South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This is a battle report by Colonel Edgar B. Montague about the Battle for Crampton's Pass on September 14, 1862. The 32nd Virginia was positioned in support of Captain Basil Manly's battery that had taken up a position near Brownsville Pass about a mile south of Crampton's. Montague writes about what he sees after watching the effectiveness of Manly's fire. Crampton's Gap was essential to the Confederate position of South Mountain because if the 6th Corps of William Franklin punched throught the gap, the portion of the Confederate Army under Lee that was massing around Boonsboro on the 14th would be cut off from retreat into Virginia. Also, the division of Lafayette McLaws would be trapped on Maryland Heights between Franklin and the Union Garrison at Harpers Ferry. So with the fall of Crampton's Gap over half of Lee's Army would be forced to surrender, if it could not escape back across the Potomac. Crampton's Gap would be the battle that would change Lee's Maryland Campaign.


Captain E. B. BRIGGS,Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: In obedience to orders from division headquarters, I forward the following report of the part sustained by my command at Brownsville [Crampton's] Gap on the 14th instant:
On the evening of the 13th I was ordered by Brigadier-General Semmes to proceed with the Fifteenth Virginia Regiment and my own, and two pieces of Manly's battery, to the top of South Mountain, to watch for and report any advance of the enemy in that direction.
On the morning of the 14th I received a message from Major-General Stuart to the effect that the enemy were advancing in great force, and that I must defend the pass at all hazards, calling for re-enforcements if necessary, should the enemy select in as his point of attack, which, however, he thought doubtful.

At 9 or 10 o'clock the enemy's advance came in sight from the direction of Jefferson, seemingly in great force. At about 11 o'clock they masked most of their force under a hill and wood about 3 miles, and advanced two brigades by the left flank into a field opposite our position. Meantime I had sent to General Semmes for re-enforcements, and he promptly ordered up the Fifty-third Georgia Regiment and three pieces of artillery (rifled), under the command of Captain Macon, two of his own guns, and one of Captain Magruder's. I stationed a picket of about 200 men at the foot of the mountain, near Burkittsville, and a line of skirmishers along my whole front, connecting with Colonel Munford's, on my left. Shortly afterward the enemy threw out a large advance of skirmishers, who steadily advanced toward the base of the mountain, supported by a brigade of infantry, the other brigade remaining at a halt. I ordered Captain Manly to open upon them with his 3-inch rifled gun, which he did so effectually as to check the advance of the skirmishers and cause the advancing brigade to fall back on its reserve, beyond our range.

At about 3 or 4 o'clock, after withdrawing his skirmishers, he moved by the right flank, leaving Burkittsville on his left, formed three strong parallel lines of battle, and started the whole in advance, still leaving an immense force in reserve, and moved with great celerity and perfect order against Crampton's Gap. I was in a position to see every move that was made, and saw at once that, by moving my artillery to the left a few hundred yards, I could bring the advancing host within easy range. This was done, and Macon's, Manly's, and Magruder's guns were played upon the enemy with great effect, time and again their ranks being broken by their deliberate and well-directed fire, the enemy's guns not being able to reach us on account of our elevated position. Captain Macon, the senior artillery officer, managed his guns most handsomely, and he and his juniors are entitled to all the credit of the occasion, if any is due. I was more of a spectator than participant in the action. My infantry force was not engaged, though they were ready and anxious to take part in the conflict.

Our guns continued to play on the enemy until dark, long after our forces at Crampton's Gap had been driven from their position. At least three hundred guns were fired during the evening. At least eight brigades of the enemy were engaged in this fight, and many more were coming up when night closed the scene. I withdrew after dark, by order, and joined the balance of our force on the road just above Brownsville.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. B. MONTAGUE,Colonel Thirty-second Virginia Volunteers.

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