Report of Brig. Gen. William H. French, U. S. Army,
Commanding Third Division, of the Battle of Antietam.
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
HDQRS. FRENCH'S DIVISION, SUMNER'S CORPS D'ARMEE,
Camp near Sharpsburg, on the Battle-field, September 20, 1862.
Lieut. Col. J. H. TAYLOR,
Chief of Staff and Assistant Adjutant General, Sumner's Corps.
COLONEL: My division, composed of Brig. Gen. Max Weber's and Kimball's brigades, and three regiments of new levies under the command of Col. Dwight Morris (Fourteenth Connecticut), having been in readiness since daybreak on the 17th instant, was put in motion by orders of the general commanding the corps at about 7.30 o'clock a.m. The Antietam Creek was forded by the division, marching in three columns of brigades, Max Weber on the left, the new regiments in the center, and Kimball's brigade on the right. When my left flank had cleared the ford a mile, the division faced to the left, forming three lines of battle adjacent to and contiguous with Sedgwick's, and immediately moved to the front.
The enemy, who was in position in advance, opened his batteries, under which fire my lines steadily moved until the first line, encountering the enemy's skirmishers, charged them briskly, and, entering a group of houses on Roulette's farm, drove back the force, which had taken a strong position for defense. Whilst Max Weber was clearing his front and driving before him the enemy's first line, a sudden and terrible fire was opened upon his right by the troops, which had succeeded in breaking the center division of the line of battle. At the same time a heavy column endeavored to turn my left and rear.
At this moment Captain Sumner communicated to me, from the general commanding the corps, that his right divisions were being severely handled, and directed me to press the enemy with all my force. Appreciating the necessity of the order, without waiting for the new regiments to recover from the disorder incident to their long march in line through woods, corn-fields, and over fences, I left them in reserve, and ordered Kimball to charge to the front. With an unsurpassed ardor this gallant brigade, sweeping over all obstacles, soon crowned the crests of the hills on our left and right, flaunting the regimental banners in defiance to those of the rebels who, flushed with a supposed victory, dared to face us.
I refer the general commanding to the reports of brigadiers and their colonels for the details of the battle maintained by my division.
The gallantry and coolness of General Max Weber excited the admiration of the whole command. With consummate skill and judgment he led the attack, and left the field reluctantly, severely wounded.
General Kimball, Second Brigade, brought his veterans into action, and fought the enemy on the front and either flank with such desperate courage and determination as to permit the arrival of the re-enforcements, which reached the field three hours after my division had sustained the conflict. After the arrival of re-enforcements, the exhaustion of ammunition brought my line from the crests it had carried to the second line, which, being supplied, my troops were ready to continue the action. Richardson's division supported me with that success which always distinguished that noble corps. Brooke's brigade was particularly conspicuous.
I particularly ask attention to the report of Brigadier-General Kimball, to whom the division is indebted for a brilliant display of courage never surpassed. Of my staff, Lieutenants Plume and French, aides-decamp, who have been through every battle with myself fought by McClellan's army, it is sufficient to say did their duty.
Surgeon Grant organized his division hospital under fire. The division commissary, Lieutenant Schuffner, and Lieutenant Hale, Fourteenth Connecticut, division ordnance officer, were strenuous in their exertions to supply the command. The conduct of the new regiments must take a prominent place in the history of this great battle. Undrilled, but admirably armed and equipped, every regiment, either in advance or reserve, distinguished itself, but according to the energy and ability of their respective commanders.
The report of Colonel Morris, Fourteenth Connecticut, commanding brigade, exhibits the services of his command.
There never was such material in any army, and in one month these splendid men will not be excelled by any. Receiving orders from the general in-chief (General McClellan) to hold my position to the last extremity, it was done, but not without terrible loss. My loss was 1,817: killed and wounded, 1,614; missing, 203.
The flags, prisoners, and arms captured are detailed in the subordinate reports.
WM. H. FRENCH,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
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