South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Union Regiment: 27th New York Volunteer Infantry

National Flag of Company H, 27th New York
On September 14th, 1862, the 27th New York found itself in the thick of the fighting during the 6th Corps assault on Crampton's Gap outside of Burkittsville, Maryland. The regiment would be deployed as skirmishers and when the order came to charge, they were among the Union wave that swept up the mountain in the climactic twilight assault. The regiment would suffer 6 men killed and 27 wounded.

What would become the 27th New York was accepted into state service on May 21,1861 with  companies that were formed in late April and early May and were recruited as follows (location,recruiter):

Company A: White Plains, Captain Joseph J. Chambers
Company B:  Lyons, Captain Alexander D. Adams
Company C: Binghamton, Captain Joseph J. Bartlett
Company D: Binghamton, Captain Hiram C. Rogers
Company E: Rochester, Captain George G. Wanzer
Company F: Binghamton, Captain Peter Jay
Company G: Lima, Captain James Perkins
Company H: Mount Norris, Captain Charles E. Martin
Company I: Angelica, Captain Curtis C. Gardiner
Company K: Albion, Captain Henry L. Achilles, Jr.

Once these various companies were gathered at Elmira, New York, and election of officers was held and the elected officers were as follows:

Colonel: Henry W. Slocum
Lt. Colonel: Joseph J. Chambers
Major: Joseph J. Bartlett

With these elections, the State Military Board verified the elections and designated the new regiment the 27th New York Volunteer Infantry. The new recruits took the nickname "Union Regiment" because they had been recruited from various parts of the state and had by their own choice, regimented themselves with each other. The regiment would only remain in New York until the middle of July when it was ordered to Washington, D. C. where it was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division in the Army of Northeastern Virginia and participated in the the First Battle of Bull Run where it was heavily engaged. Colonel Slocum would be wounded and Major Bartlett would take command of the regiment. When the day began going against the Union forces, Bartlett was ordered to retreat and go into line of battle a various points to cover the retreat of the defeat Union army. The regiment lost 130 men killed, wounded, and missing in their first fight.

Following the disaster at Bull Run, like the rest of the Union army around Washington, the 27th drilled and drilled. The army was also reorganized and christened the Army of the Potomac under Major General George McClellan, affectionately known to the men as Lil Mac. The 27th would find themselves in Brigadier General Heintzelman's brigade from August 4 to October 15 when they would become part of the the former commander, Henry Slocum's brigade in William Franklin's division. In the spring of 1862 they would become part of the 2nd brigade, under Slocum, of the 1st Division, 1st Corps of the Army of the Potomac. This assignment would last until May when the division was assigned to the 6th Corps. The regiment would remain in this assignment until May 1863.

When McClellan took his massive Army of the Potomac to the Virginia Peninsula in an attempt to capture Richmond on that front, the 27th New York found itself marching through the feverish land of the Virginia tidewater region. During the advance up the peninsula, the regiment would fight it skirmishes at West Point and near Mechanicsville at various points in May and at the beginning of June. During this campaign, the regiment would find itself in a brigade with the 5th Maine, 16th New York, and 96th Pennsylvania under command of Joseph Bartlett, who had risen to the rank of  colonel. When the Confederate Army, now under Robert E. Lee, lashed out of Richmond attacking McClellan's army in what would become the Seven Days' Battles, the 27th New York found itself in the thick of the fighting. Taking part in the actions at Gaines Mill, Glendale, and Malvern Hill, the regiment suffered heavily losing 162 men and officers in the week long fighting. McClellan would pull his army back to Harrison's Landing where it would lick its wounds and wait for its next call to action.

For the next few weeks, the 27th New York remained on the Peninsula suffering through the head of a Virginia summer. Unknown to these Union men, Robert E. Lee had quietly pulled his army back to Richmond and northward to combat John Pope's Army of Virginia that was ransacking the northern Virginia area. With the main theatre of operations changed, McClellan's massive army was useless on the peninsula and it began its trek back to Washington by water. The 27th left its camp on the peninsula on August 20th marching from Yorktown to Newport News where it arrived on August 21st. The next day the regiment embarked for its trip to Alexandria where it disembarked on August 25th. It was immediately ordered to picket duty. On the 28th, it marched to Fairfax then Centreville. The regiment would not actively participate in the Second Battle of Bull Run but it would assist in covering the retreating army back to Washington. It would go into camp on September 1st at Fort Lyon.

