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Doc. 18..-the battle of Antietam.

Brigadier-General Gordon's Report.1

headquarters First division Twelfth corps, Maryland Heights, Sept. 24, 1862.
General A. S. Williams, Commanding Corps:
General: In conformity with orders emanating [252] from headquarters of the corps, I have the honor to report upon the part taken by my brigade — the Third of the First division of the Twelfth corps--in the recent battle of Antietam near Sharpsburgh, on the seventeenth instant.

The enemy, routed at passes of South-Mountain on the fourteenth, were rapidly pursued and brought to a stand near Sharpsburgh, on the westerly side of Antietam Creek, on the sixteenth instant.

Massed in rear of our forces, drawn up in line of battle under General McClellan, this corps remaining inactive during the day, was moved on the night of the sixteenth and morning of the seventeenth to the right of our line to strengthen General Hooker, who had, at noon of the sixteenth, crossed the creek and engaged the enemy's advance.

Just after the break of day, we were aroused from a brief slumber by sharp firing of musketry in front of General Hooker's position. The corps, then commanded by the lamented General Mansfield, was by that officer immediately put in motion. My brigade — formed in columns of battalions closed in mass — I directed toward a battery which I was ordered to support; but before reaching the same, I received a countermanding order to move forward, with all possible despatch, to the support of General Hooker, then severely pressed. I moved accordingly my ployed masses by the flank at double-quick, gradually gaining deployment distance; thus throwing forward on the right the Second Massachusetts infantry, Colonel Andrews; in the centre, the Third Wisconsin infantry, Colonel Ruger; and on the left, the Twenty-seventh Indiana infantry, Colonel Colgrove. The One Hundred and Seventh New-York infantry, Colonel Van Valkenburg, I held in reserve, throwing them into the edge of a piece of woods en the left, which I was informed by an aid of General Hooker who met me advancing, was to be held at all hazards. The only remaining regiment of my brigade, the Thirteenth New-Jersey, I had, by direction of General Mansfield, thrown into the edge of a piece of woods behind my first position as a reserve. This regiment remained as posted during the deployment of my line and the posting of the One Hundred and Seventh New-York. While moving forward the three regiments referred to, an aid of General Hooker hurrying rapidly toward my command, begged me to move forward. It was apparent from the steady approach of the sound of musketry, that the enemy was advancing; his shouts of exultation could be distinctly heard as the line of my deployed battalions, sustained on the right by Crawford's brigade, and on the left by Greene's division, both of the Twelfth corps, advanced to the front. Before the charge and fire of our line the enemy halted, wavered, fled in confusion, and sought shelter in the woods opposite, from whence he had emerged. I immediately ordered the One Hundred and Seventh New-York to support the movement of my advanced line, at the same time sending my aid, Captain Wheaton, to bring up the Thirteenth New-Jersey. We now held possession of the field, had driven the enemy into the concealment of the woods, and by a partial change of front forward on our left, were advancing toward the centre of the general line of battle. General Mansfield had been mortally wounded at the commencement of the action while making a bold reconnoissance of the woods through which we had just dashed. The command of the corps here devolved upon you.

My brigade was now drawn up in two lines, in the front the Second Massachusetts and One Hundred and Seventh New-York, in rear the Third Wisconsin and Twenty-seventh Indiana. These latter regiments had suffered considerably; in the others the casualties had been unusually light.

We were at this time reinforced by General Sumner's corps, who, coming with shouts to the field, pushed across into the woods containing the enemy, and engaged him with ardor. By your direction, I formed my brigade in line of battle on the edge of the woods through which we had charged. General Sumner's corps soon became warmly engaged. It was apparent the rebels had received very strong reinforcements. The tide of battle again turned; our forces were compelled to fall slowly back behind batteries posted in front of the woods the enemy had tried vainly to enter. More than driving our forces from the woods the enemy did not essay, or if he did, was foiled.

The next movement of my brigade I am called on to report was ordered by General Sumner through you. It was, to move up toward the woods in front, to support the troops there. The order, most urgent and imperative, furnished the only information I possessed that our forces had again entered those woods. I deemed it of the utmost importance that my command should move forward with the least possible delay. I therefore in person gave the order to the regiments nearest me, without awaiting the formation of the entire brigade, intending to bring up the other regiments to support or continue the line, as circumstances might require. The Second Massachusetts and the Thirteenth New-Jersey regiments were immediately put in motion. The Third Wisconsin and Twenty-seventh Indiana, having, as before stated, suffered seriously in a previous encounter with the enemy, were lying about two hundred yards in front, concealed from the view of the enemy by a slight ridge. The One Hundred and Seventh New-York was posted some distance to the left.

The Second Massachusetts and Thirteenth New-Jersey pushed forward with great alacrity sufficiently far to find that the troops to be supported had retired — that a large force of the enemy were concealed in the woods, while a not inconsiderable number showed themselves in the open fields beyond. These regiments were received with a galling fire, which they sustained and returned for a brief period, then fell back upon their supports. So strong was the enemy, that an addition of any force I could command would only have caused further sacrifice without gain. [253] The loss in the Second Massachusetts was severe. Here fell mortally wounded Lieutenant-Colonel Wilder Dwight, of this regiment, bravely fighting for his country. An official paper is not the place to express the sadness the death of this gallant officer brings to the regiment in which his presence was so much felt, as well as to many friends, serving in the army, to whom he was much endeared.

I halted my command, to report to you, sir, the position of the enemy, and was by you ordered to form a supporting line behind batteries in position on my left.

