site logo

MGen James Longstreet's Official Report

Report of October 10, 1862

James Longstreet


Near Winchester, Va.,
October 10, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command in the late campaign :

On September 2 the command marched, via Dranesville, Leesburg, and across the Potomac at White's Ford, to Frederick City, Md., arriving there on the 7th.

I moved from Frederick for Hagerstown on the 10th, and reached there with part of my command on the 11th, sending six brigades under Major-General Anderson to co-operate with Major General McLaws in the assault upon Maryland Heights and Harper's Ferry. During the operations against this garrison the approach of a large army from Washington City for its relief was reported. We were obliged to make a forced march, in order to reach Boonsborough Pass, to assist Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill's division in holding this army in check, so as to give time for the reduction of Harper's Ferry.

I reached Boonsborough about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and, upon ascending the mountain, found General Hill heavily engaged. My troops were hurried to his assistance as rapidly as their exhausted condition would admit of. The brigades of Brigadier-Generals Evans, Pickett (under Garnett), Kemper, and Jenkins (under Colonel Walker) were extended along the mountain to our left; Brigadier-General Hood, with his own, and Whiting's brigade (under Colonel Law), Drayton's and D. R. Jones' (under Col. G. T. Anderson), were extended to the right. Major-General Hill had already placed such batteries in position as he could find ground for, except one position on the extreme left. It was my intention to have placed a battery in this position, but I was so much occupied in front that I could find no time to do so before nightfall. We succeeded in repulsing the repeated and powerful attacks of the enemy and in holding our position until night put an end to the battle. It was short, but very fierce. Some of our most gallant officers and men fell in this struggle; among them the brave Col. J. B. Strange, of the Nineteenth Virginia Regiment. Had the command reached the mountain pass in time to have gotten into position before the attack was made, I believe that the direct assaults of the enemy could have been repulsed with comparative ease. Hurried into action, however, we arrived at our positions more exhausted than the enemy. It became manifest that our forces were not sufficient to resist the renewed attacks of the entire army of General McClellan. He would require but little time to turn either flank, and our command must then be at his mercy. In view of this, the commanding general ordered the withdrawal of our troops to the village of Sharpsburg. This position was regarded as a strong, defensive one, besides being one from which we could threaten the enemy's flank or rear in case he should attempt to relieve the garrison at Harper's Ferry.

Crossing the Antietam on the morning of the 15th, Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill's division and my own command were placed in line of battle between the stream and the village of Sharpsburg. Soon after getting into position, we heard of the surrender of Harper's Ferry. This left the portions of the army engaged in the reduction of that garrison free to join us. After much shelling at one point and another of our line, which extended more than a mile on each side of Sharpsburg, the enemy finally attacked General Hood, on my extreme left, late Tuesday evening, September 16. Hood drove him back, but not without severe loss, including that of Colonel Liddell, of the Eleventh Mississippi, an officer of great merit, modesty, and promise.

During the night the enemy threw his forces across the Antietam in front of Hood's position, and renewed his attack at daylight the next morning Hood was not strong enough to resist the masses thrown against him. Several of Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill's brigades re-enforced the position; but even with these our forces seemed but a handful when compared with the hosts thrown against us. The commands engaged the enemy, however, with great courage and determination, and, retiring very slowly, delayed him until the forces of Generals Jackson and Walker came to our relief. D.R. Jones' brigade, under Col. G. T. Anderson, came up about the same moment; soon after this the divisions of Major-Generals McLaws and R. H. Anderson. Col. S. D. Lee's reserve artillery was with General Hood, and took a distinguished part in the attack on the evening of the 16th, and in delaying that of the 17th. General Jackson soon moved off to our left for the purpose of turning the enemy's right flank, and the other divisions, except Walker's, were distributed at other points of the line. As these movements were made, the enemy again threw forward his masses against my left. This attack was met by Walker's division, two pieces of Captain Miller's battery, of the Washington Artillery, and two pieces of Captain Boyce's battery, and was driven back in some confusion. An effort was made to pursue, but our line was too weak. Colonel Cooke, of the Twenty-seventh North Carolina, very gallantly charged with his own regiment, but, his supply of ammunition being exhausted and he being unsupported, he was obliged to return to his original position in the line.

