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Capt Frederick Williams' Official Reports

Reports of September 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

[author biography]


Near Sharpsburg, Md., September 22, 1862.

Lieutenant S. HEALY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Hofmann's Brigade.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 15th instant, while we still remained on the battle-field of the previous evening, I was placed in command of the Fifty-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, in consequence of Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Hofmann, of this regiment, being in command of the brigade. About 8 o'clock a. m. we left the battle-field with the brigade, taking a southeasterly course. We soon struck the pike road to Hagerstown. Following the road for 1 1/2 miles, we encamped in a field to the right. Here we cooked coffee, and rested about two hours. We then took up our line of march for Sharpsburg, via Boonsborough. Arriving at Boonsborough, we took the pike road for Sharpsburg, which runs a little to the south of west from Boonsborough. We followed this road to within about 3 miles of Sharpsburg, when we were drawn up in line of battle to the right of the road, where we remained until dark, when we changed our position to the ridge on the left bank of the Antietam Creek. Here we bivouacked for the night. About 10 a. m. Tuesday [16 Sept], after receiving rations, we changed our position some half a mile nearer the road. Here we rested until about 5 p. m., when we forded the creek. After crossing, we were halted some fifteen or twenty minutes, when we were marched in a northerly direction, and shortly after dark took our position on General Meade's right. We were here drawn up in line close to the fence which borders the road. We lay on our arms all night, the line of pickets being about 40 yards in our front. Just at daylight a rebel battery planted in the woods on ridge a little to the left of our front opened fire on us. Our batteries to the right, and those on the ridge almost directly behind us, returned the fire almost instantly. This was the opening of Wednesday's fight. The men lay flat on the found close to the fence from this time (as both the rebel and our batteries were playing directly over our heads) until about 10 a. m., when we were marched out to support a battery of two pieces. We remained but a few moments, the battery being withdrawn, and we, receiving orders to fall back, moved to the rear in good order, and formed line of battle some 500 yards in rear of our former position. After remaining here about half an hour, we were marched off by the left flank, and, after some little maneuvering, finally took our post on the left of Gibbon's brigade, forming, with this brigade and Gorman's on its right, and the Seventy-second Pennsylvania Volunteers on our left, a front line in support of some thirty-odd pieces of artillery. Here we bivouacked. Thursday, September 18, we remained in our position in support of the battery during the day and night. About 8 o'clock a. m. Friday we took up our line of march for this place, and finally encamped about 2 p. m.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Commanding Fifty-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.

[South Mountain, Antietam - to state AG]

Near Sharpsburg, Md., September 28, 1862.

Adjutant-General, Pennsylvania Volunteers, Harrisburg, Pa.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that our regiment has, since the report made to you by Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann (September 5), been engaged in two actions, one at South Mountain, Sunday, 14th instant, and that of Antietam, on the 16th and 17th instant. The conduct of officers and men was all that could have been asked. In the action at South Mountain the men stood under a galling fire from the enemy for an hour and a half, until their ammunition was exhausted. They were at this moment relieved by the arrival of General Ricketts' division. Having been ordered to retire 10 paces to make room for the formation of troops under General Ricketts, the regiment retained that position. The troops of General Ricketts had been engaged about thirty minutes, when the enemy retired. Our regiment was then ordered to lie down upon their arms, where they remained during the night.

The regiment sustained comparatively few casualties in this action, having 1 killed, 11 wounded, and 3 missing. The next morning the regiment was moved near and toward Sharpsburg, where they lay under the fire of the enemy's battery for several hours without sustaining any loss.

On the following afternoon the regiment forded the Antietam Creek, where they were fired upon by the skirmishers of the enemy, not, however, sustaining any loss; marched in a northeasterly direction about 3 miles, where they were placed in position, facing the Sharpsburg and Hagerstown pike. It was now quite dark, and the men were directed to rest upon their arms; when, on the 17th, at 5.30 a. m., the enemy opened upon us from a battery about 800 yards to our front and left. The brigade of which our regiment formed a part had since the afternoon of the 14th been commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann, of this regiment, and on this occasion formed the extreme right of our lines. This position was held until after 12 o'clock, when they were relieved by fresh troops under General Franklin, and the regiment, in common with other regiments of the brigade, was moved to the left and rear a distance of about a quarter of a mile, where it rested for several hours. Between 4 and 5 o'clock p. m. the regiment, in common with other regiments of the brigade, was placed in the front line of battle, being one of the three lines formed by command of General Sumner in rear of a long line of artillery. The line had scarcely been formed when the enemy opened fire upon us, throwing shot and shell, several of the shells exploding over our lines, but caused no loss in this regiment. The battery of the enemy was soon silenced by our artillery. This finished the battle so far as this regiment was concerned. The men were ordered to sleep on their arms - to be prepared for action at a moment's notice. The conduct of officers and men on this occasion was such as to merit my approbation. The general commanding the division has expressed his approbation of the conduct of the officers and men in the various battles enumerated below, and recommends that application be made to the Governor of our State for permission to inscribe upon our flag the names of the following battles: Rappahannock, Sulphur Springs, Gainesville, Manassas, South Mountain, and Antietam.

Trusting this may meet the approbation of the Governor, I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Commanding Fifty-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 239 - 241


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