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Capt John B Callis' Official Reports

Reports of September 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

J. B. Callis

[author biography]

[South Mountain]

Near Boonsborough, Md., September 15, 1862.

Aide-de-Camp and Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, General Gibbon's Brigade

SIR: I have the honor to report the part taken by the Seventh Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers in the action of the 14th of September, 1862, at South Mountain, Md.:

About 5 o'clock p. m. the Seventh Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers formed in line of battle on the north side of the turnpike. Skirmishers were thrown in advance of us, and soon encountered the skirmishers of the enemy. A sharp skirmish fire ensued. The regiment then broke by right of companies to the front, and advanced, keeping 100 paces in rear of the line of skirmishers. We advanced in this way through a corn-field for half a mile, and came out into an open field. Here the skirmishers met such a sharp fire from the sharpshooters of the enemy, that it was difficult for them to advance farther, the open field affording no shelter or protection against the sharp fire from the bank. The regiment then formed a line of battle, and advanced, our left touching the pike, our right extending north to the edge of the woods on the slope of the mountain. The enemy opened a destructive enfilading fire from a stone fence on our left, at a short range, which drew the fire from our regiment to the left. We kept advancing and firing until another enfilading fire from the woods on our right, and a direct fire from behind a stone fence in our front, shoed our close proximity to the enemy's line of battle. Our men returned the fire with great vigor. The Sixth Wisconsin Regiment was then in line in our rear some 50 paces. Colonel Bragg, seeing the destructive fire under which we were fighting, double-quicked the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment to our right and opened on the enemy, thereby drawing the enfilading fire hitherto received by us from the woods on our right.

Colonel Fairchild, of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, at this juncture was a little to rear and left of the pike, with the Second Wisconsin Regiment. He also seeing our perilous condition, brought his regiment forward on our left, and commenced a fire that relieved us from further annoyance from the left, thus leaving us to contend against a direst fire from behind a stone wall in our front. The firing was kept up without ceasing until about 9 o'clock at night, when our ammunition became exhausted. The fact was made known to General Gibbon. His answer was, "Hold the ground at the point of the bayonet." Our men were ordered to lie down; the cartridges were taken from the boxes of the dead and wounded, and distributed among the men who were destitute of ammunition. I then gave them orders to load, and reserve their fire for a close range. The enemy coming to know our condition, commenced advancing on us in line, whereupon I ordered the regiment to rise up, fix bayonets, and charge on the advancing column. Our regiment had not advanced farther than 20 feet when we fired. This broke the enemy's lines, and they retired in great confusion.

Our loss was heavy in killed and wounded. The aggregate of killed, wounded, and missing was about 147. The regiment went into the action with 375 muskets. The officers and men of the regiment all fought well, doing their whole duty. About 10.30 o'clock the regiment was relieved by part of General Gorman's brigade, the Fifteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers.

I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant,

Captain, Commanding seventh Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers.


Near Sharpsburg, Md., September 18, 1862.

Aide-de-Camp, and Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Gibbon's Brigade.

SIR: I have the honor to report the part taken by the Seventh Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers in the action of the 17th instant, at or near Antietam Creek, Maryland:

At or about 5 o'clock a. m. on the 17th day of September, 1862, the Seventh Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers lay near to and on the left and south side of the Hagerstown and Sharpsburg pike, between Keedysville and Sharpsburg, at which time and place the enemy commenced shelling our camp from our front and right. We marched in column by division in rear of the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment, until we came within some 300 yards of the enemy's line of battle, where we came to a halt and awaited further orders. We soon received orders to march by the flank across the pike into an open field on the right of the pike, and deploy into line of battle, and march in line into a belt of woods that lay in our front. I threw the regiment forward until it came up to the line of skirmishers which covered our front. They informed me that they could advance no farther into the woods; that the enemy lay massed in the timber in our front. We commenced removing the fence in front of us, when the enemy opened a destructive fire from the woods in our front. Our men returned the fire, and charged over the fence, vigorously keeping up the fire until the enemy retired from the woods and entered a corn-field in front of our left.

I then saw heavy columns advancing on the Sixth and Second Wisconsin Regiments, which lay on our left. I immediately changed front, so as to get a raking fire on the left flank of the enemy's column as they advanced in front of the Sixth and Second Wisconsin. As soon as this was done, we opened a fire on their flank that broke them up badly, scattering them in great confusion. They, however, soon rallied and returned our fire, making sad havoc in our ranks. General Patrick came up in our rear with support, and ordered his men to advance through our line to the front, which they did, but not without suffering severely. The Seventh Wisconsin then marched by the flank to the place where we first entered the woods, the enemy showing signs of a flank movement on our right. The regiment lay in this position until the enemy, unseen by us, had planted a battery about 300 yards distant on our right, supported by infantry. They commenced throwing grape and canister into our ranks with terrible effect, whereupon we retired under cover of an elevation of land covered with timber, thereby rendering their fire harmless to us until we joined the balance of the brigade, which lay then to our rear.

Our men all stood and fought bravely. Our number on entering the field was about 190 men. We lost 9 killed, 26 wounded, and 5 missing.

I have the honor, sir, to be your most obedient servant,

Captain, Commanding Seventh Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 256 - 258


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