Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose P.
Hill, C. S. Army,
Commanding Light Division, Of Operations September 2 - November 3.
HEADQUARTERS LIGHT DIVISION,
Camp Gregg, Va., February 25, 1863.
Lieut. Col. C. J. FAULKNER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Army Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my division from the crossing of the Rapidan, August 20, to the repulse of the enemy at Castleman's Ferry, November 3 , inclusive:
The division was composed of the brigades of Generals Branch, Gregg, Field, Pender, Archer, and Colonel Thomas, with the batteries of Braxton, Latham, Crenshaw, Mcintosh, Davidson, and Pegram, under Lieut. Col. R. L. Walker, chief of artillery.
The march was without incident of importance until arriving at the ford opposite the Warrenton Springs.
* * * * * * * * * *
On September 5 the division crossed into Maryland near Leesburg, and on the 11th recrossed into Virginia at Williamsport; advanced upon Martinsburg, skirmishing with the enemy's pickets; entered the town on the 12th, and caused General White, with some 3,000 men, to fall back upon Harper's Ferry. A large quantity of commissary and quartermaster's stores were taken at Martinsburg.
Saturday, the 13th, arrived at Harper's Ferry, my division being in advance.
On Sunday afternoon, the necessary signals from the Loudoun and Maryland Heights having notified us that all was ready, I was ordered by General Jackson to "move along the left bank of the Shenandoah, and thus turn the enemy's left flank and enter Harper's Ferry." The enemy occupied a ridge of hills known as Bolivar Heights, extending from the Potomac to the Shenandoah, naturally strong, but rendered very formidable by extensive earthworks. Having first shelled the woods over which my route lay, I moved obliquely to my right until I struck the Shenandoah. Moving down the Shenandoah, I discovered an eminence crowning the extreme left of the enemy's line, bare of all earthwork, the only obstacles being abatis of fallen timber. The enemy occupied this hill with infantry, but no artillery. Branch and Gregg were ordered to continue the march along the river, and, during the night, to take advantage of the ravines cutting the precipitous banks of the river, and establish themselves on the plain to the left and rear of the enemy's works. Pender, Archer, and Brockenbrough were directed to gain the crest of the hill before mentioned. Thomas followed as a reserve. The execution of this movement was intrusted to General Pender, his own brigade being commanded by Colonel Brewer. This was accomplished with but slight resistance, and the fate of Harper's Ferry was sealed. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker was directed to bring up his guns and establish them in the position thus gained. This was done during the night, by the indomitable resolution and energy of Colonel Walker and his adjutant (Lieutenant Chamberlayne), ably seconded by the captains of batteries. Generals Branch and Gregg had also gained the position desired, and daybreak found them in rear of the enemy's line of defense. General Pender, with Thomas in support, moved his brigades to within 150 yards of the works, and were sheltered as much as possible from the fire of the enemy.
At dawn, Lieutenant-Colonel Walker opened a rapid enfilade fire from all his batteries at about 1,000 yards range. The enemy replied vigorously. In an hour, the enemy's fire seeming to be pretty well silenced, the batteries were ordered to cease, and this was the signal for storming the works. General Pender had commenced his advance, when, the enemy again opening, Pegram and Crenshaw were run forward to within 400 yards, and, quickly coming into battery, poured in a damaging fire. The enemy now displayed the white flag, and Lieutenant Chamberlayne was sent in to know if they surrendered. This was soon ascertained to be the fact, and the garrison, &c., was surrendered by General White, Col. D. S. Miles, the commanding officer, having been mortally wounded.
By direction of General Jackson, I granted General White the most liberal terms, and regret to report that this magnanimity was not appreciated by the enemy, as the wagons which were loaned to carry off the private baggage of the officers were not returned for nearly two months, and not until repeated calls had been made for them. When I entered the works of the enemy, which was only a few moments after the white flag had been shown, there was apparently no organization of any kind. That had ceased to exist.
The fruits of this victory were 11,000 prisoners, about 12,000 stand of arms, 70 pieces of artillery, harness and horses, a large number of wagons, commissary, quartermaster's, and ordnance stores.
My loss was 3 killed and 66 wounded.
