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Capt Charles D Owen's Official Report

Report of September 23, 1862

[author biography]

Bolivar Heights, September 23, 1862.

Major F. N. CLARKE,
Commanding Artillery, Second Corps.

SIR: Agreeably to your orders received on the morning of the 17th, I proceeded with my battery toward the front of our lines, in search of some position where my guns could be employed to advantage. I went from the extreme right toward the center, and, after emerging from the woods opposite the [Dunker] church, was about to take a poition on the open field across the road and in rear of the church, but the head of my column had hardly got into the field when our infantry came retreating over the hill, closely followed by the enemy, coming out of the woods. I therefore turned the head of the column and retired behind the burning ruins [of the Mumma Farm] and reported to you for orders, and you informed me that there were more batteries than could be used, and I had better get my battery under cover, which I did by placing it in the open ground behind the orchard, in rear of the burning ruins.

While here, orders came from you to take the position then occupied by Captain Tompkins' battery, whose orderly informed me that Tompkins was out of ammunition, and that the enemy were flanking him on both sides. I relieved Tompkins, and engaged a battery about a mile off, which was then pouring in a heavy fire upon us. I got quickly into position and opened with shells at 4 1/4° elevation and 8-second fuses with good effect, as far as we could judge, and the battery that engaged us ceased firing in about twenty minutes after we commenced.

As soon as the enemy had discontinued their firing at us, I ceased firing also, and was about to proceed toward the brow of the hill to engage the enemy's infantry, then in plain sight from that position, when a noise from my right attracted my attention, and I saw our infantry retreating in disorder toward me, and then about 150 yards off, closely followed by the rebels. I limbered up quickly and started on the trot into the road leading direct from the ruins, and when the last caisson left the ground the enemy were close upon us. I halted when a few hundred yards to the rear, and, after replenishing the ammunition in the gun-limbers, took the pieces alone of the right section and proceeded up behind the advance that retook the field, but the infantry was quite unsteady on the right and broke the second time, and not deeming it prudent to risk even the section under such circumstances, I withdrew and reported to General Sumner for orders, who ordered me to report to General ------, then just in front of General French's division. After looking at the position designed for me, the general deemed it nor prudent to place me there, and I then reported to General French, who put me in position on rear of the lines, and directed me to fire two shots toward the corner of the woods near the church, and, although contrary to my own wishes, as expressed to him, I fired, with very poor success, as I afterward learned.

During the engagement I expended about 75 rounds of ammunition, and was engaged exactly forty minutes. The ammunition worked quite well, with the exception of Dyer's, which seldom takes the groove.

During the maneuvering two of the caissons' axles broke, making in all ten since the battery has been in the field.

My total loss is 4 horses killed. Fire men were slightly wounded, but none are now unable to be about camp.

The officers and men behaved very well, and I cannot say too much of the conduct of the former. Lieutenant Torslow quite distinguished himself in rallying the infantry after they had broken.

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

Captain First Rhode Island Artillery, commanding Battery G.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 325 - 326


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