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Chapter 34: private letters.
[Sept. 2 to Sept. 14, 1862.]

Sept. 2, 12.30 P. M.

I was surprised this morning, when at breakfast, by a visit from the President and Halleck, in which the former expressed the opinion that the troubles now impending could be overcome better by me than any one else. Pope is ordered to fall back upon Washington, and, as he re-enters, everything is to come under my command again! A terrible and thankless task. Yet I will do my best, with God's blessing, to perform it. God knows that I need His help. I am too busy to write any more now. Pray that God will help me in the great task now imposed upon me. I assume it reluctantly, with a full knowledge of all its difficulties and of the immensity of the responsibility. I only consent to take it for my country's sake and with the humble hope that God has called me to it; how I pray that He may support me! . . . Don't be worried; my conscience is clear, and I trust in God.

Sept. 3, 11.30 A. M.

. . . I am now about to jump into the saddle, and will be off all day. I did not return from my ride last night until after midnight. I went out to meet the troops and place them in position. Colburn and I rode out several miles to the front. All is quiet to-day, and I think the capital is safe. Just as I was starting off yesterday to gather up the army, supposing that I would find it savagely followed up by the rebels, and that I might have dangerous work before me, I commenced the enclosed scrawl on a scrap of paper as a good-by; could not even finish it. It may amuse you now that the danger is over:

Enclosure--Sept. 2, 4 P. M.--. . . I am just about starting out to pick up the Army of the Potomac. Don't know whether I will get back, but can't resist saying one last word to you before I start. . .


Sept. 5, 11 A. M.

. . . Again I have been called upon to save the country. The case is desperate, but with God's help I will try unselfishly to do my best, and, if He wills it, accomplish the salvation of the nation. My men are true and will stand by me till the last. I still hope for success, and will leave nothing undone to gain it. . . . How weary I am of this struggle against adversity! But one thing sustains me — that is, my trust in God. I know that the interests at stake are so great as to justify His interference; not for me, but for the innocent thousands, millions rather, who have been plunged in misery by no fault of theirs. It is probable that our communications will be cut off in a day or two, but don't be worried. You may rest assured that I am doing all I can for my country, and that no shame shall rest upon you, wilfully brought upon you by me. . . . My hands are full, so is my heart. . . .

Sept. 5, 4 P. M.-. . . It makes my heart bleed to see the poor, shattered remnants of my noble Army of the Potomac, poor fellows! and to see how they love me even now. I hear them calling out to me as I ride among them, “George, don't leave us again!” “They sha'n't take you away from us again,” etc., etc. I can hardly restrain myself when I see how fearfully they are reduced in numbers, and realize how many of them lie unburied on the field of battle, where their lives were uselessly sacrificed. It is the most terrible trial I ever experienced. Truly, God is trying me in the fire . . . .

Telegram--Washington, Sept. 7, 2.50 P. M.--We are all well and the entire army is now united, cheerful, and confident. You need not fear the result, for I believe that God will give us the victory. I leave here this afternoon to take command of the troops in the field. The feeling of the government towards me, I am sure, is kind and trusting. I hope, with God's blessing, to justify the great confidence they now repose in me, and will bury the past in oblivion. A victory now and we will soon be together. I send short letter to-day. God bless and reward your trust in Him, and all will be well.

Sept. 7, 2.30 P. M., Sunday.

. . . I leave in a couple of hours to take command of the army in the field. I shall go to Rockville [568] to-night and start out after the rebels to-morrow. I shall have nearly 100,000 men, old and new, and hope, with God's blessing, to gain a decisive victory.

Sept. 8, camp near Rockville.

