previous next

[282] embarrassed the movements of General McLaws. He retained the position taken during the night of the fourteenth, to oppose an advance toward Harper's Ferry until the capitulation of that place, when, finding the enemy indisposed to attack, he gradually withdrew his command toward the Potomac. Deeming the roads to Sharpsburgh, on the north side of the river, impracticable, he resolved to cross at Harper's Ferry and march by way of Shepherdstown. Owing to the condition of his troops and other circumstances, his progress was slow, and he did not reach the battle-field at Sharpsburgh until some time after the engagement of the seventeenth began.

The commands of Longstreet and D. H. Hill, on their arrival at Sharpsburgh, were placed in position along the range of hills between the town and the Antietam, nearly parallel to the course of that stream — Longstreet on the right of the road to Boonesboro, and Hill on the left. The advance of the enemy was delayed by the brave opposition he encountered from Fitz Lee's cavalry, and he did not appear on the opposite side of the Antietam until about two P. M. During the afternoon the batteries on each side were slightly engaged.

On the sixteenth, the artillery fire became warm and continued throughout the day. The enemy crossed the Antietam beyond the reach of our batteries and menaced our left. In anticipation of this movement, Hood's two brigades had been transferred from the right and posted between D. H. Hill and the Hagerstown road.

General Jackson was now directed to take position on Hood's left, and formed his line with his right resting upon the Hagerstown road, and his left extending toward the Potomac, protected by General Stuart with the cavalry and horse artillery. General Walker, with his two brigades, was stationed on Longstreet's right.

As evening approached, the enemy opened more vigorously with his artillery, and bore down heavily with his infantry upon Hood, but the attack was gallantly repulsed. At ten P. M., Hood's troops were relieved by the brigades of Lawton and Trimble, of Ewell's division, commanded by General Lawton. Jackson's own division, under General J. R. Jones, was on Lawton's left, supported by the remaining brigades of Ewell.

At early dawn, on the seventeenth, the enemy's artillery opened vigorously from both sides of the Antietam, the heaviest fire being directed against our left. Under cover of this fire, a large force of infantry attacked General Jackson. They were met by his troops with the utmost resolution, and for several hours the conflict raged with great fury and alternate success. General J. R. Jones was compelled to leave the field, and the command of Jackson's division devolved on General Starke. The troops advanced with great spirit, and the enemy's lines were repeatedly broken and forced to retire. Fresh troops, however, soon replaced those that were beaten, and Jackson's men were in turn compelled to fall back. The brave General Starke was killed; General Lawton was wounded, and nearly all the field-officers, with a large proportion of the men, killed or disabled. Our troops slowly yielded to overwhelming numbers, and fell back, obstinately disputing the progress of the enemy. Hood returned to the field, and relieved the brigades of Trimble, Lawton, and Hays, which had suffered severely.

General Early, who succeeded General Lawton in the command of Ewell's division, was ordered by General Jackson to move with his brigade to take the place of Jackson's division, most of which was withdrawn, its ammunition being nearly exhausted, and its numbers much reduced. A small part of the division, under Colonels Grigsby and Stafford, united with Early's brigade, as did portions of the brigades of Trimble Lawton, and Hayes.

The battle now raged with great violence; the small commands under Hood and Early holding their ground against many times their own numbers of the enemy, and under a tremendous fire of artillery. Hood was reenforced by the brigades of Ripley, Colquitt, and Garland, under Colonel McRae, of D. H. Hill's division, and afterward by D. R. Jones's brigade, under Colonel G. T. Anderson.

The enemy's lines were broken and forced back, but fresh numbers advanced to their support, and they began to gain ground. The desperate resistance they encountered, however, delayed their progress until the troops of General McLaws arrived, and those of General Walker could be brought from the right. Hood's brigade, greatly diminished in numbers, withdrew to replenish their ammunition, their supply being entirely exhausted. They were relieved by Walker's command, who immediately attacked the enemy vigorously, driving him back with great slaughter. Colonel Manning, commanding Walker's brigade, pursued until he was stopped by a strong fence, behind which was posted a large force of infantry, with several batteries. The gallant Colonel. was severely wounded, and his brigade retired to the line on which the rest of Walker's command had halted.

Upon the arrival of the reenforcements under General McLaws, General Early attacked, with great resolution, the large force opposed to him. McLaws advanced at the same time, and the enemy were driven back in confusion, closely followed by our troops, beyond the position occupied at the beginning of the engagement.

The enemy renewed the assault on our left several times, but was repulsed with loss. He finally ceased to advance his infantry, and for several hours kept up a furious fire from his numerous batteries, under which our troops held their position with great coolness and courage. The attack on our left was speedily followed by one in heavy force on the centre. This was met by part of Walker's division and the brigades of G. B. Anderson and Rodes, of D. H. Hill's command, assisted by a few pieces of artillery. The enemy was repulsed, and retired behind the crest of a hill, from which they kept up a desultory fire.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
17th (1)
16th (1)
14th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: