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BGen Richard B Garnett's Official Reports

Reports of November 1862 of Boonsborough and Sharpsburg

R. Garnett

[author biography]


November 6, 1862.

Major A. COWARD,
Assistant Adjutant-General to Brigadier General D. R. Jones.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by Pickett's brigade, of General D. R. Jones' division, which I commanded in the battle of Boonsborough:

This command, consisting of the Eighth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-eighth, and Fifty-sixth Regiments Virginia Volunteers, commanded, respectively, by Colonel Hunton, Major Cabell, Colonel [J. B.] Strange, Captain [W. L.] Wingfield, and Colonel Stuart, left the neighborhood of Hagerstown, Md., on the morning of September 14 last, and reached Boonsborough, on the Hagerstown and Frederick turnpike, in the afternoon, after a hot, dusty, and fatiguing march of some 18 miles. A short distance beyond the village, Kemper's, Pickett's, and Jenkins' brigades (the latter commanded by Colonel Walker), in the order named, were moved in a southerly direction on a road running perpendicular to the pike. Having proceeded over a mile, these troops were directed on another route parallel to the turnpike, leading toward a gap in the South Mountain, farther south than that through which the Hagerstown and Frederick road ran. After marching nearly half a mile, Kemper filed to the left, and again moved in the direction of the pike. At this time I received an order, by Major Mayo [Moses?], of General Jones' staff, to bring my troops to an about-face, and to return the way I came until I reached a path, which I must take. He was unable to give me any information respecting the path in question, but said be would go forward and try to obtain some. I did not, however, see him again.

I followed Jenkins' brigade, which was now in front some distance; but hearing musketry open on the mountain, I took what I supposed to be a near cut in the direction where I presumed I was wanted. This took me over rough and plowed ground up the mountain side. I at length found an old and broken road, along which General Kemper must have moved. Here I met Captain Hugh Rose, of General Jones' staff, who had orders for me to return to the turnpike. When I got back to this road my troops were almost exhausted. I consequently lost the services of a number of men by straggling.

After a shot rest, I proceeded up the mountain, and, having gained the summit on the main road, I was sent, by a narrow lane bearing to the left, to a higher position. A portion of this route was commanded by several pieces of the enemy's artillery, which opened upon my column (marching by the flank) as soon as it came in sight, which they were enabled to do with considerable accuracy, as they had previously been practicing on other troops which had preceded mine. Several casualties occurred from this cause while I was approaching and forming my line of battle, which I did by filing my command to the right through an open field. My right rested in a thick woods, which descended quite abruptly in front, and my left in a field of standing corn. As soon as my troops were formed, I sent forward a line of skirmishers to ascertain the position of the enemy. When these dispositions had been completed (which was only a short time before sunset), I received an order from General Jones to detach my left regiment to Kemper's right (the being on my left), and to withdraw the rest of the brigade to a wooded ridge a little to the left and rear. The first part of this order had scarcely been executed when the Federal skirmishers made their appearance, immediately followed by their main body, so that the action at once became general.

The brigade sustained for some time a fierce attack by doubtless many times their number. It has subsequently been ascertained that General McClellan's army, consisting of at least 80,000 men, assailed our position, only defended by General D. H. Hill's division and a part of General Longstreet's Corps. The left was the first to fall back, and finally the right was forced to retreat, being without support. Many renewed the contest a little farther to the rear, and stoutly disputed the approach of the enemy, but it had now become so dark it was impossible to distinguish objects, except at a short distance. About this time two regiments of Jenkins' brigade came up, and, the probable position of the enemy being pointed out, they advanced to the attack with great gallantry. Just as these troops moved forward, I was ordered to bring off my brigade, which I did.

It is due to the brigade to say that it went into the battle of Boonsborough under many serious disadvantages. It had marched (a portion of the time rapidly) between 22 and 23 miles before it went into action, much oppressed by heat and dust; reached its position a short time before sunset under a disheartening fire of artillery, and was attacked by a much superior force as soon as it was formed in line of battle. That it bravely discharged its duty is fully attested by the number of casualties which occurred during the engagement.

I had been placed in command of the brigade only a few days before the battle of Boonsborough, and, therefore, was personally acquainted with few of the officers, save the regimental commanders. I cannot, therefore, mention names, but can only say I saw several in connection with them, both by words and example, encouraging and cheering on their men in the hottest of the fight. For further information on this subject you are referred to the sub-reports, herewith inclosed.

Colonel Stuart, as I formerly mentioned, was detached with his regiment (the Fifty-sixth Virginia) before the action commenced. His accompanying official report will show the part taken by his command.

Lieutenant McIntire, Eighth [Nineteenth] Virginia Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieuts. Elliott Johnston and A. C. Sorrel, First Georgia Regulars, acting aides-de-camp, composed my staff. It is with much pleasure that I acknowledge the zeal, intelligence, and bravery with which they discharged their duties pending the battle.

We have to mourn in this action many of our companions as killed and wounded, who go to swell the list of noble martyrs who have suffered in our just cause. It was not to be acquainted with but one of the officers who fell on this occasion - Colonel John B. Strange, Nineteenth Virginia Volunteers. His tried valor on othe fields, and heroic conduct in aminating his men to advance upon the enemy with his latest breath, and after he had fallen mortally wounded, will secure imperishable honor for his name and memory.

