Sharpsburg. [from the Richmond, Va., Times, May 28, 1899.] graphic description of the battle and its results.The courage and self-sacrifice of the Confederates during the campaign.
Some months since an article on the battle of Sharpsburg, which appeared in the Confederate column of the Richmond Dispatch, stated that the writer for the first time had cause to be ashamed of the Confederate soldier. Ever since I have waited for some one to notice this criticism—some one whose knowledge of the facts was greater than mine, and who could defend the reputation of men who never had cause to be ashamed of their actions—their deeds then and forever will speak for themselves. From Bethel to Appomattox their grand leader and their country was proud of them, and they never had cause to blush with shame themselves.  It is true that there were many stragglers (not deserters), or General McClellan would have found out before the second day after the battle that he could claim a victory. These men, please bear in mind, had in about eight weeks marched from Richmond to Frederick, Md.; had fought and won the battles of Cedar Creek, Second Manassas, Chantilly, Harper's Ferry, South Mountain—though not successful in holding the passes of the latter, they had crossed the Potomac, and then retraced their route to Sharpsburg, and with a record that never before has been claimed of any army in an enemy's country. When hungry, tired soldiers marched through a land of plenty and took no man's goods, not even apples in the orchards; when forced marches on empty stomach had broken down and worn out the men, of course the older, sick and weak men dropped out of the column and straggled from necessity. Governor Curtin and General Wool both testify that these men—ragged, shoeless, half-fed—passed through the country without making depredations or taking anything without offering to pay for what they took, even if it were in Confederate scrip. General Lee's order had been issued to that effect, and though hungry, the men observed his request. It is for the future historian to compare such an order and the character of the man who issued it and the men who observed it, with the vandalism of Butler, Sherman, and Sheridan and their men. These were not men to be ashamed of, even if some of them did straggle, and when those who were on hand when General Lee marshalled his forces on that 17th day of September, with an army, variously estimated at from 35,000 to 40,000 men, to cope with General McClellan, with about 90,000 to 120,000 men (see his report in Vol. XIX, War of ‘Rebellion,’ dated September 20, 1862; also Long's Memoirs of Robert E. Lee, page 220), every man who answered roll-call knew that a terrible and bloody battle was before him, and when the day was over they had nothing then to be ashamed of, nor had the stragglers, who, weak from hunger, with bare feet, leaving bloody tracks where each step was made, crossed the river all day and joined in the battle wherever the fighting line might be. The men who fought at Sharpsburg have a record as proud and free from shame as those who fought in any other battle of the war, Gettysburg not excepted.