. . . You don't know what a task has been imposed upon me! I have been obliged to do the best I could with the broken and discouraged fragments of two armies defeated by no fault of mine. Nothing but a desire to do my duty could have induced me to accept the command under such circumstances. Not feeling at all sure that I could do anything, I felt that under the circumstances no one else could save the country, and I have not shrunk from the terrible task. McDowell's own men would have killed him had he made his appearance among them; even his staff did not dare to go among his men. I can afford to forgive and forget him. I saw Pope and McDowell for a few moments at Upton's Hill when I rode out to meet the troops and assume command. I have not seen them since; I hope never to lay eyes on them again. Between them they are responsible for the lives of many of my best and bravest men. They have done all they could (unintentionally, I hope) to ruin and destroy the country. I can never forgive them that. Pope has been foolish enough to try to throw the blame of his defeat on the Army of the Potomac. He would have been wiser to have accepted his defeat without complaint. I will probably move some four or five miles further to the front tomorrow, as I have ordered the whole army forward. I expect to fight a great battle and to do my best at it. I do not think secesh will catch me very badly.

Tuesday morning, 8.30.

. . . I hope to learn this morning something definite as to the movements of secesh, to be enabled to regulate my own. I hardly expect to equal the genius of Mr. Pope, but I hope to waste fewer lives and to accomplish something more than lame defeat. I have ordered a general advance of a few miles to-day, which will bring us on the line of the Seneca, and near enough to secesh to find out what he is doing, and take measures accordingly. I shall follow him wherever he goes and do my best to beat him. If I accomplish that the campaign will be ended.


. . . The fact is, that commanding such an army as [569] this, picked up after a defeat, is no very easy thing; it does take a great deal of time and infinite labor. In coming to Rockville we arrived about midnight. Yesterday we came out to this camp, which is about a half-mile from the town. I am still uncertain whether I shall move headquarters to-day, or on which road, as that depends on the information I receive as to the enemy. I probably won't go more than four or five miles in a central direction. . . . If I can add the defeat of secesh I think I ought to be entitled to fall back into private life. . . .

Sept. 9, camp near Rockville, 5 P. M.

. . . Am going out in a few minutes to ride over to the camp of the regulars, whom I have not been to see for a long time, and who welcomed me so cordially the other night, brave fellows that they are.

It is hard to get accurate news from the front. The last reports from Pleasonton are that the enemy have 110,000 on this side of the river. I have not so many, so I must watch them closely and try to catch them in some mistake, which I hope to do. My people are mostly in front of here, some six to ten miles; moved forward to-day. They are, I think, well placed to be concentrated wherever it may be necessary, and I want now a little breathing-time to get them rested and in good order for fighting. Most of them will do well now; a few days will confirm this still further, increase my cavalry force, and put me in better condition generally. I think my present positions will check the advance into Pennsylvania and give me time to get some reinforcements that I need very much. . . . I have this moment learned that, in addition to the force on this side of the river, the enemy has also a large force near Leesburg, so McC. has a difficult game to play, but will do his best and try to do his duty.

Sept. 11, camp near Rockville.

. . . I have just time before starting to say good-by. . . I am quite tired this morning, as I did not get back from a ride to Burnside's until three A. M.; the night before I was at the telegraph office sending and receiving despatches until the same hour, and how it will be to-night is more than I can tell . . . .

Sept. 12, 3 P. M., camp near Urbana.

As our wagons are not [570] yet up, and won't be for a couple of hours, I avail myself of the “advantages of the situation” to scrawl a few lines to you. . . . We are travelling now through one of the most lovely regions I have ever seen, quite broken with lovely valleys in all directions, and some fine mountains in the distance. From all I can gather secesh is skedaddling, and I don't think I can catch him unless he is really moving into Pennsylvania; in that case I shall catch him before he has made much headway towards the interior. I am beginning to think he is making off to get out of the scrape by recrossing the river at Williamsport, in which case my only chance of bagging him will be to cross lower down and cut into his communications near Winchester. He evidently don't want to fight me, for some reason or other. . . . I have never injured--, therefore I am not called upon to make any advances to him, as the professor seems to think I ought. As for ever having any friendly relation with him, it is simply absurd. . . .

