South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Friday, April 29, 2011

"The Brigade sustained for some time a fierce attack.."

The following is the official report on the Battle of South Mountain written by Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett. Garnett commanded wounded Brigadier General George Pickett's brigade during the Maryland Campaign. Garnett's  brigade was deployed immediately to the left of the National Pike at Turner's Gap and fought against the advance of General John Hatch's division against the unoccupied Mountain Spur. Garnett goes into detail about the forced march from Hagerstown, the shuffling of troops on the mountain side, and, of course, the fighting on the mountain.


November 6, 1862.

Major A. COWARD,

Assistant Adjutant-General to Brigadier General D. R. Jones.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by Pickett's brigade, of General D. R. Jones' division, which I commanded in the battle of Boonsborough:

This command, consisting of the Eighth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-eighth, and Fifty-sixth Regiments Virginia Volunteers, commanded, respectively, by Colonel Hunton, Major Cabell, Colonel [J. B.] Strange, Captain [W. L.] Wingfield, and Colonel Stuart, left the neighborhood of Hagerstown, Md., on the morning of September 14 last, and reached Boonsborough, on the Hagerstown and Frederick turnpike, in the afternoon, after a hot, dusty, and fatiguing march of some 18 miles. A short distance beyond the village, Kemper's, Pickett's, and Jenkins' brigades (the latter commanded by Colonel Walker), in the order named, were moved in a southerly direction on a road running perpendicular to the pike. Having proceeded over a mile, these troops were directed on another route parallel to the turnpike, leading toward a gap in the South Mountain, farther south than that through which the Hagerstown and Frederick road ran. After marching nearly half a mile, Kemper filed to the left, and again moved in the direction of the pike. At this time I received an order, by Major Mayo [Moses?], of General Jones' staff, to bring my troops to an about-face, and to return the way I came until I reached a path, which I must take. He was unable to give me any information respecting the path in question, but said be would go forward and try to obtain some. I did not, however, see him again.

I followed Jenkins' brigade, which was now in front some distance; but hearing musketry open on the mountain, I took what I supposed to be a near cut in the direction where I presumed I was wanted. This took me over rough and plowed ground up the mountain side. I at length found an old and broken road, along which General Kemper must have moved. Here I met Captain Hugh Rose, of General Jones' staff, who had orders for me to return to the turnpike. When I got back to this road my troops were almost exhausted. I consequently lost the services of a number of men by straggling.

After a shot rest, I proceeded up the mountain, and, having gained the summit on the main road, I was sent, by a narrow lane bearing to the left, to a higher position. A portion of this route was commanded by several pieces of the enemy's artillery, which opened upon my column (marching by the flank) as soon as it came in sight, which they were enabled to do with considerable accuracy, as they had previously been practicing on other troops which had preceded mine. Several casualties occurred from this cause while I was approaching and forming my line of battle, which I did by filing my command to the right through an open field. My right rested in a thick woods, which descended quite abruptly in front, and my left in a field of standing corn. As soon as my troops were formed, I sent forward a line of skirmishers to ascertain the position of the enemy. When these dispositions had been completed (which was only a short time before sunset), I received an order from General Jones to detach my left regiment to Kemper's right (the being on my left), and to withdraw the rest of the brigade to a wooded ridge a little to the left and rear. The first part of this order had scarcely been executed when the Federal skirmishers made their appearance, immediately followed by their main body, so that the action at once became general.

The brigade sustained for some time a fierce attack by doubtless many times their number. It has subsequently been ascertained that General McClellan's army, consisting of at least 80,000 men, assailed our position, only defended by General D. H. Hill's division and a part of General Longstreet's Corps. The left was the first to fall back, and finally the right was forced to retreat, being without support. Many renewed the contest a little farther to the rear, and stoutly disputed the approach of the enemy, but it had now become so dark it was impossible to distinguish objects, except at a short distance. About this time two regiments of Jenkins' brigade came up, and, the probable position of the enemy being pointed out, they advanced to the attack with great gallantry. Just as these troops moved forward, I was ordered to bring off my brigade, which I did.
 It is due to the brigade to say that it went into the battle of Boonsborough under many serious disadvantages. It had marched (a portion of the time rapidly) between 22 and 23 miles before it went into action, much oppressed by heat and dust; reached its position a short time before sunset under a disheartening fire of artillery, and was attacked by a much superior force as soon as it was formed in line of battle. That it bravely discharged its duty is fully attested by the number of casualties which occurred during the engagement.

