<br /> Lee Letter: u001

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Stonewall Jackson
Recipient: Robert E. Lee

Gen:

I have the honor herewith to submit a report of the operations of my command from September 5 to 27, 1862, embracing the capture of Harper’s Ferry, the engagement at Shepherdstown, and so much of the battle of Sharpsburg as was fought by the troops under my command:

. . . By a severe night’s march we reached the vicinity of Sharpsburg on the morning of the 16th.

By direction of the commanding general, I advanced on the enemy, leaving Sharpsburg to the right, and took position to the left of Gen. Longstreet, near a Dunkard church, Ewell’s division (Gen. Lawton commanding) forming the right, and Jackson’s division (Gen. J.R. Jones commanding) forming the left of my command. Maj.-Gen. Stuart, with the cavalry, was on my left. Jackson’s division (Gen. Jones commanding) was formed partly in an open field and partly in the woods, with its right resting upon the Sharpsburg and Hagerstown turnpike; Winder’s and Jones’ brigades being in front, and Taliaferro’s and Starke’s brigades a short distance in their rear, and Poague’s battery on a knoll in front. Ewell’s division followed that of Jackson to the woods on the left of the road near the church. Early’s brigade was then formed on the left of the line of Jackson’s division, to guard its flank, and Hays’ brigade was formed in its rear. Lawton’s and Trimble’s brigades remained during the evening with arms stacked near the church. A battery of the enemy, some 500 yards to the front of Jackson’s division, opening fire upon a battery to the right, was silenced in twenty minutes by a rapid and well-directed fire from Poague’s battery. Other batteries of the enemy opened soon after upon our lines, and the firing continued until after dark.

About 10 p.m. Lawton’s and Trimble’s brigades advanced to the front to relieve the command of Brig.-Gen. Hood, on the left of Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill, which had been more or less engaged during the evening. Trimble’s brigade was posted on the right, next to Ripley’s, of D. H. Hill’s division, and Lawton’s on the left.

The troops slept that night upon their arms, disturbed by the occasional fire of the pickets of the two armies, who were in close proximity to each other.

At the first dawn of day skirmishing commenced in front, and in a short time the Federal batteries, so posted on the opposite side of the Antietam as to enfilade my line, opened a severe and damaging fire. This was vigorously replied to by the batteries of Poague, Carpenter, Brockenbrough, Raine, Caskie, and Wooding.

About sunrise the Federal infantry advanced in heavy force to the edge of the wood on the eastern side of the turnpike, driving in our skirmishers. Batteries were opened in front from the the wood with shell and canister, and our troops became exposed for near an hour to a terrific storm of shell, canister, and musketry. Gen. Jones having been compelled to leave the field, the command of Jackson’s division devolved upon Gen. Starke. With heroic spirit our lines advanced to the conflict, and maintained their position, in the face of superior numbers, with stubborn resolution, sometimes driving the enemy before them and sometimes compelled to fall back before their well-sustained and destructive fire. Fresh troops from time to time relieved the enemy’s ranks, and the carnage on both sides was terrific.

At this early hour Gen. Starke was killed. Col. Douglass, commanding Lawton’s brigade, was also killed. Gen. Lawton, commanding division, and Col. Walker, commanding brigade, were severely wounded. More than half of the brigades of Lawton and Hays were either killed or wounded, and more than a third of Trimble’s, and all the regimental commanders in those brigades, except two, were killed or wounded. Thinned in their ranks and exhausted of their ammunition, Jackson’s division and the brigades of Lawton, Hays, and Trimble retired to the rear, and Hood, of Longstreet’s command, again took the position from which he had been before relieved.

In the mean time Gen. Stuart moved his artillery to a position nearer to the main command, and more in our rear. Early, being now directed, in consequence of the disability of Gen. Lawton, to take command of Ewell’s division, returned with his brigade (with the exception of the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment, which remained with Gen. Stuart) to the piece of wood where he had left the other brigades of his division when he was separated from them. Here he found that the enemy had advanced his infantry near the wood in which was the Dunkard church, and had planted a battery across the turnpike near the edge of the wood and an open field, and that the brigades of Lawton, Hays, and Trimble had fallen back some distance to the rear. Finding here Cols. Grigsby and Stafford, with a portion of Jackson’s division, which formed on his left, he determined to maintain his position there if re-enforcements could be sent to his support, of which he was promptly assured. Col. Grigsby, with his small command, kept in check the advance of the enemy on the left flank, while Gen. Early attacked with great vigor and gallantry the column on his right and front. The force in front was giving way under this attack when another heavy column of Federal troops were seen moving across the plateau on his left flank. By this time the expected re-enforcements (consisting of Semmes’ and Anderson’s brigades and a part of Barksdale’s, of McLaws’ division) arrived, and the whole, including Grigsby’s command, now united, charged upon the enemy, checking his advance, then driving him back with great slaughter entirely from and beyond the wood, and gaining possession of our original position. No further advance, beyond demonstrations, was made by the enemy on the left.

In the afternoon, in obedience to instructions from the commanding general, I moved to the left with a view of turning the Federal right, but I found his numerous artillery so judiciously established in their front and extending so near to the Potomac, which here makes a remarkable bend, as will be seen by reference to the map herewith annexed, as to render it inexpedient to hazard the attempt.

In this movement Maj.-Gen. Stuart had the advance and acted his part well. This officer rendered valuable service throughout the day. His bold use of artillery secured for us an important position, which, had the enemy possessed, might have commanded our left.

At the close of the day my troops held the ground which they had occupied in the morning. The next day we remained in position awaiting another attack. The enemy continued in heavy force west of the Antietam, on our left, but made no further movement to the attack.

I refer you to the report of Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill for the operations of his command in the battle of Sharpsburg. Arriving upon the battle-field from Harper’s Ferry at 2.30 o’clock of the 17th, he reported to the commanding general, and was by him directed to take position on the right. I have not embraced the movements of his division nor his killed and wounded of that action in my report.

The official lists of casualties of my command during the period embraced in this report will show that we sustained a loss of 38 officers killed, 171 wounded; of 313 non-commissioned officers and privates killed, 1,859 wounded, and 57 missing, making a total loss of 2,438 killed, wounded, and missing. I am, general, very respectfully,

your obedient servant,

T. J. Jackson,
Lieutenant-Gen.

Notes:

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