On September 14, 1862, Robert E. Lee's opportunistic first invasion of the North was turned back at the gaps of South Mountain near Boonsboro, Maryland. The fighting was desperate and for the numbers engaged rather bloody. It has become just a footnote in history, but it was here that the Confederacy reached it's high tide.
South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland
Monday, March 7, 2011
Fighting Colonels: Lt. Colonel J.M. Lamar
Lt. Colonel Jefferson Mirabeau Lamar, commanding Cobb's (GA) Legion Infantry Battalion: Assigned to Brigadier General Howell Cobb's brigade, the Cobb's Legion Infantry came to the support of the beleaguered Confederate defenders at Crampton's Gap just as the main defensive line at the base of the mountain disintegrated under the heavy pressure of the Union 6th Corps. Brigadier General Howell Cobb was unaware that the Confederate line had broken. With the believe that the flanks were in danger of being turned, he ordered two of his regiments down the Arnoldstown Road to bolster the left flank and two regiments down the Burkittsville Road to strenghten the Confederate right. Lt. Colonel Lamar was ordered down the Burkittsville Road but upon hearing firing and shouts coming from the direction of the Confederate center, Lamar ordered his battalion to march off the road and into the woods. Running into fugitives scrambling up the mountainside away from devasted Confederate center, Lamar ordered his men to double-quick down the mountainside to stem the Union onslaught. It was during this movement that Lamar's horse stumbled to the ground, throwing the rider off. Lamar quickly sprung to his feet, drew his sword and continued on with this battalion. When the first shades of the blue tide were seen through the woods, Lamar ordered his battalion to fire, temporarily halting the Union advance. Lamar was buying time for those survivors from the center to rally. The 16th Georgia Infantry was supporting Lamar's men on the battalions left. Unfortunately for the Confederates the position was exposed to a flank attack up the Burkittsville Road. This attack came in the form of Alfred Torbert's New Jersey Brigade who slammed into the flank of Lamar's position. Knowing that an order to retreat would cause the situation to deteriorate beyond repair, Lamar decided to remain and hold at all costs to allow General Cobb to rally a defensive position at the gap. Lamar refused, or bent back, his right flank to meet this new threat. It was during this time the Lamar would be wounded, hit by a minie ball in the leg. Remaining in command, Lamar refused to order the retreat, despite the pleas from his subordinates. Finally, seeing the his men were being slaughtered and his avenues of retreat slowly being choked off, Lamar said if someone would help him to his feet he would order the retreat. He was promptly help and just after giving the order to retreat, he was wounded a second time, this time mortally, with a minie ball slamming into his chest. The withdrawal was disorderly and chaotic. What remained of the legion scrambled up the mountainside leaving behind dead and wounded comrades, including their commander. Lamar would be captured by Union forces and carried down the mountain to Burkittsville where he would expire the following day. He was buried in Burkittsville in the cemetery behind the Reformed Church until family members exhumed his body and took him home to be buried in Athens, Georgia.
Timothy Reese, Sealed with the Lives: The Battle for Crampton's Gap. Butternut & Blue: Baltimore, Md. 1998
Report of Brigadier General Howell Cobb. The War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 19 (Part I). US War Department: Washington, D.C. 1887. 870-871