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BGen Abner Doubleday's Official Reports

Reports on South Mountain and Antietam of September 1862

Abner Doubleday

---- South Mountain -----

Near Sharpsburg, Md., September 23, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

MAJOR: I have the honor to report that this division left the Monocacy at 6 a.m. September 14, and arrived at the Catoctin about 12.30 p.m. Here the column halted until 2.30 p.m., when Brigadier General Hatch assumed the command, in place of General King, who was assigned to other duty. The enemy's position was on the summit of South Mountain. To avoid the fire of his batteries, the division now diverged from the main road and struck off into a by-road to the right, which led to a stone church at the foot of the mountain, where we found General Hooker and his staff. The division at this time consisted of Doubleday's, Patrick's, and Phelps' (late Hatch's) brigades, General Gibbon having been detached with his brigade on special service.

The general order of battle was for two regiments of Patrick's brigade to precede the main body, deployed as skirmishers, and supported by Patrick's two remaining regiments; these to be followed by Phelps' brigade, 200 paces in the rear, and this in turn by Doubleday's brigade, with the same interval. In accordance with this disposition, General Patrick deployed the Twenty-first New York, under Colonel Rogers, as skirmishers on the right, and the Thirty-fifth New York, under Colonel Lord, on the left, supporting the former with the Twentieth New York Militia, Lieutenant-Colonel Gates, and the latter with the Twenty-third New York, Colonel Hoffman.

By General Hatch's order, Phelps' brigade advanced in column of divisions at half distance, preserving the intervals of deployment. My brigade advanced in the same order. On reaching a road part way up the mountain, and parallel to its summit, each brigade deployed in turn and advanced in line of battle. Colonel Phelps' brigade, owing to an accidental opening, preceded for a while our line of skirmishers, but soon halted, and advanced in line some 30 paces in their rear. General Patrick rode to the front with his skirmishers, drew the fire of the enemy, and developed their position. They lay behind a fence on the summit running north and south, fronted by a woods and backed by a corn-field, full of rocky ledges. Colonel Phelps now ordered his men to advance, and General Hatch rode through the lines, pressing them forward. They went in with a cheer, poured in a deadly fire, and drove the enemy from his position behind the fence, after a short and desperate conflict, and took post some yards beyond.

Here General Hatch was wounded and turned over the command to me, and as during the action Colonel Wainwright, Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers, was also wounded, the command of my brigade subsequently devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Hermann, Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Phelps' brigade being few in number, and having suffered severely, I relieved them just at dusk with my brigade, reduced by former engagements to about 1,000 men, who took position beyond the fence referred to, the enemy being in heavy force some 30 or 40 paces in our front. They pressed heavily upon us, attempting to charge at the least cessation of our fire. At last I ordered the troops to cease firing, lie down behind the fence, and allowed the enemy to charge to within about 15 paces, apparently under the impression that we had given way. Then, at the word, my men sprang to their feet and poured in a deadly volley, from which the enemy fled in disorder, leaving their dead within 30 feet of our line.

I learned from a wounded prisoner that we were engaged with 4,000 to 5,000, under the immediate command of General Pickett, with heavy masses in their vicinity. He stated also that Longstreet in vain tried to rally the men, calling them his pets, and using every effort to induce them to renew the attack. The firing on both sides still continued, my men aiming at the flashes of the enemy's muskets, as it was too dark to see objects distinctly, until our cartridges were reduced to two or three rounds.

General Ricketts now came from the right and voluntarily relieved my men at the fence, who fell back some 10 paces and lay down on their arms. A few volleys from Ricketts ended the contest in about thirty minutes, and the enemy withdrew from the field--not, however, until an attempt to flank us on our left, which was gallantly met by a partial change of front of the Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers, under Colonel Wainwright, and the Seventh Indiana, under Major Grover. In this attempt the enemy lost heavily, and were compelled to retreat in disorder.

While the main attack was going on at the fence referred to, Colonel Rogers, with his own and Lieutenant-Colonel Gates' regiments (the Twentieth New York State Militia and Twenty-first New York Volunteers, of Patrick's brigade), rendered most essential service by advancing his right and holding a fence bounding the northeast side of the same corn-field, anticipating the enemy, who made a furious rush to seize this fence, but were driven back. Colonel Rogers was thus enabled to take the enemy in flank, and also to pick off their cannoneers and silence a battery which was at the right and behind their main body.

Our men remained in position all night, sleeping on their arms and ready for any attack; but with the dawn it was discovered that the enemy had fled, leaving large numbers of dead and wounded. Among them was Col. J. B. Strange, of the Nineteenth Virginia, and some other officers whose names I am unable to report.

I desire to mention in terms of just commendation General Patrick, whose long experience and cool bravery were never better attested; Colonel Phelps, commanding Hatch's brigade, and Colonel Wainwright and Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann, commanding in turn my own brigade. Their gallantry and good conduct did much toward winning the victory. I desire also to mention Capt. E. P. Halstead, assistant adjutant-gen-eral, and Lieut. B. T. Marten, aide-de-camp, who carried my orders faithfully into the thickest of the fight, and who each spent several hours in the night in the difficult and dangerous task of verifying the enemy's position. Also Capt. George F. Noyes, commissary of subsistence, who stood upon the fence during the hottest of the fire, cheering on the men, and otherwise rendered me valuable assistance.

