South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fighting Colonels: Lt. Colonel John W. Hofmann

Commanding the 56th Pennsylvania Infantry in Abner Doubleday's brigade of John Hatch's, Lt. Colonel John W. Hofmann would take his regiment numbering nearly 250 men into action late in the day on September 14, 1862. Hofmann began his regiments march from their encampment along the Monocacy River at about 6 A.M. and he states in his official report that the regiment had present for duty, "One field officer, 1 captain, 6 lieutenants, 239 Enliste men." Arriving on the battlefield, the regiment was quickly thrown into line and ordered forward to the relief of Colonel Walter Phelps, commanding John Hatch's brigade. Hoffman's Pennsylvanian's slammed into the Virginian's of General Richard Garnett's brigade. For the next hour and a half, the battle raged across a cornfield with Hofmann's men slowly pushing the Confederates back and repulsing any efforts by the enemy to recapture lost ground. Hofmann reported that with darkness falling, that "position of the enemy could only be ascertained only from the flashes of his fire." When the regiments ammunition began to run out, Doubleday ordered the regiment to fall back to replenish their supply and General James Rickett's division came forward to relieve them. The regiment slept on its arms that night and the following morning, the destructive nature of their fire was witnessed. Confederate dead and wounded littered the cornfield that was in their front. During the course of the action, General Doubleday was placed in command of the division as a result of General Hatch's wounding. The brigade command fell to Colonel William Wainwright, but he would also be wounded and Hofmann would take command of the brigade. He would write two reports on the Battle of South Mountain, one as a regimental commander and one as the brigade commander. He would lead this brigade at Antietam but would be mainly charged with supporting the artillery of the 1st corps.


The War of the Rebellion: a Compliation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies: Volume 19, Part 1. 234-239.

John M. Priestly. Before Antietam: The Battle of South Mountain. (White Mane Publishing Compan y, Inc. 1992). 253, 258

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