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BGen John G. Walker's Official Reports

Reports of October, 1862

J. G. Walker


---- Harpers Ferry -----

Camp near Winchester, Va., October 7, 1862

Maj. E. F. PAXTON,
Asst. Adjt. and Insp. Gen., Jackson's Corps, Army of N. Va.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the division under my command in the reduction of Harper's Ferry:

On September 9 I was instructed by General Lee to proceed from Monocacy Junction, near Frederick, Md., to the mouth of the Monocacy, and destroy the aqueduct of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. We arrived at the aqueduct about 11 p.m., and found it occupied by the enemy's pickets, whose fire, as they fled, severely wounded Captain [G. T.] Duffy, of the Twenty-fourth North Carolina Troops, of Brigadier-General Ransom's brigade. Working parties were at once detailed, and set to work to drill holes for blowing up the arches, but, after several hours of labor, it was apparent that, owing to the insufficiency of our tools and the extraordinary solidity and massiveness of the masonry, the work we had undertaken was one of days instead of hours. The movement of our main army from Frederick toward Hagerstown, which I had been officially informed would take place on the 10th, would leave my small division in the immediate presence of a very strong force of the enemy, and, while it would be engaged in destroying the aqueduct, in a most exposed and dangerous position. I therefore determined to rejoin General Lee by way of Jefferson and Middletown, as previously instructed by him. Before marching, however, I received instructions to cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford and proceed toward Harper's Ferry, and cooperate with Major-Generals Jackson and McLaws in the capture of the Federal forces at that point.

Early on the morning of the 10th the aqueduct over the Monocacy was occupied by a large force of the enemy, with their artillery commanding the aqueduct and its approaches, as well as Cheek's Ford. I then determined to cross at the Point of Rocks, which I effected during the night of the 10th and by daylight on the 11th, but with much difficulty, owing to the destruction of the bridge over the canal and the steepness of the banks of the Potomac. My men being much worn down by two days' and nights' marching, almost without sleep or rest, we remained in camp during the 11th, and proceeded the next day toward Harper's Ferry, encamping at Hillsborough.

On the morning of the 13th we reached the foot of the Blue Ridge, opposite the Loudoun Heights, which I was instructed to occupy. From such reconnaissance as could be made from below, it seemed certain that Loudoun Heights were unoccupied by the enemy. To ascertain if such was the case, I detached Col. John R. Cooke, with his regiment (the Twenty-seventh North Carolina), and the Thirtieth Virginia Volunteers, who took possession of the heights without opposition and held them during the night.

In the meantime the enemy was being attacked on the Maryland Heights by the forces under Major-General McLaws, and in the afternoon it became apparent that our forces had possession of the summit, which commands Harper's Ferry as well as Loudoun Heights.

That night and the next, the entire division, except that portion of it occupying Loudoun Heights, was placed in a strong position to prevent the escape of the enemy down the right bank of the Potomac.

At daylight on the 14th, I sent Captain French, with three Parrott guns and two rifled pieces of [J. R.] Branch's battery, under Lieutenant [M. A.] Martin, to Loudoun Heights, where I immediately proceeded and placed them in position. I informed Major-General Jackson of this, by signal, and awaited his instructions. In the mean time we had attracted the notice of the enemy, who opened their batteries upon us, and it became necessary either to reply or withdraw our pieces. About 1 p.m. I therefore gave orders to open fire upon the enemy's batteries and the troops upon Bolivar Heights, beyond Harper's Ferry. Our guns were served admirably and with great rapidity, and in two hours we had silenced an eight-gun battery near the Barbour House, except one gun, which was so close under the mountain that we could not see it. What other effect our fire had we could not tell, but it evidently produced great consternation and commotion among the enemy's troops, especially the cavalry.

During the engagement, one of the enemy's caissons was blown up by a well-directed shot from French's battery. On our side, we lost Lieutenant [Patton] Robertson, of French's battery, killed; Major [F. L.] Wiatt, Forty-eighth North Carolina Troops, and two privates, of French's battery, wounded. Our guns and horses sustained no injury.

 Owing to a heavy mist, which concealed Harper's Ferry from view, we did not open our fire until after 8 o'clock in the morning of the 15th, the enemy replying very feebly at first, and, finally, about 9 o'clock, ceased firing altogether.

About 9.30 o'clock we observed a white flag displayed from a large brick building in the upper town, when our batteries immediately ceased their fire, although I was not satisfied that it indicated a capitulation. It soon became apparent that such was the case, and after a short time we had the extreme satisfaction to see the head of Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill's column approaching the town along the Charlestown turnpike.

My division that evening crossed the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah River, and by daylight on the 16th reached Shepherdstown, and early in the day crossed the Potomac and reported to General Lee near Sharpsburg, Md.

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

Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

---- Sharpsburg -----


Camp near Winchester, Va., October 14, 1862

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Right Wing, Army Northern Virginia.

