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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 858 OPERATIONS IN N. VA.,W. VA.,MD.,AND PA. Chapter XXXI.

halt my division near to his headquarters, which was done, and I then rode back to hasten up General Anderson, whose division was in the rear. About an hour after this my division was ordered to the front by an aide-de-camp of General Lee, Major Taylor. In about 1 mile we came in rear of the position, which was pointed out by Major Ratchford, of General D. H. Hill's staff, as the one the division was to occupy. I was, of course, entirely ignorant of the ground and of the location of the troops. General Hood, however, who was present, pointed out the direction for the advance, and my line of battle was rapidly formed, General Cobb's brigade on the right, next General Kershaw's, Generals Barksdale and Semmes on the left. Just in front of the line was a large body of woods, from which parties of our troops, of whose command I do not know, were seen retiring, and the enemy, I could see, were advancing rapidly, occupying the place. My advance was ordered before the entire line of General Kershaw could be formed. As the enemy were filling the woods so rapidly, I wished my troops to cross the open space between us and the woods before they were entirely occupied. It was made steadily and in perfect order, and the troops were immediately engaged, driving the enemy before them in magnificent style at all points, sweeping the woods with perfect ease and inflicting great loss on the enemy. They were driven not only through the woods, but over a field in front of the woods, and over two high fences beyond and into another body of woods over half a mile distant. From the commencement of the fight, the men were scattered, by the engagement, through the woods where the enemy made their only stand, and, there being no immediate support, the several brigades fell back into the woods, and the line, to maintain the position, was formed by the brigades of General Ransom (Walker's division) and Armistead (General Anderson's division), which had been sent to my support; of General Early, which was already in position, and the brigades of Generals Barksdale and Kershaw. Captain Read's battery had been placed in position on the right of the woods, which we had entered, and did most excellent service, but it was exposed to such a severe fire, General Kershaw ordered it back after losing 14 officers and men and 16 horses. Another battery, Captain Carlton's, which I had ordered into position in the woods in front of General Ransom's brigade, was so severely cut up in a short time by the direct and cross-fires of numerous batteries that I ordered it to retire. The enemy did not make an attempt to retake the woods after they were driven from them, as I have mentioned, but kept up a terrific fire of artillery. There was an incessant storm of shot and shell, grape and canister, but the loss inflicted by the artillery was comparatively very small. Fortunately, the woods were on the side of a hill, the main slope of which was toward us, with numerous ledges of rocks along it. Thus it was, our men, although under this fire for hours, suffered so little from it. I could do nothing but defend the position my division occupied. The line was too weak to attempt an advance. There were not men enough to make a continuous single line. In some places for considerable distance there were no men at all, while just beyond us, across an open field, about 400 or 500 yards distant, were the lines of the enemy, apparently double and treble, supporting numerous batteries, which crossed fire over every portion of the ground. The artillery of the enemy was so far superior to our own in weight of metal, character of guns and numbers, and in quality of ammunition, that there was but very little to be gained by opposing ours to it, and I therefore did not renew the attempt after the first experiments. The ground over which the


Page 858 OPERATIONS IN N. VA.,W. VA.,MD.,AND PA. Chapter XXXI.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam)
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