7.30 P. M.

My tent has been pitched some time. I have given all the orders necessary for to-morrow, and they have all gone to the various camps. . . . I believe that I have done all in my power and that the arrangement of the troops is good. I learned an hour or two ago, through the signal, that our troops were entering Frederick. We certainly ought to be there in respectable force by this time. My only apprehension now is that secesh will arrange to get back across the Potomac at Williamsport before I can catch him. If he goes to Pennsylvania I think I must overhaul him before long and give him a good lesson. If he does go to Pennsylvania I feel quite confident that I can so arrange things that the chances will all be that he will never return; but I presume he is smart enough to know that and to act accordingly. . . . Interrupted here by the news that we really have Frederick. Burnside and Pleasonton both there. The next trouble is to save the garrison of Harper's Ferry, which is, I fear, in danger of being captured by the rebels. They were not placed under my orders until this afternoon, although before I left Washington I strongly urged that they should be withdrawn at once, as I feared they would be captured. But other counsels prevailed, and I am rather anxious as to the result, If they are not taken by this time I think I can save them; at all events, nothing in my power shall be left undone to accomplish this result. I feel sure of one thing now, and that is that my men will fight [571] well. . . . The moment I hear that Harper's Ferry is safe I shall feel quite sure of the result. . . . The people cheered the troops tremendously when they entered Frederick. I have thus far found the Union sentiment much stronger in this region than I had expected. People are disposed to be very kind and polite to me; invite me into their houses, offer me dinner and various other acts of kindness that are quite unknown in the Peninsula.

Sept. 14, Frederick, A. M.

I have only time to say good-morning this bright, sunny Sunday, and then start to the front to try to relieve Harper's Ferry, which is sorely pressed by secesh. It is probable that we shall have a serious engagement to-day, and perhaps a general battle; if we have one at all during this operation it ought to be to-day or to-morrow. I feel as reasonably confident of success as any one well can who trusts in a higher power and does not know what its decision will be. I can't describe to you for want of time the enthusiastic reception we met with yesterday at Frederick. I was nearly overwhelmed and pulled to pieces. I enclose with this a little flag that some enthusiastic lady thrust into or upon Dan's bridle. As to flowers — they came in crowds! In truth, I was seldom more affected than by the scenes I saw yesterday and the reception I met with; it would have gratified you very much . . . .


Chapter 35:

In riding into Frederick I passed through Sumner's corps, which I had not seen for some time. The men and officers were so enthusiastic as to show that they had lost none of their old feeling. During the march (from Washington up) I was much with the regulars, generally encamping with them. I never can forget their constant enthusiasm; even when I passed through them several times a day on the march they would jump up (if at a rest) and begin cheering in a way that regulars are not wont to do. Poor fellows!

Our reception at Frederick was wonderful. Men, women, and children crowded around us, weeping, shouting, and praying; they clung around old Dan's neck and almost suffocated the old fellow, decking him out with flags. The houses were all decorated with flags, and it was a general scene of joy. The secession expedition had been an entire failure in that quarter; they received no recruits of the slightest consequence and no free — will offerings of any kind.

It was soon ascertained that the main body of the enemy's forces had marched out of the city on the two previous days, taking the roads to Boonsborough and Harper's Ferry, thereby rendering it necessary to force the passes through the Catoctin and South Mountain ridges, and gain possession of Boonsborough and Rohrersville, before any relief could be extended to Col. Miles at Harper's Ferry.

On the 13th an order fell into my hands issued by Gen. Lee, which fully disclosed his plans, and I immediately gave orders for a rapid and vigorous forward movement.

The following is a copy of the order referred to: [573]

headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, Sept. 9, 1862.
Special Orders, No. 191.
The army will resume its march to-morrow, taking the Hagerstown road. Gen. Jackson's command will form the advance, and after passing Middletown, with such portion as he may select, will take the route towards Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac at the most convenient point, and by Friday night take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of the enemy as may be at Martinsburg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from Harper's Ferry.

Gen. Longstreet's command will pursue the same road as far as Boonsborough, where it will halt with the reserve, supply. and baggage trains of the army.

