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History of Lane's North Carolina brigade.

By Brigadier-General James H. Lane.

No. 6.

Summer campaign of 1862--Harper's Ferry, September 14, 15.

The second day after the engagement at “Ox Hill,” we marched through Leesburg, crossed the Potomac into Maryland on the 5th, and moved in the direction of Frederick City, where we remained several days. Then recrossed the Potomac at Williamsport and marched on Harper's Ferry through Martinsburg. The evening of the 14th we advanced down the Winchester and Harper's Ferry railroad. The Seventh regiment was in advance, and its skirmishers, commanded by Captain Knox, succeeded in driving the enemy's sharpshooters from a high position overlooking the railroad. The remainder of the brigade reached this position after midnight, and there slept upon their arms until day, when every one was in readiness and awaited the orders to advance. After a short but rapid and well-directed fire from our batteries, the enemy displayed several white flags, and we marched into the place without further resistance. [194]

We captured several prisoners the evening of the 14th. Our loss was four wounded.

Sharpsburg--September 17.

We left Harper's Ferry on the 17th September, and after a very rapid and fatiguing march, recrossed the Potomac and reached Sharpsburg in time to participate in the fight. The entire brigade was ordered to the right, and on reaching the field the Twenty-eighth was detached by General A. P. Hill in person, and sent on the road to the left, leading to Sharpsburg, to repel the enemy's skirmishers who were advancing through a field of corn. The rest of the brigade moved nearly at right angles to our line on the enemy's flank. The Seventh, Thirty-third and Thirty-seventh were the regiments principally engaged. They fought well, and assisted in driving back three separate and distinct columns of the enemy. The Eighteenth was not actively engaged. I was ordered about sunset to rejoin the brigade, and on doing so ascertained that General Branch had been killed.

It was after sunset when I assumed command of the brigade. I found the Seventh, Thirty-seventh and Thirty-third posted behind a stone fence, and the Eighteenth sheltered in a hollow in rear. I ordered the Twenty-eight to the left of the line, but the order was delivered to the Eighteenth, which was posted on the left behind a rail fence, a portion of it being broken back to guard against a flank movement. The Twenty-eighth was posted to the left of the Seventh in the opening caused by the withdrawal of a few Georgia troops. Although annoyed by the enemy's sharpshooters, we held our position until ordered to fall back on the night of the 18th. We did not cross the river until the next day. General Gregg's, General Archer's and our brigade formed the rear guard of the army, and were kept in line of battle, facing the enemy, until infantry, artillery, cavalry, wagons and ambulances had all safely crossed.

Our loss in this engagement was our Brigadier-General L. O'B. Branch killed, twenty others killed, seventy-nine wounded and four missing.

Shepherdstown--September 20.

On the morning of the 20th September, we were moved, with the balance of the division, back to the ferry, near Shepherdstown. Soon after we had taken our position in line in the field of [195] corn in rear of the wheat stacks, we were ordered to advance in the “face of a storm of round shot, shell and grape.” We moved forward in line until we reached General Pender's brigade, sheltered behind the hill, in front of the residence near the ferry. Finding that General Pender was outflanked on the left, we moved by the left flank until we unmasked his brigade, and then moved forward in line again. The men, on reaching the top of the hill, raised a yell, and poured a deadly fire into the enemy, who fled precipitately and in great confusion to the river. Advancing at a double-quick we soon gained the bank of the river, and continued our destructive fire upon those who were attempting to regain the Maryland shore at the old dam just above the ferry. We held our position all that day immediately upon the bank of the river, though exposed to the heaviest cannonading of the war, and in range of the enemy's sharpshooters, who were posted in strong force in the bed of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal.

We captured a number of prisoners. Our loss was three killed and seventy-one wounded.

Lieutenant-Colonel Purdie, who bravely commanded the Eighteenth in most of these engagements, desires that special mention should be made of Captain John D. Barry, of Company I, for his coolness and gallantry and devotion to duty.

Captains Turner and Knox, of the Seventh, have, on all occasions, but especially as commanders of skirmishers, won the admiration of the entire brigade by their daring and efficiency.

Lieutenants Cloninger and McCauley, of the Twenty-eighth, are also deserving special notice for their great bravery and faithfulness in the discharge of their duties.

Very respectfully,

James, H. Lane, Brigadier-General.

Extract from Brigadier-General Archer's report.