From this moment our center was extremely weak, being defended by but part of Walker's division and four pieces of artillery; Cooke's regiment, of that division, being without a cartridge. In this condition, again the enemy's masses moved forward against us. Cooke stood with his empty guns, and waved his colors to show that his troops were in position. The artillery played upon their ranks, with canister. Their lines began to hesitate, soon halted, and after an hour and a half retired. Another attack was quickly made a little to the right of the last. Captain Miller, turning his pieces upon these lines and playing upon them with round shot over the heads of R. H. Anderson's men, checked the advance, and Anderson's division, with the artillery, held the enemy in check until night.

This attack was followed by the final assault, about 4 p.m., when the enemy crossed the bridge in front of Sharpsburg and made his desperate attack upon my right. Brigadier-General Toombs held the bridge and defended it most gallantly, driving back repeated attacks, and only yielded it after the forces brought against him became overwhelming and threatened his flank and rear. The enemy was then met by Brig. Gen. D. R. Jones with six brigades. He drove back our right several times, and was himself made to retire several times badly crippled, but his strong re-enforcements finally enabled him to drive in my right and occupy this part of my ground. Thus advanced, the enemy's line was placed in such a position as to enable General Toombs to move his brigade directly against his flank General Jones seized the opportunity and threw Toombs down against the enemy's flank, drove him back, and recovered our lost ground. Two of the brigades of Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill's division advanced against the enemy's front as General Toombs made his flank attack. The display of this force was of great value, and it assisted us in holding our position. The enemy took shelter behind a stone wall, and another line was advanced to the crest of a hill in support of his first line. Captains Richardson's, Brown's, and Moody's batteries were placed in position to play upon the second line, and both lines were eventually driven back by these batteries. Before it was entirely dark the 100,000 men that had been threatening our destruction for twelve hours had melted away into a few stragglers. The battle over, orders were sent around for ammunition-chests and cartridge-boxes to be refilled.

Early on the morning of the 18th a few sharpshooters began to exchange shots. I observed that the enemy had massed his artillery on the opposite side of the Antietam, with a view, apparently, to meet an attack from us. Our ranks were too much thinned to warrant a renewal of the conflict, with the chances of being drawn under the fire of this artillery. The effort to make a flank movement by our left the day previous developed the fact that the enemy had extended his right so as to rest it upon the Potomac, and thus envelop our left flank. From our position it was impossible to make any move except a direct assault upon some portion of the enemy's line. I therefore took the liberty to address a note to the commanding general, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, suggesting a withdrawal to the south side of the Potomac. Before my note reached him, however, he rode to my bivouac and expressed the same views. Arrangements to move across the Potomac were completed by dark. My command, moving first, crossed about 2 o'clock in the morning, and part of it was placed in position in case it should be needed at the ford. The entire army crossed, however, without molestation, and, as directed by the commanding general, I proceeded to form his line. As this was completed, it became evident that the enemy was not pursuing, except with some of his batteries and some small force. The various commands were then marched off to their points of bivouac.