MAJOR: I have the honor to make the following report of the part borne by the division under my command in the battle of Sharpsburg, Md., September 17, last:

The division, composed of Ransom's and Walker's brigades (the latter commanded by Col. Van H. Manning, to which was attached French's and Branch's light batteries), after participating in the capture of the Federal forces at Harper's Ferry, crossed the Blue Ridge, the Shenandoah, and the Potomac, the latter at Shepherdstown, and reached the neighborhood of Sharpsburg, Md., on the 16th ultimo, where I reported to General Lee.

In accordance with his instructions, at daylight the next morning 1 placed the division on the extreme right of our position and about 1 miles south of Sharpsburg, my line of battle extending from a wood on the right to a group of barns, stables, and outhouses on the left, in such way as to cover the ford over the Antietam Creek and to be within supporting distance of the command of Brigadier-General Toombs, which lay in front of the bridge across the same stream. My batteries were placed on commanding heights in such way as to command the roads leading from the east, while a battalion of sharpshooters was posted along the wooded banks of the Antietam, to hold the enemy in check should he attempt to cross the stream at that point. While we were in this position, the enemy made no attempt to cross the stream, and the only evidence of his being in our front was his artillery fire at long range and the reply of General Toombs' batteries, about half a mile to my left.

Soon after 9 a.m., I received orders from General Lee, through Colonel [A. L.] Long, of his staff, to hasten to the extreme left, to the support of Major-General Jackson. Hastening forward, as rapidly as possible, along the rear of our entire line of battle, we arrived, soon after 10 o'clock, near the woods which the commands of Generals Hood and Early were struggling heroically to hold but gradually and sullenly yielding to the irresistible weight of overwhelming numbers. Here we at once formed line of battle, under a sharp artillery fire, and, leaving the Twenty-seventh North Carolina and Third Arkansas Regiments to hold the open space between the woods and Longstreet's left, the division, with Ransom's brigade on the left, advanced in splendid style, firing and cheering as they went, and in a few minutes cleared the woods, strewing it with the enemy's dead and wounded. Colonel Manning, with the Forty-sixth and Forty-eighth North Carolina and Thirtieth Virginia, not content with the possession of the woods, dashed forward in gallant style, crossed the open fields beyond, driving the enemy before him like sheep, until, arriving at a long line of strong post and rail fences, behind which heavy masses of the enemy's infantry were lying, their advance was checked; and it being impossible to climb over these fences under such fire, these regiments, after suffering a heavy loss, were compelled to fall back to the woods, where the Forty-sixth and Forty-eighth North Carolina Regiments were quickly reformed, but the Thirtieth Virginia, owing to some unaccountable misunderstanding of orders, except Captain [John M.] Hudgin's company, went entirely off the field, and, as a regiment, was not again engaged during the day. Captain [W. A.] Smith, of my staff, and myself succeeded in gathering up portions of it, which, acting with the Forty-sixth North Carolina, afterward did good service.

Just before the falling back of these regiments, the gallant Colonel Manning was severely wounded and was compelled to leave the field, relinquishing the command of the brigade to the next in rank, Col. E. D. Hall, of the Forty-sixth North Carolina Regiment.

The Forty-eighth North Carolina Regiment, Col. R. C. Hill commanding, after reforming, was sent by me, with French's and Branch's light batteries, to re-enforce General Stuart, on the extreme left, who was specially charged by General Jackson with the task of turning the enemy's right.

The falling back of a portion of Manning's brigade enabled the enemy to temporarily reoccupy the point of woods near the position assigned to Colonel Cooke, commanding the Twenty-seventh North Carolina and the Third Arkansas Regiments, upon whom the enemy opened a galling fire of musketry, which was replied to with spirit ; but the enemy having the cover of the woods while Colonel Cooke's command was on the open ground, this officer very properly drew them back to a corn-field and behind a rail fence, which gave them partial protection. From this position they kept up an effective fire upon the enemy, driving his artillerists from a battery they were attempting to get into position to bear upon Colonel Cooke's command. They afterward succeeded in getting off with their guns, but abandoned two caissons filled with rifle ammunition, from which Captain French that night replenished his exhausted limber-chests.

Early in the afternoon, Major-General Longstreet directed Colonel Cooke, with his own regiment (Twenty-seventh North Carolina) and the Third Arkansas, to charge the enemy, who was threatening his front, as if to pass through the opening between the point of timber held by Ransom's brigade and Longstreet's left. This order was promptly obeyed in the face of such a fire as troops have seldom encountered without running away, and with a steadiness and unfaltering gallantry seldom equaled. Battery after battery, regiment after regiment opened their fire upon them, hurling a torrent of missiles through their ranks, but nothing could arrest their progress, and three times the enemy broke and fled before their impetuous charge. Finally they reached the fatal picket-fences before alluded to. To climb over them, in the face of such a force and under such a fire, would have been sheer madness to attempt, and their ammunition being now almost exhausted, Colonel Cooke, very properly, gave the order to fall back, which was done in the most perfect order, after which the regiments took up their former position, which they continued to hold until night.

