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Col Richard Coulter's Official Report

Report of September 21, 1862

R. Coulter

[author biography]

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., September 21, 1862

Assistant Adjutant- General.

SIR: In pursuance of orders I report the following as the part borne by this (General Hartsuff's) brigade in the action with the enemy of 16th and 17th instant:

On evening of 16th brigade was (under heavy fire of artillery and with loss of some wounded) placed in position, in line, connecting with General Duryea's (First) brigade on right and left resting in rear of right of General Seymour's brigade. Here remained on arms during night. At daylight 17th General Hartsuff moved brigade forward, skirmishers being advanced, who soon engaged the enemy. On reaching wood in which General Seymour was already engaged, learned that General Hartsuff (who was in advance examining position) had been severely wounded and removed from the field. I here assumed command of brigade, which was at the time in line as follows, commencing on the right: Twelfth Massachusetts, Major Burbank; Eleventh Penusylvania, Colonel Coulter; Thirteenth Massachusetts, Major Gould, and Eighty-third New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Atterbury, the left (Eighty- third New York Volunteers and Thirteenth Massachusetts) occupy- ing rear of wood occupied by General Seymour and right (Eleventh Pennsylvania and Twelfth Massachusetts) the open ground to right of woods. In this position I advanced brigade to front, and, at suggestion of General Seymour, to right, so as to clear right of his line. This obliquing to the right had the effect of bringing one-half of Thirteenth Massachusetts into open ground, leaving the other half of this regiment and the Eighty-third New York Volunteers in the wood somewhat protected by the trees and nature of the ground.

The advance was maintained under a most severe fire of artillery and infantry, which, however, was as briskly replied to as the forward movement would admit of. This continued until the left had reached within about forty yards of the front of woods mentioned, and in front of which the enemy had well established their line. The loss was becoming very heavy, especially on the right, and repeated demands were being made throughout the line for additional ammunition -the supply being by this time nearly exhausted. The left was re-enforced by a part of the Second (General Tower's) Brigade, in consequence of which, and the protected nature of the ground, a very heavy fire was maintained from this quarter, while on the right the fire lessened every moment. At this time Colonel Lyle, Ninetieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, advanced through the woods to the right and engaged the enemy. Their ammunition being now entirely exhausted, the Eleventh Pennsylvania and Twelfth Massachusetts were withdrawn about 200 yards to the rear, where, being afterward joined by the Eighty-third New York and Thirteenth Massachusetts, the brigade was reformed. Here remained until the front line was occupied by another division, when, by orders of General Ricketts, again moved forward to join other brigades of division, where a supply of ammunition was received and a rest allowed.

In the afternoon again moved with division to the right to the support of batteries engaged at that point, and there remained during evening and night. The brigade went into action about 5 o'clock and retired about 9 a. m. For two hours of that time it was exposed to a most galling fire, as is shown by the casualties reported, while a view of the ground occupied by the enemy in this attack exhibits at least a fourfold mortality. The Eighty-third New York went into action with fifteen officers, of whom three were disabled. I would desire to make favorable mention of Captain Moesch and Captain Hendrickson, of this regiment. The Thirteenth Massachusetts had disabled three officers out of twelve taken into action. I would here make especial mention of Major Gould, commanding this regiment. He brought his men well into action, by his gallantry maintained and encouraged them while there, and was among the last to leave the field. The Eleventh Pennsylvania had five officers disabled (two temporarily) out of nine taken into action. Upon my assuming command of the brigade the command of this regiment devolved upon Capt. D. M. Cook, who commanded throughout the action and brought it off the field. Adjutant Uncapher had his horse killed and was himself injured by the fall, but remained upon the field. The services of this officer were invaluable to me, being the oniy mounted assistant I had upon the field. Lieutenant Thomas also deserves mention for his gallantry. The Twelfth Massachusetts had killed and disabled eleven officers of fifteen taken into the field. The loss of this regiment, owing to its position, was by far the most severe in the brigade. Major Burbank commanded at the commencement of the action and was disabled early. He performed his whole duty while in the field. Captain Allen, who next assumed command, was also severely wounded. I cannot express too high an opinion of this officer. He has proved himself one of the most gallant officers in the brigade. The command of this regiment next devolved upon Capt. B. F. Cook, who commanded during the reminder of the action, and brought the regiment off the field. Lieutenant Clark and Lieutenant Dehon (acting adjutant), who with Captain Cook were the only officers left, are mentioned for their coolness and the efficient assistance rendered. The loss of officers cannot be replaced - many have been lost permanently to the service,

I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,
R. COULTER,[sic]
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Source: OR1


1   US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Vol. 51/Part1 (Ser #107), pp. 140-142  [AotW citation 87]


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