The rebel lines again advancing, I threw forward a portion of my brigade to support those nearly in front, while the One Hundred and Seventh New-York was directed to support Captain Cothran's battery on the left. This fine regiment, but just organized and brought into the field, in this battle for the first time under fire, moved with steadiness to its perilous position, and maintained its ground until recalled, though exposed to front fire from the enemy, and a fire over its head from batteries in its rear.

About this time, in the order of events as narrated, I received an urgent call from General Greene, commanding the Second division of our corps, to send him any reinforcements I might have and could spare. General Greene at this time was gallantly holding a portion of the woods to the left, the right of which was occupied by the enemy in force. I directed the Thirteenth New-Jersey, Colonel Carman, to support him. This regiment — also for the first time this day under fire — moved coolly and in an orderly manner toward General Greene's position; and I am much gratified to report that the General has spoken to me of their conduct in terms of high commendation.

The services of my brigade during a portion of the remainder of the day were confined to forming a supporting line to fresher troops in our front. Again, however — late in the afternoon — was I called into action by a direct order addressed in person by General McClellan to my brigade, to support General Franklin in his intended movement to the front upon the disputed woods. In conformity with this order, I formed my brigade in line of battle directly in rear of General Newton's brigade of General Franklin's corps, and awaited orders from that officer, to whom I had sent a staff-officer to report my position. Captain Wheaton, my aid, immediately brought me an order to move my brigade to the support of a battery on the contested field, somewhat to the left and about three hundred yards to the front of the position I then occupied.

The absence of General Crawford from the field by reason of a slight wound, placed me at this time in command of the first division of the corps. Turning over the command of my brigade to Colonel Ruger, of the Third Wisconsin, I conducted him to the assigned position, which he held during the night of the seventeenth instant. The First brigade (Crawford's) of my division, commanded by Colonel Knipe, of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, was drawn up in line of battle, also supporting General Franklin's line, to the right of my original position.

Early in the morning, the position of my division was again changed in the same direction, but somewhat in advance of the position of the evening before, supporting General Franklin. I held this line during the day and night of the eighteenth. The morning of the nineteenth revealed the fact that the enemy had fled under cover of the night.

Thus terminated a bloody and obstinate contest. From sunrise to sunset the waves of battle ebbed and flowed. Men wrestled with each other in lines of regiments, brigades, and divisions, while regiment, brigade, and division faded away under a terrible fire, leaving long lines of dead to mark where stood the living. Felds of corn were trampled into shreds; forests were battered and scathed by shot and shell; grape and canister mingled its hissing scream in this hellish carnival. Yet within all this, and through it all, the patriots of the North wrestled, with hearts strong and nerves unshaken — wrestled with the rebel hordes that thronged and pressed upon them as to destruction; never yielding, though sometimes halting to gather up their strength, then with one mighty bound throwing themselves upon their foes to drive them into their protecting forests beyond. We slept upon the bloody field of our victory.

I cannot too highly praise the conduct of my brigade — of regiments old and new. Of the Second Massachusetts, Colonel Andrews, Third Wisconsin, Colonel Ruger, and Twenty-seventh Indiana, Colonel Colgrove, I had a right to expect much, and was not disappointed. Veterans of Winchester and Cedar Mountain, they can add to their laurels the battle of Antietam Creek.

In this battle — I believe unparalleled in the war in severity and duration — officers and men behaved with most praiseworth intrepidity and coolness.

The One Hundred and Seventh New-York, Colonel Van Valkenburg, and the Thirteenth New-Jersey, Colonel Carman, being new troops, might well stand appalled at such exposure, but they did not flinch in the discharge of their duties. I have no words but those of praise for their conduct. They fought like veterans, and stood shoulder to shoulder with those who had borne the brunt of war on the Peninsula, in the Shenandoah Valley, and from Front Royal to the Rapidan. They were led by those who inspired them with courage, and they followed with a determination to conquer or die. If I make especial mention of the One Hundred and Seventh New-York volunteers of my brigade, it is that I may speak of its colonel and its lieutenant-colonel--Colonel Van Valkenburg and Lieutenant-Colonel Diven--both of whom, members of the present Congress, have left their congressional duties to organize and bring into the field this fine regiment for their country's service. These gentlemen, in leading their men into the fight, cheering them onward — themselves thoughtless [254] of exposure, prominent in the advance, and bearing extraordinary fatigues without a murmur — show a willingness to sacrifice their comfort, and if need be, their lives, for their country. Let other of our prominent men do as they have done — are doing — and the rank and file of our country will throng to follow such earnest leaders.

I owe especial thanks to the Hon. Charles R. Train, who volunteered his services on my staff at a time when fatiguing labor and most arduous service had deprived me of all my aids save one officer. This gentleman has also shown his willingness to lay down his life in his country's cause. The invasion of the loyal North called him from his congressional duties and his home at a moment's notice. No fatigues, though excessive — no danger, though most perilous, deterred him from moving forward wherever he could render assistance.

To Captain Charles Wheaton, Jr., my aid, I am again indebted at a time when I was deprived of the valuable services of my Adjutant-General, Captain H. B. Scott, worn out by fatigue and exposure in the army of the Potomac.

I cannot close this report without a recognition of the valor of the rank and file of my command. Every soldier, commissioned, non-commissioned or private, deserves a nation's thanks.

I carried into action in officers and enlisted men of my brigade about two thousand two hundred and ten. I lost as follows:

2d Massachusetts,13573
3d Wisconsin,27173 
27th Indiana,18192 
107th New-York,7515
13th New-Jersey,77521

I inclose detailed reports of colonels of regiments of my brigade, showing the services performed by them and their commands on this eventful day, as also a list of killed, wounded, and missing by name.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

George H. Gordon, Brigadier-General Commanding First Division Twelfth Corps.

1 see volume V. Rebellion record.

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