I had been placed in command of the brigade only a few days before the battle of Boonsborough, and, therefore, was personally acquainted with few of the officers, save the regimental commanders. I cannot, therefore, mention names, but can only say I saw several in connection with them, both by words and example, encouraging and cheering on their men in the hottest of the fight. For further information on this subject you are referred to the sub-reports, herewith inclosed.

Colonel Stuart, as I formerly mentioned, was detached with his regiment (the Fifty-sixth Virginia) before the action commenced. His accompanying official report will show the part taken by his command.

Lieutenant McIntire, Eighth [Nineteenth] Virginia Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieuts. Elliott Johnston and A. C. Sorrel, First Georgia Regulars, acting aides-de-camp, composed my staff. It is with much pleasure that I acknowledge the zeal, intelligence, and bravery with which they discharged their duties pending the battle.

We have to mourn in this action many of our companions as killed and wounded, who go to swell the list of noble martyrs who have suffered in our just cause. It was not to be acquainted with but one of the officers who fell on this occasion - Colonel John B. Strange, Nineteenth Virginia Volunteers. His tried valor on othe fields, and heroic conduct in aminating his men to advance upon the enemy with his latest breath, and after he had fallen mortally wounded, will secure imperishable honor for his name and memory.

I herewith furnish a list of the killed and wounded, and have the honor to state that the delay and imperfection of my report with regard to details have been occasioned by my being relieved from the command of Pickett's brigade before the reports of regimental commanders could be made out; and although I applied for them some weeks since, I received several of them only yesterday.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Private Albert H. Davis, Company K, 6th New Hampshire

This is a photograph taken of Private Albert H. Davis who served in Company K of the 6th New Hampshire Infantry. He enlisted on October 22, 1861 in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. At the Battle of South Mountain, the 6th New Hampshire was held in a reserve position in support of the right of the Union 9th Corps as it advanced up the Old Sharpsburg Road. During the battle, the regiment was bombarded by Confederate artillery has it lay in waiting. Little is known about the service of Private Davis but in December 1862 at the Battle of Fredericksburg, he was listed as killed in action. His place of burial is unknown, but he is likely buried in Fredericksburg National Cemetery among the thousands of unknowns.

This photo can be found among the hundreds of photos in the Liljenquist Family Collection at the Library of Congress. To browse this collection, follow this link: Liljenquist Collection, Library of Congress

Friday, April 22, 2011

"It soon became evident the enemy held the crest in considerable force..."

The following is the official report made by Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox about a week after the fighting at South Mountain and only three days after the bloody encounter at Antietam. At South Mountain, General Cox commanded the Kanawha Division, composed primarily of Ohioan's, but it included the only Kentucky unit to serve with the Army of the Potomac. Cox's Ohioans struck the first blows at Fox's Gap on the morning of September 14th and were involved in the fighting the occured throughout the day. Cox would be elevated to command of the 9th Corps when Major General Jesse Reno was mortally wounded as the fighting died down. He would "command" the 9th Corps at Antietam, but Major General Ambrose Burnside would lead the 9th Corps in its assaults against the Confederate right.


September 20, 1862.

Lieutenant Colonel LEWIS RICHMOND,

Asst. Adjt. General, Burnside's Hdqrs., Right Wing, A. P.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Kanawha Division, Ninth Army Corps, Major-General Burnside's command, in the battle of South Mountain:

At 6 o'clock in the morning of September 14 the division marched from Middletown under an order received by me from Major-General Reno, directing me to support with my division the advance of General Pleasanton, who, with his brigade of cavalry and artillery, was moving up the Hagerstown turnpike toward the positions of the pass of South Mountain. The First Brigade of the division, Colonel E. P. Scammon commanding, consisting of the Twelfth, Twenty-third, and Thirtieth Ohio Regiments, McMullin's Ohio battery, and Gilmore's and Harrison's troops of cavalry, was ordered to proceed by the Boonsborough road, moving to the left of the Hagerstown turnpike and to feel of the enemy, ascertaining whether the crest of South Mountain on that side was held by any considerable force. The Second Brigade, Colonel Crook commanding, consisting of the Eleventh, Twenty-eighth, and Thirty-sixth Ohio Regiments, and Simmonds' battery, with Schambeck's cavalry troop, was ordered to follow on the same road to support the First Brigade.

