Report of Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball, U. S. Army,
Commanding First Brigade, of the Battle of Antietam.
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
HDQRS. KIMBALL'S BRIG., FRENCH'S DIV., SUMNER'S CORPS,
On the Field of Battle, near Sharpsburg, September 18, 1862.
GENERAL: On the morning of the 17th instant, in obedience to your order, my brigade crossed Antietam Creek and was formed into line of battle on the left of General Sedgwick's division, and in the third line, Generals Weber's and Morris' forming the first and second lines. In this position I moved directly forward about three-fourths of a mile, when General Weber encountered the enemy's pickets and drove them back, and soon came upon the enemy in force, posted in a strong position in an orchard, corn-field, ditches, and upon the hill-sides. At this moment, in obedience to your order, I moved my brigade forward and formed my line in front on the left of General Weber. My right wing, consisting of the Fourteenth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Colonel Harrow, and the Eighth Regiment Ohio Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Sawyer commanding, was posted on the hill-side in front of the orchard, their left resting on a lane running in the direction of Sharps-burg; my left wing, consisting of the Seventh Regiment Virginia Volunteers, Colonel Snider, and the One hundred and thirty-second Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Oakford commanding, resting on an extension of the same line, their right resting on the lane running toward Sharpsburg and their left extending toward the creek.
Directly on my front, in a narrow road running parallel with my line, and, being washed by water, forming a natural rifle-pit between my line and a large corn-field, I found the enemy in great force, as also in the corn-field in rear of the ditch. As my line advanced to the crest of the hill, a murderous fire was opened upon it from the entire force in front. My advance farther was checked, and for three hours and thirty minutes the battle raged incessantly, without either party giving way. The enemy, having been re-enforced, made an attempt to turn my left flank by throwing three regiments forward entirely to the left of my line, which I met and repulsed, with loss, by extending my left wing, Seventh Virginia and One hundred and thirty-second Pennsylvania, in that direction. Being foiled in this, he made a heavy charge on my center, thinking to break my line, but was met by my command and repulsed with great slaughter. I then, in turn, ordered a charge, which was promptly responded to, and which resulted in driving the enemy entirely from the ditches, &c., and some distance into the cornfield beyond. In this charge my command captured about 300 prisoners, the enemy in his flight leaving on the field several stand of colors, which were taken by some parties outside of my brigade whilst we were pursuing him.
At this time a brigade of General Richardson's division advanced to my relief on the left of my line, securing that flank from further assaults. In the mean time, the line on my right having been abandoned, the enemy made an attempt to turn that flank, and by that to gain my rear, and succeeded in gaining a corn-field directly on my right. To repulse them, a change of front was made by the Fourteenth Indiana and Eighth Ohio Volunteers, which resulted in driving the enemy from my right, and restored the line, which was afterward occupied by Smith's division of General Franklin's corps. For four hours and a half my command was under most galling fire, and not a man faltered or left the ranks until the field was left by the rebels in our possession, those who were sent with the wounded to the rear quickly returning to their places in line. For three and a half hours of this time we were upon the field, and maintained our position without any support whatever. My men having exhausted all their ammunition, the right was maintained for some time with the supplies stripped from the bodies of their dead and wounded comrades.
Every man of my command behaved in the most exemplary manner, and as men who had determined to save their country or die. The Fourteenth Indiana and Eighth Ohio Volunteers, in the change of front which saved our right, executed it as veterans and as only brave men could. The battle was fought under your own eye, general, and I need not tell you how terrible was the conflict. The loss in my command is a lasting testimony of the sanguinary nature of the conflict, and a glance at the position held by the rebels tells how terrible was the punishment inflicted on them. The corn-fields on the front are strewn with their dead and wounded, and in the ditch first occupied by them the bodies are so numerous that they seem to have fallen dead in line of battle, for there there is a battalion of dead rebels. We maintained our ground and drove the enemy from his. After the firing had ceased on my front, the enemy seemed to have concentrated his force on the force of General Richardson's command. Colonel Brooke, commanding a brigade, sent to me for assistance. You having previously ordered Colonel Morris, commanding Second Brigade, to take orders from me, I ordered him to Colonel Brooke's assistance.
The loss in my command is as follows: 121 killed, 510 wounded, 8 missing. This number embraces officers and men.
Lists from the several regiments, with name and rank, together with the reports of Colonels Harrow and Snider and Lieutenant-Colonels Sawyer and Wilcox, are forwarded herewith. Among the killed and wounded are many brave and gallant officers.
Col. R. A. Oakford, One hundred and thirty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, was killed while leading his regiment. He was a brave officer and died like a hero. Captain Coons, acting lieutenant-colonel, and Captain Cavins, acting major, Fourteenth Indiana Volunteers, were wounded while gallantly leading their commands.
Where every officer and man behaved with such signal bravery and coolness, it would be invidious to make distinction by mentioning the names of a part only.
I cannot speak in too high praise of the officers of my staff, to whom I am indebted for valuable services rendered to me on the field. My adjutant-general, Capt. E. D. Mason, behaved with great coolness, and received a very painful wound during the engagement. The conduct of Lieutenants Swigart, Marshall, and Burrell, throughout the entire fight, was highly commendable, and exhibited a high degree of gallantry, efficiency, and personal bravery. They were proved by a test such as it is seldom the lot even of veterans to encounter, and the result has been highly honorable to them. I recommend them to the consideration of the commanding general.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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