Sharpsburg, 17th September--General Branch's brigade came down about thirty minutes after I reached the wall and formed some thirty paces to my rear, where General Branch was killed, and Colonel Lane, assuming command of his brigade, moved it down to my left.

The next morning, about nine o'clock, the little strength with which I entered the fight being completely exhausted, I turned over the command to Colonel Turney, reported to the Major-General-Commanding, and left the field. [196]

My brigade remained all that day in the same position where r had left it, and on the morning of the 19th of September, together with Gregg's and Branch's brigades, formed the rear guard of the army on its return to the Virginia shore.

Shepherdstown, 20th September--On the morning of the 20th the division moved down to repel the enemy, who were crossing the Potomac at Shepherdstown ferry. Line of battle was formed in a cornfield about three-fourth of a mile back from the ferry. Pender's brigade moved forward in the direction of the ferry, and General Gregg's and Colonel Thomas' toward a point smewhat to the right. When General Pender had gotten about half-way to the ferry, General Hill directed me to take command of the three remaining brigades (Field's, commanded by Colonel Brockenbrough, on the right; Lane's in the centre, and my own, under senior Colonel Turney, on the left) and advance to the support of Pender. I moved straight forward until within a few hundred yards of General Pender's brigade, when, on his sending me back information that the enemy was attempting to flank him on the left, I moved my flank to the left, and the left regiment of my brigade, as soon as it was unmasked by Pender's, and each other regiment as soon as unmasked by the preceding one, went in at a doublequick. Colonel Lane's next and then Field's were in like manner, and with equal spirit, thrown forward on the enemy, killing many and driving the rest down the precipitous banks into the river.

The advance of my command was made under the heaviest artillery fire I have ever witnessed. Too much praise cannot be awarded to officers and men for their conduct.

J. J. Archer, Brigadier-General Commanding.

Extract from Brigadier-General Pender's report.

Shepherdstown--My brigade formed the left of our division. Advancing to within about three hundred yards, we were opened upon by the artillery from the opposite side of the river, which lasted all day at a most terrible rate. We came upon the infantry which had crossed. I had gone to the left to oppose this force, which was far superior to my own. Finding an effort made to flank me, I placed two regiment under cover from artillery, facing the river, and threw the others on my left flank so as to check this disposition of the enemy. Holding this position a short time, General Archer came up with three brigades to the support of the [197] advanced line, and, upon seeing the flanking movement of the enemy, moved quickly to the left, when we advanced, driving them headlong into the river. After driving them from the plane, I sent the Twenty-second North Carolina, under the gallant Major Cole, to the river bank to take them as they crossed, and this it did nobly. Others of my brigade had gone to the river; but finding them too much exposed, I called them back under a hill just overhanging the river. I called out those I had first left in this exposed position, leaving Major Cole with twenty men, who remained all day, the enemy being in heavy force in the canal on the opposite side. We were exposed all day to a tremendous fire of artillery, and also to the fire of their sharpshooters.

Extract from General A. P. Hill's report.

Warrenton Springs--The march was without incident of importance, until arriving at the ford opposite Warrenton Springs. The morning after arriving (Sunday, the 24th), I was directed to occupy the hills crowning this ford. My batteries were placed in eligible positions, the brigades being sheltered in rear of them. * *

Manassas Junction--Wednesday morning, at Manassas Junction, Branch's brigade had a sharp encounter with a battery supported by the Twelfth Pennsylvania cavalry. They were soon dispersed.

Battle of Manassas--That evening (Thursday) there was a little artillery practice by some of my batteries on the enemy's infantry.

