South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

‘Wait a minute,’ said the colonel, ‘I will try my hand. There is nothing like killing two birds with one stone.’

Hugh McNeil was the colonel of the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, the famous Bucktails, during the Battle of South Mountain. His regiment would take part in the assault that would capture the Frosttown Gap before nightfall stopped Federal forces from capturing their main objective, Turner's Gap. McNeil would survive the fighting on South Mountain only to lose his life in a sharp skirmish on the evening of September 16, just hours before the Battle of Antietam. The following account is in regards to an interesting story of marksmanship by Colonel McNeil that took place during the battle as told by a soldier in the regiment.


 An Incident of Battle
Colonel Hugh McNeil, of the famous “Bucktail” regiment, who was killed at the Battle of Antietam, was one of the most accomplished officers in the Federal Service. A soldier relates an exploit of his at South Mountain, which is worth recording.

During the Battle of South Mountain, the rebels held a very strong position. They were posted in the mountain pass, and had infantry on the heights on every side. Our men were compelled to carry the place by storm. The position seemed impregnable; large craggy rocks protected the enemy on every side, while our men were exposed to a galling fire. A band of rebels occupied the ledge on the extreme right, as the colonel approached with a few of his men. The unseen force poured a volley upon them. McNeil, on the instant, gave the command: ‘Pour your fire upon those rocks.’  The Bucktails hesitated; it was not an order that they had been accustomed to receive; they had always picked their men. ‘Fire!’ thundered the colonel; ‘I tell you to fire at those rocks!’ The men obeyed. For some time an irregular fire was kept up; the Bucktails sheltering themselves as best they could behind rocks and trees. On a sudden, McNeil caught sight of two rebels peering through an opening in the works to get an aim. The eyes of the men followed their commander, and a half a dozen rifles were leveled in that direction. ‘Wait a minute,’ said the colonel, ‘I will try my hand. There is nothing like killing two birds with one stone.’

The two rebels were not in line, but one stood a little distance back of the other, while just in front of the foremost was a slanting rock. Colonel McNeil seized a rifle, raised it, glanced a moment along the polished barrel; a report followed, and both the rebels disappeared. At that moment a loud cheer a little distance beyond rent the air. ‘All is right now,’ cried the colonel,’ charge the rascals.’ The men sprang up among the rocks in an instant. The affrighted rebels turned to run, but encountered another body of the Bucktails, and were obliged to surrender. Everyone saw the object of the colonel’s order to fire at random among the rocks. He had sent the party around to their rear, and meant this to attract their attention. It was a perfect success.

The two rebels, by the opening in the ledge, were found there stiff and cold. Colonel McNeil’s bullet had struck the slanting rock in front of them, glanced, and passed through both their heads. There it lay beside them, flattened.

The Democratic press. (Eaton, Preble County, Ohio), 01 Jan. 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bloody Prelude moves!

This post is just a heads up that I have moved this blog to Wordpress as the platform on which I would like to continue writing. I have not been very busy with post that past couple years but I have intentions to start writing a little bit more in the future. The new sites URL is Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope that you will continue in the future. I will keep this page up for a little while longer as an FYI.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"The whole division went in "with a yell.": An Ohioan describes the fight for Fox's Gap and other aspects of the Maryland Campaign

The following is a letter written by an unknown soldier in the 11th Ohio Infantry. The only clue is the initials "J.D.K." at the end of the letter.  In this letter, he describes his regiment setting out on the campaign into Maryland and tells of the fighting at Frederick, South Mountain, and Antietam. It appeared in the Dayton Daily Empire in October 1862.

Camp Burnsides, Md. Sept 30, 1862

Friend Joe:--Having as yet failed to see any notice of the part of the 11th Regiment O.V.I., took in the recent hard fought battle in Maryland, I will endeavor to give you a brief history of the ordeal through which they passed in the memorable battles of South Mountain and Antietam.

Gen'l Cox's Division (better known as the Kanawha Division) left Munson's Hill, Va. on the 6th of Sept: and crossed the Potomac over the Georgetown Aqueduct, marching through Georgetown and Washington City, and encamped in Maryland, a few miles from the Captal. On the next day we marched to Leesborough, where we encamped for the night. On the next morning we received the disagreeable news that our transportation was to be reduced to six wagons; three of those were to haul the ammunition and one for field officers, another for the Medical Department, and one for the Quartermaster's Department. Leaving us poor private "individuals" narry waggon with which to haul our cooking utensils. In consequence of this change every man had to carry his own rations for three days in his haversack, and also his cooking utensils; and take into consideration a knapsack, heavy loaded haversack, cartridge box with a hundred rounds, gun, etc. all making a respectable load for a pack mule, you have a pretty good idea of what a soldier has to carry on the march. It was a kind of " Stunner" on the line officers, for it compelled them for once, to pack their own "bed and board" on their backs. At night, when we camped, we found it very inconvenient, as every man had to do his own cooking and in order to make a cup of coffee you had first to brown the coffee, then smash it with a stone, then cook it, which generally took from dark until "tatoo." But enough of this; let's now on to Frederick City.

