On September 14, 1862, Robert E. Lee's opportunistic first invasion of the North was turned back at the gaps of South Mountain near Boonsboro, Maryland. The fighting was desperate and for the numbers engaged rather bloody. It has become just a footnote in history, but it was here that the Confederacy reached it's high tide.
South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland
Monday, December 5, 2011
"Fire was soon opened up along the entire front. . ."
Major Cabell, circa 1865
The following is the after-action report of Major George C. Cabell of the 18th Virginia. A lawyer in the years before the war, Cabell found himself enlisting at the outbreak to defend his home against what he saw as the northern aggressor. By the time the Confederate army entered Maryland, he was holding the rank of major and in command of the 18th Virginia of Brigadier General Richard Garnett's brigade. Cabell would lead his regiment, 120 men strong, into the fray in the Confederate attempt to stop the Union tide rolling up the Confederate left near the Frostown Gap. His regiment would suffer in the attempt losing 41 men killed, wounded, and missing.
October 14, 1862
General Garnett's Assistant Adjutant-General.
Captain: About 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 14, the Eighteenth Virginia Regiment, about 120 strong, under my command, after a rapid and fatiguing march from Hagerstown, was directed to a position a little north of the gap in South Mountain, near Boonsborough, Md. We were not fairly in position before the enemy's skirmishers were seen not far off and to their rear, their line of battle approaching. Fire was soon opened up along the entire front of the Eighteenth Regiment, when the skirmishers retired, and soon the main body of the enemy fell back a short distance, sheltering themselves behind trees, rocks, etc, and opened a heavy fire upon us, which was replied to with spirit and vigor for some time.
After some three-quarters of an hour, word was brought the regiments on our left had fallen back, and that the left of the Eighteenth was wavering. I at once repaired to the left of the regiment and aided in restoring comparatively good order, but soon after the order came along the lines to fall back, which was done, halting in a ravine about 100 yards to the rear of the position we had just left. Here the regiment was reformed. General Garnett did not approve of this last position, so he ordered the regiment to the edge of the wood and across a fence some 200 yards distant. In going to this position, the ground being uneven, and covered with bushes and briars, the regiment became a good deal scattered. As many of the regiment as could be, were collected, and, together with Captains Claibourne and Oliver, I marched them forward and took position on the left of Jenkins' Brigade, which had just come up, and again engaged the enemy, the men fighting bravely. In some twenty-five or thirty minutes information was brought the General Garnett's brigade was ordered to retire. The men were then withdrawn, and, together with General Garnett, who was upon our left, retired from the field.
It is but just to say that the regiment was very much exhausted when it went into the fight, having marched in quick time from Hagerstown and around the mountain some 4 or 5 miles, and therefore fought under disadvantages. It nevertheless did good and effective fighting, and, had it been supported on the left, would have maintained its ground throughout the entire fight.
There were only seven officers besides myself with the regiment, and three companies were commanded by second sergeants.
The regiment lost 7 killed, 27 wounded, and 7 missing, a report which has already been forwarded.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Geo. C. Cabell,
Major, Commanding Eighteenth Virginia Regiment
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of of the records of the Union
and Confederate Armies; Series 1, Volume 19 (part 1), pgs. 899-901.