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BGen Jacob D Cox's Official Reports

Reports of September 1862 on South Mountain (Div) and Antietam (IX Corps)

J. D. Cox

[author biography]

[ South Mountain - his Division]

September 20, 1862.

Lieutenant Colonel LEWIS RICHMOND,
Asst. Adjt. General, Burnside's Hdqrs., Right Wing, A. P.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Kanawha Division, Ninth Army Corps, Major-General Burnside's command, in the battle of South Mountain:

At 6 o'clock in the morning of September 14 the division marched from Middletown under an order received by me from Major-General Reno, directing me to support with my division the advance of General Pleasanton, who, with his brigade of cavalry and artillery, was moving up the Hagerstown turnpike toward the positions of the pass of South Mountain. The First Brigade of the division, Colonel E. P. Scammon commanding, consisting of the Twelfth, Twenty-third, and Thirtieth Ohio Regiments, McMullin's Ohio battery, and Gilmore's and Harrison's troops of cavalry, was ordered to proceed by the Boonsborough road, moving to the left of the Hagerstown turnpike and to feel of the enemy, ascertaining whether the crest of South Mountain on that side was held by any considerable force. The Second Brigade, Colonel Crook commanding, consisting of the Eleventh, Twenty-eighth, and Thirty-sixth Ohio Regiments, and Simmonds' battery, with Schambeck's cavalry troop, was ordered to follow on the same road to support the First Brigade.

It soon became evident the enemy held the crest in considerable force, and the whole division was ordered to advance to the assault of the position, word being received from Major-General Reno that the column would be supported by the whole corps. Two 20-pounder Parrot guns from Simmonds' battery and two sections from McMullin's battery were left in the rear, in positions on the turnpike where they were most efficiently served during the action in opposition to the enemy's guns in the center of the line along the Hagerstown road. The First Brigade being in advance, the Twenty-third Ohio Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Hayes commanding, was deployed to our left, and ordered to move through the woods to the left of the road and up to the crest of the mountain, gaining, if possible the enemy's right, so as to turn it and attack his flank. the Twelfth Ohio Regiment, Colonel C. B. White commanding, occupied the center of the line, and the Thirtieth Ohio Regiment, Colonel Hugh Ewing commanding, was on the right.

These movements were successfully made and the troops brought into position by Colonel Scammon before the arrival of the rest of the division.

The Second Brigade marched in column of reserve, and within supporting distance. The whole line in advancing was well covered with skirmishers, whose duty was very effectively performed.

The Twenty-third Ohio having reached the crest on the left, established itself there in spite of a most vigorous resistance on the part of the enemy. On the right the Thirtieth Ohio also succeeded in reaching the top of the slope, in the face of showers of canister and spherical case from a battery of the enemy commanding that part of the line. A section of McMullin's battery was immediately advanced to the front and opened an effective fire upon the enemy, but its position was necessarily so near the enemy's infantry as to be greatly exposed, and after losing Lieutenant Crome, commanding the section, and the wounding of 6 gunners of the section, it was withdrawn, having rendered good service, however, in enabling the infantry to gain tenable positions along the ridge. In the center of the line the Twelfth Ohio was obliged to advance several hundred yards over open pasture-ground, under a most galling fire from the edge of the wood which crowned the slope, and behind stone fences.

The skirmishers of this regiment, advancing with admirable courage and firmness, drove in those of the enemy, and the regiment with loud hurrahs charged up the slope with the bayonet. The rebels stood firmly, and kept up a murderous fire until the advancing line was within a few feet of them, when they broke and fledd over the crest into the shelter of a dense thicket skirting the other side. The Eleventh Ohio, of the Second Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Coleman commanding, was now sent to support the left, and formed on the left of the Twenty-third. The enemy made several attempts to retake the crest, advancing with great obstinacy and boldness. In the center they were at one time partially successful, but the Thirty-sixth Ohio, of the Second Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel M. Clarke commanding, was brought forward, and, with the Twelfth, drove them back by a most dashing and spirited charge. The whole crest was now held by our troops, as follows: The left by the Eleventh and Twenty-third Ohio, the center by the Twelfth Ohio, supported by the Thirty-sixth formed in line in reserve, and the right by the Thirtieth Ohio, supported by the Twenty-eighth, Lieutenant Colonel G. Becker commanding.

