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Col Thomas Welsh's Official Reports

Reports of September 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

T. Welsh
[author biography]

[ South Mountain ]

Near Sharpsburg, Md., September 18, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that the brigade under my command, consisting of the Forty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major J. I. Curtin commanding; One hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Leckey commanding, [46th New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Gerhardt; and 8th Michigan, Lieutenant-Colonel Graves, who were also in the brigade (ed.)] marched from camp east of Middletown early on Sunday morning, the 14th of September, 1862. Arriving in front of and within range of the enemy's guns, in position on the South Mountain, commanding the turnpike road leading to Hagerstown, I received orders to lead and attack the enemy's batteries on the right of the turnpike from Brigadier-General Willcox, commanding division. The One hundredth Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel Leckey, were then advanced as skirmishers along the road. The other troops of the brigade were ordered to the right, with the view to crossing the fields and ascending the mountain on the right of the battery to be attacked.

After having advanced a short distance, an order was received recalling my command and directing me to follow Christ's brigade to the support of General Cox's division, then being engaged with the enemy a considerable distance to the left of the turnpike, near the Sharpsburg road. Leaving orders for the One hundredth to be recalled, I hurried forward with my two regiments along the Sharpsburg road, running nearly parallel with and about 1,000 yards distant from the turnpike.

Arrived at the foot of the mountain, I placed my troops in position on the left of Christ's brigade, the right of the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania resting on the road and the left of the Forty-sixth New York Regiment extending toward the command of General Cox. I then caused two companies of the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Regiment Volunteers to be moved forward to the top of the hill as skirmishers, who soon discovered the enemy's infantry in great force and his artillery completely commanding and shelling the woods. Heavy masses of infantry, covered by trees and stone fences, supported the artillery.

At -- p. m. we received an order form General Willcox to advance and silence the battery on the road at all hazards. At this time the firing between the skirmishers and the enemy becoming very rapid, I immediately put the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Regiment in motion at double-quick up the hill. Arriving in the crest, it encountered the enemy, also advancing. The battle became very fierce at this juncture. The Seventeenth Michigan Volunteers, of Colonel Christ's brigade, and also a part of Willcox's division, advancing on our right, also became hotly engaged, and took the rebels in flank. The Forty-sixth New York moved on the left of the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, connecting with the troops of General Cox's command. The One hundredth Pennsylvania were held in reserve, and followed up in support of our front.

Notwithstanding the terrific fire from infantry and artillery, together with a raking fire from a battery near the turnpike, our troops continued to advance, utterly regardless of the slaughter in their ranks, until, having destroyed the advanced troops of the enemy, he was compelled to give way and retreat with his artillery and infantry in great confusion down the hill. Many prisoners, a number of whom were wounded, were captured by my command at the stone fence near the road, and were turned over for safe-keeping to the supporting forces on our left and rear - say 150 prisoners. The ammunition of the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers having become expended, they used the bayonet with success, and having become considerably exhausted by their extraordinary exertions, I withdrew my command as fast as relieved by troops of General Sturgis' command.

I append herewith the reports of the regimental commanders, with lists of the killed and wounded. My officers and men were enthusiastic and brave. Where all are so meritorious it would be unjust to designate individuals. I will only add that the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania, of my brigade, and the Seventeenth Michigan, of the First Brigade, sustained the brunt of the battle with a bravery and constancy seldom equaled in modern warfare.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding Second Brigade.

[ Antietam ]

September 19, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that the brigade under my command, comprising the Forty-fifth and One hundredth Pennsylvania, the Forty-sixth New York, and the Eighth Michigan Volunteer Regiments, left camp on the morning of the 17th of September, 1862, and marched in the direction of the bridge across the Antietam Creek on the road to Sharpsburg. The brigade, being held in reserve to the force engaged in storming the bridge, was not brought directly in contact with the enemy until past meridian. Our victorious comrades having meanwhile driven the enemy from the bridge and banks of the creek, I was ordered to cross with my brigade to their relief. Arriving on the opposite side of the stream, and in compliance with verbal instructions from Brigadier-General Willcox, I moved my whole command over a steep hill, immediately charging the enemy and driving them rapidly in the direction of Sharpsburg, my troops advancing to the edge of the town and capturing the rebel Captain Twiggs and several soldiers.

Discovering that we had advanced beyond our supporting forces on our right, and also on our left, I withdrew my command to an orchard directly on the left of Colonel Christ, First Brigade of the division. We remained in this position until ordered back by the general commanding the division to the support of the forces then desperately engaged with the enemy, who were endeavoring to outflank us on our left. My command was exposed for several hours to a tremendous cross-fire from the artillery of the enemy, as well as a direct fire from their infantry, and riflemen in our front, yet they advanced with steadiness and rapidity, driving the enemy at all points and performing strictly the great duty devolved on them by the commanding general.

I had great difficulty in restraining the ardor of my troops, who seemed anxious to charge through the town and capture the batteries beyond. Fighting as we did directly under the eyes of the general, I trust our conduct merited his approval. I commend my entire command for their gallantry and good conduct. Officers and men seemed to vie with each other in their deeds of bravery. A list of killed and wounded, with reports of regimental commanders, are herewith inclosed.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Vols., Commanding Second Brigade.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 439 - 441


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