Our army Correspondence.
interesting description of the battle of Sharpsburg
--operations in the Kanawha Valley
, &c., &c.
Camp near Martinsburg, Sept. 24.
As it seems many contradictory opinions prevail in regard to the fight at Sharpsburg
, on the 17th inst, I think it may not prove altogether uninteresting to some of your readers to have a statement of facts, which, though not complete, yet you may rely upon them so far as they go;
On Sunday, the 14th, the corps of Longstreet
was encamped near Hagerstown
, between that place and a village called Funkstown
The artillery of Gen. Pendleton
, and the battalion to which I am attached, commanded by Col. S. D. Lee
, encamped on Saturday, the 13th, near the latter village, and remained there till Sunday afternoon, at 4 o'clock. Up to this time the army (I mean the body of it) were evidently under the impression that we would soon go into Pennsylvania
Why we did not go on faster
was a matter of frequent inquiry; but such was the confidence in our Generals
that no distrust existed, and no sort of anxiety on the subject.
The army bad preserved the greatest caution in Maryland
in regard to private property — much more so than in Virginia
— and this, too, to their great discomfort and inconvenience, and many ned to go on in order to get rid of this embarrassment — When, therefore, the order came, Sabba
afternoon, to countermarch towards Frederick City, there were many sad faces, and many earnest inquiries as to the cause of this retrograde movement: The people of the town saw us pass through their streets with the same indifference that they beheld us enter the town the day before.
We continued our march (the whole of Longstreet
's corps) toward the ‘"Gap,"’ some eight miles south, and when in three or four miles of it we were halted; and I was informed upon what I regarded as the very best authority, (a Brigadier General
,) that an artillery fight was going on in the gap, of no importance, and that we had better go into camp.
From this encampment we could distinctly see the shells of the enemy burst in the gap where our men were posted.
This gap is in the range of mountains that separates Frederick City from Hagerstown
I learned later in the day that the affair in this gap was more serious than at first supposed, and it was said that there had been much mismanagement somewhere It seems but a small force had been left to guard it, and that the defence had been committed to a subordinate (a Colonel, I was told,) who knew nothing of the ground, and that Gen. McClellan
having massed his large force there, our men were badly cut up, and but for Longstreet
's arrival, would have been terribly handled.
I was also informed that the army would fall back towards the Potomac
that night; that Generals Jackson
were engaged in an attack upon Harper's Ferry
, and Gen. Lee
did not think it prudent to engage the whole Yankee force in their absence.--This was the first intimation I had of Jackson
's absence, and I think this fact was not known to the army generally.
It was thought that he was about Frederick City.
Our horses were kept harnessed, and at 3 o'clock Monday morning was moved by a private road towards the Potomac
At daybreak we encountered Longstreet
's corps coming into the main road that leads to Sharpsburg
and the ford at Shepherdstown
, and the artillery and infantry moved on together.
At about 10 o'clock A. M. we halted at a village called, I think, Garysville, and took position on some hills south of the town; but in an hour thereafter we moved on to Sharpsburg
, a few miles further, and were posted on the hills south of this village.
This town lies in a deep valley.
On the East
is a high mountain ridge, running nearly from North to South, and all about the town are very high, bald hills.
You do not often see a more broken country.
Our centre, commanded, I think by D. H. Hill
, rested on the village; our right, under Longstreet
, at the base of the mountain, and our left, under Jackson
, about a mile to the left of the town, the spectator facing the East
About 2 P. M. Monday, clouds of dust indicated the approach of the enemy, and before night some of his artillery had gotten into position, and several of the rifle sections of our battalion interchanged shots with him, but without much effect.
Night came on and all was quiet, and we lay by our pieces, expecting that to morrow the great struggle would begin.
But the sun arose in all his glory, and still no sound of war was heard.
The country about Sharpsburg
is exceedingly beautiful — the farm houses and farms in the best condition.
As the day were on many thought there would be no fight.
The enemy were moving their forces to the right, and we once supposed that they would make the attack there and drive out our pickets at the base of the mountain and attempt to turn our flank.
At four o'clock, while Generals Longstreet
, D. H. Hill
, were observing the enemy from a point on the left of the town, near where our battalion was in position, large bodies of artillery and infantry were seen passing to our left through some low ground just in front of us, and beyond a stream which divided the two armies.
With our glasses we saw them very distinctly.
We were surprised at the number of ambulances that accompanied these troops It was about five o'clock before the whole force passed through this meadow.
As the train was often halted, I could not think it possible that the enemy would make an attack that evening especially as it would take him some time to get into position.
Others were of a different opinion.
Just to our left and front was a pine thicket, about five hundred yards distant, and the rear of the column of the enemy had hardly gotten behind it before very sharp picket firing began.
