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MGen William F Smith's Official Reports

Reports of September 1862 of Crampton's Gap and Antietam

W. F. Smith

[author biography]

[Crampton's Gap/South Mountain]

Camp near Sharpsburg, September 23, 1862.

Lieutenant Colonel OLIVER D. GREENE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Sixth Army Corps.

COLONEL: I have to make, for the information of the general commanding the corps, the following report of the operations of my division at Crampton's Pass, Sunday, September 14, 1862:

The troops arrived near Burkittsville, about 1 o'clock p. m., and were massed in a wood at long artillery range, and remain there until just after General Slocum's division became engaged in front of the pass. I was then ordered to throw a brigade to the left of the pass, to create a diversion, and, if possible, to turn the right flank of the enemy. The Second Brigade, under General W. T. H. Brooks, was detailed for this purpose, and marched by the flank to Burkittsville under a heavy artillery fire. At that point skirmishers were thrown out and the line of battle formed, and General Brooks advanced, under a sharp fire of skirmishers, across the opening and into the woods. The brigade crossed the mountain at one of its steepest points, and passed down the western face near to the valley, at which point they found a gun and stand of colors left by the retreating enemy. They also took many prisoners, and seem to have added materially to the day's result by carrying out General Franklin's idea of threatening the enemy's right flank.

As soon as General Brook's brigade became engaged, the Third Brigade, under Colonel Irwin, was ordered to support it. I also ordered forward a battery, by direction of General Franklin, and captain Ayres, my efficient chief of artillery, arrived on the ground in time to post it before dark for defensive purposes.

I inclose reports with reference to the operations of the troops that maneuvered in presence of the enemy.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Commanding Division.


Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., September 30, 1862.

Lieutenant Colonel OLIVER D. GREENE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Sixth Army Corps.

COLONEL: I have to report, for the information of the general commanding the corps, that my division left camp near Crampton's Pass at 6 o'clock a. m. September 17, and making a march of 10 miles, arrived on the field of battle near the Antietam Creek about 10 o'clock a. m., and I was at first ordered to mass the troops on the road to Sharpsburg, ready to support the attack on the right or left, as might be required. In short time I was ordered to form my division to command the ford across the creek, and shortly after was ordered to occupy a point accross the creek, and in rear of where it was then supposed our troops were engaged with the enemy.

On arriving at the designated point, I was ordered by General Sumner to form the division in rear of some batteries on our extreme right. Before the division was formed, I learned from Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor, of General Sumner's staff, that a battery on our right center was unsupported, and I ordered two regiments form the First Brigade (General Hancock's) to its support. Shortly after, on visiting the ground. I ordered the remaining regiments and two batteries forward to the threatened point; and, finding that the enemy were advancing, I ordered forward the Third Brigade (Colonel Irwin's), who, passing through the regular battery, then commanded by Lieutenant Thomas (Fourth Artillery), charged upon the enemy, and drove them gallantly until abreast the little church at the point of woods, the possession of which had been so fiercely contested.

At this point a severe flank fire from the woods was received by the Thirty-third and Seventy-seventh New York Regiments, which threw both regiments slightly into confusion. They were immediately rallied by their officers and faced by the rear rank, and ordered to lie down behind the crest of a slope facing toward the woods. The rest of the brigade was ordered to form behind a crest nearly at right angles to the other, facing to their proper front. The brigade remained in this position, subjected to a heavy artillery fire and practice from sharpshooters, for twenty-four hours, until relieved by a brigade from General Couch's division.

I refer to the report of Colonel Irwin to show with what determination this exposed position was held. I also refer particularly to the report of Major Hyde, Seventh Maine Volunteers, with reference to the gallant conduct of that regiment, acting under the orders of Colonel Irwin. These orders were not made known to me till after the regiment had moved.

I beg leave here to mention the following-named officers belonging to this brigade, whose conduct was particularly gallant under my own observation:

Colonel W. H. Irwin, commanding Third Brigade; Colonel E. von Vegesack, commanding Twentieth New York Volunteers; Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Corning, commanding Thirty-third New York Volunteers; Captain E. Martindale, commissary of subsistence, Third Brigade; Lieutenant John J. Carter, Thirty-third New York Volunteers.

As soon as the Third Brigade was established in its position, I sent back for the Second Brigade (General Brooks') to act as a support, but it had, without my knowledge or consent, been ordered away. It is not the first or second time during a battle that my command has been dispersed by orders from an officer superior in rank to the general commanding this corps, and I must assert that I have never known any good to arise from such a method of fighting a battle, and think the contrary rule should be adopted of keeping commands intact.

I inclose the reports of Generals Brooks and Hancock and Colonel Irwin and Captain Ayres. General Brooks himself was slightly wounded, and General Hancock during the day was assigned to a higher command.

The artillery, under Captain Ayres' judicious management, assisted very materially in silencing the fire of the enemy, which was so destructive to our infantry, and I must call to the attention of General Franklin the gallant and skillful conduct of Lieutenant Martin, commanding Ayres' battery, who on this, as on several previous occasions, has shown himself worthy of promotion.

I must also call to mind the fact that the troops of my division were mostly for forty hours constrained to lie down in line of battle, ready at any moment to repel an attack, and subjected most of that time to a fire of artillery and to the fire of the sharpshooters of the enemy.

I beg leave to mention the following officers on my staff, who served faithfully and gallantly through the battle: Major Charles Mundee, assistant adjutant-general; Lieuts. M. Berry, Samuel Carey, James A. Scrymser, J. F. S. Gray, aides-de-camp, and P. C. F. West, acting topographical engineer. Captain C. R. Crane, Fifth Vermont, ordnance officer of my division, had his ammunition train not only close behind the troops and in good order, but gave material aid in supplying General Sumner's corps and General Slocum's division with ammunition when the supplies of their respective batteries were exhausted. My orderly, Private William Heckler, Company G, Rush's Lancers, behaved gallantly.

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

Major-General, Commanding Division.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Page 401 - 403


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