After one days march we reached Ridgville, 24 miles from Frederick, the enemies pickets having just left before our entrance. We stacked arms just outside this village, and camped for the night. Ridgville is situated in a beautiful country. There are some splendid orchards in its immediate vicinity, and the nice peaches and apples the I saw makes my mouth water whenever I think of them. There were such stringent orders against taking any thing in the fruit line that, viz.---"Any solder caught in the orchard, potato patch, corn field, etc without permission, will be arrested, Court Martialed, and if found guilty--Shot"--General Order. 

On our march from Ridgeville to Frederick I saw a soldier arrested for attempting to steal an old goose. The chap was in a field after a flock of geese and he had just succeeded in overhauling an old goose, when Gen'l Rodney and Staff came riding by and discovered the scamp, and thereby saved old Mrs. Goose's life, by ordering the fellow arrested, sent to the rear, and to be tied fast to the wagon until further orders. I never heard whether the offender was shot or not, but as geese don't come under the head of peaches, apples or potatoes, I don't think he was.

We past through New Market, six miles from Frederick, and on passing through we passed the Pennsylvania Reserves, who had arrived there an hour before us by another road. I noticed among them a good many new Regiments, some not a month yet in the service. They were soon destined to smell gunpowder, for some of the new Pennsylvania Regiments suffered terribly in the battle of Antietam, as their lists of killed and wounded show. 

It was reported along the road that the enemy had blown up the Stone Bridge across the Monocacy and were prepared to dispute our passage across that river, but this was found on approaching the bridge to be false, as the bridge was still there, and the enemies pickets had just been driven across it. They had a peice of Artilery posted in a ploughed field, on a hill, opposite the bridge, supported by a regiment of cavalry, a couple of our guns soon shelled them out, however, and they retired in the direction of Frederick closely pursued by our cavalry. During this skirmish Gen. Burside's made his appearance for the first time, and was vociferously cheered by all the troops along the line. He was accompanied by his Staff and body guard. He proceeded immediately to the front, I supposed to see what was up. The enemies pickets having been driven into town we advanced for the purpose of driving the enemy through Frederick, which our generals had found out, was only held by a brigade of Stewarts Cavalry and a battery of four guns. Gen. Cox's Division being in the advance was ordered to advance and take possession of Frederick---The first brigade was formed in line of battle on the right of the road and the 36th and 28th formed on the left. The 11th kept the road. Two peices of artilery were in the advance of the 11th, supported by a squadron of cavalry. Thus formed the whole line advance toward the town. The cavalry ahead met with some resistance at the edge of town by the enemy who were concealed behind houses and kept up a brisk fire for a while. Col. Moore, who commands our brigade, placed himself at the head of Gilmore's Chicago Cavalry and ordered them to charge. Away they went into town the artilery following close after. The 11th was then ordered up double quick, and when we arrived at the edge of town we were all out of breath, having come double quick for two miles. Gilmore's Cavalry having charged into town and not discovering the enemy supposed the town clear, but in this they were mistaken, for suddenly out of a street, leading on to Main street, came a large body of the enemies cavalry. They immediately came sweeping down on out cavalry, so sudden as to through them into confusion and force them back on our artilery who were in the street, with their guns in position, ready to rake the street when Gilmore's cavalry would get out of the way, some of the horses became unmanageable and one horse ran over the man holding the "Laneard" of a 12-pound Howitzer, loaded with canister, which caused the gun to go off sending the whole load of canister into our own men and horses. Wounding several of the men and killing eight or nine horses. Among the number was Lieutenat Chas. Akoff, of Col. Moore's Staff, who had his horse killed under him, and was himself badly bruised up by the fall. Col. Moore was taken prisoner, and the enemy had taken our guns and were preparing to haul them off, when just at this moment the 11th arrived at the edge of town. Col. Coleman seeing at a glance the situation of affairs gave the following order: "By companies into line. Now boy's I want you to take those guns. Forward, charge bayonetts." In one moment the guns were recaptured and the enemy were driven out of Frederick at the point of the bayonett. A number of prisoners were taken in this charge. Our acting Brigadier General Colonel Moore who was taken prisoner was paroled the next day. We encamped near Frederick that night. 

