Numbers 229. Report of Captain Edward J. Willis, Fifteenth Virginia Infantry, of the battle of Sharpsburg.
SEPTEMBER 23, 1862.
This regiment went into action under the command of Captain E. M. Morrison, of Company C, the field officers being all absent. This regiment, as all others of the brigade, was very much worn down by hard marches, loss of sleep, and scanty rations, rendering officers and men unfit for the work before them. Straggling, occasioned by sickness, sore feet, and faint-heartedness, reduced the effective strength of the regiment when presented before the enemy to 14 officers and 114 men. This strength was indeed effective, as their work proved, standing shoulder to shoulder with their brave comrades of the brigade. They showed by their unerring aim and eagerness for the charge their willingness and ability to go wherever they might be commanded by their gallant leader, General Semmes, whose bravery on this occasion commanded unwounded admiration and confidence. This regiment occupied a position in the left wing of the brigade, which was on the extreme left wing of the army. They united with great spirit in the charge to which they were ordered, and bore their part in driving from a strong position a greatly superior number of the enemy, forcing them back with great slaughter nearly 1 mile, from which they never recovered. The regiment held its position until some time after the musketry firing of the enemy had ceased, when they were withdrawn with the brigade to replenish their ammunition, which was well nigh exhausted.
In this battle the Fifteenth Virginia Regiment sustained a greater loss than any regiment of the brigade or army, as far as information has been received. Of the officers (14 in number) who entered the fight, 1 (Captain [A. V.] England, Company D) was killed, and 6 (Captain [E. M.] Morrison, commanding the regiment; Second Lieutenant Bumpass, Company C; Second Lieutenants [J. K.] Fussell and [J. H.] Allen, Company G; Second Lieutenant Berry, Company H, and First Lieutenant [G. P.] Haw, Company I) were wounded. Of the non-commissioned officers and privates, 10 were killed and 58 wounded.
So determined was the courage evinced by all the officers and men who bore a part in this fight, that it would be invidious to call names. The unusual loss, from our ranks, of men and officers has naturally cast a feeling of depression over those who now constitute the regiment.
Soon after the engagement commenced, Captain Morrison, who was bearing himself with great bravery, was seriously wounded by a shot through the right breast, which devolved the command upon Captain E. J. Willis, of Company A. The color-bearer (P. H. Hall, of Company A) having been wounded, the colors were placed in the hands of Captain Willis by Sergt. Major W. H. Briggs, who was severely wounded while bearing Captain Morrison from the field. Having rallied the regiment for the charge, Captain Willis placed the colors in the hands of R. W. Taylor, of Company B, one of the color supporters, who bore them gallantly through the engagement.
To account for the smallness of number of those present after the engagement, it is but proper to state that many were occupied in taking from the field of battle their wounded comrades, and a few who were scarcely able to march with the regiment were completely exhausted by the labor of a severe contest of more than two hours.
EWD. J. WILLIS,
Captain, Commanding Fifteenth Virginia Regiment.