South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

" I directed my men to reserve their fire...and trust to the bayonet."

The following is the official report written by Lieutenant Colonel Edward S. Bragg of the 6th Wisconsin describing the regiments actions at South Mountain. The 6th Wisconsin began the fighting in reserve but when the two lead regiments of Gibbon's brigade, the 2nd and 7th Wisconsin, ran into stiff resistance. At this time, Bragg was ordered to move his regiment to the right in support of the 7th and eventually into a flanking position. The regiment would suffer heavily in the attack and known casualties can be found here.

In the Field, September 20, 1862.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: In compliance with circular from headquarters, I have the honor to report that at the battle of South Mountain, on the 14th instant, the Sixth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers moved up the mountain gorge to the right of the turnpike, in support of the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, who were moving in front, supporting a line of skirmishers. The skirmishers soon found the enemy in front, and an irregular fire commenced. This was past twilight. The Seventh moved to the support of the skirmishers, and was soon engaged with the enemy, who was concealed in a wood on their left and in a ravine in front. So soon as the Seventh received the fire of the enemy and commenced replying, I deployed the Sixth, and with the right wing opened fire upon the enemy concealed in the wood upon the right. I also moved the left wing by the right flank into the rear of the right wing, and commenced a fire by the wings alternately, and advancing the line after each volley.

At this time I received an order from the general, directing me to flank the enemy in the wood. The condition of the surface of the ground, and the steepness of the ascent up the mountain side, rendered this movement a difficult one; but without hesitation the left wing moved by the flank into the wood, firing as they went, and advancing the line. I directed Major Dawes to advance the right wing on the skirt of the wood as rapidly as the line in the wood advanced, which he did. This movement forward and by the flank I continued until the left wing rested its right on the crest of the hill, extending around the enemy in a semicircular line, and then moved the right wing into the wood so as to connect the line from the open field to the top of the hill. While this was being done, the fire of the enemy, who fought us from behind rocks and trees, and entirely under cover, was terrific, but steadily the regiment dislodged him and kept advancing. Ammunition commenced to give out, no man having left more than four rounds, and many without any. It was dark, and a desperate enemy in front.
At this moment I received an order from General Gibbon to cease fire and maintain the position, and the battle was won. I directed my men to reserve their fire, unless compelled to use it, and then only at short range, and trust to the bayonet. No sooner did the time of fire cease than the enemy, supposing we were checked, crept close up in the wood and commenced a rapid fire. I directed a volley in reply, and then, with three lusty cheers for Wisconsin, the men sat cheerfully down to await another attack; but the enemy was no more seen.

I held the ground until daylight, when I threw out skirmishers, and soon found the enemy had withdrawn in the night, leaving a few dead on the field, and a large number of muskets also.
Soon after daylight my regiment was relieved by the Second New York, from Gorman's brigade, who had been lying in the field, under cover of a stone wall, at a safe distance in the rear, refreshing themselves with a good night's sleep, after a long and fatiguing march of some 10 miles.
The object accomplished, and the time and place of doing it, speak all that need be said for officers and men of the regiment.

Our loss was 11 killed and 79 wounded; total, 90.

I have the honor to be, respectfully,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Sixth Wisconsin.