I inclose herewith a tabular statement of the killed and wounded.

I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.

---- Antietam -----

Sharpsburg, Md., September --, 1862

Assistant Adjutant-General, First Corps.

MAJOR: I have the honor to report that this division crossed the Antietam near Keedysville, at a ford prepared by the pioneers, on the afternoon of the 16th instant, and marched on the left of, and parallel to, the divisions of Ricketts and Meade, Patrick's brigade leading the way.

Just at dusk, when within three-quarters of a mile of the road which leads from Sharpsburg to Williamsport, the Pennsylvania Reserves, under command of General Meade, became engaged with the enemy on oar left. I immediately halted my division and closed it up in column in mass, after which I advanced at the head of the leading brigade to take the position assigned me by General Hooker, who commanded the corps. As we came on, we were assailed by one of the enemy's advanced batteries, the first discharge wounding several of Patrick's men and dismounting three orderlies behind me. General Ricketts' division having been ordered into the woods on my left, it cut my line of march and occasioned a long delay in the arrival of my other brigades. In the mean time I had posted Patrick's brigade in a small triangular piece of woods on our right, bordering the road already referred to. As soon as the other brigades came up, they were formed in line of battle to connect with General Meade's division, which was on our left at the edge of the woods, where he first encountered the enemy. General Patrick, as I have already stated, held the little piece of woods on our right. Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann's brigade was posted on Patrick's left, to connect with General Meade's right, and my two other brigades, those of Gibbon's and Phelps', were massed in reserve in rear. That night we slept on our arms. At dawn of day on the 17th the battle was opened with great spirit by the enemy's batteries, which were promptly answered by those of my division. Soon after I was directed by General Hooker to have my brigades in readiness to be sent as circumstances might require. I had previously designated Gibbon's brigade to take the advance, to be followed in succession by Phelps', Patrick's, and Hofmann's brigades. The latter, however, was left as a guard to our batteries in rear, which were opposing the attempt of some rebel batteries to enfilade our lines. Hofmann's brigade was ordered forward at a later period of the action, but General Hooker directed it to remain, as the guns there were doing excellent service in silencing the enemy's artillery. On this account two additional rifled guns were sent to him, and were supported in their advanced position by the Ninety-fifth New York Volunteers, under Major Pye, of that regiment.

I now sent General Gibbon's brigade forward to commence the attack on the enemy's position, followed by Phelps' brigade, as a support, and about twenty minutes afterward Patrick's brigade was also sent forward, by order of General Hooker. Gibbon advanced in column of division on the left of the Hagerstown turnpike until he reached an open space. He then deployed the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers on the right and the Second Wisconsin Volunteers on the left, and threw them forward into a corn-field in his front. A section of Campbell's battery, under Lieutenant Stewart, was also brought into action on an eminence in rear, to fire over the heads of the troops, in answer to the enemy's batteries in front. The two regiments pushed gallantly forward, supported by the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers and the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers. After a short engagement, General Gibbon saw that his line would probably be flanked on the right from the woods, which extended down in that direction. To meet this contingency, he ordered up a section of Campbell's battery, and directed the Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana Regiments to cross the road, deploy on the right of the others, and push forward rapidly into the woods. His entire brigade soon became hotly engaged. In the mean time Phelps' brigade had followed that of Gibbon, and when it reached the open space already referred to, beyond the woods where Campbell's battery was posted, it moved by the flank and deployed forward into a corn-field in rear of Gibbon's command. Phelps' position being some 90 paces in front of the battery, as soon as Gibbon's brigade became engaged, Phelps moved his line up, and formed about 25 paces in his rear. Observing that the enemy's line now formed a crotchet, which partially flanked Gibbon's line, Colonel Phelps ordered Colonel Post, who was in command of the Second Regiment of U.S. Sharpshooters, to move to the right and front, advance his left, and engage that portion of the enemy's line that flanked ours. In this engagement the Sharpshooters suffered severely, and Colonel Post was wounded, after capturing two battle-flags from the enemy. While this was going on, I sent Patrick's brigade to follow the two others. It advanced, and for a short time took post in the same corn-field as a support. A strong enfilading fire, as has already been stated, came from the woods against our troops in the corn-field. To meet this, I directed General Patrick to occupy and hold the woods, detaching, however, one of his regiments to support Campbell's battery, a section of which had moved forward to the road in the vicinity of a barn and some haystacks.

