War of the Rebellion: Serial 027 Page 0832 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA.

Search Civil War Official Records

[CHAP. XXXI.

allowed, and to have the residue well in hand, back of adjacent hills, for protection, till needed. My directions were also given them not to fire merely in reply to shots from the other side, but only to repel any attempt at crossing and to guard the ford. My own position was chosen at a point central, moderately protected by conformation of ground, at the same time commanding the general view and accessible from every direction, with a little exposure of messengers as any one place in such a scene could be. And here, except when some personal inspection or order had to be given requiring temporary absence, I remained for best service throughout the day.

During most of the forenoon the enemy's fire was furious, and, under cover of it, in spite of persistent vigor on the part of our batteries, a heavy body of sharpshooters gained the canal bank on the northern and hostile side of the river. This proved to us an evil not slightly trying, since it exposed our nearer cannoneers to be picked off, when serving their guns, by the enemy's effective infantry rifles.

From the advanced batteries on the left I was, therefore, applied to for some infantry to counteract in part this evil, by availing themselves of any cover at hand to serve as sharpshooters on that part of our side. I accordingly ordered to the duty 200 of the infantry in reserve.

After some time, the cavalry officer commanding at the ford, 2 miles below, notified me that the enemy was before him in force; had planted a powerful battery, and could not be prevented crossing unless I sent him some infantry. Considering the importance of thus securing our flank, I judged it proper to send him also an infantry force of between 100 and 200 men. Of the extent of loss at Sharpsburg from the two brigades left with me, and of their consequent very small numbers all told, I half not been informed when their assignment to my direction wad made. In providing, therefore, for protecting right and left, as described, I was not aware of infantry weakness for the ford itself. This was, however, as the evening progressed, make to me only too certain. The enemy's fire, which had for a season relaxed, became fiercer than before, and so directed as to rake most of the hollows, as well as the hills, we occupied. At the same time their infantry at the canal breastwork was much increased, and the crack of their sharpshooters became a continuous roll of musketry. Colonels Lamar and Hodges both reported to me that the pressure on their small force, the whole of which remaining I had ordered to the river, and the sum total when all were there was, they informed me, scarcely 300, was becoming too great to be borne. I directed them to hold on an hour longer; sunset was at hand, and I had communicated with Colonel Munford, who promised at dark to be with us; that by that time I would have the batteries withdrawn; they should, after due notice, retire next the batteries, and the cavalry should fall in between them and the enemy, so that all would get right out. This plan, I judged it, under the circumstances, best on the whole to adopt, in the discretion left with me, as the reason of the case already indicated seemed not to justify the sacrifice incident to utmost resistance against any crossing. While these directions were passing, the commanders of battery after battery notified me that their ammunition was exhausted, and that they were thus exposed to small purpose. Their request for permission to retired, under such circumstances, it was not deemed wise to grant wherever the movement could be seen by the enemy; in case where they could get back unseen, it was sanctioned. Instructions were sent to each battery, besides, to retire in specified order, as dusk deepened to conceal them in so doing. It