Mississippi Brigade (General Barksdale) advanced, and to his right, was thickly strewn with the dead and wounded of the enemy, far exceeding our own, and their dead were much more numerous than their wounded. The close proximity of the combatants to each other may account for the disproportion. General Cobb's brigade, going in, extended itself farther to the right than I intended, but the colonel commanding, Colonel [C. C.] Sanders, Twenty-fourth Georgia, did not hear my orders to correct the error, so it is reported, and, the engagement commencing immediately, the brigade went on to a position several hundred yards to the right of the woods and defended it. General Semmes was sent to the left just after his brigade came on the ground, by direction of General Jackson, to give support to General Stuart. His brigade drove the enemy through the woods and beyond them for a considerable distance. General Kershaw's brigade was more exposed in its first advance than any other, as it had to move over a large, open space before reaching the woods, which then afforded less protection, but the command went on with enthusiasm and drove the enemy up to their batteries and reserves, and then retired to the woods from which they had first driven the enemy, as did the other brigades of Cobb, Semmes, and Barksdale, because of the weakness of their own lines, the want of immediate support, the want of ammunition, and the fatigue of the men. I call attention to the fact that Colonel [J. D.] Nance, commanding the Third South Carolina Regiment, of General Kershaw's brigade, brought his regiment from the ground in perfect order and formed it in the rear, to be supplied with ammunition, with the precision of a parade. This perfect control of his men is owing to the high state of discipline and good drill for which his regiment is distinguished. General Barksdale reformed on the ground he went over; General Semmes was placed in reserve in his rear; General Cobb's brigade on the left of General Kershaw, who had previously moved to the left of the line.
The enemy having abandoned their attempt to advance, I had an opportunity of examine the relative positions of our troops and those of the enemy, and soon became convinced that we had nothing to gain by an advance of our troops. The strong position of the enemy was along the Antietam, the right bank of which (the side toward our army) was swept by numerous batteries of artillery posted along the left bank, which commanded the right. Their position along the left bank was a very strong one, having the Antietam in their front and Maryland Heights in their rear. For us to force them back on the Antietam was to force them to concentration on their reserves, of which we had none, to weaken our lines, and scatter our troops, so that, in the event of a reserve, no rally of any considerable body could be made, and the final results would not probably have been such as to have entitled us to claim, as we now can, the battle of Sharpsburg as one of the greatest successes, if not the greatest success, of the war, when the enormous disparity between our forces and those of the Yankees are considered.
Brigadier-Generals Kershaw, Semmes, and Barksdale deserve high praise for their heroic conduct in the fight and for the skillful manner their brigades were handled. Colonel Sanders, Twenty-fourth Georgia, who commanded Cobb's brigade during the first part of the engagement, carried it forward in good order, and the brigade maintained its position and drove the enemy for some distance, retiring only after losing 43 per cent. of its strength. Lieutenant-Colonel MacRae, of the Fifteenth North Carolina Regiment, commanded the brigade during the latter part of the fight.