Over the next days, the 27th hunkered down in the defenses of Washington with the remainder of the Union army while upriver at Leesburg, Robert E. Lee decided now was the best time to invade Maryland and between the 4th and 7th of September, Lee's victorious army crossed the Potomac and lurched toward Frederick, Maryland. The 27th would remain at Fort Lyon until the 5th when it was ordered to march towards Washington. Breaking camp late in the evening, the 27th marched across the Long Bridge, through Washington and Georgetown before making camp on Georgetown Heights, a march of 15 miles. The next night the regiment would again march this time only 7 miles. It would then continue its marches passing Sugarloaf Mountain on the 12th where its members saw dead cavalryman from skirmishes fought just a few days earlier. The regiment would march until it arrived at Burkittsville on the morning of September 14th.

Upon arriving, the 96th Pennsylvania was ordered to advance on the town. It a strong skirmish line, the Confederate cavalry that was holding the town was forced back. The 27th along with the rest of Colonel Bartlett's brigade then moved through the town deploying in the fields just east in preperation for the assault on Crampton's. The attack began at about 4 o'clock in the evening and the 27th was deployed as skirmishers. From the history of the 27th:

"We were soon ordered forward, and in heavy marching order, at  double quick, deployed as skirmishers on an open plain, facing the mountain, the centre of the line following the road which crosses the mountain at this place, known as Crampton's Pass. As we advanced, the enemy opened on us  with artillery, stationed half-way up the mountain, and with a heavy volley of musketry from behind trees and rocks, and a stone wall at the foot of the mountain."

The 27th was supported 200 yards to the rear by 5th Maine and 16th New York. With the 27th coming under heavy fire, these two regiments rushed forward and the 27th reformed in line of battle and the fighting began in earnest.

"The skirmishers advanced splendid line till within thirty or forty rods of the wall, when we were ordered to rally, and give place to the line of battle that was coming in close behind us. One squad of the pickets took cover in a barn-yard, behind the sheds and outbuildings, where they kept up a lively and telling fire till the main line came up. Another squad of pickets, not hearing the order to rally, found themselves between the two lines of battle and were obliged to lie down . . . bullets cutting up the ground all around them. Others joined in the main line in the charge on the stone wall. As our men went over the wall, some of the rebels tried to retreat, and others threw down their arms and surrendered. On went our line, up the side of the steep mountain, so steep in many places that the men had to pull themselves up by taking hold of the bushes."

This was the climactic charge that captured Crampton's Gap. After breaking the second line that was forming at the gap itself, the battle was over. The frenzied charge was so successful that hundreds of Confederates were taken prisoner and several battle flags were captured. For its fight, the 27th lost only 33 men killed and wounded. The regiment would be given the gruesome task of burying the dead following this fight. When fighting began around Sharpsburg, the regiment was still on top of the mountain. Hearing the sounds of cannonading in the distance, the regiment began its march towards this new battlefield arriving in Keedysville before marching to the northern sector of the battlefield where it would go into line of battle in the infamous Cornfield. Gratefully, the regiment would not take a major part in the battle as the two foes had beaten themselves to death literally on the ground the New Yorkers occupied. On the 18th, the 27th remained in position awaiting what could possibly be a Confederate counterattack, one that never came. During the day an informal truce was declared so that the dead could be buried. The men of the 27th did their part and several could not eat and became sick because the bodies of those killed had decomposed so rapidly.

Following the repulse of Lee, the 27th marched towards Williamsport on the 20th of September to combat a suspected river crossing. No crossing was attempted and the regiment marched to Bakersville where it would go into camp until November when Ambrose Burnside replaced McClellan has the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Under Burnside, the 27th would be take part in the Fredericksburg Campaign but it would luckily find itself in reserve during the disastrous assaults on Marye's Heights. It's next military action would take place during the assault on Marye's Heights during the 2nd Battle of Fredericksburg where it would lose 19 men killed and wounded. With this final battle, the regiment would find itself returning to New York. Arriving in Elmira, the regiment was discharged from service on May 31, 1863.


1. G.B. Fairchild. History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols.: Being a ecord of its ore than two years of Service in the War for the Union, From May 21st, 1861 to May 31st, 1863. Binghamton, NY: Carl &Matthews printers.

2. 27th New York Infantry at New York State Military Museum

3. Flag Image found at NYSMM

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

149th Anniversary of the Battle of South Mountain

Today mark's the 149th anniversary of the clash that took place on the slopes of South Mountain. I take this time to ask you, the reader, to remember those that fell at this battle and remember that each side fought for the cause that they believed in, whether it be right or wrong. If you would like to read a roll of those that fell during the battle, please click the casualties tab under the Label's section of this page. I regret that I have only been able to list some of those that fell during this eventful day and I plan on adding more in the future.

Also, if one would like to read about the fighting that took place, the links to the articles are below.

Crampton's Gap: Twilight assault

Bathed in Blood: The Afternoon fight at Fox's Gap

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here": the morning fight at Fox's Gap

Birth of the Iron brigade: Turner's Gap

Pennsylvania Reserves capture the Frostown Gap

You can also click the various labels on the right of the screen to learn more about the battle as well. Thanks again for reading my blog and I hope that you get a chance to visit the battlefield up on the mountain. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Should the truth ever be known, the battle of South Mountain . . . will be regarded as one of the most remarkable and creditable of the war."

