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Col George L Willard's Official Report

Report of September 21, 1862 of Harpers Ferry

[author biography]

Annapolis, Md., September 21, 1862

SIR: I have the honor to report the part taken by the One hundred and twenty-fifth Regiment New York Volunteers during the 14th and 15th of September, 1862, at Harper's Ferry:

About 1 o'clock p. m., on the 14th September, the enemy, who had succeeded in establishing a battery of rifled guns on Loudoun Heights, opened with shot and shell upon my regiment, which, having just returned from picket duty, were engaged in preparing some food. The fire was rapid, and all the troops on the plateau made a speedy and somewhat disorderly retreat. My regiment, in spite of my efforts, and subjected for the first time to a hot fire, retreated in a good deal of disorder toward the ravine running south from the battery on Bolivar Heights. At this point I succeeded in rallying them, and reformed the regiment on the east side, where it remained until ordered to cross to the west. Here two companies (Captains Cornell and Wood) were detached, by order of Brigadier-General White, to support two guns which had been ordered to advance. With the remaining eight companies I was directed, by the same officer, to occupy the ravine on the road leading to the Shenandoah. Four companies, under Lieutenant Colonel L. Crandell, occupied the extreme left of the line, protected by a slight skirt of woods, and four companies, under my own command, subsequently re-enforced by one of the companies which had been detached, were placed on the open ground. On my right was the Third Maryland and Ninth Vermont Regiments. During the night I called upon the commanding officer of the Third Maryland, Lieutenant-Colonel Downey, and with him on Colonel Stannard, of Ninth Vermont, and, upon consultation, a request was sent to Colonel Trimble, Sixtieth Ohio, commanding brigade, to grant us an interview, in the hope that some change might be made in the disposition of the troops, as we had become aware that the enemy had placed batteries on the opposite side of the Shenandoah, which it was believed would make our line of defense untenable. This interview was without result, as Colonel Trimble stated distinctly that the orders were to hold the line as then established. Some slight changes were then ordered in the position of the Ninth Vermont and Third Maryland, which were effected about 4 o'clock a. m. of the 15th September.

At daylight on the 15th September the enemy opened from the batteries which he had placed in position during the night, and was replied to by the two guns which had been placed in rear of the right wing of my regiment. The fire was very severe, and continued until about 8 o'clock a. m., when, to my astonishment, I saw a white flag raised from the battery on Bolivar Heights.

The firing from the enemy's batteries did not immediately stop, and I remained with my regiment in position until there was not to my knowledge any guns or troops on my right, all having retired and the firing ceased. Forty-five minutes after the raising of the white flag I ordered the regiment to retire, which was done in good order, although subjected to an artillery fire from Loudoun Heights, which opened on my regiment and killed 2 of my men. I ordered the regimental colors to be torn from the staff and destroyed, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. The casualties are as follows:*

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

Colonel One hundred and twenty-fifth Regiment New York Vols.

Colonel TRIMBLE,
Sixtieth Ohio, Commanding Brigade.

* Embodied in No. 202, p. 549.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS; Series 1, Volume 19, Part I (Antietam - Serial 27), Pages 532 - 540


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