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
Thursday, January 5, 2012
"We advanced but a short distance . . . when a brisk fire was encountered."
The following is the report given by Captain Dennis McGee, commanding the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (1st Rifles). Captain McGee is reporting because the regiments commander, Colonel Hugh McNeil was mortally wounded during the sharp skirmish in the East Woods. The regiment went into the battle with 248 men and officers and would lose 16 killed and 35 wounded during their fight, a casualty rate of 20%. Known casualties can be seen here and account for 49% of the casualties reported.
Colonel R. Biddle Roberts Commanding First Brigade
Headquarters, 1st Rifles, Pennsylvania Reserve Vol. Corps
September 22, 1862
Colonel: I have the honor to report that the First Rifles went into action on the 14th instant with about 235 men and 13 officers, under the command of Colonel Hugh W. McNeil. Six companies were deployed as skirmishers and the remaining four held as supports. We advanced but a short distance up the mountain before the enemy's skirmishers were discovered, when a brisk fire was encountered. The order was immediately given to advance at double-quick, which order was promptly obeyed, driving the enemy before us, until we came upon his main body placed in a most advantageous position for offering a stong resistance to our further advance. Our men now engaged the enemy with great spirit. At this moment our reinforcements appeared, causing the enemy to waver and gradually retire up the mountain. The order to charge was now passed along the line, and we rapidly pushed forward, causing him to finally give way and beat a precipitate retreat down the western slope of the mountain, leaving us in possession of the field and position. Owing to the death of Colonel McNeil I am unable to give a more detailed account of the action of this day. Our loss during this engagement was 16 killed and 35 wounded; of the latter 6 are known to have since died. Among those who particularly distinguished themselves for gallantry on this occasion I have to mention the following: Captain Edward A. Irvin (severely wounded), Captain A. E. Niles, Adjt. William R. Hartsthorne, Lieuts. James W. Welch, Lucius Truman, S.A. Mack, Jr. (wounded), N.B. Kinsey, David G. McNaughton, and Sergt. Major Roger Sherman. I felt great reluctance in singling out individuals, as the officers and men on this occasion behaved most gallantly.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, Commanding First Rifles
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of of the records of the Union
and Confederate Armies; Series 1,Volume 51 (Part 1), pgs. 155-156