Reports of Col. A. H. Colquitt, Sixth Georgia Infantry, commanding brigade, of the battles of Boonsborough and Sharpsburg.
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
Near Bunker Hill, Va., October 13, 1862.
Maj. J. W. RATCHFORD,
SIR: Herewith I submit a report of the action of my brigade in the battle of South Mountain, September 14.
On the night of September 12 I left the camp of the division with the brigade and Captain Lane's battery, with instructions to occupy the commanding points at Boonville [Boonsborough], 4 miles to the rear. The march and the unavoidable delay in selecting positions in the dark consumed most of the night.
Early the next morning General Hill arrived. While engaged in making a reconnaissance, he received information that General Stuart, commanding the cavalry in rear, stood in need of support. I was ordered to move at once with my brigade and the battery of artillery. Proceeding along the turnpike 2 or 3 miles, I reached the summit of South Mountain, and discovered the enemy's cavalry advancing and ours gradually giving back. I reported my arrival to General Stuart, and consulted with him, as to the best disposition of the forces. Two pieces of artillery were ordered to the front, to a position commanding the turnpike leading down the valley. The continued advance of the enemy rendered the execution of the order impracticable. They were thrown rapidly into position at the most available points, and the infantry disposed upon the right and left of the road. The enemy made no further efforts to advance, and as dark withdrew from my immediate front.
To the right and left of the turnpike, a mile distant on either side, were practicable roads leading over the mountain, and connecting by a cross-road along the ridge with the turnpike. Upon each of these roads I threw out strong infantry pickets, the cavalry being withdrawn, and my main body was retired to the rear of the cross-road, leaving a line of skirmishers in front. Early the next morning my pickets were called in, being relieved by other forces which had arrived dining the night, and my brigade advanced to the position it occupied the day previous. Upon the right of the road, across the valley and upon the hillside, three regiments were placed, with instructions to connect with General Garland's line on the right. The force was insufficient to reach that distance, and there was a gap left of 300 or 400 yards between the two brigades. The remaining regiments of my brigade, to wit, the Twenty-third Georgia and Twenty-eighth Georgia, were put in position on the left of the turnpike, under cover of a stone fence and a channel worn by water down the mountain side.
The first attack of the enemy was made upon the extreme right of my line, as with the view to pass in the opening between Garland's and my command. This was met and repulsed by a small body of skirmishers and a few companies of the Sixth Georgia.
At 4 o'clock in the afternoon a large force had been concentrated in my front and was moving up the valley along each side the turnpike. 1 informed General Hill of the movement, and asked for supports. Being pressed at other points, he had none to give me. The enemy advanced slowly, but steadily, preceded by skirmishers. Upon the right of the road, 400 yards in advance of my line, there was a thick growth of woods, with fields opening in front and around them. In these I had concealed four companies of skirmishers, under the command of Captain Arnold. As the enemy advanced, these skirmishers poured upon his flank a sudden and unexpected fire, which caused the troops on this part of his line to give back in confusion. They were subsequently rallied and thrown to the right, strengthening the attack to be made upon my left. Two regiments here were to meet at least five, perhaps ten, times their numbers. Nobly did they do it. Confident in their superior numbers, the enemy's forces advanced to a short distance of our lines, when, raising a shout, they came to a charge. As they came full into view upon the rising ground, 40 paces distant, they were met by a terrific volley of musketry from the stone fence and hillside. This gave a sudden check to their advance. They rallied under cover of the uneven ground, and the fight opened in earnest. They made still another effort to advance, but were kept back by the steady fire of our men. The fight continued with fury until after dark. Not an inch of ground was yielded. The ammunition of many of the men was exhausted, but they stood with bayonets fixed.
I am proud of the officers and men of my command for their noble conduct on this day. Especial credit is due to Colonel Barclay, of the Twenty-third Georgia, and Major [Tully] Graybill, Twenty-eighth Georgia, who, with their regiments, met and defeated the fiercest assaults of the enemy.
My thanks are due to Lieutenant Jordan and Lieutenant [G. G.] Grattan, of my staff, for their assistance this day.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. H. COLQUITT,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Near Bunker Hill, Va., October 13, 1862.
SIR: I give you below an account of the part taken by this brigade in the battle of September 17.
About 7 o'clock in the morning my brigade entered the fight. It was moved to the front and formed on the right of General Ripley's brigade, which was then engaged. After a few rounds had been discharged, I ordered an advance, and at the same time sent word to the regiments on my left to advance simultaneously. The order was responded to with spirit by my men, and, with a shout, they moved through the corn-field in front, 200 yards wide, and formed on the line of fence. The enemy was near and in full view. In a moment or two his ranks began to break before our fire, and the line soon disappeared under the crest of the hill upon which it had been established. It was soon replaced by another, and the fire opened with renewed vigor.
In the mean time Garland's brigade, which had been ordered to my right, had given way, and the enemy was advancing, unchecked. The regiments upon my left having also failed to advance, we were exposed to a fire from all sides and nearly surrounded. I sent in haste to the rear for re-enforcements, and communicated to General Hill the exposed condition of my men. With steady supports upon the right we could yet maintain our position. The support was not at hand and could not reach us in time. The enemy closed in upon the right so near that our ranks were scarcely distinguishable. At the same time his line in front advanced. My men stood firm until every field officer but one had fallen, and then made the best of their way out.
In this sharp and unequal conflict I lost many of my best officers and one-half of the men in the ranks. If the brigades upon the right and left had advanced, we should have driven the enemy from the field. He had at one time broken in our front, but we had not strength to push the advantage.
Colonel [L. B.] Smith, of the Twenty-seventh Georgia; Colonel [W. P.] Barclay, of the Twenty-third Georgia, and Lieutenant-Colonel [J. M.] Newton, commanding the Sixth Georgia, fell at the head of their regiments. Their loss is irreparable. Upon every battle-field they had distinguished themselves for coolness and gallantry. Colonel [B. D.] Fry, of the Thirteenth Alabama, and Captain [N. J.] Garrison, commanding Twenty-eighth Georgia, were severely wounded.
Subsequent to the action of the forenoon, portions of my brigade encountered the enemy in two desultory engagements, in which they stood before superior numbers and gave a check to their advance. In one of these a small party was placed under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel [W. H.] Betts, and directed to deploy as skirmishers along the crest of a hill upon which the enemy was advancing. They did so with good effect, keeping back a large force by their annoying fire and the apprehension, excited by their boldness, that they were supported by a line in rear.
During the engagements of this day I had the misfortune to lose my acting assistant adjutant-general (Lieut. R. P. Jordan). He fell while gallantly dashing toward the enemy's line. I have not known a more active, efficient, and fearless officer. Lieutenant Grattan, my aide-de-camp, was conspicuously bold in the midst of danger and untiring in the discharge of his duties. I regret that I cannot here mention the names of all, dead and living who are entitled to a tribute at my hands.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. H. COLQUITT,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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