We had previously placed sharpshooters in this thicket, and so soon as the firing began others were put into it at a double-quick.
It was now nearly dark, but the picket firing increased greatly, so that two howitzers were ordered from our battalion to hurry forward and support our pickets by shelling the woods.
In the meantime the enemy's battery of eight guns, at which we had fired on Monday and part of to-day, opened upon our right flank, and the guns being 20-pound Parrot, splendidly managed, did some execution in the darkness, though two thousand yards distant. In Parker
's battery, two horses were killed and one man wounded.
The Minnie balls from the woods whizzed above us, but no other damage was done The picks firing was maintained till nine o'clock, and indeed so often renewed during the night that it was difficult to sleep.
It was now evident that the morrow would be a day of blood.
As we lay down upon the field, and look up into the great sky, we could but blush for the wickedness of man. Oh, how calmly and reproachfully do the bright stars move on in their courses.
It was a beautiful night; and no man who lay upon that field, and realized the deep tragedy which was to be enacted on the morrow, could but be sad and thoughtful.
The past was present as well as the future, and we scanned the three together, and tried to learn wisdom from the study.
We thought of dear ones far away, and were glad that they knew not of the trying hour that the setting stars were bringing rapidly on. At three every man was at his post, and awaited in solemn silence the day-dawn.
No sooner did the light break in the east, than the picket firing began, and increased in fury until about sunrise, when artillery and infantry together grapple in the terrible fight.
Heavy columns of Yankee infantry appear to our left and front in a thin skirt of woods, and our guns pour into them a deadly shower of shot and shell.
Our infantry on the left were in line of battle and under cover of a small ridge and a cornfield, while sharpshooters were also in the cornfield itself, between our line of battle and the enemy.
We also had artillery just in front of the thin woods through which the enemy advanced, and, as the distance was not more than four hundred yards, it must have done great execution.
In about an hour, or perhaps less, the enemy brought up artillery in the thin skirt of woods, also, and opened upon the guns in their front so sharply that they had to be withdrawn.--It was then that they turned upon us both artillery and infantry, and the conflict was terrific.
The eight-gun battery mentioned before, far on our right, and free from attack from us indeed, out of range, opened with great effect, enfilading both our batteries and the whole line of infantry.
They got the range with the first shot, and kept it for two hours. But for this cross fire the fight would not have lasted two hours. McClellan
, it seems, had compelled us to fight him where he could rake our whole line, and had thrown such a heavy force just at that point that it could not well be resisted; so that, after four hours fighting, we fell back about 600 or 800 yards. On the extreme left, however, we drove him more than a mile, and had possession of his dead the next day.
At 9 o'clock the battery to which I was attached having 21 men killed and wounded, and having also lost 12 horses, was ordered out of the fight by Col. Lee
, and fears were entertained that some of our guns might not be brought off, hence we were ordered to throw off all baggage, thus leaving some thirty of the men without blankets and overcoats.
The batteries engaged in this part of the field were Capts. Jordan
's and Parker
's. Of some 300 men engaged about 80 casualties occurred.
's battery suffered the most, and as it is from Richmond
, I give you the names of killed and wounded:
Killed.--Privates Robert Bryant
, J M Richardson
, and Wm T Newell
Wounded.--Lt J C Parkinson
, severely in the knee, but will not lose his leg; privates Warburton
, leg carried away by cannon shot, amputated and doing well; Trueman
, very badly in the knee, leg not yet amputated; Cook
, in leg, not very severely; Tumbridge, through the hand; Corp'l Duffey
, in leg, flesh wound; Washington Bolton
, in leg, also flesh wound.
The rest were slightly wounded, and will in a few days be fit for duty.--All were brought across the river, and are either at Shepherdstown
In the afternoon of Wednesday the enemy made a very bold charge on the right, where Longstreet
They flanked our forces and compelled them to fall back into a cornfield.
Beautifully did the dark blue lines come up the bill, and I greatly feared the result when I saw their superior numbers, (four to one;) but no sooner had they risen to the crest of the hill, than a most murderous fire was opened upon them from the cornfield With my glasses I could see the gaps made in the
On they came, however — up canra the Stars and Stripes waving in the wind, but some two flags (all that I saw) went down; but up they come again, and then, as if the flag-hearers were upon the ground frightened or wounded, they are at ‘"half mast, "’ and there remain, until the who's line, now terribly thinned, gives back, and the colors disappear.
Our boys now rush from the cornfield and pursue them down the hill.
This, I think, was the last severe fighting of the day. From morning till night there was cannonading.
but I think the two affairs I have mentioned comprise most of the serious fighting done on Wednesday.
I was, however, absent from the field for several hours during the day, having been ordered to the rear to refit.
On Thursday we expected the enemy would renew the fight, and we were ready to give him a warm reception.