Friday morning, in accordance with orders from General Jackson, I occupied the line of the unfinished railroad — my extreme left resting near Sudley's ford; my right near the point where the road strikes the open field; Gregg, Field and Thomas in the front line — Gregg on the left and Field on the right, with Branch, Pender and Archer as supports. My batteries were in the open field in rear of the infantry, the nature of my position being such as to preclude the effective use of much artillery. The evident intention of the enemy this day was to turn our left and overwhelm Jackson's corps before Longstreet came up, and, to accomplish this, the most persistent and furious onsets were made by column after column of infantry, accompanied by numerous batteries of artillery. Soon my reserves were all in, and up to six o'clock my division, assisted by the Louisiana brigade of General Hays, commanded by Colonel Forno, with an heroic courage and obstinacy almost beyond parallel, had met and repulsed six distinct and separate assaults — a portion of the time the majority of the [198] men being without a cartridge. The reply of the gallant Gregg to a message of mine, is worthy of notice--“Tell General Hill that my ammunition is exhausted, but that I will hold my position with the bayonet.” The enemy prepared for a last and determined attempt. Their serried masses, overwhelming superiority of numbers, and bold bearing, made the chance of victory to tremble in the balance; my own division, exhausted by seven hours unremitted fighting, hardly one round per man remaining, and weakened in all things, save its unconquerable spirit. Casting about for help, fortunately it was here reported to me that the brigades of Generals Lawton and Early were near by, and, sending for them, they promptly moved to my front at the most opportune moment, and this last charge met with the same disastrous fate that had befallen those preceding. Having received an order from General Jackson to endeavor to avoid a general engagement, my commanders of brigades contented themselves with repulsing the enemy, and following them up but a few hundred yards.

During the night of the 29th, my brigades were engaged in refilling cartridge-boxes, and generally putting themselve in condition for the morrow's fight. * * * * Branch, Pender, Brockenbrough and Strong were brought from the front and placed in reserve.

On the 30th, about two o'clock, the enemy again made an attack along the whole line. The attack on my part of the line was gallantly resisted by Archer and Thomas-Gregg still holding the extreme left. This onset was so fierce, and in such force, that at first some headway was made, but throwing in Pender and Brockenbrough, their advance was again checked, and eventually repulsed with great loss. Later in the evening, I sent a message to General Jackson that I had ordered my whole line to advance, and it was approved, and he directed me to advance in echelon of brigades. This order was promptly carried out — Pender, Archer, Thomas and Branch steadily advancing. Branch on the extreme left, thrown considerably back, met no resistance, and Brockenbrough, on the extreme right, being separated by one or two of Taliaferro's brigades, advanced in conjuction with them. Gregg and Forno (Hays' brigade) were held back to meet a threatened movement on my left. The three brigades of Pender, Archer and Thomas, however, held together, and drove everything before them, capturing two batteries, many prisoners, and resting that night on Bull run; and the ground thus won was occupied that night. These [199] brigades had penetrated so far within the enemy's lines, that Captain Ashe, Assistant Adjutant-General to General Pender, was taken prisoner that night, returning from my headquarters to his own brigade.

Ox Hill--By direction of General Jackson, I sent forward the brigades of Branch and Brockenbrough to feel and engage the enemy. This battle commenced under the most unfavorable circumstances, a heavy, blinding rain-storm directly in the faces of the men. These two brigades gallantly engaged the enemy, Branch being exposed to a very heavy fire in front and in his flank. Gregg, Pender, Thomas and Archer were successively thrown in The enemy obstinately contested the ground, and it was not until the Federal Generals Kearney and Stevens had fallen in front of Thomas' brigade, that they were driven from the ground. They did not, however, retire far until later during the night, when they entirely disappeared. The brunt of this fight was borne by Branch, Gregg and Pender. * * * *

Harper's Ferry--Saturday, the 13th, arrived at Harper's Ferry, my division being in advance.

On Saturday afternoon, the necessary signals from the Loudoun and Maryland heights notified us that all was ready. I was ordered by General Jackson “to move along the left bank of the Shenandoah, and thus turn the enemy's left flank, and enter Harper's Ferry.” The enemy occupied a ridge of hills known as Bolivar heights, extending from the Potomac to the Shenandoah, naturally strong, but rendered very formidable by extensive earthworks. Having first shelled the woods over which my route lay, I moved obliquely to my right until I struck the Shenandoah. Moving down the Shenandoah, I discovered an eminence crowning the extreme left of the enemy's line, bare of all earthworks, the only obstacle being abatis or fallen timber. The enemy occupied this hill with infantry, but no artillery. Branch and Gregg were ordered to continue the march along the river, and during the night to take advantage of the ravines, cutting the precipitous banks of the river, and establish themselves on the plain to the left and rear of the enemy's work. Pender, Archer and Brockenbrough were directed to gain the crest of the hill before mentioned; Thomas followed as a reserve. The execution of this movement was entrusted to General Pender, his own brigade being commanded by Colonel Brewer. This was accomplished with but slight resistance, and the fate of Harper's Ferry was sealed. Lieutenant-Colonel [200] Walker was directed to bring up his guns, and establish them in the position thus gained. This was done during the night by the indomitable resolution and energy of Colonel Walker and his adjutant, Lieutenant Chamberlayne, ably seconded by captains of batteries. Generals Branch and Gregg had also gained the position desired, and daybreak found them in rear of the enemy's line of defence. General Pender, with Thomas in support, moved his brigades to within one hundred and fifty yards of the works, and were sheltered as much as possible from the fire of the enemy. At dawn, Lieutenant-Colonel Walker opened a rapid enfilade fire from all his batteries, at about one thousand yards' range. The enemy replied vigorously. In an hour, the enemy's fire seeming to be pretty well silenced, the batteries were ordered to cease, and this was the signal for storming the works. General Pender had commenced his advance, when the enemy again opening, Pegram and Crenshaw were run forward to within four hundred yards, and quickly coming into battery, poured in a damaging fire. The enemy now displayed a white flag, and Lieutenant Chamberlayne was sent in to know if they had surrendered.

