Report of Major-General McLaws of battle of Sharpsburg.
Headquarters division, October 20, 1862.sir: On the morning of the sixteenth of September, ultimo, my command, consisting of my own division and that of General Anderson, marched through Harper's Ferry from Pleasant Valley, and halted near Halltown, a short distance from the road, which turned to the right toward Shepherdstown, which was on the way to Sharpsburg, to which place I had been directed to march, by orders direct from General Lee, and afterward from General Jackson. The entire command was very much fatigued. The brigades of Generals Kershaw and Barksdale had been engaged on Maryland Heights on the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth, and on the fifteenth had been marched from the heights to the line of battle up the valley, formed to oppose that of the enemy below Crampton's Gap. Those of Generals Cobb, and Semmes, and Mahone, (Colonel Parham,) had been engaged and badly crippled at Crampton's Gap, and all the others had been guarding important points under very trying circumstances. A large number had no provisions, and a great portion had not had time or opportunity to cook what they had. All the troops had been without sleep during the night previous, except while waiting in line for the wagon trains to pass over the pontoon bridge at Harper's Ferry. I had ridden on to Charlestown to look after the sick and wounded from Pleasant Valley, when notice was sent me to hasten the troops to Sharpsburg. I returned to camp and started the command at three P. M.; halted after dark, (and the night was very dark,) within two miles of Shepherdstown, where, receiving orders to hasten forward, again commenced the march at twelve o'clock that night, many of the regiments still without provisions. I may here state that the crossing at Harper's Ferry was very much impeded by the paroled prisoners, passing over the ridge, whenever there was an opportunity offered by any accident to the bridge, causing temporary halt in the trains or batteries, which was of frequent occurrence, and the streets of Harper's Ferry town were crowded with prisoners and wagons, all of which prevented me from halting even for a moment in the town to obtain provisions there. On the morning of the seventeenth, about sunrise, the head of my column reached the vicinity of General Lee's headquarters, near Sharpsburg. I rode on to the town, looking for General Lee, and on my return, not finding him, met General Longstreet, who directed me to send General Anderson's division direct down the road to the hill beyond Sharpsburg, where he would receive orders. I learned from him where General Lee's camp was, and reported to General Lee for orders. He directed me to halt my division near to his headquarters, which was done, and I then rode back to hasten up General Anderson, whose division was in the rear. About an hour after this, my division was ordered to the front by an Aid-de-camp of General Lee's--Major Taylor. In about one mile, we came in rear of the position which was pointed out by Major Ratchford, of General D. H. Hill's staff, as the one the division was to occupy. I was, of course, entirely ignorant of the ground and of the location of the troops. General Hood, however, who was present, pointed out the direction for the advance, and my line of battle was rapidly formed--General Cobb's brigade on the right, next General Kershaw's, General Barksdale and General Semmes on the left. Just in front of the line was a large body of woods, from which parties of our troops, of whose command I do not know, were seen retiring, and the enemy, I could see, were advancing rapidly, occupying the place. My advance was ordered before the entire line of General Kershaw could be formed. As the enemy were filling the woods so rapidly, I wished my troops to cross the open space between us and the woods before they were entirely occupied. It was made steadily and in perfect order, and the troops were immediately engaged, driving the enemy before them in magnificent style, at all points, sweeping the woods with perfect ease, and inflicting great loss on the enemy. They were driven not only through the woods, but over a field in front of the woods, and over two high fences beyond, and into another body of woods over a half a mile distant from the commencement of the fight. The men were scattered by the engagement through the woods, where the enemy made their only stand, and there being no immediate support, the several brigades fell back into the woods, and the line, to maintain the position, was formed by the brigades of General Ransom, Walker's division, and of General Armistead, General Anderson's division, which had been sent to my support, of General Early, which was already in position, and the brigades of Generals Barksdale and Kershaw. Captain Read's battery had been placed in position on the right of the woods, which we had entered, and did most excellent service; but it was exposed to such a severe fire, General Kershaw ordered it back, after losing fourteen officers and men and sixteen horses. Another battery, Captain Carleton's, which I had ordered into position in the woods, in front of General Ransom's brigade, was so severely cut up in a short time by the direct and cross-fires of numerous batteries, that I ordered it to retire. The enemy did not make an attempt to retake the woods after they were driven from them, as I have mentioned, but kept up a terrific fire of artillery. There was an incessant storm of shot and shell, grape and canister; but the loss inflicted by the artillery was comparatively very small. Fortunately, the woods were on the side of a hill, the main slope of which was toward us, with numerous ledges of rock all along it. Thus it was our men, although under this fire for hours, suffered so little from it. I could do nothing but defend the position my division occupied. The line was too weak to attempt an advance. There were not men enough to make a continuous single line. In some
To the Adjutant-General, Headquarters of General Longstreet:
To the Adjutant-General, Headquarters of General Longstreet: