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Col Harrison S Fairchild's Official Report

Report of September 23, 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

H. S. Fairchild
[author biography]

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., September 23, 1862.

Commanding Third Division.

On Saturday morning, the 13th of September, 1862, I was ordered by General Rodman, commanding Third Division, to detail the Ninth New York Volunteers, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball, to support Colonel R. H. Rush's regiment of lancers in the road from Frederick to Jefferson. Subsequently the remainder of the brigade, comprising the Eighty-ninth and One hundred and third New York Volunteers, and the battery company [K] of the Ninth New York Volunteers, was ordered by General Parke, chief of staff, as an additional support to said regiment. On our arrival at the position held by the lancers and New York volunteers, we found that they had had a skirmish about 5 miles from Frederick.

It was reported that the enemy were in position in front with artillery and cavalry. Company B, of the Ninth New York Volunteers, was thrown forward to reconnoiter on the left, and reported the enemy as having left the position they had occupied the previous night with three guns and a small cavalry force, and the road clear.

Companies C and H, Captain Parisen and Lieutenant McKechnie, were sent to the right in the woods, who discovered, engaged, and drove the enemy's pickets across the fields toward Middletown, the lancers and the remainder of the Ninth York Volunteers advancing toward Jefferson. At the request of Colonel Rush, I detached two companies from the One hundred and third New York Volunteers to support the skirmishers of the Ninth, then in the woods on the right, and subsequently detached four companies, the balance of the One hundred and third, under the command of Major Ringold, to support Captain Haseltine's company of the lancers, who were skirmishing toward Middletown.

I took position on the hill 1 ½ miles this side of Jefferson with the Eighty-ninth and the battery, formed line of battle, and remained in that position until sunset, when I received an order from General Reno to return with the brigade to Frederick, where we arrived at 7 o'clock of the same night, the enemy having retreated toward Middletown, followed by Captain Haseltine, of the lancers, and the four companies of the One hundred and third, under Major Ringold.

We received orders after our arrival at Frederick to be prepared to march the next morning (Sunday) at 3 o'clock. In compliance with the same, we began our march, and arrived at Middletown about 10 o'clock a. m., where we bivouacked for a few hours, and then moved to South Mountain Gap, the four companies of the One hundred and third, under Major Ringold, having joined us at Middletown, where we were ordered to the left, and to form line of battle on General Cox's division, to support Battery E, Fourth Artillery.

While forming line of battle we were attacked on the left by the Second, Third, Thirteenth, and Thirtieth North Carolina Regiments, their object being to capture the battery, it having been in position some time without support. The Ninth and One hundred and third regiments were in line of battle ready for action. The Eighty-ninth immediately got into line and opened fire (being the only regiment engaged), with Battery E, Fourth Artillery. The enemy were repulsed, the left saved from being turned, and also the battery from being taken.

Our loss was 2 killed and 18 wounded. We captured 30 prisoners and 150 stand of arms, holding our position during the night, the enemy retreating, the One hundred and third having been thrown to the front of the line as pickets after the battle.

On the afternoon of the 15th we marched until late at night, and encamped a little beyond Mount Carmel. On the afternoon of the 16th we were ordered forward again, taking up a position on the hill in a corn-field on the eastern shore of Antietam Creek, this being the extreme left of the line. Placing two guns of the Ninth Battery in position on our left flank, we slept on our arms. The enemy having at daylight discovered our position, we were saluted by the bullets of their sharpshooters, who were stationed in the woods on the hill on the opposite shore of the creek. This was followed by a brisk shelling from the enemy's battery, also stationed on the opposite side of the creek.

By order of General Rodman, we left this exposed position under a heavy fire, having 36 men wounded, and took position to the left and rear, up the george of the mountain. After resting some two hours and refreshing the men, we were ordered to advance and formed line of battle on the crest of the hill to the left of the position vacated in the morning. I then ordered the Ninth Battery to the left, placed them in position, and commenced shelling the road and woods on the opposite side of the creek, driving the enemy from their position. The enemy then advanced their skirmishers, and were forced to retire by the timely execution of this battery.

The brigade them moved by the left flank down to the ford; crossing the creek, and forming in the woods, advanced and took a position opposite the bridge; there formed line of battle on the crest of the hill in the rear of --- Battery, remaining in position under a heavy fire of shell. Though the fire was severe, the brigade remained firm in its position for nearly an hour, until ordered to advance. General Rodman then ordered us to advance to the support of General Sturgis' command. We continued to advance to the opposite hill under a tremendous fire from the enemy's batteries up steep embankments. Arriving near a stone fence, the enemy - a brigade composed of South Carolina and Georgia regiments - opened on us with musketry. After returning their fire, I immediately ordered a charge, which the whole brigade gallantly responded to, moving with alacrity and steadiness. Arriving at the fence, behind which the enemy were awaiting us, receiving their fire, losing large numbers of our men, we charged over the fence, dislodging them and driving them from their position down the hill toward the village, a stand of regimental colors belonging to a South Carolina regiment being taken by Private Thomas Hare, Company D, Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers, who was afterward killed. We continued to purse the enemy down the hill. Discovering that they were massing fresh troops on our left, I went back, and requested General Rodman to bring up rapidly the Second Brigade to our support, which he did, they engaging the enemy, he soon afterward falling badly wounded. It was then discovered that the enemy were moving up from the corn-field on our left to flank us, and I ordered the brigade to retire about 250 yards to the rear of the position we now held, which movement was executed in good order and without confusion. The large force advancing on our left flank compelled us to retire from the position, which we could have held had we been properly supported. We remained in this position until we were positively ordered to withdraw from the field, the officers and men regretting such a necessity. Thus ended one of the hardest contested battles of the day. Great praise is due to Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball, commanding the Ninth; Major Jardine, commanding Eighty-ninth, and Major Ringold, commanding One hundred and third Regiment, for their coolness, gallantry, and bravery on the field; also the line officers of the several regiments and the steadiness of the men.

I inclose a list of the casualties of this brigade on that day.

I remain, very respectfully,

Colonel, Commanding First Brig., Third Div., Ninth Army Corps.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 449 - 451


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