At the outset of the Maryland Campaign, General Hood would find himself marching at the rear of his division, under arrest for insubordination as a result of a dispute over the rightful ownership of captured Union ambulances following the Second Battle of Manassas/Bull Run between Hood and Brigadier General Nathan Evans. Hood was ordered to Culpepper for court martial but, General Lee rescinded that order and Hood remained with the army as it marched into Maryland. As a result of his arrest, according to Hood in his post-war memoirs, his division,upon it's arrival in Hagerstown would demonstrate a certain degree of insubordination and Hood advised his subordinates that the issue of his arrest would be decided in a short time.
Hood's prediction would come true on September 14th. Reports of a heavy Union presence threatening the division of D.H. Hill at the mountain gaps on South Mountain would cause the "main body" of the army to stir out of its encampments near Hagerstown and onto the National Pike in a forced march to the relieve of Hill's division. Surely, as the men of James Longstreet's command marched towards South Mountain, they heard the distant thunder of cannon and the sharp crack of musketry as Hill's division found itself in a stubborn fight for survival and all knew that deadly work was ahead and quickened the pace.
Longstreet's command would begin arriving at the base of the mountain in early to mid-afternoon after a dust-filled and exhausting march. Hood's division would begin ascending the mountain at about 3:30 pm and Hood, still at the rear of his division, faintly heard the cry's from his Texas brigade demanding of General Lee, "Give us Hood!". Coming upon General Lee as his division walked by his headquarters, Lee called Hood into a meeting. Lee requested that Hood show regret for his dispute with General Evans and Hood politely declined, both attempts by Lee for the admittance of guilt. Seeing that he would get nowhere with Hood, Lee promptly released Hood from his arrest to re-take command of his division and the matter of the ambulance dispute would be settled at a later date.
Hood quickly mounted his horse and rode to the summit, amid the cheers of his division, and reported to General Longstreet, who was then placing his command into defensive positions on either side of the National Pike. Hood was ordered to deploy his division on the left of the pike with his right resting near the pike. From this position, Hood witnessed "the advance of McClellan's long lines" that had the evident appearance of forcing the Confederates from the mountain. Remaining in this position for a short time, Hood was ordered by Longstreet to shift his division to the South of the pike to shore up the Confederate line there. At this time, Drayton's brigade was heavily beaten back and the Union 9th Corps was across Fox's Gap. Hood quickly put his men on the move down the Wood's Road, described by Hood as nothing but a "pig path".
|Hood's counterattack, Union positions (blue) are generalized.|
Arriving near Sharpsburg, Hood's division would first go into position on the Confederate left and would fight a severe skirmish for possession of the East Woods on the 16th. Hood would get his division pulled from the line and into position in an area a few hundred yards to the rear of the Dunker Church where it would remain until called into action, delivering a heavy blow Union forces advancing down the Hagerstown Pike and in return suffering heavily for it.
Hood's hard-fighting division would suffer roughly 50 casualties, the majority in Evander Law's brigade, during its attack at dusk on September 14th. While this attack is not as famous or severe as that which would occur at Antietam on the 17th, it allowed the Confederates to keep a hold on the mountain long enough for night to come and another day to be bought for the reduction of Harper's Ferry by Stonewall Jackson.
John Bell Hood. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of of the records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Series 1, Volume 19 (part 1), pg. 922.
John Bell Hood. Advance and Retreat: Personal experiences in the United States and Confederate Armies. Hood Orphan Fund, G.T. Beauregard: New Orleans, LA. 1880 pgs. 38-41.