Two 10-pounder Parrots, of Simmonds' battery, under Lieutenant Glassier, were pushed forward to an open spot in the woods, and, supported by the infantry, did good service throughout the rest of the action. The enemy withdrew their battery to a new position upon a ridge more to the front and right, forming their infantry in support and moving columns toward both our flanks.

Such was the situation about noon, when a lull occurred in the contest, which lasted some two hours, during which our supports from the remainder of the corps were arriving and taking position. General Willcox's division being the first to arrive, took position on the right, sending one regiment, however, to the extreme left, which was threatened to be turned by a column of the enemy which moved in that direction. General Sturgis' arriving subsequently supported General Willcox's, and General Rodman's was divided; Colonel Fairchild's brigade being posted on the extreme left, and Colonel Harland's (under General Rodman's personal supervision) being placed on the right.

While these supports were arriving the enemy made several vigorous efforts to regain the crest, their efforts chiefly upon our right, which was exposed not only to the fire in front, but to the batteries on the opposite side of the gorge beyond our right, through which the Hagerstown turnpike runs. About 4 o'clock p. m., most of the re-enforcements being in position, the order was received to advance the whole line and take or silence the enemy's batteries immediately in front. The order was immediately obeyed, and the advance was made with the utmost enthusiasm. The enemy made a desperate resistance, charging our advancing lines with fierceness, but they were everywhere routed and fled with precipitation. In this advance the chief loss fell upon the division of General Willcox, which was most exposed, being on the right, as I have said above, but it gallantly overcame all obstacles, and the success was complete along the whole line of the corps. The battery of the enemy was found to be across a gorge and beyond reach of our infantry, but its position was made untenable, and it was hastily removed and not again put in position near us.

General Sturgis' division was now moved forward to the front of General Willcox's position occupying the new ground gained on the farther side of the slope. About dark a brisk attack was abe by the enemy upon the extreme left, but was quickly repulsed by Colonel Fairchild's brigade, of Rodman's division, with little loss.

About 7 o'clock still another effort to regain the lost ground was made by the rebels in front of the position of General Sturgis' division and part of the Kanawha Division. This attack was more persistent, and a very lively fire was kept up for about an hour, but they were again repulsed, and, under cover of the night, retreated in mass from our entire front.

Just before sunset Major-General Reno was killed while making a reconnaissance at the front, and by this lamentable occurrence the undersigned was left in command of the corps. Early in the engagement Lieut Colonel R. B. Hayes, commanding Twenty-third Ohio, was severely wounded in the arm whilst leading his regiment forward. He refused to leave the field, however, until weakness from loss of blood compelled him. Major E. M. Carey, of the Twelfth Ohio was shot through the thigh later in the action, in which he had greatly distinguished by his gallantry and cool courage. Captains Skiles and Hunter, and Lieutenants Hood, Smith, Naughton, and Ritter, of the Twenty third Ohio, and Captains Liggett and Wilson, of the Twelfth Ohio, were also wounded in this engagement. Captain Liggett has since died. Lieutenant Crome, commanding a section of McMullins battery, was killed whilst serving a piece in place of the gunner, who had been disabled.

In the Kanawha Division the casualties were 528, of which 106 were killed, 336 wounded, and 86 missing, of all of which a full list will be immediately forwarded.

I take pleasure in calling attention to the gallantry and efficiency displayed in the action by Colonels Scammon and Crook, commanding the brigades of the division. The manner in which their commands were handled reflected great credit on them, and entitles them to the highest praise.

I beg leave also to mention my indebtedness to Capt. E. P. Fitch, Captain G. M. Bascom, and Lieutenants J. W. Conine and S. L. Christie, of my personal staff, for the devotion and courage displayed by them in the laborious and hazardous duties of the day. Also to Brigade Surg. W. W. Holmes, medical director of the division, for his tireless activity and efficiency in his department.

The conduct of both officers and men was everything that could be desired, and every one seemed stimulated by the determination not to be excelled in any soldierly quality.