I herewith furnish a list of the killed and wounded, and have the honor to state that the delay and imperfection of my report with regard to details have been occasioned by my being relieved from the command of Pickett's brigade before the reports of regimental commanders could be made out; and although I applied for them some weeks since, I received several of them only yesterday.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.


November 7, 1862.

Major A. COWARD,
Assistant Adjutant-General to Brigadier General D. R. Jones.

MAJOR: I have the honor to forward the following report of the battle of Sharpsburg, as far as participated in by my command (Pickett's brigade):

Early in the forenoon of September 17 these troops, composed of the Eighth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-eighth, and Fifty-sixth Virginia Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Hunton, Major Cabell, Lieutenant William N. Wood, Captain Wingfield, and Captain McPhail, were ordered to the southeastern side of the village to support several batteries of Washington Artillery, commanding the easterly and southerly approaches to the town. As far as practicable the command was sheltered in a hollow in the rear of the artillery. For some four or five hours it was subjected to an almost uninterrupted fire of solid shot, shell, and spherical case, by which a number of men were killed and wounded, which casualties were borne by the troops with remarkable firmness and steadiness. I was subsequently ordered forward on the brow of the hill to dislodge the enemy's skirmishers, who began to annoy our artillery to the eastward. Here we were more exposed to the Federal artillery than in our former position, and suffered considerably. At length, for some cause unknown to me, a large portion of the pieces were withdrawn, and I moved my command farther back to a more secure place.

Having been here a short time, I was informed that a portion of Colonel Stephen D. Lee's battalion had taken the place of the Washington Artillery, and wished some skirmishers to protect his pieces from the sharpshooters of the enemy. I sent forward the Fifty-sixth Regiment, under the command of Captain McPhail, for this purpose. Not long after, I learned that the enemy had crossed the Antietam (a stream in our front) in very large force, and was moving toward the point occupied by the artillery. I again moved forward my force and took up a position in front of two pieces of Colonel Lee's battalion, in a corn-field, with space enough between the wings for them to be used with effect. The Fifty-sixth Regiment, which was in front, was recalled, and rejoined the left wing of the main body. Soon a large number of the enemy's skirmishers were seen to our left, as if to flank us. There were none of our forces in sight in that direction. A brisk fire from the left checked and finally caused them to retire. Now a large force made its appearance, marching to the front, having debouched from the woods on the banks of the Antietam, which had partially concealed them. At the same time heavy bodies were observed moving to attack our troops on the right, composed of Drayton's and a portion of Kemper's brigades. I moved my command some distance to the front in the standing corn (as many of my guns were short range), in order that they could produce more effect, and opened fire. At this time, I do not think my effective force could have exceeded 200 men, yet these, with two rifled pieces, most gallantly and skillfully served, under the command of Captain Moody, and superintended by Colonel Lee, checked and held at bay a force of the enemy many times our numbers. When this unequal contest had lasted over an hour, I discovered that the Federals had turned our extreme right, which began to give way, and a number of the Yankee flags appeared on the hill in rear of the town and not far from our only avenue of escape. I ordered the brigade to fall back, deeming it in imminent danger of being surrounded and captured, as it would have been impossible for it to have held its position without the support of the troops on the right. There being some delay in withdrawing Moody's section of artillery, I take pleasure in saying I saw Major Cabell halt and face his men about, to await its removal, as mentioned in his official report.

The main street of the town was commanded by the Federal artillery. My troops, therefore, passed, for the most part, to the north of the town along the cross-streets. In this direction I found troops scattered in squads from various parts of the army, so that it was impossible to distinguish men of the different commands. Having reached the rear of the town, and learning that General Toombs had re-enforced our right just after it was driven back, and restored the fortunes of the day in that quarter, I gathered as many men as I could get to follow me from among the dispersed force (which did not amount to a large number, as many said they were looking for proper commands), and, accompanied by Captain William N. Berkeley, of the Eighth Virginia Regiment, and Lieutenants McIntire and Sorrel, of my staff, I joined General Drayton's command south of the village. I found, on my arrival, that the enemy had been successfully repulsed, only a few skirmishers remaining in sight, which were being driven back by our troops of the same description.

The conduct of the brigade during this most trying day, under destructive fires from artillery and musketry, is deserving of the highest commendation, officers and men generally acting with the utmost bravery and coolness. The names of those particularly mentioned by regimental commanders will be found in their reports, herewith furnished.

My staff - Lieutenants McIntire, Johnston (who was wounded in the foot shortly after the infantry engagement commenced, and in consequence of which lost his leg), and Sorrel - are entitled to my thanks for meritorious and gallant services during the day.

I feel it a duty, and grateful to my feelings, again to recur to the part taken by Captain Moody's section of artillery. It is partly due to the brave and energetic manner with which it was handled that the infantry were enabled to hold their position, and it is, therefore, entitled to a full share of the credit for whatever success attended our efforts on that part of the field. Colonel Lee, at times during the action, personally assisted at his pieces. His bravery and intrepidity at the battle of Sharpsburg should add fresh fame to the high reputation he has already won.

In this battle, as in former ones, we are called on to deplore the loss of many brave spirits, who have sealed their devotion to the Southern cause with their life's blood. May their memories ever be enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen!

This report has been delayed for the reasons assigned in my report of the battle of Boonsborough. A list of killed, wounded, &c., is herewith furnished as far as could be obtained.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 894 - 897


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