Sharpsburg--By direction of General Jackson, I remained at. Harper's Ferry until the morning of the 17th, when, at half-past 6 A. M., I received an order from General Lee to move to Sharpsburg. Leaving Thomas with his brigade to complete the removal of the captured property, my division was put in motion at half-past 7 A. M. The head of my column arrived upon the battlefield of Sharpsburg, a distance of seventeen miles, at. half-past 2, and, reporting in person to General Lee, he directed me to take position on our right. Brigadier-General D. R. Jones, commanding on the right, gave me such information as my ignorance of the ground made necessary. My troops were rapidly thrown into position — Pender and Brockenbrough on the extreme right, looking to a road which crossed the Anteitam near it mouth, and Branch, Gregg and Archer extending to the left and connecting with D. R. Jones' division. * * * * My troops were not in a moment too soon. The enemy had already advanced in three lines, had broken through Jones' division, captured McIntosh's battery, and were in the full tide of success. With a yell of defiance, Archer charged them, retook McIntosh's guns, and drove them back pell-mell. Branch and Gregg, with their old veterans, Sternly held their ground, and pouring in destructive volleys, the [201] tide of the enemy surged back, and breaking in confusion, passed out of sight. * * * * The three brigades of my division actively engaged did not number over two thousand men, and these, with the help of my splendid batteries, drove back Burnside's corps of fifteen thousand men.

The Confederacy has to mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and accomplished gentleman, who fell in this battle, at the head of his brigade--Brigadier-General L. O'B. Branch, of North Carolina. He was my senior Brigadier, and one to whom I could have entrusted the command of the division with all confidence.

We lay upon the field of battle that night, and until the next night at one o'clock, when my division was silently withdrawn, and, as directed by General Lee, covered the retirement of our army. My division crossed the Potomac into Virginia about ten A. M. the next morning — every wagon and piece of artillery having been safely put on the Virginia shore. I bivouacked that night, the 19th, about five miles from Shepherdstown.

Shepherdstown--Arriving opposite Boteler's ford, and about half-mile therefrom, I formed my line of battle in two lines — the first, the brigades of Pender, Gregg and Thomas, under command of General Gregg, and the second, Lane (Branch's brigade), Archer and Brockenbrough, under the command of General Archer.

The enemy had lined the opposite hill with some seventy pieces of artillery, and the infantry, who had crossed, lined the crest of the high banks on the Virginia shore. My lines advanced simultaneously, and soon encountered the enemy. This advance was made in the face of the most tremendous fire of artillery I ever saw, and too much praise cannot be awarded my regiments for their steady, unwavering step. It was as if each man felt that the fate of the army was centred in himself. The infantry opposition in front of Gregg's centre and right was but trifling, and soon brushed away. The enemy, however, massed in front of Pender and extending, endeavored to turn his left. General Pender became hotly engaged, and informing Archer of his danger, he (Archer) moved by the left flank, and forming on Pender's left, a simultaneous, daring charge was made, and the enemy driven pell-mell into the river. Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale. By their own account they lost three thousand men killed and drowned from one brigade alone. Some two hundred [202] prisoners were taken. * * * * In this battle I did not use a piece of artillery.

My division performed its share in the destruction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and about the 1st November, took position at Castleman's ferry, near Snicker's gap. * * * * * *

A. P. Hill, Major-General Commanding Light Division.

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