Report of Lieut. Col. James Gwyn, One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Infantry,
Of Action Near Shepherdstown.
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
HDQS. 118TH REGIMENT PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS,
Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., September 30, 1862.
Lieut. W. S. DAVIS,
A. D.C. and A. A. A. Gen. First Brig. Morell's Div., Porter's Fifth Army Corps.
LIEUTENANT: In accordance with instructions, I have the honor to make the following report of this regiment in the action of Saturday, 20th instant:
Early on Saturday, 20th September, while in camp at this place, the regiment, under command of Colonel Prevost, was ordered to be in readiness to march with the brigade, and, with entire force of officers and men of 737, at about 8 o'clock a.m. took up the line of march in rear of Thirteenth New York, down the ravine, and forded the Potomac River at Blackford's Ferry, when the column filed to the right, and after marching about 300 yards was halted, and about 9 o'clock a.m. the One hundred and eighteenth was ordered to file left up a ravine and form line of battle on the top of a bluff, and under cover, supported on the right by Thirteenth and Twenty fifth Regiments New York, and on the left by First Michigan, Twenty-second and Eighteenth Massachusetts, and Second Maine Regiments. Owing to the nature of the ground the regiment came in line in right by file. Seven companies only had got in line when firing was heard on our right flank, and on advancing in line to the crest of the hill, we found the enemy advancing in heavy force in front and on our left. Colonel Prevost posted in person the three left companies to meet a flank movement of the enemy on a knoll on the left of the regiment, who became almost immediately engaged with the enemy; about the same time the right was fired on from a heavy force in front, and commenced by my orders to fire by file. Owing to the worthlessness of our pieces (condemned Enfield), not more than 50 per cent. of which could be discharged, the line began to waver, when Colonel Prevost advanced with the colors to the front, and was almost immediately severely wounded by a rifle shot from the enemy, and went to the rear.
The command now devolving upon me, and the enemy threatening us in front, I rallied, with the assistance of Maj. C. P. Herring, about 200 men, and charged over the slope of the hill in front, where a heavy fire was poured on us from the left. I fell back under the brow of the hill with my command, and reformed with the intention of repeating the charges. At this moment one regiment of the enemy, with colors displayed, crowned the hill on our left and commenced firing on us. 1 ordered a fire to the left in response, and was going through the line pointing out the proper direction for the fire, when Adjutant Perot, of my regiment, came to me and said by Colonel Barnes' order I was to withdraw the regiment and retreat in good order, our right and left flanks being both turned. Our only way of retreat was over the bluff, and it was very precipitous. I sent word along the line to fail back, get into the road, and retreat across the river. On getting on the road under the bluff, we were immediately fired on by the enemy from the summit, with great effect.
The regiment crossed at the dam opposite the ferry under a galling fire of the enemy, and reformed about 2 p.m. in the same camp vacated in the morning.
The loss on this first essay of the regiment in killed, wounded, and missing was 277. I have furnished a detailed list of the casualities, to which I have the honor to refer you.
I am, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieut. Col., Commanding 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
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