On the previous day we had not our whole force on the ground; Gen. A. P. Hill
did not come until late in the day, and his man, and Jackson
's also, were fatigued.
But Thursday passed away, we holding some of the enemy's ground and he some of ours, and no disposition was shown by the Yankees
to renew the contest.
But for the raking fire of the enemy's artillery, I am satisfied we would have whipped him in two hours. Our artillery ammunition is almost worthless.
The shells and spherical case generally don't explode at all. Another disadvantage we labored under was, the nature of the ground.
It was almost impossible to charge batteries posted upon such high hills.
Under these circumstances Gen. Lee
very wisely I think determined to recross the Potomac
, three miles distant, and thus save the army from any possible disaster, and, at the same time, give his men rest and food both of which they greatly needed.
We recrossed the river Thursday night in the best possible order, not leaving behind a single piece of artillery.
stood at the ford at Shepherdstown
and gave directions to the teamsters and others, showing a wise attention to details which many men in less elevated positions would think beneath their notice.
As to the question who won the fight at Sharpsburg
, I think it cannot be said that any division
was arrived at: It was a ‘"drawn fight;"’ but, according to the Yankee
confessions of loss.
they certainly got the worst of it.
Before I close this letter, already too long, permit me to call attention to the noble bearing of Capt. John S. Taylor
. C. S. Navy, of Norfolk
, who, not wishing to be idle, asked for duty, and was assigned some three weeks ago to Col S. D. Lee
's staff.--This gallant gentleman I have seen in several fights, and he seemed generally to seek the hottest places.
, who seems, himself, fearless as one need be, several times cautioned Capt
. T. about exposing himself, but to no purpose.
On Wednesday, as we were leaving the field, and while I stood near him, he was shot in the neck, and fell speechless from his horse.
He was put upon a caisson, and brought off the field.
He lived only five or six hours, but was never sensible.
Thus died as brave a man as any I ever saw upon any battle-field.
He really seemed not to know what danger was. A daguerreotype of a sweet babe, which I took from his pocket, spoke to my heart in words more touching than poetry.
God bless that baby and its mother — the wife and child of a brave man and a patriot; and oh. Father, if they have Thy blessing, who on earth can add to their happiness and peace?
Yours, A. B. C.
Under the protection and guidance of a most gracious God, our army, under the gallant General Loring
have marched in triumphant victory into this rich and fertile valley, leaving the ‘"Narrows,"’ in Giles county
Our march was uninterrupted until near Fayette Court-House.
There we encountered the enemy under General Lightburn
, most powerfully entrenched.
Our brave boys faced their cannons' months with veteran daring, fighting from about 2 o'clock until night closed upon us. Our less was light--12 killed and 40 wounded, principally of the 45th Virginia During the night the enemy attempted a retreat, leaving an immense amount of stores, wagons, ambulances, and some one hundred prisoners, to fall into our hands.
We pressed upon them, pouring volley after volley into their retreating column as they ‘"double-quicked"’ over Cotton Hill
Arriving at Gauley Bridge
they scattered in the wildest confusion, burnt their splendid wire bridge, fired their immense depots, containing every description of stores and supplies, but leaving hundreds of tents, ambulances, and about 700 excellent wagons, &c., to fall into our hands.
is the Gibraltar to Northwestern Virginia
, and overlooks the great Valley of Kanawha, with her inexhaustible treasure of salt, grain, &c, which is indispensable to the Confederacy
, and should be held at any cost.
The enemy continued to retreat until we neared Charleston
, where they again made a stand — having formed a junction with all their Valley forces, said to number 5,000 men; but we moved fearlessly upon their black columns as they stretched across the broad bottoms of the Kanawha
, and soon they were in full retreat, firing the town; which was extinguished by our men, saving 10,000 suits of clothes, 10,000 blankets, boots, shoes, &c. We fought — them until night, when they burnt the bridge over Elk river
and retreated, leaving their dead upon the field.
Near 300 prisoners have been taken and the woods are filled with the frightened wretches.
Our cavalry are still pursuing them in the direction of Parkersburg
, and we expect soon to land in Ohio
The people in the Valley
welcomed our brave boys with hearts of rejoicing; and amid tears of joy, told the outrages, and inhumanity of the cruel enemy who had so long been in their midst.
I think our ranks will swell largely, and our power be greatly strengthened here; but more forces should be sent immediately, and this Valley never abandoned.
Provisions are plenty and cheap:--Sacon 7 cents; corn 50 cents; hay at our own price, and salt without limit.
I am making this letter too long, and will close.
I omitted stating our loss in the fight here, it was six killed and nine wounded, principally from the 3d Virginia
, which was under a galling fire during the whole evening.
I will write you, I hope, from Cincinnati