Our army correspondence.
the battle of Sharpsburg letter from Winchester.
Camp Near. Sept. 21.
Having participated in the battle of Sharpsburg
, in various positions, for nearly the whole day, I have thought a brief history of the doings of that day, which came under my observation, would be interesting to your readers.
I take pleasure in giving them.
After the taking of Harper's Ferry
's old division, to which our battery is attached, under Gen. Starke
's brigade, was ordered to march, and, after marching from 11 o'clock at night and crossing the Potomac
during the day, we landed at the battle-field just at dusk, and as the Yankees
were driving in our pickets, and before we could get to our position, a terrific fire of shell was opened upon our brigade and batteries, which were then moving along slowly.
I will here premise and state that nearly all speak of the Yankee
line of battle as assuming the shape of a capital A, but my own impression was, that it was more in the shape of are, and our division was placed on the left, where the cross in the letter touches the left, enabling the enemy that evening to fire upon as from their left wing; but we held our position that night; but before it was light on Wednesday morning they commenced a furious attack upon us from their right, driving us from the woods, and killing our brave General, Starke
, after he had first charged bayonets, and driven them before him; but their immense masses at this point commenced pouring in by legions, when two rifle guns, under Capt. Brockenborough
, of Rock bridge
, commander of the Baltimore artillery, and two under Capt. Raine
, of Lynchburg
, commander of the Lee battery, were ordered to take a position on an eminence near the infantry, and as the Yankee
hosts were driving our infantry three of these guns opened upon the advancing Yankees
with canister in rapid succession, mowing them down, and broke their lines, though they were then advancing in three columns, about 300 yards distant. This check enabled us to hold the position until reinforcements — consisting of McLaws
's and Walker
's divisions — came up, when, in turn, the Yankees
gave way, never to recover the ground during the day. This was the place they massed their forces, (near the centre,) so as to cut us in twain, but were foiled.
About this time the largest number of our forces were engaged, and I believe, including Longstreet
's corps on our right, that we had engaged actively in the fight more than 50,000 men at one time.
I have heard that only a few brigades fought at a time, coming up to relieve each other, but being myself near the centre, and looking around, I could see nearly the whole battle-field, which was probably five miles long, but being in the shape mentioned above was easy to survey with the naked eye. The cannonading was terrific and incessant, and battery after battery would fire until it exhausted its ammunition, when it would retire for others to take its place.
' shell would burst incessantly among our men, but no step was taken backwards.
The first guns fired by any one that morning were on the left, and from the Lee battery, (howitzers,) and the enemy were driven back.
They made a second charge, and were gallantly repulsed by the Stonewall brigade, under Col. Grigsby
We succeeded in driving the enemy from his positions on our left; but our right did not succeed so well, and the rival forces seemed to be waging about an equal contest at that point, if our's was not wavering.
About this time, which was between one and two o'clock, I was ordered, with several other batteries under the charge of Gen. J. E. B. Stewart
, on the extreme left, so as to drive the Yankees
from a position which our forces had vainly tried repeatedly to do several times before.
At this point we learned a large portion of their reserved artillery, of large calibre, were massed, and the enemy having been driven from the heights we were to occupy, they had been enabled to ascertain the distance and to get the range.
However. Gen. Stuart
, soon ordered the rifle pieces of Capts. Brockenborough
, and Turner
, to take positions, and soon we were thundering with our eight pieces at the Yankee
batteries and forces, which were massed in large numbers in rear of their batteries.
Presently they opened fire, with how many pieces it is impossible to say; but almost every second a bomb would burst over our heads and among us, and we found it difficult to get the men to work the guns, and I had to take hold of the trail and help, and so did every commissioned officer, as we could not expect our men to act their part in such a slaughter house, unless we first laid the example.
We fired slowly, but in a short time the immense smoke which enveloped the Yankee
batteries, and the quantities of dust kicked up around us by their bombs, and the smoke and sulphur around, blinded us so that we found it useless to continue the contest, and slowly retired with the loss of some of our best and bravest men; for none but a stout heart could stand under that fire one minute.
All in that engagement say it was the hottest they have ever been in — some of them have been in fifteen different engagements.
We wended our way back about 5 o'clock towards the right, and found that A. P. Hill
had reached us from Harper's Ferry
, and had pitched into the enemy's left, and was driving them before him until night set in and stopped the contest for the day, thus ending one of the greatest and most sanguinary battles of modern times, and, I believe, decidedly in our favor.
We then held all the battle field except the centre, which was in the same place it was at the commencement, neither having any advantage there.
The next day, Thursday, everything was quiet, our forces too much exhausted to renew the contest, and the Yankees
afraid to do so. We rested all day. During the day Gen. McClellan
sent in a flag of truce and asked permission to bury his dead, but Gen. Lee
did not grant it, for the reason, I suppose, that he was fixing to retreat back across the river at night, which we accomplished most successfully during the whole of that night and 9 o'clock in the morning.
We had scarcely got the last cannon on the hill at Shepherdstown
when the Yankees
opened upon us from the opposite bank of the Potomac
, but with no effect, for all was now safe.
The Purcell Battery, of Richmond
, Capt. Pegram
, was on the right wing, and actively engaged the enemy; but we could hear nothing of their losses, except that Capt. Pegram
was slightly wounded.
We do not believe that it was the desire of our Generals
to have this battle come off so soon, as our men were worn down with fatigue in marching; but we were compelled to do so to save the forces in Maryland
The forces left, after we took so many to surround Harper's Ferry
, were small, and Longstreet
's forces could not have extricated themselves without fighting this battle.
I believe I can safely say that this battle in its magnitude far exceed any yet fought by our forces, and is not excelled by the battle of Waterloo