I cannot close this report without speaking of the meritorious conduct of First Lieutenant H. Belcher, of the Eighth Michigan, a regiment belonging to another [Willcox's First, of the IX Corps] division. His regiment having suffered severely on the right, and being partly in confusion, he rallied about 100 men and led them up to the front. Being separated from the brigade to which he belonged, he reported to me for duty, and asked a position where he might be of use until his proper place could be ascertained. He was assigned a post on the left, and subsequently in support of the advanced section of Simmonds' battery; in both of which places both he and his men performed their duty admirably, and after the enemy in the evening he carried his command to their proper brigade. About 600 prisoners were taken by the Kanawha Division and sent to Middletown under guard. The losses of the enemy in our immediate front were not definitely ascertained, but it is known they very greatly exceeded our own.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. D. COX,

[ Antietam - the IX Corps]

Mouth of Antietam, September 23, 1862.

Lieutenant Colonel LEWIS RICHMOND,
Asst. Adjt. General, Hdqrs. Right Wing, Major General Burnside Commanding

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the movements of the Ninth Army Corps on the 16th instant, and their part in the battle of Sharpsburg on the 17th:

On the evening of the 15th instant the Ninth Army Corps, having been ordered away from the remainder of the right wing, was encamped in the rear of the extreme left of the whole line of the Army of the Potomac, close to the hills on the southeast side of the valley of the Antietam, and on the left of the road from Rohrersville to Sharpsburg. On the afternoon of the 16th the whole corps, except Willcox's division, was moved forward and to the left and front, by command of Major-General Burnside, in three columns, and took up a new position upon the rear slope of the ridges on the left bank of the Antietam, the center of the corps being nearly opposite the stone bridge over the stream on the above-mentioned road.

The positions assigned the divisions of the command were as follows:

The right front to be occupied by Crook's brigade, of the Kanawha Division, supported in rear by Sturgis' division; a commanding knoll in the center to be occupied by Battery E, Second U. S. Artillery, First Lieutenant Samuel N. Benjamin commanding, consisting of 20-pounder Parrott guns; the left front to be occupied by Rodman's division, supported in rear by Ewing's brigade, of the Kanawha Division, the whole of the latter division being under the command of Colonel E. P. Scammon. The columns were conducted to their positions by staff officers of the personal staff of General Burnside. The artillery of the command, except Benjamin's battery held in reserve.

Shortly after daybreak on the 17th the enemy's batteries opened upon the batteries of our line, and a brisk artillery fight began, in which Benjamin's battery and Durell's battery (the latter sent forward a little to the right of our position, under charge of Captain Rawolle, by General Sturgis) took an active part, co-operating with batteries of other corps on our right. Two of the enemy's caissons were exploded, and many of their guns silenced. The shot and shell fell thickly in our bivouac, but little damage was done us.

About 7 o'clock orders were received from General Burnside to move forward the corps to the ridge nearest the Antietam, and hold it, in readiness to cross the stream, carrying the bridge and the heights above it by assault. The command was moved forward in column as it had been formed the previous night, and promptly took position as directed, and the light artillery was ordered to cover the movement; McMullin's, Durell's, Clark's, Muhlenberg's and Cook's batteries being placed on the heights to right and left and somewhat to the front of Benjamin's battery, to which a section of 20-pounders from Simmonds' battery was also temporarily attached. Willcox's division was also brought up and held as a reserve.

About 9 o'clock the order was received to cross the stream. Immediately the Eleventh Connecticut Infantry, Colonel Kingsbury commanding, was detailed from Rodman's division to deploy as skirmishers and drive the enemy from the head of the bridge. The column on the right (Crook's brigade, of the Kanawha Division, supported by Sturgis' division) was ordered to march under cover of the Eleventh Connecticut, and attempt to carry the bridge by assault, deploying to right and left as soon as the bridge should be carried, and taking the heights above it. The column on the left (Rodman's division, supported by Ewing's brigade, of the Kanawha Division) was ordered to cross, if possible, by a ford about one-third of a mile below the bridge, take the heights above it, and join the column crossing the bridge.

