South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

" No Yankee Bullet will kill me..."

The following is a letter written by Lieutenant David Hamilton Ray of the 5th North Carolina while the Confederates were encamped around the city of Frederick, Maryland on September 9th. Lt. Ray had been in the Regular Army for 8 years as a younger man but he found himself in the Confederate Army in 1862. During the Battle of South Mountain, he would be cited for gallant conduct by General D. H. Hill for the fight at Fox's Gap.

Camp 5th N.C.I. near Frederick City MD

Sept. 9th 1862

My Dear Mother
How little did either you or I think that in les than three weeks from the morning I left you all, that I would be in Maryland. We left Hanover C.H. on the 26th Aug. and marched every day for thirteen (13) days, it would be useless for me to attempt to give you a description of the trials and hardships, through which we passed. I held out altho I was sick when started with the direreah, some days I felt as if every step was my last had I been a private I certainly never would have held up, but as an officer If I stoped every privated considered that he had the same rite. We pased through Jackso's Battlegrounds and I do pray that I may be speared from ever witnessing such horrors again. Officers in our Reg' who were in the Richmond Battles say that there was no such slaughter on and one field there, we laped some days after the Battle and roads fields, woods were covered with the dead, the smell was awfull. I thought from what I had heard that I could see heads, arms, legs, and the dead men without feeling but I tell you it sickened me. I have been sick more since I have in eight or ten years before. Soldiereing now is altogether different from what it was when I was in before I knew this improves that I will have to resign after this campaign, that is if I am speared that long. I construed into cowardice and I prefer death to that. this is certainly a bright day for us the So' Confederacy yet I belive that we are on the verge of great-events to resuly from some of the Bloodiest-battles of this war. I shall trust-in God believing that if is his will for for me to be speared that no Yankee bullet will kill me.
We have been here since Saturday night cant tell where or when we are going
Love to all

Your Aff Son

Following the fight at South Mountain, Lieutenant Ray would remain with the 5th North Carolina through the Battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He would be sent home to North Carolina in January 1864 to become an enrolling officer and in February 1865 he would be discharged for chronic illness. While this letter was written days before the fight at South Mountain, Lieutenant Ray survived the savage fighting at Fox's Gap. His letter gives insight to the thinking of one Confederate who entered Maryland that September.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Battery B, 4th US Artillery at South Mountain

Just days before the Battle of Antietam where this famous battery suffered heavily during the conflict that raged through the Bloody Cornfield, Battery B, 4th United States Artillery took part in the assault on Turner's Gap by the Iron Brigade up the National Pike against the Confederate brigade of Alfred Colquitt.

In the late afternoon as the brigade of General John Gibbon was moving forward to dislodge the Colquitt's brigade, a section of the battery under the command of Lieutenant James Stewart was unlimbered and went into action just behind the line of the 19th Indiana and 7th Wisconsin. The guns began firing upon the Confederate skirmish line that was making the advance of the Westerner's rather difficult. There was a house located just to the left of the National Pike that was within the line of advance of Gibbon's men. Some Confederate sharpshooters had taken up residence in the upper story of the home and was pouring a rather deadly fire into the 19th Indiana. The colonel of this regiment, Solomon Meredith, called for support from Stewart's two guns to fire on the house. The detachment sent three rounds in the direction of the home, sending one through the second level, forcing the Confederates out. The section of guns moved up the pike as Gibbon's men pushed back Colquitt's regiments. The section engaged the Confederate batteries stationed on the heights around Turner's Gap. The fighting died down a few hours after nightfall. Stewart, in the words of General Gibbon, used his guns with "good judgement, solid effect" upon the Confederates in the fight.

Lieutenant Stewart's section was relieved that night by the remaining guns of Battery B, but Stewart put up a strong defense to keep his guns in position but he and his section were relieved and sent to the rear. The fight at Turner's Gap by Stewart was rather brief and but his sections fight would be the first time Battery B took the field in the Maryland Campaign.

Lieutenant Stewart and Battery B would go on to glory at Antietam where the battery would lose heavily and Stewart would come out in command of the entire battery. The battery would continue serving alongside what became the "Iron Brigade" and was there on the fateful day in July 1863 when the brigade was practically destroyed in it's stand against determined Confederates along Seminary Ridge outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

5th Alabama: "cut all to pieces"

This entry is from the diary of John S. Tucker of the 5th Alabama Volunteer Infantry. While the entries are short, you can get an idea of the savage resistance that occurred along the Frostown Gap where Brigadier General Robert Rodes brigade of Alabamians fought tooth and nail to keep the Federal division of George G. Meade from crushing the Confederate left flank and pouring over the mountain into the Confederate rear area. I've included the entries from September 12 and 15th to show the movements of this regiment prior to and after the fight on South Mountain. From these three entries you can see the morale of a southern soldier, the demoralization of the Confederates following the Battle of South Mountain, and the morale booster that resulted with the fall of Harpers Ferry.

Friday Sep 12, 1862

Took an early start this morning for Hagerstown but traveled very slow having quite a mountainous road to go over. Pass through Boonsborough early and found many warm Sympathisers in the place. Camped in 6 ms of Hagerstown. Expecting a fight and may remain here several days. Had another rain this evening.

Sunday Sep. 14 1862

Was ordered off early this Morning back in the direction of Middletown where a hard fight is going on 9 AM - Genl Garland Killed early this morning. The 5th Ala ordered to the scene of action early in the morning. In the evening a general engagement commenced which resulted most disastrously to our arms. Our Brigade "cut all to pieces" & many of our men taken prisoners. Only 40 odd men to be found in the 5th at dark. at which time we commenced retreating leaving all our wounded in the enemy's hands. traveled all nigh long. The fight was at North Mountain [one and a half miles] east of Boonsboro from which I presume it will take its name. Never saw so much stragling in all my life.

Monday Sep 15th 1862

The army was halted 7 miles from Sparksburg
(Sharpsburg) & 3 miles from the Potomac and formed in line of Battle where they remained all day, having a little fight in the evening. Rode all day try to get provisions for the Men. Some of our Men came in. Harpers Ferry captured.