On the 13th, General Rodney's (Rodman) Division took the advance, and skirmished with the enemy's rear guard, driving them through Middletown and across Middle Creek, over which the enemy burnt the bridge, and then retreated to South Mountain, where there were a large force of the enemy. On Sunday morning the 14th, Cox again took the advance, and moved on with his division towards South Mountain. Our artillery took position on the hills looking towards the Gap, through which ran the turnpike and commenced shelling the Gap and woods to ascertain the enemy's position, in the meantime we were sent to flank them on the left, their position being now accurately ascertained, and passed through a strip of woods immediately under the batteries, they shelled us at the same time, but without effect, we gained a position in an open field upon a slope of the Mountain. A few moments were now spent in the maneuvering the different regiments into position. The 11th were sent into a cornfield to draw the enemy's fire, while the 12th and 23d regiments, were in readiness to charge. The 11th had advanced but a short distance into the cornfield when they received a murderous volley from the enemy who were concealed behind stone walls on their right and in their front, which subjected to a terrific cross fire, wounding a great number and killing a few. Almost simultaneously the 12th and 23d charged down the hill with a yell, and rushing upon  the stone wall, engaged the 12th and 23d North Carolina Regiments. A desperate hand to hand fight took place, which lasted but a few moments and ended in the utter rout of the enemy. The enemy suffered severely in this charge. On examination most of their dead were found to have been killed by the bayonet. A number of persons were taken in this charge. The 11th were withdrawn from the cornfield and formed into line of battle, ready for the struggle next to come, which was not far off. Lieut. George Croome,  was shot by a musket ball in this action, while in the act of charging one of his guns with a load of canister. He died in a short time after. 

The enemy having been driven from their first position were next discovered in a narrow lane, protected by a stone wall, in front of which were posted their batteries. The position was a strong one, and one of their own choice, and as our artillery could not be brought into action owing to the nature of the ground, it looked next to impossible to dislodge the enemy. Gen. Cox formed his division into line and ordered a charge, (the only way to move them out from behind stone walls.) Everything now being ready the word charge was given and the bugle sounded and the whole division went in "with a yell" and a terrific encounter ensued, desperate fighting on both sides with bayonets for some time when at length the enemy gave way in confusion, retreating in all directions. Their lose in this charge was terrible, the ground lay strewed with rebel dead. Their loss in dead on our flank was 1000 and the wounded three times that number, also a great number of prisoners. The gallant and lamented Col. Coleman here performed a daring act which I think worth mentioning. After this charge was made the 11th and 28th were obliged to fall back a short distance as an overwhelming force of the enemy's cavalry and infantry were advancing. A number of our men got separated from their companies and were taken prisoners. Instead of the enemy taking them to the rear, they kept them remaining on the field, one of their officers remarking that "it was no use to be in a hurry for they would have a lot more in a moment," but in that next moment the column of rebel infantry and cavalry were repulsed and routed. Col. Coleman rode ahead of the regiment and before he knew it rode straight into the rebels who had our men prisoners. The Col. seeing he was in a bad snap, he being entirely alone at the time, concluded to put a bold face on the matter, so he drew his sword, and asked our men in a loud voice, "What are you doing there?" "Why, Colonel we are prisoners." "Prisoners," roared the Colonel, "get your arms immediately!" Then going up to the crown he told the rebels that if they didn't surrender immediately he'd cut them to pieces. The rebels thought of course that the Colonel had a force somewhere near and surrendered. There were 23 of them. The enemy being now driven from all their strong positions on the mountain, Gen. Cox;s division stopped for rest, having been engaged with the enemy since 8 o'clock in the morning. Such is a synopsis of the fighting on our left at South Mountain. The rebel loss in killed was very heavy. They lost three to our one. In the narrow lane behind the stonewall their dead lay in heaps. There were 58 dead rebels thrown down an old well and covered up. Some of the boys out of our company were detailed to bury the dead. And did not again arrive to the regiment until after the Battle of Antietam. 

After resting on the battle-field until 4 o'clock the next day, we again took up our line of march towards Antietam creek, fighting the enemy every step of the way. 

On Tuesday, there was a brisk artillery duel for over two hours' duration, there being a great number of guns engaged on both sides. But the enemy were compelled to abandon their position and fall back across Antietam creek, where the combined forces of Jackson, Longstreet and Hill were ready to give us battle.

On Tuesday, the whole day was spent in forming a Line of Battle. There was sharp Artillery firing at long range, in which we had decidedly the advantage, owing to our superiority in guns. The enemy occupied the heights across Antietam Creek and had their forces so disposed as make their position a strong one. The line of battle extended nine miles from right to left. Cox's division were in the advance on the left on Tuesday evening. The 2nd brigade, 36th, 28th, and 11th under Col. Crook, laid along the side of a hill, the enemy shelling them from different batteries for about an hours, wounding some 5 or 6. Owing to the nature of the ground which Col. Crook selected but few were hurt, although shells burst over their heads at the rate of two per minute.

On Wednesday morning early the great battle of Antietam commenced and in a few moments it became general all along the line. The 11th Conn, 11th regulars, and 11th Ohio, opened the battle on the left. Three Companies of the 11th Ohio being thrown out as skirmishers. Col. Coleman was mortally wounded early in the engagement while deploying the men as skirmishers. No braver man fell on that bloody field. He was always found, in time of danger, at the head of his regiment. He never was known to say "Go boys," but it was always " Come on Boys." He has been with us since our organization at Camp Dennison, and the men placed the utmost confidence in him. Our part of the programme was to force a passage over a narrow stone bridge which spanned the Antietam, directly in front of the heights, occupied by the rebels. The fight at this place was for awhile terrible, but finally our troops charged, took the bridge and drove the enemy from the heights. 