In the meantime Brigadier-General Ransom, whose brigade was farther on the left, having driven the enemy through and from the woods, with heavy loss, continued, with his own brigade and Colonel Hall's (Forty-sixth Regiment North Carolina), to hold it for the greater portion of the day, notwithstanding three determined infantry attacks, which each time were repulsed with great loss to the enemy, and against a most persistent and terrific artillery fire, by which the enemy hoped, doubtless, to drive us from our strong position--the very key of the battle-field. His hopes, however, were not realized. True to their duty, for eight hours our brave men lay upon the ground, taking advantage of such undulations and shallow ravines as gave promise of partial shelter, while this fearful storm raged a few feet above their heads, tearing the trees asunder, lopping off huge branches, and filling the air with shrieks and explosions, realizing to the fullest the fearful sublimity of battle.

During this time, in the temporary absence of General Ransom from his brigade to post the Twenty-fourth North Carolina, which had gone too much to the left and beyond Barksdale's brigade, the enemy made a furious attack, with heavy masses of infantry, upon the position occupied by General Ransom. Colonel Ransom, of the Thirty-fifth North Carolina, in temporary command of the brigade not only repulsed the enemy but pursued him across the field as far as the post-and-rail fences, inflicting upon him so severe a punishment that no other attempt with infantry was made on the position during the day. While I was with General Ransom's command, about 4.30 o'clock in the afternoon, an order was brought from General Longstreet directing General Ransom to advance and capture the enemy's batteries in his front. Having been previously instructed by General Jackson to hold my position in the woods until General Stuart could turn the enemy's right and then to advance, I directed General Ransom to delay the execution of General Longstreet's order until I could see General Longstreet, in person, and confer with him on the subject. Upon my representations to him, he approved what I had done, and, while we were in conversation on the subject, General Jackson himself joined us, and informed us that General Stuart had made the attempt spoken of but found it impracticable, as the enemy's right was securely posted on the Potomac and protected by heavy batteries of his reserve artillery. It was then determined that the attempt to force the enemy's right with our fearfully thinned ranks and in the exhausted condition of our men was an effort above our strength.

Toward 5 o'clock in the afternoons, I was directed by General Longstreet to move Ransom's brigade toward the right to re-enforce our center, where the enemy were making demonstrations as if for an advance upon our position. No attack was, however, made, but the enemy's artillery continued to play upon the woods, upon our batteries, and upon every position along our line which they supposed to be occupied by our troops, our own batteries replying but slowly, for the want of ammunition. Gradually, as night approached, this fire died away, and darkness finally put an end to this long and bloody battle. My division rested until next morning where night overtook them and upon the line occupied by them during the day.

The conduct of the division was, generally, excellent, and, in some instances, was brilliant in the extreme. I desire particularly to call attention to the admirable conduct of the Twenty-seventh North Carolina, commanded by Col. John R. Cooke, and the Third Arkansas Volunteers, commanded by its senior captain, John W. Reedy.

The coolness and good conduct of Col. Van H. Manning, commanding brigade, until wounded and carried from the field, is worthy of all praise. Colonel Hall, of the Forty-sixth North Carolina Troops, who, as next in rank, assumed command of the brigade, handled his regiment and the other portions of the brigade falling under his command with skill and judgment.

To Brigadier-General Ransom's coolness, judgment, and skill we are in a great degree indebted for the successful maintenance of our position on the left, which, to have been permanently gained by the enemy, would, in all probability, have been to us the loss of the battle.

General Ransom speaks in high terms of the conduct of Colonel Ransom, of the Thirty-fifth North Carolina; of Lieutenant-Colonel [S. C.] Bryson, of the Twenty-fifth, and Adjutant [O. D.] Cooke, of the Twenty-fourth North Carolina Regiments, and as having particularly distinguished themselves.

The light batteries of Captains French and Branch, the latter under the command of Lieut. R. G. Pegram, at different times during the day were engaged with the enemy and did good service--- specially French's, posted on the extreme left, and under the immediate orders of General Stuart.

Capt. William A. Smith, my assistant adjutant-general, and Lieut. J. A. Galt, aide-de-camp, were with me upon the field, and rendered me valuable assistance in transmitting orders.

The division suffered heavily, particularly Manning's command (Walker's brigade), which at one time sustained almost the whole fire of the enemy's right wing. Going into the engagement, as it was necessary for us to do, to support the sorely pressed divisions of Hood and Early, it was, of course, impossible to make dispositions based upon a careful reconnaissance of the localities. The post-and-rail fences stretching across the fields lying between us and the enemy's position, I regard as the fatal obstacle to our complete success on the left, and success there would, doubtless, have changed the fate of the day. Of the existence of this obstacle none of my division had any previous knowledge, and we learned it at the expense of many valuable lives.

I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.


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