The bridge itself is a stone structure of three arches, with stone parapet above, this parapet to some extent flanking the approach to the bridge at either end. The valley in which the stream runs is quite narrow, the steep slope on the right bank approaching quite to the water's edge. On this slope the roadway is scarped, running both ways from the bridge end, and passing to the higher lend above by ascending through ravines above and below; the other ravine being some 600 yards above the bridge, the turn about half that distance below. On the hillside immediately above the bridge was a strong stone fence running parallel to the stream. The turns of the roadway were covered by rifle-pits and breastworks, made of rails and stone, all of which defenses, as well as the woods which covered the slope, were filled with the enemy's infantry and sharpshooters. Besides the infantry defenses, batteries were placed to enfilade the bridge and all its approaches. The crest of the first hill above the bridge is curved toward the stream at the extremes, forming a sort of natural tete-de-pont. The next ridge beyond rises somewhat higher, though with less regularity the depression between the two being but slight, and the distance varying in places from 300 to 700 yards.

In accordance with the order mentioned above, the Eleventh Connecticut advanced to the stream and warmly engaged the enemy across it. Crook's brigade in moving forward was brought under so lively an infantry fire, as well as that of artillery, that it was forced to halt and open fire in return, and Strugis' division, passing by the rear, came first to the bridge, and was ordered to cross under protection of the artillery fire. General Strugis ordered forward the Second Maryland and Sixth New hampshire, which charged at double-quick with fixed bayonets, but the concentrated fire upon the bridge forced them to fall back. After repeated brave efforts these regiments were withdrawn, and the Fifty-first New York and Fifty-first Pennsylvania, from the same division, were ordered up.

About the same time Colonel Crook, of the Second Brigade, Kanawha Division, succeeded in getting a section of Simmonds' battery, supported by the Twenty-eighth Ohio Infantry, in position to bear directly upon the enemy's positions at the farther end of the bridge, and, aided by these guns, the fresh troops charged with great enthusiasm, bearing down all opposition, and, at 1 o'clock, planted their banner on the opposite bank. In this desperate fight in the valley, Colonel Kingsbury, of the Eleventh Connecticut, fell, cheering his men on to duty.

General Sturgis' division immediately marched over, deploying one brigade to the right and the other to the left of the bridge, and advanced up the slope, driving the enemy before them. This division was followed by Colonel Crook's brigade of the Kanawha Division, which took position on the right.

Meanwhile General Rodman's division and the First Brigade of the Kanawha Division, under Colonel Scammon, had succeeded in crossing at the ford below, after a sharp engagement and under a heavy musketry and artillery fire, and successfully took the position assigned at the left of the line of the crest above the bridge. The three divisions of the corps at this time on the right bank of the Antietam occupied the exact positions assigned them before the commencement, except that on the right the division of Sturgis was in front, and Crook's brigade in support of it, the order being reversed by the causes before stated.

The stubbornly contested fight at the bridge having almost exhausted the ammunition and greatly fatigued the troops engaged, I sent a request to General Burnside that Willcox's division, which had been held in reserve on the left bank, might be sent over and take its place on the right front, putting Strugis' division in reserve at the head of the bridge. This was immediately ordered by General Burnside, and General Willcox came promptly forward with his command. During the interval the enemy kept up and incessant cannonade, and, having the exact range of the valley and the ravines, his shells came in very fast, annoying us a good deal and causing numerous casualties, notwithstanding the men were kept lying on the ground near the crests of the hill while the changes in the line and the partially new formation after the arrival of Willcox's division were being made.

At about 3 o'clock, the necessary changes in the line having been completed, the order to advance was received from General Burnside, and the whole force, except Strugis' division, was put in motion. General Willcox on the right, his whole division in line and supported by Colonel Crook, was ordered to move on Sharpsburg, which lay about a mile distant to the right of our front. General Rodman, supported by Colonel Scammon, was ordered to move in the same direction, first dislodging the enemy from his front, and then changing direction to the right bringing his command en échelon on the left of General Willcox. The advance was partly covered by Simmonds', Muhlenberg's, Clark's, and Cook's batteries, the other batteries of the corps being in part out of ammunition, and part being necessarily kept in position on the commanding ground on the left bank of the stream. The troops moved forward in perfect order and with great enthusiasm. On the right, General Willcox and Colonel Crook quickly repulsed the enemy and drove back their artillery, pushing victoriously forward nearly to the village. On the left, General Rodman and Colonel Scammon likewise advanced rapidly, driving the rebels before them. The enemy, however, were manifestly in much greater force than ours, and massed their troops heavily on the extreme left. This necessarily made the line of march of our left wing diverge from the course intended, and opened a gap between it and the right, which it was necessary to fill up by the troops of the second line. Batteries were accumulated against us upon the semicircular ridge in advance, and the advancing line was subject to a most trying and destructive cross-fire of artillery. The enemy now brought up still more fresh troops upon the left, and while General Rodman was making disposition to meet them by a change of front of a part of his command, he fell, desperately wounded by a ball through his breast. The loss of their commander at a critical period caused confusion in a portion of the division on the extreme left.

