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[614] places, for a considerable distance, there were no men at all; while just beyond us, across an open field, about four or five hundred yards distant, were the lines of the enemy, apparently double and treble, supporting numerous batteries, which crossed fire over every portion of the ground. The artillery of the enemy was so far superior to ours in weight of metal, character of gun, and numbers, and in quality of ammunition, that there was but very little to be gained by opposing ours to it, and I therefore did not renew the attempt after the first experiment.

The ground over which the Mississippi brigade, General Barksdale, advanced, and to his right, was thickly strewn with the dead and wounded of the enemy, far exceeding our own, and their dead were much more numerous than their wounded. The close proximity of the combatants to each other may account for the disproportion.

General Cobb's brigade, going in, extended itself farther to the right than I intended; but the Colonel commanding, Colonel Sanders, Twenty-fourth Georgia, did not learn my orders to correct the error, (so it is reported,) and the engagement commencing immediately, the brigade went on to a position several hundred yards to the right of the woods and defended it.

General Semmes was sent to the left, just after his brigade came on the ground, by direction of General Jackson, to give support to General Stuart. His brigade drove the enemy through the woods, and beyond them for a considerable distance.

General Kershaw's brigade was more exposed in its first advance than any other, as it had to move over a large open space, before reaching the woods, which there afforded less protection; but the command went in with enthusiasm, and drove the enemy up to their batteries and reserves, and then retired to the woods from which they had first driven the enemy, as did the other brigades of Cobb, Semmes, and Barksdale, because of the weakness of their own lines, the want of immediate support, the want of ammunition, and the fatigue of the men. I call attention to the fact, that Colonel Nance, commanding the Third South Carolina regiment, of General Kershaw's brigade, brought his regiment from the ground in perfect order, and formed it in the rear, to be supplied with ammunition, with the precision of a parade. This perfect control of his men is owing to the high state of discipline and good drill for which his regiment is distinguished.

General Barksdale re-formed on the ground he went over; General Semmes was placed in reserve in his rear; General Cobb's brigade on the left of General Kershaw, who had previously moved to the left of the line.

The enemy having abandoned their attempt to advance, I had an opportunity to examine the relative positions of our troops and those of the enemy, and soon became convinced that we had nothing to gain by an advance of our troops. The strong position of the enemy was along the Antietam, the right bank of which (the side toward our army) was swept by numerous batteries of artillery, posted along the left banks, which commanded the right. Their position along the left bank was a very strong one, having the Antietam in their front and Maryland Heights in their rear. For us to force them back on the Antietam was to force them to concentration in their reserves, of which we had none, to weaken our lines and scatter our troops, so that in the event of a reverse, no rally of any considerable body could be made, and the final result would not probably have been such as to have entitled us to claim, as we now can, the battle of Sharpsburg as one of the greatest successes, if not the greatest success, of the war, when the enormous disparity between our forces and those of the Yankees are considered.

Brigadier-Generals Kershaw, Semmes, and Barksdale deserve high praise for their heroic conduct in the fight, and for the skilful manner their brigades were handled.

Colonel Sanders, of Twenty-fourth Georgia, who commanded Cobb's brigade during the first part of the engagement, carried it forward in good order, and the brigade maintained its position, and drove the enemy for some distance, retiring, after losing forty-three per cent. of its strength. Lieutenant-Colonel McRae, of the Fifteenth North Carolina regiment, commanded the brigade during the latter part of the fight.

The losses in the different brigades, including the different batteries, were as follows:

commands.carried into action.killed and wounded.Missing.Per cent.General average.
Officers.Enlisted Men.Officers.Enlisted Men.
Brigadier-General Kershaw1128244430563839-5
Brigadier-General Semmes6364627281644
Brigadier-General Barksdale8980232258433
Brigadier-General Cobbnot known357111351043

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Paul J. Semmes (5)
J. B. Kershaw (5)
Thomas R. R. Cobb (5)
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James T. Sanders (2)
S. F. Stuart (1)
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