Report of Col. James A. Walker, Thirteenth Virginia Infantry, commanding Trimble's brigade, of the battle of Sharpsburg.
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
OCTOBER 11, 1862.
Maj. S. HALE,
In obedience to orders from division headquarters, calling upon me for a report of the operations of Trimble's brigade on September 17 at the battle of Sharpsburg, I respectfully submit the following:
On the night of the 16th, about 11 o'clock, I was ordered by Briga-dier-General Lawton, then in command of the division, to carry my command to the front, to relieve a portion of General Hood's troops, which I did, taking the place of a brigade commanded by Colonel Law. My pickets were posted in the edge of a wood, which was occupied but a short distance farther in by the enemy, and my main body was placed in a plowed field, connecting with Lawton's brigade on my left and with Ripey's brigade, of D. H. Hill's division, on my right, the latter forming a right angle with my line, and facing the Antietam River. Twice during the night the enemy's pickets attacked mine, in force, and a desultory fire was kept up between them the greater part of the night.
At daylight heavy skirmishing commenced between the pickets, and was kept up without intermission until about sunrise, when the enemy's line of battle was advanced, driving my pickets in. Soon after daylight the enemy opened fire from a battery which was posted on a hill across the Antietam, and which consequently enfiladed our position, and, as my command was exposed to full view of their gunners and had no shelter, this fire was very annoying, but less destructive than I at first apprehended it would be. About the time my skirmishers were driven in, the enemy also opened on us from the front with artillery. The line of infantry which they brought up first, advanced to the edge of the woods where my skirmishers had been posted, and opened fire upon us, to which my men replied with spirit and effect, holding them in check. The whole force of the enemy opposed to my regiments occupied the shelter of the wood, except that portion which confronted the left of my line, where the Twelfth Georgia Regiment was posted. Observing that the cool and deliberate fire of this tried and veteran regiment was annoying that portion of the enemy's line very greatly, I ordered the Twenty-first Georgia and Twenty-first North Carolina Regiments to wheel to the left, and, taking shelter under a low stone fence running at right angles to their former line, direct their fire upon the wavering Yankee regiment, with the view of breaking the enemy's line at this point. They did so promptly, and a few rounds from them had the desired effect, and the enemy's line was entirely broken. At this opportune moment, fresh troops came up to the assistance of Lawton's brigade, which was hotly engaged on our left, and I ordered my command to advance, which they did, but the fresh troops, which were advancing in such good order at first, gave way under the enemy's fire and ran off the field before they had been halted by their officers and almost before they had fired a gun. Being thus left without support on our left, my men could advance no farther with safety, and halted. I tried to hold the advanced position thus gained until troops came to our support, but the enemy was first re-enforced, and we were compelled to fall back to our original line.
About this time the officers of the brigade began to report that their companies were out of ammunition. I directed them to gather what they could from the cartridge-boxes of the dead and wounded, and we were thus enabled to keep up the fight. (I would state here that our supply of ammunition had been heavily drawn upon by the long-continued and heavy skirmishing; the pickets had fired all in their boxes, and I had to divide the ammunition of the men in line with them before they were driven in.) Being thus left without ammunition, when a fresh brigade came to my support I ordered Captain Hall, of General Trimble's staff, to direct the commandants of regiments to bring back what men were still left with them to a designated point in rear of the village of Sharpsburg, where they could be supplied with ammunition, and ordered the other staff' officers of the brigade to gather up the stragglers from the different regiments of the command and carry them to the same point.
Having been wounded some time previous, and my wound becoming stiff and painful, I then left the field and reported the fact to General Early, who was then in command of the division, through one of his staff officers.
It gives me great pleasure to bear testimony to the gallantry of the officers and men of this (Trimble's) brigade, which I had the honor to command for a short while.
To General Trimble's staff--Captain McKim, aide; Captain Hall, assistant adjutant-general, and Captain Hoffman, volunteer aide---I am greatly indebted for their assistance and gallant behavior under heavy fire. Captain McKim was severely wounded while bearing an order from me to the Fifteenth Alabama Regiment.
Captain Rodgers, commanding the Twelfth Georgia, and Captain Miller, commanding the Twenty-first North Carolina, were both killed on the field while gallantly discharging their duty. Major Glover, commanding the Twenty-first Georgia, was very severely wounded.
Captain Feagin, commanding Fifteenth Alabama Regiment, behaved with a gallantry consistent with his high reputation for courage and that of the regiment he commanded. I would especially call attention to the case of Captain Feagin, as he asked me to correct an erroneous impression which Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill had conceived of him by finding him with a portion of his command in rear after the ammunition of his men had given out and he had been ordered to fall back, by me. Captain F[eagin] has since been severely wounded at Boteler's Mill, and is absent. I ask that this statement be forwarded to General Jackson, in justice to a gallant officer.
A list of killed and wounded has been forwarded to division headquarters, from which it will appear that out of less than 700 men carried into action the brigade lost 228 in killed and wounded.
Very respectfully submitted.
JAMES A. WALKER,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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