The Second Brigade of his division, Colonel Harland commanding, was forced to retire after an obstinate contest, in which they suffered terribly.

Colonel Scammon, of the Kanawha Division, being ordered to make dispositions of the brigade with him to oppose the rebel force on the left, caused the Twelfth and Twenty-third Ohio Regiments to execute a perpendicular change of front, which was done with precision and success, the other regiment of the brigade (Thirtieth Ohio) maintaining its proper front. The whole line was now engaged, the supports being brought to the front, except the reserve division of General Strugis at the bridge. This was now ordered up, and came promptly, though much exhausted and weakened by its previous exertions during the day.

The mass of the enemy on the left still continued to increase; new batteries were constantly being opened upon us, and it was manifest the corps would, without re-enforcements, be unable to reach the village of Sharpsburg, since the movement could not be made to the right whilst the enemy exhibited such force in front of the extreme left, and the attack both to the right and left at once would necessarily separate the wings to such an extent as to imperil the whole movement unwarrantably.

The attack having already had the effect of a most powerful diversion in favor of the center and right of the army, which by this means had been able to make decided and successful advances, and no supports being at the time available for our exhausted corps, I ordered the troops withdrawn from the exposed ground in front to the cover of the curved hill above the bridge, which had been taken from the enemy earlier in the afternoon. This movement was effected shortly before dark, in perfect order and with admirable coolness and precision on the part of both officers and men.

The line as then constituted was formed by Strugis' division in front on the left, supported by Fairchild's brigade, of Rodman's division; the Kanawha Division, under Colonel Scammon, in the center, and Willcox's division on the right. The enemy did not venture an attack upon the position, but kept up a brisk artillery fire until night-fall. The bravery and soldierly conduct of the men was most striking, and becomes still more noticeable when it is considered that for several days they had been marching and fighting, with scarcely any rest, by night or day, and the rapidity of the movement had prevented their having any regular supplies of food, the supply train being delayed at the rear by the advance of other troops.

The batteries on the left bank of the Antietam were used not only to assist in the movement of the corps, but also were most efficiently turned upon the enemy in his attacks on the center and right of the army. They were all very well served, and the 20-pounder battery, under Lieutenant Benjamin, was especially efficient.

In their reports (which are transmitted herewith) the commandants of divisions and separate brigades speak in the highest terms of their troops, and make special mention of numbers of officers and men who distinguished themselves. These are too numerous to be named in this report, but the whole list will very shortly be published in a special order from these headquarters. I must confine myself to the expression of my great satisfaction with the manner in which all the subordinate commands of the corps were handled. The movements were accurate as those of a parade, and the systematic order with which they were executed made the spectacle in the heat of the battle a grand and imposing one. Permit me also to express my obligations to the gentlemen on General Burnside's staff for the intelligence, courage, and unwearied industry they exhibited in the constant communication between him and the headquarters of this corps.

The casualties in the corps during the day were 2,222; of which 357 were killed, 1,742 wounded, and 123 missing. Among numerous officers killed and wounded we have to mourn the loss of Col. Henry W. Kingsbury, Eleventh Connecticut; Lieut. Col. A. H. Coleman, commanding Eleventh Regiment Ohio Volunteers; Lieut. Col. M. Clarke, commanding Thirty-sixth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and Lieut. Col. Bell, commanding Fifty-first Pennsylvania. All these gallant officers were killed in the action whilst heroically leading their men, under a terrible fire of shell, canister, and musketry.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. D. COX,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 458 - 461 (S. Mtn), and 423 - 427 (Antietam)


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