Had the troops that made this charge been supported in time they would have captured the enemies batteries. Some of the men had their hands already on the guns; and had it not been for a new regiment, only three weeks in the service, giving way in the center, the enemy would have been completely routed and their guns captured, as it was they were forced to relinquish a part of the ground they had gained. 

Our part of the programmed being accomplished we had only to hold our position which we did until relieved by fresh troops. Every house, barn, and haystack for miles around were converted into hospitals, and which were crowded to excess. All along the whole line the ground was strewen with dead and wounded. On the right where the enemy massed their troops in solid column, their dead lay in heaps. They lay side by side just as they stood in line of battle. It was been the hardest battle fought during the war, and the rebels were beaten. A good many believe that if the battle had been renewed the next day that the whole rebel army would have been captured but McClellan knew his own business best, and I suppose that if the thing could have "been did" he would have done it.

The following is the list of killed and wounded in Company A, 11th Regiment:
Killed--John Hammon---Antietam
wounded at South Monutain---John Kramer in the leg; James Wyrick, shot in hip; Milyon Smith, shoulder; Robert Frank, in the leg; Lieut. Johnson, slightly. 


1. J.D.K. Dayton daily empire. (Dayton [Ohio]), 17 Oct. 1862. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Captain Augustus C. Thompson, Co. G, 16th Georgia Infantry

This is a photograph of Captain Augustus C. Thompson, commanding Company G, 16th Georgia Infantry. He would lead his company in the fighting and be wounded at Crampton's Gap on September 14,1862.

Captain Thompson was born in Georgia in 1828 and when war broke out, he would be elected captain of company G on July 20, 1861. He would command his company during the grueling marches and battles during the Summer of 1862. Entering Maryland in September, Thompson would find himself in Howell Cobb's brigade of Lafayette McLaws' division. On September 14, the 16th Georgia was positioned at Brownsville in the rear of McLaw's division as they worked to capture Maryland Heights during the operation against Harper's Ferry. When fighting broke out at Crampton's Gap, Cobb's brigade was ordered to the immediate support of the small Confederate force holding the gap. Arriving at the gap, Thompson would lead his company down to the Burkittsville Road to support the Confederate right. S the regiment was going into position, the Confederate center broke under the weight of the Union assault. Seeing a golden opportunity, the 16th Georgia and Cobb's Infantry Legion, under Jefferson M. Lamar, go into line of battle and begin pouring a murderous flanking fire into the, now, unorganized Union lines. Unknown to these two Confederate regiments, Alfred Torbert's New Jersey Brigade was advancing up the Burkittsville Road and slammed into the flank of Cobb's Legion. The two regiments would be mauled and during the fighting Captain Thompson would be wounded. Following the battle, Thompson would recover from his wound and remain in the Confederate service until he resigned in August 1863.


Library of Congress. Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs. [Accessed 6/23/13]

USGenweb Archives. Roster: Company G, 16th Georgia. [Accessed 6/23/13]

Wiggins, David N. Remembering Georgia's Confederates. [Arcadia Publishing, 2005], pg. 32

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Many of our men were falling...": Recollection of Rufas Dawes, 6th Wisconsin Infantry

Rufus Dawes
 In the late afternoon hours of September 14th, what would become known as the Iron Brigade would advance directly against the Confederate defenses holding Turner's Gap. Major Rufus Dawes, as part of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry, would participate in the assault. He would write about his experiences during the war and they would be published in 1890. The following is an excerpt covering the regiments march through Frederick and into battle on the 14th, the night after the battle, and the pursuit on the 15th.

"Our camp on the quiet Sabbath morning of September 14, 1862, was in the valley of the Monocacy, new Frederick, Maryland. There are few fairer landscapes in our country than this valley affords from its eastern range of hills. The morning was bright, warm, and clear. The bells of the city of Frederick were all ringing. It was a rejoicing at the advent of the host of her deliverance, the Army of the Potomac. The spires of the city were glistening in the morning sunlight. To the south-west could be distinctly heard the muttering of cannon. This was General Stonewall Jackson attacking the garrison at Harper's Ferry. From right to left along the valley below us, were stretched the swarming camps of the blue coats, and every soldier felt his courage rise at the sight. Through a wooded and uneven country, by different and devious routes, the columns of the grand army had marched forward. We had known something of their progress, but had not so felt their power as we did now when they were concentrating before us. The deep feeling of almost affectionate admiration among the solders for the commander of our army, General McClellan, was often thus expressed: "We have got a General now, and we will show the country what we can do."