Gen. McLaws, with his own division and that of Gen. R. H. Anderson, will follow Gen. Longstreet; on reaching Middletown he will take the route to Harper's Ferry, and by Friday morning possess himself of the Maryland Heights and endeavor to capture the enemy at Harper's Ferry and vicinity.

Gen. Walker, with his division, after accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take possession of Loudon Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning; Keys's ford on his left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable, co-operate with Gen. McLaws and Gen. Jackson in intercepting the retreat of the enemy.

Gen. D. R. Hill's division will form the rear-guard of the army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve artillery, ordnance and supply-trains, etc., will precede Gen. Hill.

Gen. Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Gens. Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and, with the main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army and bring up all stragglers that may have been left behind.

The commands of Gens. Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Boonsborough or Hagerstown.

Each regiment on the march will habitually carry its axes in the regimental ordnance-wagons, for use of the men at their encampments, to procure mood, etc.

By command of Gen. R. E. Lee.

R. H. Chilton, Assist. Adj.-Gen, Maj.-Gen. D. H. Hill, Commanding Division.


On the morning of the 13th Gen. Pleasonton was ordered to send Reynolds's brigade and a section of artillery in the direction of Gettysburg, and Rush's regiment towards Jefferson to communicate with Franklin, to whom the 6th U. S. Cavalry and a section of artillery had previously been sent, and to proceed with the remainder of his force in the direction of Middletown in pursuit of the enemy.

After skirmishing with the enemy all the morning, and driving them from several strong positions, he reached Turner's Gap of the South Mountain in the afternoon, and found the enemy in force and apparently determined to defend the pass. He sent back for infantry to Gen. Burnside, who had been directed to support him, and proceeded to make a reconnoissance of the position.

The South Mountain is at this point about one thousand feet in height, and its general direction is from northeast to southwest. The national road from Frederick to Hagerstown crosses it nearly at right angles through Turner's Gap, a depression which is some four hundred feet in depth.

The mountain on the north side of the turnpike is divided into two crests or ridges by a narrow valley, which, though deep at the pass, becomes a slight depression at about a mile to the north. There are two country roads--one to the right of the turnpike and the other to the left — which give access to the crests overlooking the main road. The one on the left, called the “Old Sharpsburg road,” is nearly parallel to, and about half a mile distant from, the turnpike until it reaches the crest of the mountain, when it bends off to the left. The other road, called the “Old Hagerstown road,” passes up a ravine in the mountains about a mile from the turnpike, and, bending to the left over and along the first crest, enters the turnpike at the Mountain House near the summit of the pass.

On the night of the 13th the positions of the different corps were as follows:

Reno's corps at Middletown, except Rodman's division at Frederick.

Hooker's corps on the Monocacy, two miles from Frederick.

Sumner's corps near Frederick.

Banks's corps near Frederick.

Sykes's division near Frederick. [575]

Franklin's corps at Buckeystown.

Couch's division at Licksville.

The orders from headquarters for the march on the 14th were as follows:

May 13th, 11.30 P. M.
Hooker to march at daylight to Middletown.

May 13th, 11.30 P. M.
Sykes to move at six A. M., after Hooker, on the Middletown and Hagerstown road.

May 14th, 1 A. M.
Artillery reserve to follow Sykes closely.

May 13th, 8.45 P. M.
Turner to move at seven A. M.

May 14th, 9 A. M.
Sumner ordered to take the Shookstown road to Middletown.1


May 13th, 6.45 P. M.
Couch ordered to move to Jefferson with his whole division.

On the 14th Gen. Pleasonton continued his reconnoissance. Gibson's battery and afterwards Benjamin's battery (of Reno's corps) were placed on high ground to the left of the turnpike, and obtained a direct fire on the enemy's position in the Gap.

