Report of Lieut. Col. William MacRae, Fifteenth North Carolina Infantry,
Commanding Cobb's brigade, of the Battle of Sharpsburg.
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
SEPTEMBER 23, 1862.
Brig. Gen. H. COBB,
Commanding Cobb's Brigade,
SIR: In compliance with your order, I herewith transmit a statement of the action of your brigade in the battle of Sharpsburg, of the 17th instant:
General McLaws' division, after marching all the previous night, was ordered, about 8 a.m., to take position on the left, your brigade, numbering 357 men, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders, Twenty-fourth Georgia, in front. In about half an hour we arrived in from of the enemy and in range of his musketry, when the head of the brigade was ordered to file right when the rear had filed. General McLaws commanded us to march by the left flank. Colonel Sanders, being in front, did not hear the order, but marched on and joined the left of General Rodes' command. (I will here state that we were thus separated from the division, and did not join it until the next morning.) We baited and took position behind a fence, covered from the enemy's musketry by a hill in front, but not protecting us from the heavy shelling of his several batteries planted on the side of the mountain on our right. For an hour we remained here inactive, suffering considerably, when we were ordered forward; the men, eager to meet the foe upon a more equal footing, gallantly pressed forward with a cheer, the top of the hill gained amid a galling and destructive shower of balls. There we remained, unfaltering, until Colonel Sanders, finding himself unsupported, ordered us to fall back behind the fence. The command was executed in admirable order. We remained here until the force on our right gave way. To prevent flanking, we changed front to the rear on the Fourth Battalion, and took position behind a stone fence, our extreme left remaining unchanged. We had scarcely executed the movement when General D.H. Hill rode up and ordered us forward to check the advance of the enemy. Colonel Sanders, though very unwell, had gallantly remained on the field, cheering his men by words and example until this moment, when he was too much exhausted to remain any longer. Being next in rank, the command devolved upon me.
The brigade, numbering now about 250 men, moved eagerly and un-falteringly forward to within about 100 yards, then opened a destructive fire upon the enemy, largely outnumbering us. He made a short stand, and then fell back behind the hill. Three times did he try to advance, and was as often driven back by the galling fire of our gallant little band. We held them in check (momentarily expecting re.enforcements) until our ammunition was expended. Seeing no sign of support, I was constrained to give the command to fall back. We left the field with not more than 50 of the 250 men. We fell back about 300 yards and joined Colonel Cooke, of the Twenty-seventh North Carolina, remaining with his shattered regiment until he was relieved about 3 p.m.
Where all so nobly did their duty I dislike to discriminate, yet I feel it my duty at least to call your attention to Major [R. E.] McMillan, Twenty-fourth Georgia; Lieut. F. L. Rogers, Company B, Fifteenth North Carolina, and Private J. R. Doster, Company B, Fifteenth North Carolina, who acted with conspicuous gallantry throughout the day. There were numbers of others who deserve the highest praises for their behavior.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Comdg. Fifteenth North Carolina Troops.
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