At eight o'clock A.M., our brigade marched forward on the National turnpike, the sixth Wisconsin in advance. Our entry into the city was triumphal. The stars and stripes floated from every building and hung from every window. The joyful people thronged the streets to greet and cheer the veterans of the Army of the Potomac. Little children stood at nearly every door, freely offering cool water, cakes, pies, and dainties. The jibes and insults of the women of Virginia, to which our men had become accustomed, had here a striking contrast in a generous and enthusiastic welcome by the ladies of Frederick City. At eleven A.M. we reached the summit of the Katoctin mountain. Fences and trees showed marks of a skirmish of the evening before. From the summit of this mountain a splendid view was spread before us, in the valley of Middleton. Over beyond the valley, eight miles away, from along the slopes of the South Mountain, we could see arising the smoke of battle. We hurried  along down the road toward the scene of action, every gun of which we could see and hear. Our march through the little village of Middleton was almost a counterpart of our reception at Frederick City. The people were more excited as the cannon boomed loud and near, and bloodstained soldiers were coming in from the field of battle. Hearing that a colonel of an Ohio regiment had been brought in to Middleton, wounded, I made a special inquiry and found that it was Lieutenant Colonel Hayes of the 23rd Ohio (Rutherford B. Hayes). We marched on beyond Middleton about a mile and a half and then turned into a field to make our coffee. The fires were not kindled, when an order came to fall in and move forward. It was announced that General Hooker had said "that the crest of that mountain must be carried to-night." General Hatch's division turned from the National road toward the right, but an order was recieved assigning Gibbon's brigade to a special duty. The brigade countermarched and advanced again on the National road for half a mole. We then turned to the left into a field and formed two lines of battle. The seventh Wisconsin and nineteenth Indiana were in the front line; the second and sixth Wisconsin in the second line. We had in the ranks of our regiment for hundred men. Simmon's Ohio battery, planted in this field, was firing shell at the rebels on the summit of South Mountain. Before us was a valley, beyond which by a steep and stony slope, rose the South Mountain range. From our position to the summit of South Mountain was perhaps two miles. Two miles away on our right, long lines and heavy columns of dark blue infantry could be seen pressing up the green slopes of the mountain, their bayonets flashing like silver in the rays of the setting sun, and their banners waving in beautiful relief against the background of green. 

Battle of South Mountain

Turner's gap through which the National turnpike passes over the mountain, was directly in our front. To attack this pass was the special duty for which we had been selected. To our left along the wooded slopes, there was a crash of musketry, and the roll of cannon, and a white cloud of battle smoke rose above the trees. From Turner's gap in our front, and along the right on the summit of the mountain, the artillery of the enemy was firing, and we could see the shells bursting over and among our advancing troops. For nearly an hour we laid upon the grassy knoll, passive spectators of the scene. The sun was sinking behind the mountain, when our order came to move forward. 

The two regiments in front (7th Wisconsin and 19th Indiana) moved in line of battle. Our regiment and the 2nd Wisconsin followed at supporting distance, formed in double columns. Thus we went down into the valley and began to climb the slope of the mountain, which was smooth at first and covered with orchards and cornfields. The regiment was halted in an orchard and two companies ("B" Captain Rollin P. Converse and "K" Lieutenant John Ticknor) were sent forward as skirmishers. Our skirmishers immediately encountered skirmishers of the enemy and drove them slowly up the mountain, fighting for every inch of the ground. Nothing could be finer than the conduct of these two companies, or more gallant than the bearing of their young leaders. The officer commanding the skirmishers of the second Wisconsin, Captain Wilson Colwell, was killed.

For half a mile of advance, our skirmishers played a deadly game of "Bo-peep," hiding behind logs, fences, rocks and bushes. Two pieces of artillery of battery "B" moved up on the turnpike under Lieutenant James Stewart, and when the skirmishers were checked, they would wheel into action and fire shell at the houses, barns, or thickets, where the rebels found a cover. The enemy now turned upon us the fire of their batteries, planted in the pass near the mountain top, but their shot flew over. 

