiser, of the Seventeenth, and Captain Sims, of the Twenty-first, were conspicuous for the coolness and gallantry with which they handled their respective commands. To Colonel [Benjamin G.] Humphreys, of the Twenty-first, and Lieutenant-Colonel [W. H.] Luse, of the Eighteenth, who reached the field just as the battle was closing, I am under peculiar obligations. Their timely presence not only cheered and animated thier own regiments, but the entire brigade. Lieutenant J. A. Barksdale, of my staff, was prompt and fearless in the execution of all orders. Surgeons Austin, of the Thirteenth; Green, of the Seventeenth; Griffin, of the Eighteenth, and Hill, of the Twenty-first, were faithful and energetic in their attention to the wounded.

I close this report with the remark that my command did its duty upon the ensanguined field of Sharpsburg.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 883 - 884


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