Gen. Cox's division, which had been ordered up to support Gen. Pleasonton, left its bivouac near Middletown at six A. M. The 1st brigade reached the scene of action about nine A. M.. and was sent up the old Sharpsburg road by Gen. Pleasonton to feel the enemy and ascertain if he held the crest on that side in strong force. This was soon found to be the case; and Gen. Cox having arrived with the other brigade, and information having been received from Gen. Reno that the column would be supported by the whole corps, the division was ordered to assault the position. Two 20-pounder Parrotts of Simmons's battery and two sections of McMullan's battery were left in the rear in position near the turnpike, where they did good service during the day against the enemy's batteries in the Gap. Scammon's brigade was deployed, and, well covered by skirmishers, moved up the slope to the left of the road with the object of turning the enemy's right, if possible. It succeeded in gaining the crest and establishing itself there, in spite of the vigorous efforts of the enemy, who was posted behind stone walls and in the edges of timber, and the fire of a battery which poured in canister and case-shot on the regiment on the right of the brigade. Col. Crook's brigade marched in columns at supporting distance. A section of McMullan's battery, under Lieut. Croome (killed while serving one of his guns), was moved up with great difficulty, and opened with canister at very short range on the enemy's infantry, by whom (after having, done considerable execution) it was soon silenced and forced to withdraw.

One regiment of Crook's brigade was now deployed on Scammon's left and the other two in his rear, and they several times entered the first line and relieved the regiments in front of them when hard pressed. A section of Sumner's battery was brought up and placed in the open space in the woods, where it did good service during the rest of the day.

The enemy several times attempted to retake the crest, advancing with boldness, but were each time repulsed. They [577] then withdrew their battery to a point more to the right, and formed columns on both our flanks. It was now about noon, and a lull occurred in the contest which lasted about two hours, during which the rest of the corps was coming up. Gen. Wilcox's division was the first to arrive. When he reached the base of the mountain Gen. Cox advised him to consult Gen. Pleasonton as to a position. The latter indicated that on the right afterwards taken up by Gen. Hooker. Gen. Wilcox was in the act of moving to occupy this ground when he received an order from Gen. Reno to move up the old Sharpsburg road and take a position to its right overlooking the turnpike. Two regiments were detached to support Gen. Cox at his request. One section of Cooke's battery was placed in position near the turn of the road (on the crest), and opened fire on the enemy's batteries across the Gap. The division was proceeding to deploy to the right of the road when the enemy suddenly opened (at one hundred and fifty yards) with a battery which enfiladed the road at this point, drove off Cooke's cannoneers with their Iimbers, and caused a temporary panic in which the guns were nearly lost. But the 79th N. Y. and 17th Mich. promptly rallied, changed front under a heavy fire, and moved out to protect the guns, with which Capt. Cooke had remained. Order was soon restored, and the division formed in line on the right of Cox, and was kept concealed as much as possible under the hillside until the whole line advanced. It was exposed not only to the fire of the battery in front, but also to that of the batteries on the other side of the turnpike, and lost heavily.

Shortly before this time Gens. Burnside and Reno arrived at the base of the mountain, and the former directed the latter to move up the divisions of Gens. Sturgis and Rodman to the crest held by Cox and Wilcox, and to move upon the enemy's position with his whole force as soon as he was informed that Gen. Hooker (who had just been directed to attack on the right) was well advanced up the mountain.

Gen. Reno then went to the front and assumed the direction of affairs, the positions having been explained to him by Gen. Pleasonton. Shortly before this time I arrived at the point occupied by Gen. Burnside, and my headquarters were located there until the conclusion of the action. Gen. Sturgis had left his camp at one P. M., and reached the scene of action about 3.30 P. M. [578] Clark's battery, of his division, was sent to assist Cox's left by order of Gen. Reno, and two regiments (2d Md. and 6th N. H.) were detached by Gen. Reno and sent forward a short distance on the left of the turnpike. His division was formed in rear of Wilcox's, and Rodman's division was divided; Col. Fairchild's brigade being placed on the extreme left, and Col. Harland's, under Gen. Rodman's personal supervision, on the right.

My order to move the whole line forward and take or silence the enemy's batteries in front was executed with enthusiasm. The enemy made a desperate resistance, charging our advancing lines with fierceness, but they were everywhere routed, and fled.