I stated in the first part of this report that the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers and Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers moved into the woods to drive off the enemy, who were acting against our right flank. This movement was simultaneous with that of Patrick's brigade, all crossing the road and moving forward into the woods at the same time. The two regiments named took position in advance of, and parallel to, the rest of Gibbon's line. Patrick's three regiments had scarcely taken position in the woods before a body of the enemy appeared on their right, guarding a battery of light guns they had posted there. General Hooker directed that one of Patrick's regiments be sent to watch this battery, and the Twenty-third New York Volunteers, under Colonel Hoffman, was detached for that purpose. The two remaining regiments, the Twenty-first New York Volunteers and Thirty-fifth New York Volunteers, closed up on the Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana, and all moved forward together. The enemy previous to this had kept up a brisk fire, but was sheltered by a series of rocky ledges, which afforded them almost perfect security; they poured in heavy volleys of musketry. To meet this increase of fire, Patrick's two regiments were thrown forward in the first line. To all appearance the enemy had been strongly re-enforced, and they not only resisted our farther advance, but moved to try and capture Campbell's battery and regain possession of the corn-field. This charge was handsomely repulsed by the fire of the Second Wisconsin and Sixth Wisconsin Regiments, by the rapid discharges of the battery, which fired double canisters, and by the flank fire of the Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana Regiments, of Gibbon's brigade, and the Twenty-first New York and Thirty-fifth New York Volunteers, of Patrick's brigade, these four regiments having taken up a position perpendicular to their former one, which enabled them to pour in a heavy fire upon the flank of the charging column. Patrick could not have changed position in this way under ordinary circumstances, but it was evident that a large part of the troops that had been in his front were detached to aid in the charge. These united agencies drove the enemy back, saved the guns, and gave us a renewed possession of the corn-field. General Patrick now pushed his regiments up to the road, which he held firmly for some time, capturing two battleflags from the rebel regiments which advanced against him. He was finally attacked both on his right flank and rear, and compelled to fall back. He withdrew to a line of rocks at right angles to the general direction of the strip of woods, and about 15 rods from them. There he remained waiting for ammunition and re-enforcements to be sent him.

General Williams, of Mansfield's corps, now came up with re-enforcements. He sent a regiment at my request to watch the rebel force that supported the enfilading battery which was acting against the right of Patrick's line. The other regiments that he brought up with him were notified of the nature of the ground and of the position of the enemy, and were instructed by General Patrick as to the position they ought to assume to enfilade the enemy's line and drive him from his strong position, near the Dunker Church, which seemed to be the key of the battlefield. The re-enforcements sent us did not attack in the right place, and they were soon swept away by a terrific fire against their left and front from an enemy behind the rocks they could not see. Their line gave way, and the main body of the rebels advanced. We had no troops left to stem the shock. My own command had been fighting since daylight, and being out of ammunition was obliged to fall back. Patrick's brigade covered our retreat, resisting the enemy gallantly and retiring in perfect order. Campbell's battery having lost 38 men in killed and wounded, including its commander among the latter, and having had 27 horses killed, was no longer in a condition for active service, and was compelled to retire behind the supports of Sedgwick's division. It was soon followed by Gibbon's and Phelps' brigades, exhausted as they were by long-continued fighting, nearly out of ammunition, and too few in number to keep back the overpowering forces that were advancing. Colonel Phelps reports his whole brigade on the field as not numbering more than 150 men at this time. The division fell back in perfect order to a new line of defense. In the mean time General Hooker had been wounded and General Meade had assumed command of the corps. Thirty guns had been concentrated on the right flank of the general line of battle, and my division was directed to join the remains of General Sumner's corps as a support to these guns. General Sumner assumed command in person, and I was directed by General Meade, who received the order from General Sumner, to assume special command of these thirty guns in addition to the command of my division. About 5.30 p.m. the enemy massed his infantry and opened fire with his artillery to force our position, but my thirty guns replied with such vigor and effect that the columns of attack melted away and the rebels gave up the attempt. After this we were not disturbed.

It only remains for me to speak in terms of just commendation of my brigade commanders, General Patrick, General Gibbon, Colonel Phelps, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann, each of whom displayed great personal gallantry and the ability to meet every contingency that occurred. In this, as on similar occasions, I was much indebted to the skill and bravery of Capt. E. P. Halstead, assistant adjutant-general, who was slightly wounded in the engagement; Capt. George F. Noyes, commissary of subsistence, acting aide-de-camp, and Lieut. B. T. Marten, aide-de-camp, who composed my personal staff. I inclose herewith a tabular statement of the killed, wounded, and missing, the aggregate amounting to 862.

I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General of Vols., Comdg. First Division, First Corps.

NOTE. -- The tabular statement referred to in report cannot now be found.
Brigade commanders report their losses as follows: First Brigade, Colonel Phelps, reports 10 killed, 147 wounded, 29 missing; Second Brigade, Hofmann, few losses; Third Brigade, Patrick, 20 killed, 180 wounded, 17 missing; Fourth Brigade, Gibbon, 61 killed, 274 wounded, and 45 missing.

MEMORANDA.--The date at which this report was originally sent on to the War Department is unknown, and therefore I have left it blank. Campbell's battery was in reality Gibbon's battery of the Regular Army, but, as Campbell commanded it, I styled it Campbell's battery to avoid confusion. A shell exploded under my horse's nose in the beginning of this action on the 17th. This caused him to run over some steep, sharp rocks. He fell, and I was very much bruised and unable to hold the reins in my hands for a long time.


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