It soon became evident the enemy held the crest in considerable force, and the whole division was ordered to advance to the assault of the position, word being received from Major-General Reno that the column would be supported by the whole corps. Two 20-pounder Parrot guns from Simmonds' battery and two sections from McMullin's battery were left in the rear, in positions on the turnpike where they were most efficiently served during the action in opposition to the enemy's guns in the center of the line along the Hagerstown road. The First Brigade being in advance, the Twenty-third Ohio Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Hayes commanding, was deployed to our left, and ordered to move through the woods to the left of the road and up to the crest of the mountain, gaining, if possible the enemy's right, so as to turn it and attack his flank. the Twelfth Ohio Regiment, Colonel C. B. White commanding, occupied the center of the line, and the Thirtieth Ohio Regiment, Colonel Hugh Ewing commanding, was on the right.

These movements were successfully made and the troops brought into position by Colonel Scammon before the arrival of the rest of the division.

The Second Brigade marched in column of reserve, and within supporting distance. The whole line in advancing was well covered with skirmishers, whose duty was very effectively performed.
The Twenty-third Ohio having reached the crest on the left, established itself there in spite of a most vigorous resistance on the part of the enemy. On the right the Thirtieth Ohio also succeeded in reaching the top of the slope, in the face of showers of canister and spherical case from a battery of the enemy commanding that part of the line. A section of McMullin's battery was immediately advanced to the front and opened an effective fire upon the enemy, but its position was necessarily so near the enemy's infantry as to be greatly exposed, and after losing Lieutenant Crome, commanding the section, and the wounding of 6 gunners of the section, it was withdrawn, having rendered good service, however, in enabling the infantry to gain tenable positions along the ridge. In the center of the line the Twelfth Ohio was obliged to advance several hundred yards over open pasture-ground, under a most galling fire from the edge of the wood which crowned the slope, and behind stone fences.

The skirmishers of this regiment, advancing with admirable courage and firmness, drove in those of the enemy, and the regiment with loud hurrahs charged up the slope with the bayonet. The rebels stood firmly, and kept up a murderous fire until the advancing line was within a few feet of them, when they broke and fledd over the crest into the shelter of a dense thicket skirting the other side. The Eleventh Ohio, of the Second Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Coleman commanding, was now sent to support the left, and formed on the left of the Twenty-third. The enemy made several attempts to retake the crest, advancing with great obstinacy and boldness. In the center they were at one time partially successful, but the Thirty-sixth Ohio, of the Second Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel M. Clarke commanding, was brought forward, and, with the Twelfth, drove them back by a most dashing and spirited charge. The whole crest was now held by our troops, as follows: The left by the Eleventh and Twenty-third Ohio, the center by the Twelfth Ohio, supported by the Thirty-sixth formed in line in reserve, and the right by the Thirtieth Ohio, supported by the Twenty-eighth, Lieutenant Colonel G. Becker commanding.

Two 10-pounder Parrots, of Simmonds' battery, under Lieutenant Glassier, were pushed forward to an open spot in the woods, and, supported by the infantry, did good service throughout the rest of the action. The enemy withdrew their battery to a new position upon a ridge more to the front and right, forming their infantry in support and moving columns toward both our flanks.

Such was the situation about noon, when a lull occurred in the contest, which lasted some two hours, during which our supports from the remainder of the corps were arriving and taking position. General Willcox's division being the first to arrive, took position on the right, sending one regiment, however, to the extreme left, which was threatened to be turned by a column of the enemy which moved in that direction. General Sturgis' arriving subsequently supported General Willcox's, and General Rodman's was divided; Colonel Fairchild's brigade being posted on the extreme left, and Colonel Harland's (under General Rodman's personal supervision) being placed on the right.