Our chief loss was in Wilcox's division. The enemy's battery was found to be across a gorge and beyond the reach of our infantry; but its position was made untenable, and it was hastily removed and not again put in position near us. But the batteries across the Gap still kept up a fire of shot and shell.

Gen. Wilcox praises very highly the conduct of the 17th Mich. in this advance — a regiment which had been organized scarcely a month, but which charged the advancing enemy in flank in a manner worthy of veteran troops; and also that of the 45th Penn., which bravely met them in front.

Cooke's battery now reopened fire. Sturgis's division was moved to the front of Wilcox's, occupying the new ground gained on the further side of the slope, and his artillery opened on the batteries across the Gap. The enemy made an effort to turn our left about dark, but were repulsed by Fairchild's brigade and Clark's battery.

At about seven o'clock the enemy made another effort to regain the lost ground, attacking along Sturgis's front and part of Cox's. A lively fire was kept up until nearly nine o'clock, several charges being made by the enemy and repulsed with slaughter, and we finally occupied the highest part of the mountain.

Gen. Reno was killed just before sunset, while making a reconnoissance to the front, and the command of the corps devolved upon Gen. Cox. In Gen. Reno the nation lost one of its best general officers. He was a skilful soldier, a brave and honest man.

There was no firing after ten o'clock, and the troops slept on [579] their arms, ready to renew the fight at daylight; but the enemy quietly retired from our front during the night, abandoning their wounded, and leaving their dead in large numbers scattered over the field. While these operations were progressing on the left of the main column, the right, under Gen. Hooker, was actively engaged. His corps left the Monocacy early in the morning, and its advance reached the Catoctin creek about one P. M. Gen. Hooker then went forward to examine the ground.

At about one o'clock Gen. Meade's division was ordered to make a diversion in favor of Reno. The following is the order sent:

Sept. 14, 1 P. M.
general: Gen. Reno requests that a division of yours may move up on the right (north) of the main road. Gen. McClellan desires you to comply with this request, holding your whole corps in readiness to support the movement, and taking charge of it yourself.

Sumner's and Banks's corps have commenced arriving. Let Gen. McClellan be informed as soon as you commence your movement.

George D. Ruggles, Col., Asst. Adj.-Gen., and Aide-de-Camp. Maj.-Gen. Hooker.

Meade's division left Catoctin creek about two o'clock, and turned off to the right from the main road on the old Hagerstown road to Mount Tabor church, where Gen. Hooker was, and deployed a short distance in advance, its right resting about one and a half miles from the turnpike. The enemy fired a few shots from a battery on the mountain-side, but did no considerable damage. Cooper's battery, “B,” 1st Penn. Artillery, was placed in position on high ground at about three and a half o'clock, and fired at the enemy on the slope, but soon ceased by order of Gen. Hooker, and the position of our lines prevented any further use of artillery by us on this part of the field. The 1st Mass. Cavalry was sent up the valley to the right to observe the movements, if any, of the enemy in that direction, and one regiment of Meade's division was posted to watch a road coming in the same direction. The other divisions were deployed as they came up--Gen. Hatch's on the left, and Gen. Ricketts's, which arrived at five P. M., in the rear. Gen. Gibbon's [580] brigade was detached from Hatch's division by Gen. Burnside, for the purpose of making a demonstration on the enemy's centre, up the main road, as soon as the movements on the right and left had sufficiently progressed. The 1st Penn. Rifles, of Gen. Seymour's brigade, were sent forward as skirmishers to feel the enemy, and it was found that he was in force. Meade was then directed to advance his division to the right of the road, so as to outflank them, if possible, and then to move forward and attack, while Hatch was directed to take with his division the crest on the left of the old Hagerstown road, Ricketts's division being held in reserve. Seymour's brigade was sent up to the top of the slope, on the right of the ravine through which the road runs, and then moved along the summit parallel to the road, while Col. Gallagher's and Col. Magilton's brigades moved in the same direction along the slope and in the ravine.

