previous next

[590] hill. About thirty men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Betts, Twelfth Alabama, of my division, remained as supports to my division batteries, under Jones, Hardaway, and Bondurant. The Yankee columns were allowed to come within easy range, when a sudden storm of grape and canister drove them back in confusion. Betts's men must have given them a very hot fire, as Burnside reported that he had met three heavy columns on the hill. It is difficult to imagine how thirty men could so multiply themselves as to appear to the frightened Yankees to be three heavy columns. On our extreme right, however, the Yankees had been more successful. They had crossed the Antietam and were driving our men before them. Our forces (supposed to be A. P. Hill's or D. R. Jones's) had fallen back nearly to the road in rear of Sharpsburg, and the Yankees advanced in fine style to the crests commanding it. A few hundred yards more, and our only line of retreat would be cut off. I called Carter's attention to this imposing force of Yankees, and he opened upon them with three guns, aided by two, I think, of the Donaldsonville artillery. The firing was beautiful, and the Yankee columns (one thousand two hundred yards distant) were routed by this artillery fire alone, unaided by musketry. This is the only instance I have ever known of infantry being broken by artillery fire at long range. It speaks badly for the courage of Burnside's men.

Captain Carter says, “The next movement of the enemy was to advance a heavy column on the extreme right, bearing down on what I supposed to have been the right wing of A. P. Hill's division. Our troops gave way entirely before the column. With three pieces of my battery, aided by two of Lieutenant Elliott's, this column was shattered and driven back, without the assistance (so far as I know) of any infantry whatever. Generals D. H. Hill and Rodes witnessed the firing.” Our troops advanced, now, on the extreme right, and Burnside's whole corps was driven back. This virtually closed the operations of the day. But a movement of a rather farcical character now took place. General Pryor had gathered quite a respectable force behind a stone wall, on the Hagerstown road, and Colonel G. T. Anderson had about a regiment behind a hill, imdiately to the right of this road. A Maine regiment, the Twenty-first, (I think,) came down to this hill, wholly unconscious that there were any Confederate troops near it. A shout and a volley informed them of their dangerous neighborhood. The Yankee apprehension is acute: the idea was soon taken in, and was followed by the most rapid running I ever saw. The night closed in, with our troops in the centre, about two hundred yards in rear of the position held in the morning. We held, however, two thirds of the battle-field, including the ground gained by General A. P. Hill on our right. The only ground lost was in the centre, where the chief Yankee attack had been made, and where there had been the severest fighting and the heaviest loss to both parties. The skulkers and cowards had straggled off, and only the bravest and truest men of my division had been left. It is true that hunger and exhaustion had nearly unfitted these brave men for battle. Our wagons had been sent off across the river on Sunday, and for three days the men had been sustaining life on green corn and such cattle as they could kill in the fields. In charging through an apple orchard at the Yankees, with the immediate prospect of death before them, I noticed men eagerly devouring apples. The unparalleled loss of the division shows, that, spite of hunger and fatigue, the officers and men fought most heroically in the two battles in Maryland. The division lost three thousand out of less than nine thousand engaged at Seven Pines. Four thousand out of ten thousand in the battles around Richmond. But now, the loss was thirty-two hundred and forty-one (3241) in two battles out of less than five thousand engaged; that is, the loss was nearly two thirds of the entire force. Of these, nine hundred and twenty-five (925) are reported missing. Doubtless a large number of the missing fell into the hands of the Yankees when wounded. But even supposing that none of the missing were killed or wounded, still we have twenty-three hundred and sixteen (2316) reported killed and wounded, or nearly one half of those taken into action. Among these was one Brigadier-General killed, one mortally wounded, and three brigade commanders wounded. Four Colonels killed, eight Colonels wounded. One Lieutenant-Colonel killed, seven Lieutenant-Colonels wounded. Two Majors killed, and two Majors wounded. There were but thirty-four field officers present in the battles, and only nine left when they were over. The mortality was equally great among company commanders, and several regiments were left under command of Lieutenants. Still the stubborn spirit of the men was not subdued. From fifteen to seventeen hundred were gathered together on the morning of the eighteenth, and placed in a position more sheltered than the one occupied the day before, and, I think, would have fought with determination, if not with enthusiasm, had the Yankees made an advance. Our northern brethren were too much shattered to renew the contest, and that night we recrossed the Potomac.

The battle of Sharpsburg was a success, so far as the failure of the Yankees to carry the position they assailed. It would, however, have been a glorious victory for us, but for three causes. 1. The separation of our forces. Had McLaws and R. H. Anderson been there earlier in the morning, the battle would not have lasted two hours, and would have been signally disastrous to the Yankees. 2. The bad handling of our artillery. This could not cope with the superior weight, calibre, range, and number of the Yankee guns. Hence it ought only to have been used against masses of infantry. On the contrary, our guns were made to reply to the Yankee guns, and were smashed up or withdrawn before they could be effectually turned against massive columns of attack. An artillery duel between the Washington artillery and the Yankee batteries across the Antietam, on the sixteenth, was the

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 Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
A. P. Hill (3)
Burnside (3)
D. R. Jones (2)
B. F. Carter (2)
Betts (2)
R. E. Rodes (1)
R. A. Pryor (1)
L. McLaws (1)
D. H. Hill (1)
Hardaway (1)
Thomas Elliott (1)
Bondurant (1)
R. H. Anderson (1)
George T. Anderson (1)
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.
18th (1)
16th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: