Reports of Lieut. Col. Edward S. Bragg, Sixth Wisconsin Infantry, of the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam.
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
GIBBON'S BRIG., HDQRS. SIXTH REGT. WISCONSIN VOLS.,
In the-Field, September 20, 1862.
Lieut. FRANK A. HASKELL,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
SIR: In compliance with circular from headquarters, I have the honor to report that at the battle of South Mountain, on the 14th instant, the Sixth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers moved up the mountain gorge to the right of the turnpike, in support of the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, who were moving in front, supporting a line of skirmishers. The skirmishers soon found the enemy in front, and an irregular fire commenced. This was past twilight. The Seventh moved to the support of the skirmishers, and was soon engaged with the enemy, who was concealed in a wood on their left and in a ravine in front. So soon as the Seventh received the fire of the enemy and commenced replying, I deployed the Sixth, and with the right wing opened fire upon the enemy concealed in the wood upon the right. I also moved the left wing by the right flank into the rear of the right wing, and commenced a fire by the wings alternately, and advancing the line after each volley.
At this time I received an order from the general, directing me to flank the enemy in the wood. The condition of the surface of the ground, and the steepness of the ascent up the mountain side, rendered this move-merit a difficult one; but without hesitation the left wing moved by the flank into the wood, firing as they went, and advancing the line. I directed Major Dawes to advance the right wing on the skirt of the wood as rapidly as the line in the wood advanced, which he did. This movement forward and by the flank I continued until the left wing rested its right on the crest of the hill, extending around the enemy in a semicircular line, and then moved the right wing into the wood so as to connect the line from the open field to the top of the hill. While this was being done, the fire of the enemy, who fought us from behind rocks and trees, and entirely under cover, was terrific, but steadily the regiment dislodged him and kept advancing. Ammunition commenced to give out, no man having left more than four rounds, and many without any. It was dark, and a desperate enemy in front.
At this moment I received an order from General Gibbon to cease fire and maintain the position, and the battle was won. I directed my men to reserve their fire, unless compelled to use it, and then only at short range, and trust to the bayonet. No sooner did the time of fire erase than the enemy, supposing we were checked, crept close up in the wood and commenced a rapid fire. I directed a volley in reply, and then, with three lusty cheers for Wisconsin, the men sat cheerfully down to await another attack; but the enemy was no more seen.
I held the ground until daylight, when I threw out skirmishers, and soon found the enemy had withdrawn in the night, leaving a few dead on the field, and a large number of muskets also.
Soon after daylight my regiment was relieved by the Second New York, from German's brigade, who had been lying in the field, under cover of a stone wall, at a safe distance in the rear, refreshing themselves with a good night's sleep, after a long and fatiguing march of some 10 miles.
The object accomplished, and the time and place of doing it, speak all that need be said for officers and men of the regiment.
Our loss was 11 killed and 79 wounded; total, 90.
I have the honor to be, respectfully,
EDWD. S. BRAGG,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Sixth Wisconsin.
GIBBON'S BRIG., HDQRS. SIXTH REGT. WISCONSIN VOLS.,
In the Field, September 21, 1862.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with circular from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to report that, early on the morning of the 17th, the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, under my command, supported by the brigade, commenced the attack upon the enemy's left flank. No sooner was the column in motion than the enemy opened fire on us with artillery, and so accurate was his range that the second shell exploded in the ranks, disabling 13 men, including Captain Noyes, Company A. Notwithstanding this shock, the column moved steadily forward until it reached the wood, when, by direction of General Gibbon, Company I was deployed to the left and Company C to the right in front of the line as skirmishers, and the regiment immediately deployed and advanced to their support.
The skirmishers soon found the enemy lodged in a corn-field and his advance concealed along fences and under cover, but rapidly drove in his advance, and the regiment moved up steadily in support, the right and center on and to the right of the Hagerstown turnpike, and the left across a corn-field. While advancing into the cornfield, Capt. Edwin A. Brown, Company E, a good officer and a genial gentleman, fell, killed instantly by a musket ball.
The portion of the line in the corn-field was under the immediate command of Maj. Rufus R. Dawes, who discharged his duty in watching and guiding its movements with signal courage and ability. This portion of the line was soon under heavy fire, and drove the enemy from his cover.
The advance of the right wing did not discover the enemy until it reached a rise of ground in front of the barn and stacks to the right of the road, when the enemy's skirmishers lying along the edge of a wood running down in a point to the right of the barn, where they were lying undisturbed---the right of my line of skirmishers having failed to advance, either from a failure to hear or heed commands. [Sic.]
At this moment a piece of artillery which had been stationed in front of my left changed its position and passed into the road in my front. I immediately ordered the company in the road to advance to the summit of a ridge of ground a few rods in front and open fire upon the horses attached to the piece, with a view of disabling and capturing it; and at the same time I ordered Companies G and K, on the right, to advance and occupy a basin between two ridges, and a few yards nearer the enemy. So soon as this was attempted I discovered the enemy in force, lying in line of battle along the fence and across the field to the wood, at right angles with the road, his line being then within musket range. At the same time he increased his fire from the woods on the right flank. This rendered the advance impracticable, and I ordered the company in the road to lie down under cover of the fence. No sooner had I given this order, and while it was being executed, than I received a slight but painful wound in the left arm, but still was able to direct the right companies, G and K, to draw back their line under cover of the fence and fronting the road, which was being executed when faintness compelled me to go to the rear, and I was unable to rejoin my regiment until it had been relieved.
At the request of Major Dawes, who was in command during my absence, I have the honor to report that the regiment conducted itself during the fight so as to fully sustain its previous reputation; that it did not abandon its colors on the field; that every color-bearer and every member of the guard was disabled and compelled to leave; that the State color fell into other keeping, temporarily, in rear of the regiment, because its bearer had fallen; but it was immediately reclaimed, and under its folds, few but undaunted, the regiment rallied to the support of the battery. The color lance of the National color is pierced with five balls, and both colors bear multitudes of testimony that they were in the thickest of the fight.
The regiment remained in the front of the fight until they had expended nearly their last round of ammunition. The enemy broke and ran before their advance, leaving his dead and wounded in large numbers on the field, and the regiment pursued, and only retired again in the presence of a host that it would have been madness to have opposed with a handful of men, brave though they were and fearless.
In this advance two stand of colors were captured and sent to the rear in charge of a wounded soldier, and have become lost or fallen into the possession of some one desirous of military eclat without incurring personal danger, so that they cannot be reclaimed by the captors.
Here Captain Bachelle, Company F, fell, leading his men in the pursuit. He was a true soldier, a gallant officer, and a faithful man. He never shrank from danger nor flinched from any duty. He fell as he desired, with his harness on, cheering his men to victory. His body rests underneath the sod he lost his life to win.
The loss of the regiment in the engagement was as follows: Commissioned officers, 3 killed, 5 wounded; enlisted men, 23 killed, 121 wounded; aggregate, 152.
I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,
EDWD. S. BRAGG,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers.
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