The ground was of the most difficult character for the movement of troops, the hillside being very steep and rocky, and obstructed by stone walls and timber. The enemy was very soon encountered, and in a short time the action became general along the whole front of the division. The line advanced steadily up the mountain-side, where the enemy was posted behind trees and rocks, from which he was gradually dislodged. During this advance Col. Gallagher, commanding 3d brigade, was severely wounded, and the command devolved upon Lieut.-Col. Robert Anderson.

Gen. Meade, having reason to believe that the enemy was attempting to outflank him on his right, applied to Gen. Hooker for reinforcements. Gen. Duryea's brigade, of Ricketts's division, was ordered up, but it did not arrive until the close of the action. It was advanced on Seymour's left, but only one regiment could open fire before the enemy retired and darkness intervened.

Gen. Meade speaks highly of Gen. Seymour's skill in handling his brigade on the extreme right, securing by his manoeuvres the great object of the movement — the outflanking of the enemy.

While Gen. Meade was gallantly driving the enemy on the right, Gen. Hatch's division was engaged in a severe contest for the possession of the crest on the left of the ravine. It moved up the mountain in the following order: Two regiments of Gen. [581] Patrick's brigade deployed as skirmishers, with the other two regiments of the same brigade supporting them; Col. Phelps's brigade in line of battalions in mass at deploying distance, Gen. Doubleday's brigade in the same order bringing up the rear. The 21st N. Y. having gone straight up the slope, instead of around to the right as directed, the 2d U. S. Sharpshooters was sent out in its place. Phelps's and Doubleday's brigades were deployed in turn as they reached the woods, which began about half up the mountain. Gen. Patrick with his skirmishers soon drew the fire of the enemy, and found him strongly posted behind a fence which bounded the cleared space on the top of the ridge, having on his front the woods through which our line was advancing, and in his rear a cornfield full of rocky ledges, which afforded good cover to fall back to if dislodged.

Phelps's brigade gallantly advanced, under a hot fire, to close quarters, and, after ten or fifteen minutes of heavy firing on both sides (in which Gen. Hatch was wounded while urging on his men), the fence was carried by a charge, and our line advanced a few yards beyond it, somewhat sheltered by the slope of the hill.

Doubleday's brigade, now under the command of Lieut.-Col. Hoffmann (Col. Wainwright having been wounded), relieved Phelps, and continued firing for an hour and a half; the enemy, behind ledges of rocks some thirty or forty paces in our front, making a stubborn resistance and attempting to charge on the least cessation of our fire. About dusk Col. Christian's brigade of Ricketts's division came up and relieved Doubleday's brigade, which fell back into line behind Phelps's. Christian's brigade continued the action for thirty or forty minutes, when the enemy retired, after having made an attempt to flank us on the left, which was repulsed by the 75th N. Y. and 7th Ind.

The remaining brigade of Ricketts's division (Gen. Hartsuff's) was moved up in the centre, and connected Meade's left with Doubleday's right. We now had possession of the summit of the first ridge, which commanded the turnpike on both sides of the mountain, and the troops were ordered to hold their positions until further orders, and slept on their arms.

Late in the afternoon Gen. Gibbon, with his brigade and one section of Gibbon's battery ( “B,” 4th Artillery), was ordered to move up the main road on the enemy's centre. He advanced [582] a regiment on each side of the road, preceded by skirmishers, and followed by the other two regiments in double column; the artillery moving on the road until within range of the enemy's guns, which were firing on the column from the gorge.

The brigade advanced steadily, driving the enemy from his positions in the woods and behind stone walls, until they reached a point well up towards the top of the pass, when the enemy, having been reinforced by three regiments, opened a heavy fire on the front and on both flanks. The fight continued until nine o'clock, the enemy being entirely repulsed; and the brigade, after having suffered severely, and having expended all its ammunition, including even the cartridges of the dead and wounded, continued to hold the ground it had so gallantly won until twelve o'clock, when it was relieved by Gen. Gorman's brigade, of Sedgwick's division, Sumner's corps (except the 6th Wis., which remained on the. field all night). Gen. Gibbon, in this delicate movement, handled his brigade with as much precision and coolness as if upon parade, and the bravery of his troops could not be excelled.

