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BGen James J Archer's Official Report

Report of March 1, 1863 of Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg, and Shepherdstown

J. J. Archer

[author biography]

Camp Gregg, near Fredericksburg, Va., March 1, 1863

Major R. C. MORGAN,
Assistant Adjutant-General, A. P. Hill's Light Division.

MAJOR: I have the honor to present the following report of the operations of my brigade in the series of battles from Warrenton Springs Ford to Shepherdstown, inclusive:

[Portion omitted here is in the OR, Series I, Vol. 12, Part 2, Pages 699 - 702.]


On the evening of September 14, my brigade, Field's, and Pender's moved from a point on the railroad by a by-road toward the southern defenses of Bolivar Heights. My skirmishers, on the right of the road, soon became engaged with those of the enemy. I immediately formed line of battle, my left resting on the road, and advanced steadily, driving the enemy's pickets before us, until I approached the crest of the hill, in full view and range of their batteries, when I filed out of the field into the woods on my right, in order to flank the enemy's guns, and continued to advance, as rapidly as the rough ground and abatis would permit, until it became dark, and I had become entangled in the almost impenetrable abatis, when I halted, and we lay on our arms, within 400 yards of the enemy's batteries, during the night.

The next morning, our artillery, which had been placed in position during the night, opened a destructive fire, and while I was struggling through the abatis, endeavoring to execute an order from General Hill to get in rear of the guns, the place surrendered.

My loss in this action was 1 killed and 22 wounded.

The regiments of my brigade were commanded as follows, viz: First Tennessee, Colonel Turney; Seventh Tennessee, Major Shepard; Fourteenth Tennessee, Lieutenant-Colonel Lockert; Nineteenth Georgia, Major [James H.] Neal, and Fifth Alabama Battalion, Captain Hooper.


The next morning after the capture of Harper's Ferry, being too unwell for duty, I turned over the command of the brigade to Colonel Turney (First Tennessee), under whom, with the exception of the Fifth Alabama, it marched to the battle-field of Sharpsburg, while I followed in an ambulance. This was a long and fatiguing march; many of the men fell, exhausted from the march, by the way, so that when the four regiments of my brigade reached the battle-field there were only 350 men. I resumed command just as the brigade was forming into line on the ground assigned to it by General Hill, on the extreme left of his division, but not in sight of any of its other brigades. Marching by flank, right in front, along the Sharpsburg road, the brigade was halted and faced to the right, forming line of battle faced by the rear rank. General Toombs was in line on the same road about 300 yards to my left, with open ground in front. In front of my position was a narrow corn-field about 100 yards wide, then a plowed field about 300 yards wide, on the opposite side of which was a stone fence. I moved forward, under a scattering musket fire, through the tall corn to the edge of the plowed field, when I found only the right regiment (the Fourteenth Tennessee) with me, the others having fallen back to the road. Some one had called out, "Fall back," which was mistaken for an order form me. I reformed the line as rapidly as possible, and again moved forward against the enemy, posted in force behind the stone fence. In passing over the short distance of 250 yards from the corn-field, I lost nearly one-third of my already greatly reduced command, but it rushed, forward alone at double-quick, giving the enemy but little time to estimate its small numbers, and drove him from his strong position. By this time it was nearly sunset. General Branch's brigade came down about thirty minutes after I reached the wall, and formed some 30 paces to my rear, when General Branch was killed, and Colonel Lane, assuming command of his brigade, moved it down to my left.

The next morning about 9 o'clock, the little strength with which I entered the fight being completely exhausted, I turned over the command to Colonel Turney, reported to the major-general commanding, and left the field. My brigade remained all that day in the same position where I had left it, and on the morning of September 19, together with Gregg's and Branch's brigades, formed the rear guard of the army on its return to the Virginia shore.

My loss in this action was 15 killed and 90 wounded; among the latter Colonel [William] McComb, Fourteenth Tennessee, severely, and Captain [T. W.] Flynt, Nineteenth Georgia, dangerously. The gallant conduct of both these officers attracted my attention, though where all who were engaged behaved so gallantly it is difficult to select examples of particular merit.

Captain R. H. Archer, my assistant adjutant-general, though not yet recovered from a severe illness; Lieutenant Thomas, aide, and Lieutenant [George] Lemmon, ordnance officer, rendered brave and efficient assistance, and charged with the troops upon the enemy. The regiments of the brigade were commanded as follows: First Tennessee, Colonel Turney; Seventh Tennessee, Lieutenant [G. A.] Howard, adjutant; Fourteenth Tennessee, Lieutenant-Colonel Lockert, and Nineteenth Georgia by Major Neal.


I resumed command of my brigade the evening of September 19.

The morning of the 20th, the division moved down to repel the enemy, who were crossing the Potomac at the Shepherdstown ferry. Line of battle was formed in a corn-field about three-fourths of a mile back from the ferry. Pender's brigade moved forward in the direction of the ferry, and General Gregg's and Colonel Thomas' toward a point somewhere to the right. When General Pender had gotten about half way to the ferry, General Hill directed me to take command of the three remaining brigades-Field's, commanded by Colonel Brockenbrough, on the right; Lane's in the center, and my own, under the senior colonel (Turnney), on the left-and advance to the support of Pender. I moved straight forward until within a few hundred yards of General Pender's brigade, when, on his sending me back information that the enemy was attempting to flank him on the left, I moved by flank to the left, and the left regiment of my brigade, as soon as it was unmasked by Pender's, and each other regiment, as soon as unmasked by the preceding one, went in at double-quick; Colonel Lane's next, and then Field's were in like manner and with equal spirit thrown forward on the enemy, killing many and driving the rest down the precipitous banks into the river. The advance of my command was made under the heaviest artillery fire I have ever witnessed.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to officers and men for their conduct. The litter corps in this, as in all the battles, has displayed as much valor as any troops in the field. Lieutenant Shelby, commanding that corps, displayed his usual gallantry, remaining under fire in the discharge of his duty after [receiving] a severe wound until ordered off the field. Captain Archer and Lieutenants Thomas and Lemmon, of my staff, rendered valuable and efficient assistance. We held our position until dark, when we returned to camp and took up our line of march the same night toward Martinsburg.

The regiments were commanded as follows: First Tennessee, Colonel Turney; Fourteenth [Tennessee], Lieutenant-Colonel Lockert; Seventh Tennessee, Lieutenant Howard, adjutant; Nineteenth Georgia, Captain F. M. Johnston.

The loss of the brigade wa 6 killed and 49 wounded.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Page 1000 - 1002


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