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Colonel William T. Wofford's Official Report

Report of September 29, 1862

W. T. Wofford

[author biography]

September 29, 1862.

Captain W. H. SELLERS,

SIR: I have the honor to report the part performed by this command in the engagements on the evening of the 16th and throughout the day of the 17th instant at Sharpsburg, Md., without referring to the various positions which we occupied after halting on the field:

On the morning of the 15th instant, our division being in the rear of the army from Boonsborough Mountain, this brigade was moved from in front of Sharpsburg on the evening of the 15th to the right and in front of Mumma Church, this being the left of our line and where the main and most of the fighting took place on the 17th instant. While we were moving to this position, the enemy opened a heavy fire upon us from their long-range guns, which was continued after we were in position, and resulted in the wounding of 1 lieutenant and 1 soldier in the Fourth Texas Regiment. We remained in this position the balance of the day and night of the 15th and until late in the evening of the 16th, when we were ordered by General Hood to move by the left flank through the open field in front of the church and to its left about 700 yards, to meet the enemy, who it was then ascertained, had commenced to cross Antietam Creek to our left. We then formed line of battle and moved up to acorn-field in our front, and awaited the advance of the enemy, who had, by this time, opened upon us a brisk fire of shot and shell from some pieces of artillery which they had placed in position immediately in our front and to the left of our lines, wounding 1 officers and some dozen men.

I feel it due to truth to state that the enemy were informed of our position by the firing of a half dozen shots from a little battery of ours on the left of the brigade, which hastily beat a retreat as soon as their guns opened upon us.

While our line of battle rested upon the corn-field, Captain Turner, commanding the Fifth Texas, which was our right, had been moved forward into some woods, where he met a part of our skirmishers driven in by the enemy, whom he engaged and finally drove back, with the loss of 1 man. Our skirmishers, consisting of 100 men, under the command of Captain [W. H.] Martin, of the Fourth Texas, who had been moved into the woods in front and to the left of the Fifth Texas, were hotly engaged with the enemy, but held their ground until they had expended all their cartridges, and then fell into our line of battle, about 9 o'clock at night, about which time we were relieved by General Lawton's brigade, and were withdrawn from the field to the woods in rear of Mumma Church for the purpose of cooking rations, our men not having received any regular allowance in three days.

It was now evident that the enemy had effected a crossing entirely to our left, and that he would make the attack on that wing early in the morning, moving his forces over and placing them in position during the night.

At 3 o'clock in the morning of the 17th the picket firing was very heavy, and at daylight the battle was opened. Our brigade was moved forward, at sunrise, to the support of General Lawton, who had relieved us the night before. Moving forward in line of battle in the regular order of regiments, the brigade proceeded through the woods into the open field toward the corn-field, where the left encountered the first line of the enemy. Seeing Hampton's Legion and Eighteenth Georgia moving slowly forward, but rapidly firing, I rode hastily to them, urging them forward, when I saw two full regiments, one in their front and the other partly to their left. Perceiving at once that they were in danger of being cut off, I ordered the First Texas to move by the left flank to their relief, which they did in a rapid and gallant manner. By this time, the enemy on our left having commenced falling back, the First Texas pressed them rapidly to their guns, which now poured into them a fire on their right flank, center, and left flank from three different batteries, before which their well-formed line was cut down and scattered; being 200 yards in front of our line, their situation was most critical. Riding back to the left of our line, I found the fragment of the Eighteenth Georgia Regiment in front of the extreme right battery of the enemy, located on the pike running by the church, which now opened upon our thinned ranks a most destructive fire. The men and officers were gallantly shooting down the gunners, and for a moment silenced them. At this time the enemy's fire was most terrific, their first line of infantry having been driven back to their guns, which now opened a furious fire, together with their second line of infantry, upon our thinned and almost annihilated ranks.

By this time, our brigade having suffered so greatly, I was satisfied they could neither advance nor hold their position much longer without re-enforcements. Riding back to make known to General Hood our condition, I met with you, to whom I imparted this information. By this time our line commenced giving way, when I ordered them back under cover of the woods to the left of the church, where we halted and waited for support, none arriving. After some time the enemy commenced advancing in full force. Seeing the hopelessness and folly of making a stand with our shattered brigade and a remnant from other commands, the men being greatly exhausted and many of them out of ammunition, I determined to fall back to a fence in our rear, where we met the long looked for re-enforcements, and at the same time received an order from General Hood to fall back farther to the rear to rest and collect our men. After resting a short time, we were moved back to the woods in rear of the church from where we advanced to the fight in the morning, which position we held until late in the evening, when we were moved by the right flank in the direction of Sharpsburg to a place near the center of our line, where we remained during that night and next day, and until the recrossing of the Potomac by our army was ordered.

During the engagement of the brigade on the 17th instant I was drawn to the left of our line, as it first engaged the enemy, who had succeeded in flanking us on the left, and, to escape from being surrounded, changed the direction to left-oblique, thus causing large intervals between the regiments on the left and right of the line. The Fifth Texas, under the command of Captain Turner, moved with spirit across the field and occupied the woods on our right, where it met the enemy and drove and held them back until their ammunition was exhausted, and then fell back to the woods with the balance of the brigade. The Fourth Texas Regiment, which, in our line of battle, was between the Fifth and First Texas, was moved by General Hood to the extreme left of our line on the pike road, covering our flank by holding the enemy in check.

This brigade went into the action numbering 854, and lost, in killed, wounded, and missing, 560-over one-half.

We have to mourn the loss of Majors Dale, of the First Texas, and Dingle, of Hampton's Legion, two gallant officers, who fell in the thickest of the fight; also Captains [R. W.] Tompkins and [H. J.] Smith, and Lieutenant [James J.] Exum, of Hampton's Legion; Lieutenants [T. C.] Underwood and [J. M. D.] Cleveland, of the Eighteenth Georgia; Lieutenants [F. L.] Hoffman, [P.] Runnells, [J.] Waterhouse, [S. F.] Patton, and [G. B.] Thompson, of the First Texas. These brave officers all fell while gallantly leading their small bands on an enemy five times their number. They deserved a better fate than to have been, as they were, sacrificed for the want of proper support.

The enemy, besides being permitted to cross the creek, with scarcely any resistance, to our left, were allowed to place their artillery in position during the night, not only without annoyance but without our knowledge.

Without specially naming the officers and men who stood firmly at their post during the whole of this terrible conflict, I feel pleased to bear testimony, with few exceptions, to the gallantry of the whole brigade. They fought desperately; their conduct was never surpassed. Fragments of regiments, as they were, they moved bodily upon and drove before them the crowded lines of the enemy up to their cannon's mouth, and, with a heroism unsurpassed, fired upon their gunners, desperately struggling before yielding, which they had never been forced to do before.

I here with transmit the reports of Captain Turner, commanding the Fifth Texas Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel Carter, commanding the Fourth Texas; Lieutenant-Colonel Work, commanding the First Texas; Lieutenant-Colonel Ruff, commanding the Eighteenth Georgia, and Lieutenant-Colonel Gary, commanding Hampton's Legion.

Respectfully submitted.

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS; Series 1, Volume 19, Part I (Antietam - Serial 27), Pages 927 - 929


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