General Gibbon mounted upon his horse and riding upon high ground where he could see his whole line, shouted orders in a voice loud and clear as a bell and distinctly heard throughout the brigade. It was always "Forward! Forward!" Just at dusk we came to a rough, stony field, skirted on its upper edge by timber. Our skirmishers had encountered the enemy in force and were behind a fence. The seventh Wisconsin in front of us, climbed the fence and moved steadily forward across the field and we followed them, our regiment being formed in double column. Suddenly the seventh Wisconsin halted and opened fire, and we could see a rabid spitting of musketry flashes from the woods above and in front of us, and wounded men from the seventh began to hobble by us. The sharpest fire came from a stonewall, running along in a ravine toward the left of the seventh. Captain John B. Callis was in command of that regiment. He ordered a change of front, throwing his right forward to face the wall; but there burst from the woods, skirting the right of the field, a flame of musketry which sent a shower of bullets into the backs of the men of the right wing of the seventh Wisconsin. Many men were shot by the enfilading fire to which they could make no reply. Captin Hollon Richardson came running towards us shouting: "Come forward, sixth!" Sharp and clear rang out on the night, the voice of Bragg: "Deploy column! By the right and left flanks, double quick, march!" The living machine responded to this impulsive force with instant action, and the column was deployed into line of battle. The right wing of our regiment came into open field, but the left wing was behind the seventh. "Major!" order Bragg, "Take command of the right wing and fire on the woods!" I instantly ordered:
"Attention, right wing, ready, right oblique, aim, fire, load at will, load!" The roll of this wing volley had hardly ceased to reverberate, when Bragg said: "Have your men lie down on the ground, I am going over you." "Right wing, lie down! Look out, the left wing is going over you!" was the command. Bragg had brought the left wing behind the right wing and he ordered them forward over the ment of the right wing as they laid upon the ground. The left wing fired a volley into the woods, and the right wing advanced in the same manner over them and fired a volley into the woods. Once more Bragg gave a volley by the left wing. There were four volleys by wing given, at the word of command. In a long experience in musketry fighting, this was the single instance I saw of other than a fire by file in battle. The characteristic of Colonel Bragg in battle was a remarkably quick conception and instant action. The conduct of the men was worthy of their commander. In the deployment of the column under fire, they hurried over the rough and stony field with the utmost zeal, and while many men were struck by the bullets of the enemy, there was neither hesitation nor confusion. After the four volleys by wing and a welcome cheer by the seventh Wisconsin, there was positive enthusiasm. Our whole line was slowly advanced up the mountain, the men shouting and firing. The rebels behind the stone wall and i the timber shout: "O, you d---d Yanks, we gave you h--ll again at Bull Run!" Our men would shout back: "Never mind Johnny, its no McDowell after you now. 'Little Mac' and 'Johnny Gibbon' are after you now." The rebels fell back from the woods, but stuck to the stone wall. The hostile lines had approached each other closely and the fire was deadly. It was dark and our only aim was by the flashes of the enemy's guns. Many of our men were falling, and we could not long endure it. Colonel Bragg took the left wing, directing me to keep up the fire with the right wing, and crept up into the woods on our right, advancing a considerable distance up the mountain. He gained higher ground than that of the enemy in our front, and from this position opened fire. 

Colonel Bragg directed me to join him with the right wing. Owing to the thick brush and the darkness of the night, it was a difficult matter to scramble up the stony side of the mountain. To add to our difficulties, the rebels opened fire upon us; but our gallant left wing fired hotly in return and the junction was completed. Our cartridges were getting short and our guns were dirty with bad powder. Gradually by direction of Colonel Bragg we ceased firing and lay still on the ground. A man in company "A" exclaimed: "Captain Noyes, I am out of cartridges!" It is likely that the enemy in the woods above us heard him, for they immediately opened upon us a heavy fire. We returned the fire, and for a short time the contest was very sharp. This was the last of the battle. When all was again still, Colonel Bragg felt sure that he could here the enemy withdrawing. He ordered, "Three cheers for the Badger State." They were given and brought no reply. A few volunteer skirmishers crept forward into the woods in front of us. Further pursuit was impossibly. We were nearly out of ammunition and our guns so dirty that we could hardly use them. We lay among thing bushes on the steep rough slope of a mountain in almost total darkness. 

We did not dare to let the men sleep. Colonel Bragg sent to General Gibbon for ammunition. General Gibbon replied that it was impossible for him to furnish it, but that he hoped that we would soon be relieved by other troops. He said that we must hold the position we had gained so long as there was "an inch of our bayonets left." The night was chilly, and in the woods intensely dark. Our wounded were scattered over a great distance up and down the mountain, and were suffering untold agonies. Owing to the difficulties of the ground and the night, no stretcher bearers had come upon the field. Several dying men were pleading piteously for water, of which there was not a drop in the regiment, nor was there any liquor. Captain Kellogg and I searched in vain for a swallow for our noble fellow (William Lawrence, Co. I) who dying in great agony from a wound in his bowels. He recognized us and appreciated our efforts, but was unable to speak. The dread reality of war was before us in this frightful death, upon the cold, hard stones. The mortal suffering, the fruitless struggle to send a parting message to the far off home, and the final release by death, all enacted in the darkness, were felt even more deeply than if the scene had been relieved by the light of day. After a long interval of this horror, our stretcher bearers came, and the poor suffering heroes were carried back to houses and barns. At last word came that General Sumner's troops were marching up the mountain to relieve us. How glade we were to hear it, they only can know who have experienced the feeling of prostration produced by such scenes and surroundings, after the excitement of a bloody battle. It was after midnight, and it seemed to us bitterly cold. The other regiments of our brigade had marched down the mountain, but our relief--where was it? We sent Adjutant Brooks to General Gibbon, who said that our relief had been ordered, and would certainly come. But it did not come. Colonel Bragg finally sent Adjutant Brooks to Brigadier General Willis A. Gorman, the brigade commander, who had orders to relieve us. The Adjutant reported that he offered to lead the war to prevent the possibility of confusion or mistake, but that General Gorman's reply was:" I can't send men into that woods to-night. All men are cowards in the dark." He forgot that the men whom he condemned to shivering and misery for the rest of the night had fought and won a bloody battle in the dark. We were not relieved until eight o'clock in the morning of September 15th, when the 2nd New York regiment of Gorman's brigade came up. As soon as it became daylight, we examined the field of battle, and found many dead and wounded rebels. The troops opposed to us were five regiments of a brigade commanded by Colonel A.H. Colquitt, the 6th, 23rd, 26th, and 28th Georgia, and 13th Alabama regiments. One rebel soldier from Georgia, wounded in the head, his face a gore of blood, fled from us as we approached. We could hardly persuade him that it was not our purpose to kill him. 

