War of the Rebellion: Serial 027 Page 1012 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXI.

Search Civil War Official Records

Boteler's Mill, below Shepherdstown, thence along the tow-path to the main road to Sharpsburg. On reaching the vicinity of Sharpsburg, the division was halted in a grove to the left, where it remained until 3 p. m., whence we were moved 2 1/2 miles northwest of the town, forming line of battle in an open closer field to the left of and perpendicular to the Sharpsburg and Hagerstown turnpike, in extension of General hood's line, who had occupied the extreme left until our approach. The disposition of the brigades of the division was as follows: Winder's and Jones' brigades occupying the front line, under command of Colonel A. J. Grigsby; Taliaferro's and Starke's brigades in the edge of the woods, 100 yards in rear, under command of Brigadier-General Starke; the whole commanded by Brigadier General J. R. Jones. Two companies were thrown forward, as skirmishers, about 100 yards, and Poague's battery of two parrotts and one Napoleon gun, put in position upon a knoll between the line of skirmishers and front line, supported by both. In a few one of the enemy's batteries, some 500 yards in front, opened fire upon a battery of ours to the right of the brigade, but was silenced in twenty minutes by Poague's well-directed and rapid fire. Shortly after, a number of batteries, about one-fourth of a mile distant, opened upon our lines, and continued firing for some time after dark. The display was grand and comparatively harmless, except to the stragglers in far rear. Throughout the night a desultory fire was kept up by the skirmishers on both sided.

At early dawn of the morning of September 17, the terrible struggle began in earnest, and the direction of their fire indicated plainly the design of the enemy to turn our left flank. Their heaviest field pieces were brought to bear upon us with wonderful rapidity and fearful precision, front and enfilading fires. Their infantry, advancing, compelled Raine's howitzers and Poague's Napoleon, under command of Lieutenant Brown, to withdraw to our rear, and soon our skirmishers became hotly engaged.

About 6 a. m. the advance column of the enemy approached our front, and the front line (Winder's and Jones' brigades), which had been ordered to lie down for concealment and protection, rose at the command of their intrepid leader and poured in a staggering voley, which stopped his advance. For three-quarters of an hour the front line, numbering less than 400 men, maintained the unequal contest, holding their ground and going good work. Heavy re-enforcements advancing to the enemy's support, the front line was ordered to retire to the edge of the wood above indicated, where, in conjunction with the reserve brigade of the division, it remained for half an hour exposed to a terrific storm, of grape, canister, and shell. At the end of this time, our line advanced into the open field and encountered the enemy upon the ground which we had previously held. The firing was fierce and incessant, the enemy standing firm for a time. Unable to withstand the resolute valor of our troops, he retired in considerable disorder.

It was during this severe contest that the chivalrous Starke, who had succeeded to the command of the division, in consequence of General Jones being disabled, fell, while cheering his men in the discharge of their duty. The command fell to no unworthy successor in the dauntless Grigsby, who took the reins with a fearless spirit and held them with a firm hand, the command of the brigade devolving upon Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner, Fourth Virginia. The heavy losses sustained, the confusion unavoidably arising from the change of commanders, and the protracted nature of the contest, rendered necessary the withdrawal of our weary troops to the wood from which they had advanced. Here the efforts of our active leader, assisted by regimental and company officers,