 The following is the portion of Brigadier General Daniel Harvey Hill's official report of his division's involvement in the Maryland Campaign that deals with the fighting at South Mountain. Hill would be ordered by General Lee to protect the mountain gaps near Boonsboro to protect the main body of the army as it marched to Hagerstown as well as the reserve artillery train which would be encamped along a ridgeline just beyond Beaver Creek, just to the west of Boonsboro. Hill would also be ordered to keep an eye on roads leading south in an effort to keep any Union troops from escaping from Harper's Ferry. Hill would set up his headquarters in the Mountain House, the present day South Mountain Inn, where he would direct the defenses of the gaps at Frostown, Turner's and Fox's. His division would be the first engaged and until the arrival of Longstreet's command in the early afternoon, he would be clinging to the rebel foothold on the mountain.

On the 13th, I was ordered by General Lee to dispose of my troops so as to prevent the escape of the Yankees from Harper's Ferry, then besieged, and also to guard the pass in the Blue Ridge near Boons-borough. Major-General Stuart reported to me that two brigades only of the Yankees were pursuing us, and that one brigade would be sufficient to hold the pass. I, however, sent the brigades of Garland and Colquitt, and ordered my other three brigades up to the neighborhood of Boonsborough. 

An examination of the pass, very early on the morning of the 14th, satisfied me that it could only be held by a large force, and was wholly indefensible by a small one. I accordingly ordered up Anderson's brigade. A regiment of Ripley's brigade was sent to hold another pass, some 3 miles distant, on our left. I felt reluctant to order up Ripley and Rodes from the important positions they were holding until something definite was known of the strength and design of the Yankees. About 7 o'clock they opened a fire upon our right, and pushed forward a large force through the dense woods to gain a practicable road to our rear. Garland's brigade was sent in to meet this overwhelming force, and succeeded in checking it and securing the road from any further attack that day. This brilliant service, however, cost us the life of that pure, gallant, and accomplished Christian soldier, General Garland, who had no superiors and few equals in the service. The Yankees on their side lost General Reno, a renegade Virginian, who was killed by a happy shot from the Twenty-third North Carolina. Garland's brigade was badly demoralized by his fall and the rough handling it had received, and, had the Yankees pressed vigorously forward, the road might have been gained. Providentially, they were ignorant of their success or themselves too much damaged to advance. The Twentieth North Carolina of this brigade, under Colonel Iverson, had attacked a Yankee battery, killed all the horses, and driven off the cannoneers. This battery was used no more that day by the Yankees. Anderson's brigade arrived in time to take the place of the much-demoralized troops of Garland. There were two mountain roads practicable for artillery on the right of the main turnpike. The defense of the farther one had cost Garland his life. 

It was now intrusted to Colonel [T. L.] Rosser, of the cavalry, who had reported to me, and who had artillery and dismounted sharpshooters. General Anderson was intrusted with the care of the nearest and best road. Bondurant's battery was sent to aid him in its defense. The brigade of Colquitt was disposed on each side of the turnpike, and that: with Lane's battery, was judged adequate to the task. There was, however, a solitary peak on the left, which, if gained by the Yankees, would give them control of the ridge commanding the turnpike. The possession of this peak was, therefore, everything to the Yankees, but they seemed slow to perceive it. I had a large number of guns from Cutts' artillery placed upon the hill on the left of the turnpike, to sweep the approaches to this peak. From the position selected, there was a full view of the country for miles around, but the mountain was so steep that ascending columns were but little exposed to artillery fire. The artillerists of [A. S.] Cutts' battalion behaved gallantly, but their firing was the worst I ever witnessed. Rodes and Ripley came up soon after Anderson. Rodes was sent to the left, to seize the peak already mentioned, and Ripley was sent to the right to support Anderson. Several attempts had been made previous to this, by the Yankees, to force a passage through the woods on the right of and near the turnpike, but these were repulsed by the Sixth and Twenty-seventh Georgia and Thirteenth Alabama, of Colquitt's brigade.

