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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam)
Page 830 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA.

[CHAP. XXXI.

I arrived and reported to you a short distance from the battle-field, you directed me to place in position on the heights of Beaver Creek the several batteries of my command. This was accordingly done, just before nightfall. At midnight I was again summoned to your headquarters, and directed to send Colonel S. D. Lee, with his battalion, on the road to Centreville [Keedysville], and to take the residue of my command by the shortest route to Williamsport and across the Potomac, and then to enter upon the duty of guarding the fords of that river.

By sunrise, Monday, 15th, we had reached the intersection of the Hagerstown, Sharpsburg, Boonsborough, and Williamsport roads, and there received reliable intelligence of a large cavalry force of the enemy not far ahead of us. I immediately posted guns to the front and on the flank, sent messengers to General Toombs, understood to be at Sharpsburg, for a regiment or two of infantry, set to work collecting a band of armed stragglers, and sent scouts to the front. These latter soon returned and reported the road clear for some 2 miles. I therefore determined to advance cautiously, without waiting for infantry, in order to protect the large wagon train proceeding by the Hagerstown road through Williamsport. The cavalry, which consisted of three regiments, escaped from Harper's Ferry, crossed our road perhaps less than an hour ahead of us. We thus narrowly missed a rather strange encounter. My purpose wa, of course, if we met, to attempt the destruction of those retiring invaders.

Having crossed the Williamsport Ford, I assigned to Colonel Brown its defense and that of another a mile or more lower down, and proceeded with the remaining battalion (Major Nelson's) to the neighborhood of Shepherdstown.

By 10 o'clock of the 16th the guns were here in position on the heights overlooking the ford, a mile below the town, and the passage was thence forward assiduously guarded.

Here other and arduous duties devolved upon the command and upon myself. By night or by day much labor was needed on the road; the passage of troops had to be facilitated, and important dispatches forwarded in different directions, all rendered the more essential toward General Jackson hastening to Sharpsburg after capturing Harper's Ferry. This continued through the 17th, while the battle (Sharpsburg) was raging, and during the night; especially in my having to meet a requisition for all the long-range guns that could be obtained and possibly spared from the fords. Instructions also reached me to have apprehended and sent forward all stragglers.

On the 18th arrangements had to be made for meeting a demonstration of the enemy reported at Shepherd's Ford, 4 miles above. Some cavalry and a small infantry force of collected stragglers, duly organized for the occasion, were sent thither with a battery. While engaged in these duties I was again summoned to aid in repairing roads and facilitating the passage of troops. The difficult achievement of recrossing our army, with its extensive train, over that single ford, during the night, and the enemy close at hand, having been resolved upon, ever available man and officer of my immediate command, and such others as could be gathered, were at once set to work removing obstructions, preventing collisions, having lights at hand as needed, and promoting the orderly movement of vehicles on the several routes.

After a night thus spent, Major Nelson and myself were, by dawn Friday, 19th, in saddle, for the purpose of securing guns from some of the artillery that had crossed, and placing them in position to aid in


Page 830 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam)
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