While these supports were arriving the enemy made several vigorous efforts to regain the crest, their efforts chiefly upon our right, which was exposed not only to the fire in front, but to the batteries on the opposite side of the gorge beyond our right, through which the Hagerstown turnpike runs. About 4 o'clock p. m., most of the re-enforcements being in position, the order was received to advance the whole line and take or silence the enemy's batteries immediately in front. The order was immediately obeyed, and the advance was made with the utmost enthusiasm. The enemy made a desperate resistance, charging our advancing lines with fierceness, but they were everywhere routed and fled with precipitation. In this advance the chief loss fell upon the division of General Willcox, which was most exposed, being on the right, as I have said above, but it gallantly overcame all obstacles, and the success was complete along the whole line of the corps. The battery of the enemy was found to be across a gorge and beyond reach of our infantry, but its position was made untenable, and it was hastily removed and not again put in position near us.

General Sturgis' division was now moved forward to the front of General Willcox's position occupying the new ground gained on the farther side of the slope. About dark a brisk attack was abe by the enemy upon the extreme left, but was quickly repulsed by Colonel Fairchild's brigade, of Rodman's division, with little loss.

About 7 o'clock still another effort to regain the lost ground was made by the rebels in front of the position of General Sturgis' division and part of the Kanawha Division. This attack was more persistent, and a very lively fire was kept up for about an hour, but they were again repulsed, and, under cover of the night, retreated in mass from our entire front.

Just before sunset Major-General Reno was killed while making a reconnaissance at the front, and by this lamentable occurrence the undersigned was left in command of the corps. Early in the engagement Lieut Colonel R. B. Hayes, commanding Twenty-third Ohio, was severely wounded in the arm whilst leading his regiment forward. He refused to leave the field, however, until weakness from loss of blood compelled him. Major E. M. Carey, of the Twelfth Ohio was shot through the thigh later in the action, in which he had greatly distinguished by his gallantry and cool courage. Captains Skiles and Hunter, and Lieutenants Hood, Smith, Naughton, and Ritter, of the Twenty third Ohio, and Captains Liggett and Wilson, of the Twelfth Ohio, were also wounded in this engagement. Captain Liggett has since died. Lieutenant Crome, commanding a section of McMullins battery, was killed whilst serving a piece in place of the gunner, who had been disabled.

In the Kanawha Division the casualties were 528, of which 106 were killed, 336 wounded, and 86 missing, of all of which a full list will be immediately forwarded.

I take pleasure in calling attention to the gallantry and efficiency displayed in the action by Colonels Scammon and Crook, commanding the brigades of the division. The manner in which their commands were handled reflected great credit on them, and entitles them to the highest praise.

I beg leave also to mention my indebtedness to Capt. E. P. Fitch, Captain G. M. Bascom, and Lieutenants J. W. Covine and S. L. Christie, of my personal staff, for the devotion and courage displayed by them in the laborious and hazardous duties of the day. Also to Brigade Surg. W. W. Holmes, medical director of the division, for his tireless activity and efficiency in his department.

The conduct of both officers and men was everything that could be desired, and every one seemed stimulated by the determination not to be excelled in any soldierly quality.

I cannot close this report without speaking of the meritorious conduct of First Lieutenant H. Belcher, of the Eighth Michigan, a regiment belonging to another [Willcox's First, of the IX Corps] division. His regiment having suffered severely on the right, and being partly in confusion, he rallied about 100 men and led them up to the front. Being separated from the brigade to which he belonged, he reported to me for duty, and asked a position where he might be of use until his proper place could be ascertained. He was assigned a post on the left, and subsequently in support of the advanced section of Simmonds' battery; in both of which places both he and his men performed their duty admirably, and after the enemy in the evening he carried his command to their proper brigade. About 600 prisoners were taken by the Kanawha Division and sent to Middletown under guard. The losses of the enemy in our immediate front were not definitely ascertained, but it is known they very greatly exceeded our own.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. D. COX,



The War of the Rebellion: a Compliation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies: Volume 19, Part 1. 458-461.