By direction of General Jackson, I remained at Harper's Ferry until the morning of the 17th, when, at 6.30 a.m., I received an order from General Lee to move to Sharpsburg. Leaving Thomas, with his brigade, to complete the removal of the captured property, my division was put in motion at 7.30 a.m. The head of my column arrived upon the battle-field of Sharpsburg, a distance of 17 miles, at 2.30 o'clock, and, reporting in person to General Lee, he directed me to take position on our right. Brig. Gen. D. R. Jones, commanding on our right, gave me such information as my ignorance of the ground made necessary. My troops were rapidly thrown into position, Pender and Brockenbrough on the extreme right, looking to a road which crossed the Antietam near its mouth, Branch, Gregg, and Archer extending to the left and connecting with D. R. Jones' division. [D.G.] McIntosh's battery had been sent forward to strengthen Jones' right, weakened by troops withdrawn to our left and center. Braxton's battery, commanded by Lieutenant [E. A.] Marye (Captain Braxton acting as chief of artillery), was placed upon a commanding point on Gregg's right; Crenshaw and Pegram on a hill to my left, which gave them a wide field of fire. My troops were not in a moment too soon. The enemy had already advanced in three lines, had broken through Jones' division, captured McIntosh's battery, and were in the full the of success. With a yell of defiance, Archer charged them, retook McIntosh's guns, and drove them back pell mell. Branch and Gregg, with their old veterans, sternly held their ground, and, pouring in destructive volleys, the of the enemy surged back, and, breaking in confusion, passed out of sight.
During this attack, Pender's brigade was moved from my right to the center, but the enemy were driven back without actively engaging his brigade. The three brigades of my division actively engaged did not number over 2,000 men, and these, with the help of my splendid batteries, drove back Burnside's corps of 15,000 men.
The Confederacy has to mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and accomplished gentleman, who fell in this battle at the head of his brigade-Brig. Gen. L. O'B. Branch, of North Carolina. He was my senior brigadier, and one to whom I could have intrusted the command of the division, with all confidence.
General Gregg, of South Carolina, was wounded, and the brave Colonel Barnes mortally so. My gallant Captain Pegram, of the artillery, was also wounded for the first time.
My loss was 63 killed, 283 wounded; total, 346.
We lay upon the field of battle that night and until the next night at 1 o'clock, when my division was silently withdrawn, and, as directed by General Lee, covered the retirement of our army.
My division crossed the Potomac into Virginia about 10 a.m. the next morning, every wagon and piece of artillery having been safely put on the Virginia shore. I bivouacked that night (19th) about 5 miles from Shepherdstown.
On the morning of the 20th, at 6.30 o'clock, I was directed by General Jackson to take my division and drive across the river some brigades of the enemy who had crossed during the night, driven off General Pendleton's artillery, capturing four pieces, and were making preparations to hold their position. Arriving opposite Boteler's Ford, and about half a mile therefrom, I formed my line of battle in two lines, the first the brigades of Pender, Gregg, and Thomas, under command of General Gregg, and the second, Lane (Branch's brigade), Archer, and Brocken-brough, under the command of General Archer. The enemy had lined the opposite hills with some seventy pieces of artillery, and the infantry who had crossed lined the crest of the high banks on the Virginia shore. My lines advanced simultaneously, and soon encountered the enemy. This advance was made in the face of the most tremendous fire of artillery I ever saw, and too much praise cannot be awarded my regiments for their steady, unwavering step. It was as if each man felt that the fate of the army was centered in himself. The infantry opposition in front of Gregg's center and right was but trifling, and soon brushed away. The enemy, however, massed in front of Pender, and, extending, endeavored to turn his left. General Pender became hotly engaged, and informing Archer of his danger, he (Archer) moved by the left flank, and forming on Pender's left, a simultaneous, daring charge was made, and the enemy driven pell-mell into the river. Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale. By their own account they lost 3,000 men, killed and drowned, from one brigade alone. Some 200 prisoners were taken. My own loss was 30 killed and 231 wounded; total, 261.
This was a wholesome lesson to the enemy, and taught them to know that it may be dangerous sometimes to press a retreating army. In this battle I did not use a piece of artillery.
My division performed its share in the destruction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and about November 1 took position at Castleman's Ferry, near Snicker's Gap.
On November 3, Archer's and Thomas' brigades being on picket at the ferry, with Pegram's and Latham's batteries, the enemy made an at, erupt to cross the river, but were handsomely repulsed by the Nineteenth Georgia and the batteries, with a loss of 200 men.
During this campaign the especial good conduct of Colonels Brewer, [F.] Mallory, [R. W.] Folsom, and Maj. C. C. Cole deserves mention. Captain Wright, of Georgia, commanding my escort, was invaluable to me, and proved himself a cool, clear-headed fighter.
My thanks are due my staff for their hearty co-operation and intelligent transmission of my orders under a fire frequently uncomfortably hot--Maj. R. C. Morgan, assistant adjutant-general; Major [R. J.] Wingate, Capt. R. H. T. Adams, signal officer; Lieut. Murray[F.] Taylor, aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant [C. H.] Camfield, of my escort.
My loss during this series of battles was 348 killed and 2,209 wounded; total, 2,557.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. P. HILL,
Major-General, Commanding Light Division.
RETURN TO ANTIETAM ORDER OF BATTLE (ANV) PAGE