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BGen Samuel D Sturgis' Official Report

Report of September 22, 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

S. D. Sturgis
[author biography]

Antietam, Md., September 22, 1862.

Headquarters Ninth Corps.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my division in the battles of South Mountain and Sharpsburg:

About 1 o'clock p. m., on the 14th instant, my division moved from its camp near Middletown to the support of General Willcox, then hotly engaged on the slope of the mountain to the left of the main Hagerstown road. The distance to be traveled was about 5 miles, and it was not until 3.30 p. m. that we reached the scene of action. At the foot of the mountain one of my batteries (Captain Clark's) was detached by Major-General Reno, and sent to support the left of General Cox's division, then supposed to be hotly pressed. Two regiments (the Second Maryland and Sixth New Hampshire) had previously been detached by Major-General Reno, and sent forward on the Hagerstown turnpike.

Arriving near the crest of the mountain, the brigade of Colonel (now General) Ferrero was deployed to the right and left of the road, and immediately became engaged with the enemy. The First Brigade, Colonel (now General) Nagle, was held in reserve. Discovering a battery of the enemy some 1,500 yards to our right, and so posted as to expose our line to a flank fire, I directed my aide-de-camp, Captain Rawolle, to open upon it with Captain Durell's battery. The enemy's battery was silenced in a few moments, and withdrawn from the field. These batteries, under the able direction of Captain Rawolle, rendered material aid afterward, and from the same point, to the troops of General Hooker while hotly pressed on the hills to the right of the Hagerstown road.

The infantry fire had now become so warm and the ground so stubbornly disputed that General Nagle's brigade was brought forward, and the whole line engaged. The enemy made several charges with the hope of driving our brave troops from their position, but were driven back with great slaughter behind a stone fence, where he reformed, but was driven again even from that shelter, and we occupied the highest point of the mountain. The firing ceased altogether about 9 o'clock and our valiant troops slept on the ground and on their arms. When morning broke the enemy had withdrawn leaving his dead in ghastly numbers scattered on the field.

Our loss in the engagement was 151. At noon of the next day (15th) we marched again and encamped near Sharpsburg, taking no part in the affair of that day, but being held in reserve on the left of the whole line.

On the morning of the 16th we again moved a mile or two and took position on the extreme left, in column of brigades, in an open field, but covered from view of the enemy by a corn-field in front. The batteries were placed in a wood to the rear. Toward evening I withdrew the batteries a little farther to the rear, for convenience of forage, &c., while the division slept on their arms in the position occupied during the day.

On the morning of the 17th the enemy opened a heavy artillery fire, from which their projectiles fell thick in our camp, and I sent Captain Rawolle forward with Captain Durell's battery, which took position on an eminence and to the left of Captain Weed's battery, already engaged. Several of the enemy's batteries were soon silenced, and two of the caissons blown up, yet he made heavy demonstration toward our center and right, and it became necessary to send Captain Clark's battery up, which soon got into position on the left of Captain Durell's.

I now received orders from General Burnside to move still farther to the left and front, and cross Antietam Bridge. The batteries were, therefore, withdrawn and placed in new positions, so as to aid in clearing the wood on the opposite bank, strongly occupied by the enemy. One section was placed on the right of Benjamin's battery, in rear of the cornfield, through which the division moved toward the bridge. Another section was placed on the right of the road, about 400 yards from the bridge, but did not open. Captain Clark's battery was ordered to a position on the right of the woods, near the slope occupied by the division the previous night, and one section held in reserve. The First Brigade, General Nagle, now moved toward the bridge, while the Second Brigade, General Ferrero, was formed in line of battle in the corn-field some 200 yards in rear. The bridge was strongly defended by the enemy, and the approaches to it exposed to a murderous fire from behind breastworks. The importance of carrying it without delay was impressed upon me by General Burnside, and I went in person to the vicinity of the bridge, and ordered the Second Maryland, Colonel Duryea, and Colonel Griffin, Sixth New Hampshire, to move over at a double-quick and with bayonets fixed. They made a handsome effort to execute this order, but the fire was so heavy on them before they could reach the bridge that they were forced to give way and fall back.