It was now past noon, and the Yankees had been checked for more than five hours; but it was evident that they were in large force on both sides of the road, and the Signal Corps reported heavy masses at the foot of the mountain. In answer to a dispatch from General Longstreet, I urged him to hurry forward troops to my assistance. General Drayton and Col. G. T. Anderson came up, I think, about 3 o'clock, with 1,900 men, and I felt anxious to beat the force on my right before the Yankees made their grand attack, which I feared would be on our left. Anderson, Ripley, and Drayton were called together, and I directed them to follow a path until they came in contact with Rosser, when they should change their flank, march into line of battle, and sweep the woods before them. To facilitate their movements, I brought up a battery and made it shell the woods in various directions. Anderson soon became partially and Drayton hotly engaged, but Ripley did not draw trigger; why, I do not know. The Fourth North Carolina (Anderson's brigade) attempted to carry a Yankee battery, but failed. Three Yankee brigades moved up, in beautiful order, against Drayton, and his men were soon beaten and went streaming to the rear. Rosser, Anderson, and Ripley still held their ground, and the Yankees could not gain our rear.

Affairs were now very serious on our left. A division of Yankees was advancing in handsome style against Rodes. I had every possible gun turned upon the Yankee columns, but, owing to the steepness of the acclivity and the bad handling of the guns, but little harm was done to the "restorers of the Union." Rodes handled his little brigade in a most admirable and gallant manner, fighting, for hours, vastly superior odds, and maintaining the key-points of the position until darkness rendered a further advance of the Yankees impossible. Had he fought with less obstinacy, a practicable artillery road to the rear would have been gained on our left and the line of retreat cut off.
Colonel[J. B.] Gordon, the Christain hero, excelled his former deeds at Seven Pines and in the battles around Richmond. Our language is not capable of expressing a higher compliment.
General Rodes says:
The men and officers generally behaved well, but Colonel Gordon, Sixth Alabama; Major [E. L.] Hobson, Fifth Alabama, and Colonel [C. A.] Battle, Third Alabama, deserve especial mention for admirable conduct during the whole fight. We did not drive the enemy back or whip him, but with 1,200 men we held his whole division at bay for four hours and a half without assistance from any one, losing in that time not more than half a mile of ground.
He estimates his loss at 422 out of 1,200 taken into action, but thinks that he inflicted a three-fold heavier loss on the Yankees Colonel [B. B.] Gayle, of the Twelfth Alabama, was killed, and Colonel [E. A.] O'Neal, Twenty sixth Alabama, and Lieutenant-Colonel [S. B.] Pickens, of the Twelfth, severely wounded. 

Major-General Longstreet came up about 4 o'clock with the commands of Brig. Gens. N. G. Evans and D. R. Jones. I had now become familiar with the ground, and knew all the vital points, and, had these troops reported to me, the result might have been different. As it was, they took wrong positions, and, in their exhausted condition after a long march, they were broken and scattered. Our whole left was now fairly exposed, and the Yankees had but to push down to seize the turnpike. It was now dark, however, and they feared to advance. All the available troops were collected behind a stone wall, to resist an approach upon the turnpike from the left. Encouraged by their successes in that direction, the Yankees thought that it would be an easy matter to move directly up the turnpike; but they were soon undeceived. They were heroically met and bloodily repulsed by the Twenty-third and Twenty-eighth Georgia Regiments, of Colquitt's brigade. The fight lasted for more than an hour after night, but gradually subsided as the Yankees retired. General Hood, who had gone in on the right with his two noble brigades, pushed forward his skirmishers and drove back the Yankees.
We retreated that night to Sharpsburg, having accomplished all that was required--the delay of the Yankee army until Harper's Ferry could not be relieved. 

Should the truth ever be known, the battle of South Mountain, as far as my division was concerned, will be regarded as one of the most remarkable and creditable of the war. The division had marched all the way from Richmond, and the straggling had been enormous in consequence of heavy marches, deficient commissariat, want of shoes, and inefficient officers. Owing to these combined causes, the division numbered less than 5,000 men the morning of September 14, and had five roads to guard, extending over a space of as many miles. This small force successfully resisted, without support, for eight hours, the whole Yankee army, and, when its supports were beaten; still held the roads, so that our retreat was effected without the loss of a gun, a wagon, or an ambulance. Rodes' brigade had immortalized itself; Colquitt's had fought well, and the two regiments most closely pressed (Twenty-third and Twenty-eighth Georgia) had repulsed the foe. Garland's brigade had behaved nobly, until demoralized by the fall of its gallant leader, and being outflanked by the Yankees. Anderson's brigade had shown its wonted gallantry. Ripley's brigade, for some cause, had not been engaged, and was used with Hood's two brigades to cover the retreat. Had Longstreet's division been with mine at daylight in the morning, the Yankees would have been disastrously repulsed; but they had gained important positions before the arrival of re-enforcements. These additional troops came up, after a long, hurried, and exhausting march, to defend localities of which they were ignorant, and to fight a foe flushed with partial success, and already holding key-points to further advance. Had our forces never been separated, the battle of Sharpsburg never would have been fought, and the Yankees would not have even the shadow of consolation for the loss of Harper's Ferry


The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of of the records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Series 1, Volume 19 (part 1), pgs. 1019-1022.