Monday, April 11, 2011

From Fort Sumter to South Mountain

Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Currier and Ives
With the 150th Anniversary of the first shots of the war less than 24 hours away, I would like to take a look at those who were involved with this climatic event in U.S. history and how they were involved in the Battle of South Mountain. Below are the two men that fired, or had least ordered, the first shots of the war for the respective sides and how they were involved here at South Mountain.

 Lt. Colonel George S. James, 3rd South Carolina Battalion: In 1862, Lt. Colonel George S. James would find himself commanding his South Carolinian's during the afternoon fighting near the Daniel Wise cabin at Fox's Gap. James would keep his men in position in the Ridge Road that bordered the western boundary of Wise's South Field. Despite pleas from his second in command, Major William Rice, that holding the position was untenable, James kept his men in the road fighting off Union infantry on three sides. As the fighting wound down and the dead and wounded of his regiment littered the ground, James would be mortally wounded. With his wounded, what was left of his regiment disintegrated and fled down the mountainside. James was left on the field and it is unclear whether the wound killed him instantly or if he lingered, dying early the next morning. Now rewind to April 1861. James, who had been a lieutenant in the 4th US Artillery, now was a captain commanding Battery C, 1st South Carolina Artillery of the South Carolina State Army (later Confederate States Army). On April 12, with a signal gun ready to fire, Captain James was given the order to fire. The honor of firing this first shot was presented first to Roger Pryor, a Virginia congressman, but he respectfully declined. With the time for the signal gun to set off this tinderbox fast approaching, James jumped at the chance to set off it off. At 4:30 A.M. April 12th, 1861, Captain George S. James would fire the first shot of the war that would change the United States forever. The report from the gun was so loud that citizens of Charleston were woken out of their peaceful slumbers and quickly gathered to see the spectacle of the bombardment. It would seem ironic that in Robert E.Lee's first invasion of the north, James would be the thousands killed during the campaign. One could imagine his death as punishment for sparking a war that had already killed tens of thousands and would kill thousands more. He would initially be buried with his men at Fox's Gap before the creation of the Washington Confederate Cemetery in Hagerstown, Maryland. His body would never be identified so here he now sleeps for eternity, an unknown among unknowns.

Brigadier General Abner Doubleday: At Fort Sumter, Abner Doubleday was a captain when Confederate forces fired on the fort in April 1861. He was the second in command to Major Robert Anderson. When the bombardment came, Anderson ordered no reply to be fired to help conserve what little ammunition was available at the fort. During the opening bombardment, Doubleday was in one of the casemates in which the garrison of the fort had been making the powder charges. The opening guns hit this area and fortunately, the powder did not ignite. After a brief rest for breakfast, Doubleday was ordered to man take command of the first detachment to man the guns. Doubleday's guns would be pointed at Cummings Point. Doubleday himself aimed the first gun directly at a floating battery. Doubleday recounts:

"In aiming the first gun fired against the rebellion, I had no feeling of self-reproach. . . . The United States was called upon not only to defend its sovereignty, but its right to exist as a nation."

Doubleday's first shot for the Union would come at 7 A.M. on April 12, 1861. He recalls its effect, " My first shot bounded off from the sloping roof of the battery opposite without producing any apparent effect." Doubleday would surrender with the garrison in the afternoon of the next day.

A year and a half later, Doubleday was now a brigadier general commanding a brigade in the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac. At the Battle of South Mountain, Doubleday's brigade would be in support of Walter Phelp's brigade that was advancing against the mountain spur to the immediate right of Turner's Gap. During this assault, the division's commander, John Hatch, was severely wounded and command fell to Doubleday. He would command the division for the remainder of this battle and at the Battle of Antietam three days later. Doubleday would command a division at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, he would briefly command the First Corps after its commander, John Reynolds, was killed. After the battle, Doubleday would be assigned to the defenses of Washington, D.C. for administrative purposes. He would command a portion of the defenses during Jubal Early's raid into Maryland in 1864. He would remain in the army after the war and retire in the 1870's.


Fort Sumter page, Civil War Trust

Abner Doubleday, Reminicences of forts Sumter and Moultrie 1860-'61. Harpers and Brothers: New York. 1876