The 2d corps (Sumner's) and the 12th corps (Williams's) reached their final positions shortly after dark. Gen. Richardson's division was placed near Mount Tabor Church, in a position to support our right, if necessary; the 12th corps and Sedgwick's division bivouacked around Bolivar, in a position to support our centre and left.

Gen. Sykes's division of regulars and the artillery reserve halted for the night at Middletown. Thus on the night of the 14th the whole army was massed in the vicinity of the field of battle, in readiness to renew the action the next day or to move in pursuit of the enemy. At daylight our skirmishers were advanced, and it was found that he had retreated during the night, leaving his dead on the field and his wounded uncared for.

I had reached the front at Middletown about noon, or a little before noon, and while there received the messenger from Harper's Ferry by whom I sent the despatch to Gen. Miles before mentioned. Immediately afterwards I rode forward to a point from which I could see the Gap and the adjacent ground. About the time I started Reno sent back a message desiring that a division might be sent to the rear of the pass. I sent the order to Hooker to move at once. (Burnside had nothing to do with [583] this.) Marcy went with him and remained there most of the day. I rather think that he really deserved most of the credit for directing the movement, but, with his usual modesty, he would say little or nothing about it.

I pushed up Sturgis to support Cox, and hurried up Sumner to be ready as a reserve. Burnside never came as near the battle as my position. Yet it was his command that was in action! He spent the night in the same house that I did. In the course of the evening, when I had prepared the telegram to the President announcing the result of the day, I showed it to Burnside before sending it off, and asked if it was satisfactory to him; he replied that it was altogether so. Long afterwards it seems that he came to the conclusion that I did not give him sufficient credit; but he never said a word to me on the subject.

On the next day I had the honor to receive the following very kind despatch from the President:

War Department, Washington, Sept. 15, 1862, 2.45 P. M.
Your despatch of to-day received. God bless you and all with you! Destroy the rebel army, if possible.

The following despatch was also received on the 16th:

West Point, Sept. 16th, 1862. (received, Frederick, Sept. 16th, 1862, 10.40 A. M.)
To Maj.-Gen. McClellan:
Bravo, my dear general! Twice more and it's done.

1 By letter, dated Boston, May 19, 1884, Gen. F. A. Walker called the attention of Gen. McClellan to a statement made by the Comte de Paris in his “History of the civil War in America,” attributing delay in the advance from Frederick to Gen. Sumner and the 2d corps. The following reply, which I find among the papers relating to South Mountain, indicates Gen. McClellan's intention to embody its substance in his narrative when he should reach this point in his review:

32 Washington Square, N. Y., May 21, 1884.
my dear Sir : Yours of the 19th has just reached me.

My attention was never called to the point in question.

Like yourself, I am fully satisfied as to the candor and honesty of the Comte de Paris, but his work is not free from unintentional errors, of which this is an example.

My report shows that at 8.45 P. M. of the 13th the 2d corps was ordered to move at seven A. M. on the 14th by the direct road to Middletown, following Sykes at an hour's interval.

Hooker did not move as promptly as ordered, and this delayed Sykes and Sumner. Therefore at nine A. M. I ordered Sumner to take the more circuitous road by Shookstown, that his march might be free from encumbrance.

The 2d corps made its march and arrived on the field as rapidly as circumstances permitted.

I was never dissatisfied with this march of the 2d corps, and never criticised it to any one.

I can imagine the 2d corps and its brave old commander slow in getting out of a fight, but they certainly never showed any hesitation or tardiness in getting into battle. The promptness and energy with which Sumner moved from Grapevine bridge to the field of Fair Oaks is simply one example of the manner in which that corps always acted while under my command. You may rest assured that no member of the 2d corps has its honor more at heart, or is more proud of its uniformly admirable conduct, whether on the march or in battle, than is the commander under whom it first served.

In my account of Antietam I will take care to correct the error of the comte.

And am always your friend,

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