General George B. McClellan was stationed in the same field where Simmon's Ohio battery was planted and he had watched our brigade in the engagement. He wrote the following to the Governor of Wisconsin: " I beg to add my great admiration of the conduct of the three Wisconsin regiments in General Gibbon's brigade. I have seen them under fire acting in a manner that reflects the greatest possibly credit and honor upon themselves and their stated. They are equal to the best troops in any army in the world."

After being relieved by the second New York we marched down the mountain to the National turnpike and the men began to build fires to make coffee and cook their breakfast, but we were ordered to march immediately to the Mountain House on the top of South Mountain. It was hard, but the men fell in promptly and marched along munching dry hard tack. It was now 24 hours since they had had their coffee. Our brigade was put by General Hooker in the advance in the pursuit of the enemy and our regiment marched at the head of the column. We pushed along the turnpike down the western slope of the mountain. Presently old gray haired men, citizens of Maryland, came rushing up to meet us. They seemed almost frantic with joy. They swung their hats and laughed and cried without regard for appearances. Once respectable old gentleman who trotted along beside my horse said; " We have watched for you, Sir, and we have prayed for you and now thank God you have come."

Here his feelings got the better of him and he mounted a bank and began to shout. The last I saw of him, he was shouting and thanking God and the 19th Indiana was responding with lusty cheers. As we approached the village of Boonsboro, it seemed deserted, but when our column entered the streets, doors and windows flew open and the people thronged out to greet us. Flags that had been hidden in the darkest corner were now unfurled. These people informed us that the rebel infantry had passed through the town in haste and in much disorder. Colonels were in some cases, they said, carrying regimental banners. They said that General Lee was present when the retreat commenced. We turned to the left in Boonsboro toward Antietam Creek."
Two days later, Dawes and comrades would find themselves in the maelstrom that was David Miller's cornfield now known as The Cornfield. Dawes would survive the fighting at Antietam and go to serve in the Army of the Potomac until the summer of 1864 when he mustered out of service. He would be made a brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers in 1866 to date from March 1865. After the war, he would serve on the board of trustees for Marietta College and serve one term in the US House of Representatives. He would pass away in 1899.

Dawes, Rufus Robinson, Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, Marietta (OH): E.R. Alderman & Sons, 1890. Available online at here.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"We immediately moved forward in line to assault the enemy's lines, under a severe and galling fire."

In the late afternoon of September 14 on the rolling hills outside of Burkittsville, Maryland, the 5th Maine Infantry deployed as part of the initial Union assault on the Confederate defenses at Crampton's Gap. Commanded by Colonel Nathanial Jackson, the regiment pushed forward on the left of Colonel Joseph Bartlett's brigade fighting to a standstill with the Confederate defenders before being forced to withdraw to resupply their cartridge boxes. The regiment would take part in the final bayonet charge up the side of the mountain that would capture Crampton's Gap. Colonel Jackson reported the regiment suffered 4 killed and 28 wounded in the fight.  Listed below are known casualties totaling 18 men (64% of reported in Official Report)

Private John Bryant, Company I
Sergeant E.C. Chadbourne, Company C
Private Oliver Fletcher, Company I
Private Samuel Lufkin, Company I

Private Jonathan Alexander, Company G
Captain Hamlin Bucknam, Company K
Private James Cooley, Company G 
Private Abraham Chase, Company E
Private Charles Dore, Company K
Private John Godfrey, Company F
Private John W. Goodwin, Company B
Corporal S. W. Hatch, Company D
Private James Kelley, Company C
Private John Linscott, Company B 
Private William Maxim, Company B
Private John H. McIntire, Company B
Private Portland A. Wilson, Company G
Private Alvah Withee, Company H

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"At this time, I received a gunshot wound near the knee-joint, which whirled me over...": Captain Abraham Hunter, 23rd Ohio Infantry

The following is a letter published in the Clevaland Morning Leader on October 1, 1862. Written by Captain Andrew Hunter,  commanding a company in the 23rd Ohio Infantry. Hunter had enlisted in the 23rd as a thirty-two year old first lieutenant in Company K in June 1861. In February 1862, he would be promoted to captain of Company D. Writing from Middletown, he would report back on the status of men from Company K and his experiences during the march in Maryland and the fighting at South Mountain. He would also write about the morale of the wounded in the hospital in Middletown where he was recuperating from a wound he received during the 23rd's charge at South Mountain. He also includes a list of casualties from Company K. Captain Hunter recover from his wound but tragically, he would be killed in action at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain on May 9, 1864.

