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
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
"Soon after we halted, the enemy advanced upon us in overwhelming numbers."
The following is the official report written by Colonel Fitz William McMaster. Colonel McMaster commanded the 17th South Carolina Infantry in Brigadier General Nathan Evan's brigade. His regiment would go into the battle on the mountain spur just north and east of the National Pike. During its fight, McMaster's regiment would suffer a casualty rate of 43%. The report includes reports on the Battles of Malvern Hill, Rappahannock Station, and Second Manassas which have been omitted but can be seen in Volume 12, part 2 starting on page 632 of the Official Records.
Camp near Winchester, Virginia
October 20, 1862
Sir: In obedience to your orders to report the action of the Seventeenth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, in the battles in which it has been engaged since it came to Virginia, I have the honor to report:
Sunday evening, September 14, about 4 o'clock, after a most fatiguing march, under which some of our men broke down, the brigade took position on the slope of a mountain on the east side of the turnpike. Soon after we halted , the enemy advanced upon us in overwhelming numbers. After fighting for about an hour, and after the other regiments of the brigade had broken and retired, and we were being flanked by the enemy, I ordered my regiments to retire, firing. After we began the retreat, we were so unfortunate to lose our gallant lieutenant colonel (R.S. Means), who was shot through the thigh. I detailed four men to bear him off, but he magnanimously refused to allow them to make the effort, as the enemy was in short distance of him and still advancing.
I succeeded in forming a new line of battle, on a knoll about 300 yards in rear of the first line, but was soon flanked by the enemy and compelled to retire. I brought off with men 36 men, rank and file, in order. I was soon ordered by Major Sorrel to form on the left of General Jenkins' brigade; but before we were able to do so night overtook us, and, under the order of General Evans, we retired to the turnpike.