Numbers 259. Reports of Captain R. Boyce, commanding Macbeth (South Carolina) Light Artillery, of the battle of Sharpsburg.
CAMP NEAR WINCHESTER, VA.,
October 20, 1862.
GENERAL: In obedience to your order, I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by my battery in the action on September 17, at Sharpsburg, Md.:
Early on the morning of the 17th I was ordered by Colonel Walton, chief of artillery, to proceed with my battery beyond the road north of the town of Sharpsburg, to occupy a position to meet the enemy. On reaching the vicinity of the position I supposed I should occupy, I found no person to point it out to me. Colonel stevens, of your brigade, placed me on the slope of the second hill from the road; but, finding my battery could be of no service in this position, I was posted farther down, in front of another battery. Here, discovering that I was still where I could not see the enemy, I moved my battery through a corn-field immediately in front, and, on reaching the farther side of this field, I found the whole line of battle, for at least a mile, extended before me. I placed my guns in battery in easy range of a portion of the line, but had to wait for an opportunity to fire, as our own troops, engaging the enemy, intervened. Shortly after taking this position, General Lee sent me an order to open fire on a battery which had formed on my left almost beyond the range of my pieces. I fired on the battery, and, having it enfiladed, soon forced it to slacken its fire and change its position. I then turned my guns upon a column of the enemy moving through a corn-field, just to the left of the enemy's battery. The range, however, was too great to do much execution. I received an order at this time to cease firing in that direction. After a protracted struggle immediately in front of me, our infantry abandoned the field to overwhelming numbers. My battery was at this time thrown forward, by your order, into an open field 200 or 300 yards in advance of its original position. The enemy then advanced through a corn-field to the field in which my battery had taken its position, showing a front of several hundred yards in extent, plainly on the right and center, but partly concealed by the corn on the left. The whole line of the enemy here was within canister range, and I opened upon him a destructive fire, cutting down two of his flags at the second or third discharge of the guns. The right and center soon gave way and retired. The battery was then turned upon the left, which held its position more obstinately. This portion of the line took shelter in a ravine at the base of the hill from which I was firing, and it was only with one or two guns that they could be reached. Having no support of infantry, and no other battery assisting me in resisting this large body of the enemy, and being exposed the whole time to a galling fire from the enemy's sharpshooters, after firing 70 rounds of canister and some solid shot I was force to retire from this hazardous position. I retired, in order, to the corn-field from which I had advanced, changing my direction soon after entering, so as to avoid the fire of a battery just formed on the hill in rear of the enemy's lines. After resting and refreshing my men, and sending some disabled pieces to the rear and repacking my ammunition chests, I found I would only be able to manage two pieces on the field the remainder of the day.