From the 23rd Ohio Regiment
Middleton, Md., Sept. 22d, 1862

Since I last wrote you from Flat Top Mountain, Va., our regiment, with four other Ohio regiments, composing General Cox's brigage, have seen some rough times. We left Western Virginia on the 14th of August, reached Washington on the 25th, proceeded immediately to Alexandria, from there to Upton's Hill, where we remained during the late battles at Manassas. Our reverses there did not discourage our men in the least. All they desired was to be led froward to meet the enemy, whose invasion of Maryland causes us to retrace our steps to Washington, through which we marched and joined General Burnside's division, which was en route toward Fredrick City, Maryland.

We reached Frederick on the 12th, our division being in advance; we had a skirmish with the enemy's rear guard, composed of artillery and cavalry. The rebels disputed our approach to the city for some time, but soon left us to take quite possession. On entering, our troops were loudly cheered, and at almost every window the ladies waved the stars and stripes. Such demonstrations of loyalty I never before witnessed, especially by the ladies. The next day we marched to the town, encamped for the night in sight of the enemy's camp on the South Mountain, three miles from here, where they made a stand.

At daybreak the next morning our bugles awoke us to prepare for the contest. Our division was in advance on the left, and our regiment, which was sent through the woods, coming suddenly upon a division of the enemy's right--was the first to commence the engagement. For three or four hours the struggle was severe; every foot of ground was disputed on both sides. At first we found it extremely difficult in the thick brush we were in to take sure aim, besides the enemy occupied a small eminence on which was a stone wall behind which they took shelter. I am unable to give you a correct idea of the position of our regiments during the day. The 12th and 30th were in a line with us on the right, and we had each of us enough to do to mind our own business. 

At last the order was given to form line at the base of the hill, which, when done, we lay on our arms, and gradually advanced on our hands and knees up the slope until within a short distance of the stone wall, when the order rand along the line, "Up and charge!" I have seen charges made before by old soldiers, but nothing could surpass the Ohio boys in this charge. Every man sprang to his feet, and with a while yell, rushed forward upon the foe. Bayonets clashed for a moment or two, when the rebels took to their heels in great disorder, leaving behind piles of dead and wounded, and some two hundred prisoners. 

At this time, I received a gunshot wound near the knee-joint, which whirled me over, and which prevented me from sharing with my brave comrades in the desperate fight on Wednesday, where they suffered severely. Our loss is heavy both in officers and men. Our loss is supposed to be 250 in killed, wounded, and missing, but I rejoice to know that the rebels have got a good thrashing for once, at least.

It is gratifying amid all these scenes of danger and suffering to observe with what spirits the men bear up. In the Hospital the other day, where the wounded were lying, one who is an expert performer on the banjo commenced playing and singing a comic song, which made his wounded companions, in spite of their sufferings, laugh heartily. His name is William Brown, son of respectable parents in Elyria. He is wounded severely in the side; and by the way, there is a young boy from Clevaland whom I observed behave with great coolness in the battle on Sunday. His name is Edward Brooks, son of Dr. Brooks, West Side. A ball had grazed his wrist, and by some means he had lost sight of his company at the time we were about to charge. He begged to be allowed to fall in along with our boys. The last I saw of him he was fighting his way manfully amid the thickest of the ranks. I believe he is well and uninjured. 

I have forwarded you a list of casualties in my company, so that the friends of Company K who live in the vicinity of Cleveland may know the fate of their relatives, knowing your paper to have a large circulation in Lorain, where Company K was raised:
Serg't Thomas G. Wells, killed; Serg't Jos. Wagner, killed; Corp'l H. Fitts, wounded; Corp'l E. Herrick, wounded; Corp'l. DeGrass Chapman, wounded, Corp'l B.F. Burns, missing; W.R. Terril, wounded; Seward Abel, wounded; Joseph Mitchell, wounded; E. Campbell, wounded; Jacob Bollinger, wounded; J. King, wounded; William Brown, wounded; Jacob Brown, wounded; F. Sammis, wounded; G. Schernes, wounded; J. Hill,wounded; J. Springer, wounded; Albert Squires, wounded; F. Squires, wounded; and among the wounded; is your correspondent, A.A. Hunter, Captain Co. K, 23 Reg't. O.V.I.


Captain Abraham Hunter. "From the 23d Ohio Regiment" Cleveland Morning Leader, October 1, 1862. Accessed October 14, 2012,