The duties devolving upon my staff during the action were most important, and the performance of them able and untiring. At a later day I propose to bring to the notice of the Department their individual services.
With the day closed this memorable battle, in which, perhaps, nearly 200,000 men were for fourteen hours engaged in combat. We had attacked the enemy in position, driven them from their line on one flank and secured a footing within it on the other. Under the depression of previous reverses we had achieved a victory over an adversary invested with the prestige of former successes and inflated with a recent triumph. Our forces slept that night conquerors on a field won by their valor and covered with dead and wounded of the enemy.
The night, however, presented serious questions; morning brought with it grave responsibilities. To renew the attack again on the 18th or to defer it, with the chance of the enemy's retirement after a day of suspense, were the questions before me. A careful and anxious survey of the condition of my command, and my knowledge of the enemy's force and position, failed to impress me with any reasonable certainty of success if I renewed the attack without re-enforcing columns. A view of the shattered state of some of the corps sufficed to deter me from pressing them into immediate action, and I felt that my duty to the army and the country forbade the risks involved in a hasty movement, which might result in the loss of what had been gained the previous day. Impelled by this consideration, I awaited the arrival of my re-enforcements, taking advantage of the occasion to collect together the dispersed, give rest to the fatigued, and remove the wounded. Of the re-enforcements, Couch's division, although marching with commendable rapidity, was not in position until a late hour in the morning; and Humphreys' division of new troops, fatigued with forced marches, were arriving throughout the day, but were not available until near its close. Large re-enforcements from Pennsylvania, which were expected during the day, did not arrive at all.
During the 18th, orders were given for a renewal of the attack at daylight the 19th. On the night of the 18th the enemy, after having been passing troops in the latter part of day from Virginia shore to their position behind Sharpsburg, as seen by our officers, suddenly formed the design of abandoning their line. This movement they executed before daylight. Being but a short distance from the river, the evacuation presented but little difficulty. It was, however, rapidly followed up.
A reconnaissance was made across the river on the evening of the 19th, which resulted in ascertaining the near presence of the enemy in some force and in our capturing six guns.
A second reconnaissance, the next morning, which, with the first, was made by a small detachment from Porter's corps, resulted in observing a heavy force of the enemy there. The detachment withdrew with slight loss.
I submit herewith a list of the killed, wounded, and missing in the engagements of the 14th and of the 16th and 17th. The enemy's loss is believed from the best sources of information to be nearly 30,000. Their dead were mostly left upon the field, and a large number of wounded were left behind.
While it gives me pleasure to speak of the gallantry and devotion of officers and men generally, displayed throughout this conflict, I feel it