The name of every officer, non-commissioned officer, and private who has shared in the toils and privations of this campaign should be mentioned. In one month these troops had marched over 200 miles, upon little more than half rations, and fought nine battles and skirmishes killed, wounded, and captured nearly as many men as we had in our ranks, besides taking arms and other munitions of war in large quantities. I would that I could do justice to all of these gallant officers and men in this report. As that is impossible, I shall only mention those most prominently distinguished. These were Maj. Gen. R. H. Anderson, on the plains of Manassas, at Harper's Ferry, and at Sharpsburg, where he was wounded severely. Brig. Gen. D. R. Jones, at Thoroughfare Gap, Manassas Plains, Boonsborough, and Sharpsburg. Brig. Gen. R. Toombs, at Manassas Plains, in his gallant defense of the bridge at Antietam, and in his vigorous charge against the enemy's flank; he was severely wounded at the close of the engagement. Brigadier-General Wilcox, at Manassas Plains on August 29 and 30; afterward absent, sick. Brigadier-General Garnett, at Boonsborough and Sharpsburg. Brigadier-General Evans, on the plains of Manassas, both on August 29 and 30, and at Sharpsburg. Brigadier-General Kemper, at Manassas Plains, Boonsborough, and Sharpsburg. Brigadier-General Hood and Colonels Law and Wofford, at Manassas Plains on August 29 and 30, Boonsborough, and at Sharpsburg on the 16th and 17th. Col. G. T. Anderson, commanding D. R. Jones' brigade, at Thoroughfare Gap, Manassas Plains, Boonsborough, and Sharpsburg. Brigadier-General Mahone, at Manassas Plains, where he received a severe wound. Brig. Gen. R A. Pryor, at Sharpsburg. Brigadier-General Jenkins, at Manassas Plains on August 29 and 30; on the last day severely wounded. Colonels Hunton, Corse, Stuart, Stevens, Hateley (severely wounded), and Walker (commanding Jenkins' brigade after the latter was wounded), at Manassas Plains, Boonsborough, and Sharpsburg. Colonel Posey, at Manassas Plains and Sharpsburg, where he commanded Featherston's brigade. Colonel Benning, at Manassas Plains and Sharpsburg. At Sharpsburg, Captain Miller, of the Washington Artillery, was particularly distinguished. Colonel Walton, of the Washington Artillery, at Rappahannock Station, Manassas Plains, (August 29), and Sharpsburg; and Major Garnett, at Rappahannock Station. Lieutenant-Colonels Skinner and Marye, at Manassas Plains, where they were both severely wounded; and Major Walker, at Thoroughfare Gap and Manassas Plains. In the latter engagement this gallant officer was mortally wounded.

It is with no common feeling that I recount the loss at Manassas Plains of Colonels Gadberry, Eighteenth South Carolina; Means, Seventeenth South Carolina; Moore, Second South Carolina Rifles; Glover, First South Carolina Volunteers; Wilson, Seventh Georgia, and Lieuten-ant-Colonel Upton, Fifth Texas. At Boonsborough, Col. J. B. Strange, Nineteenth Virginia Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel McLemore, Fourth Alabama; and at Sharpsburg, Colonel Liddell, Eleventh Mississippi; Lieutenant-Colonel Coppens and Lieutenant-Colonel Holmes, Second Georgia Volunteers. These valuable and gallant officers fell in the unflinching performance of their duty, bravely and successfully heading their commands in the thickest of the fight.

To my staff officers-Maj. G. M. Sorrel, assistant adjutant-general, who was wounded at Sharpsburg; Lieut. Col. P. T. Manning, chief of ordnance; Maj. J. W. Fairfax; Maj. Thomas Walton, who was also wounded at Sharpsburg; Capt. Thomas J. Goree and Lieut. R. W. Blackwell--I am under renewed and lasting obligations. These officers, full of courage, intelligence, patience, and experience, were able to give directions to commands such as they thought proper, which were at once approved and commanded my admiration.

Lieutenant-Colonel Blount volunteered his services to me at Boonsborough, and was, both there and at Sharpsburg, of material service to me.

The medical department, in charge of Surgeon Cullen, were active and unremitting in the care of the wounded, and have my thanks for their humane efforts.

My party of couriers were zealous, active, and brave. They are justly entitled to praise for the manly fortitude and courageous conduct shown by them in the trying scenes of the campaign.

The cavalry escort, commanded by Captain Doby, have my thanks for meritorious conduct and valuable aid. Captain Doby, Lieutenants Bonney and Matheson, Sergeants Lee and Haile, and Corporals Whitaker and Salmond, were distinguished in the active and fearless performances of their arduous duties.

I am indebted to Col. R. H. Chilton, Colonel Long, Majors Taylor, Marshall, Venable, and Talcott, and Captains Mason and Johnston, of the staff of the commanding general, for great courtesy and kindness in assisting me on the different battle-fields.

I respectfully ask the attention of the commanding general to the reports of division, brigade, and other commanders, and approve their high encomiums of their officers and men.

Reports of killed, wounded, and missing have already been forwarded.

I remain, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieutenant-General, Commanding.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 839 - 843


« to OR Index