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Capt James MacThomson's Official Report

Report of October 7, 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

J. MacThomson

[author biography]

Camp near Mercerville, Md., October 7, 1862.

Lieutenant KENNY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report respecting the One hundred and seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers in the two actions, September 14 and 17, at South Mountain and Antietam:

Arriving at the base of South Mountain, after a wearisome march of 17 miles, on September 14, at about 5,30 o'clock p. m., we found the enemy fiercely engaged with the Pennsylvania Reserves. Immediately, in compliance with orders from General Duryea, formed in line of battle near the foot of the hill, and gave orders to move forward with fixed bayonets. Nothing could exceed the promptness of both officers and men in the execution of this order; with enthusiastic cheers they dashed forward, and soon the enemy were scattered, and in much confusion were flying before us. Several times they rallied, and once in particular, having gained an admirable position behind a stone fence, they appeared determined to hold on to the last. Here it was they sustained their greatest loss. Colonel Gayle, Twelfth Alabama, fell dead, and the lieutenant-colonel Fifth South Carolina wounded and taken prisoner.

Their stand at this point delayed not the onward movement of the One hundred and seventh a moment, but in a little while we were over the fence and among them, taking 68 prisoners, killing and wounding quite a number, and causing the remainder to fly precipitately to the top of the mountain. Following, we drove them across the narrow plain on the summit and part way down the other side. Night ended the pursuit; but, fearing a surprise, I directed officers and men to rest in line during the night, prepared for any emergency, and threw 200 yards in advance a volunteer picket of 10 men. About 1 o'clock a. m. one of these pickets brought in a rebel adjutant-general, who had the temerity to venture close to our lines. In this engagement we lost 3 men killed and 18 wounded. This small loss is accounted for by the fact that the rebels, being all the while located above us, shot too high. In evidence of the truth of this statement, our colors were completely riddled, while the color-bearer was in nowise injured. The next morning, September 15, we moved forward, and at night crossed the Antietam near Keedysville, bivouacking on the opposite side. On Tuesday [16th] afternoon we again moved forward, and, after a few miles' march, the advance of our corps engaged the enemy, who, located in a favorable position in the woods, made a stubborn resistance, but finally gave way, falling back, however, but a short distance.

The coveted ground gained by our force, and night coming on, no farther advance was made, and both armies lay on their arms, ready for the fierce fight of tomorrow, our brigade having reached a point less than half a mile in rear of the outer pickets.

At early dawn, agreeably to orders, I moved the One hundred and seventh Regiment by the flank to the field on the right. Here, forming column by divisions, we moved forward through a narrow strip of timber, gained the night previous, into a plowed field, in which, opposite side, Thompson's Pennsylvania battery had just gotten into position. Advancing half way across the field to within easy supporting distance of the battery, we halted for about five minutes, the enemy's shell and round shot flying about us like hail, killing and wounding some of our poor fellows, but not injuring the morale of the regiment in the least. Shortly we were again advancing and passing the battery, and over a clover field reached the spot so frequently mentioned in the reports of this battle - the corn-field. Deploying into line, we entered the field and pushed rapidly through to the other side. Here we found, in different positions, three full brigades of the enemy. We opened fire immediately upon those in front, and in fifteen minutes compelled them to fall back. receiving re-enforcements, however, he soon regained his position, and an unequal conflict of nearly three-quarters of an hour resulted in forcing us back through the corn-field. Our brigade had, however, done its work. We had held at bay a force of the enemy numerically five times our superior for considerably more than an hour, and at one time driving them. We were now relieved by re-enforcements coming up, and retired to the rear. During the balance of the day we were constantly on the qui vive, but were not again called into action save to support batteries.

In the battle of Antietam the One hundred and seventh Regiment had 190 men engaged, and lost 19 men killed and 45 wounded, a total loss of 85 killed and wounded in both engagements. Too much cannot be said of the dashing bravery of both officers and men at South Mountain or of their heroic firmness and cool bearing when standing still in line of battle at Antietam. They, for more than an hour, received (and returned) the fire of a force infinitely superior.

With much respect, I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Captain, Commanding One hundred and seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Vols.,
in the engagements of September 14 and 17, 1862.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 261 - 262


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