Meantime orders arrived from General Burnside to carry the bridge at all hazards. I then selected the Fifty-first New york and the Fifty-first Pennsylvania from the Second Brigade, and directed them to charge with the bayonet. They started on their mission of death full of enthusiasm, and taking a route less exposed than the regiments which had made the effort before them, rushed at a double-quick over the slope leading to the bridge and over the bridge itself with an impetuosity which the enemy could not resist, and the Stars and Stripes were planted on the opposite bank at 1 o'clock p. m., amid the most enthusiastic cheering from every part of the field from where they could be seen. Having crossed the bridge, the Second Brigade filed to the right, the First Brigade to the left, and both moved up and occupied the high grounds at once, throwing out skirmishers on all sides, who soon became hotly engaged, yet held their ground, though with considerable loss on both sides.

The enemy had by this time been re-enforced, and had their batteries placed on still higher ground, and within 500 or 600 yards of our position, and all concentrated on it. Too weak to advance, we could only lie down and await re-enforcements, and here the troops displayed their heroism more, if possible, than on any former occasion, for the enemy opened with canister and grape, shell and railroad iron, and the vehicles of destruction fell like hail among them, killing and wounding large numbers and fairly covering us with dust, yet not a man left his place except to carry off his wounded comrade. Toward evening we were re-enforced by the division of Cox, under Colonel Scammon, Rodman, and Willcox. These divisions were formed into line of battle and moved forward, my division being held in reserve, except the batteries, which reported to General Rodman. The enemy, however, had received large re-enforcements, and at twilight my division was ordered forward, General Ferrero on the right, to the support of Willcox, and General Nagle on the left, to the support of Rodman. For the part taken in this affair by the Second Brigade, I have to refer you to the report of General Ferrero, as I was with the First Brigade. This latter moved forward in fine order, and drove the advancing foe beyond the cornfield on the left, and slept upon the ground throughout the night.

It is impossible to refer to the many individual acts of heroism displayed by the officers and men throughout these few eventful days without extending this report to too great a length. When, however, it is considered that during all this time they were without food (or had but little), marching and fighting almost continually, with but little rest or sleep, it may well be said they sustained in an eminent degree the undying reputation they had already earned under the lamented Major-General Reno in the brilliant victories of Roanoke, Camden, New Berne, and Chantilly. In order, therefore, to prevent, as far as may be, injustice being done to any deserving officer or soldier, I would respectfully refer you to the reports of the brigade commanders, inclosed.

To Captain H. R. Mighels, assistant adjutant-general; Capts. C. H. Hale, J. [sic] K. Casey, H. B. Sturgis, and First Lieutenant A. H. [sic] Hosmer, aides-de-camp, I am under many obligations for the bravery and zeal with which they carried my orders in the hottest of the contest. The three last mentioned officers were separated from me after the battle of South Mountain by sickness and orders for other service, and could not join again in time to take part in the battle of Sharpsburg. My aide-de-camp and ordnance officer, Captain W. C. Rawolle, I cannot commend in too high terms. He was invaluable at all times, carrying orders, placing the artillery in favorable positions, bringing up ammunition, and making himself useful in every department. I would commend this officer to special consideration, as I look upon him as one of the most promising young officers in the service. Captain N. Plato, assistant quartermaster, and Captain F. E. Berier, commissary of subsistence, rendered good service also in their respective departments, and exhibited great energy and zeal. Surg. A. T. Watson labored night and day in ministering to the wounded, and is deserving of the gratitude of the country.

Accompanying the reports of the brigade commanders you will find the list of killed, wounded, and missing; also the number of the enemy's prisoners taken, as follows: Killed, 140; wounded, 619; missing, 45; total, 804. One of my orderlies, Private John Dohmeyer, Company D, Fifth Cavalry, was severely, perhaps mortally, wounded by one of our own shells while at my side near the bridge. Prisoners taken, about 100.

I have the honor to be sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 443 - 445


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