|United States Volunteers|
|Antietam 140th Anniversary Reenactment|
|The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers|
HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, RODMAN'S DIVISION,
Mouth of Antietam Creek, Md., September 22, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the movements of the Second Brigade, of General Rodman's division of the Ninth Army Corps, during the engagement with the enemy on the 17th instant:
About sunset on the 16th instant the brigade was placed in line of battle by order of General Rodman on the left of Colonel Scammon's division, supported on the left by the First Brigade, of General Rod man's division. The line was formed behind a range of hills running nearly parallel with Antietam Creek and about one-quarter of a mile directly back from the bridge across the creek. Strong pickets were placed at the distance of 300 yards in front of the line, and in this position we remained until morning. At daylight the enemy commenced shelling the position, and as they had obtained the exact range our loss was considerable.
About 7 o'clock, in accordance with an order received from General Rodman, I moved the brigade into a position to the rear and to the left of the one formerly occupied, facing to the left, the new line of battle forming nearly a right angle with the old one. In this position we remained between one and two hours. Our next movement was a change of front formed on first battalion. This brought the line of battle in a position parallel to the one occupied at first, the right resting about 200 yards in the rear of the first position to the left. Shortly afterward I received orders from General Rodman to move the brigade, with the exception of the Eleventh Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, which was left to support a battery, to the left, forming a line of battle on the prolongation of the old line. I then sent out two companies of skirmishers from the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers to discover, if possible, a ford by which the creek could be crossed. After the ford was <ar27_453> found, I followed in the rear of the First Brigade for the purpose of crossing the creek. I sent an aide-de-camp to bring the Eleventh Regiment Connecticut Volunteers to join the rest of the brigade, who reported that the regiment was not in the position in which it was left, and that he was unable to find it. I saw nothing more of the Eleventh Regiment Connecticut Volunteers until about sunset, when I met the remnant of the regiment near the bridge.
General Rodman ordered me to detach one regiment for the support of the battery belonging to the Ninth New York Volunteers, and to send the remaining regiments of the brigade across the creek in rear of the First Brigade, and, when I had placed the regiment in proper position, to join the balance of the brigade. I found the battery on the hill just below the ford. I detached the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, placed it in what I considered the strongest position for the defense of the battery, and then crossed the ford. I found the rest of my command placed behind a stone wall, with orders from General Rodman to wait there for orders.
Shortly after my arrival the enemy opened an enfilading fire from a section of a battery which had been placed on our left flank. In order to protect the men, I moved the command more to the right, behind the crest of a hill, and awaited in that position the orders of General Rod-man. While in this position the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers rejoined the brigade, and I moved still more to the right, in the direction of the bridge, and halted in the woods, just under the brow of the hill. From this point I was conducted by an aide of General Rodman, and placed in position in the rear of the First Brigade. Shortly after, General Rodman ordered me to form on the left of the First Brigade, ready for an advance on the enemy. Major Lion, acting aide-de-camp, who went to the left of the line to carry my orders, on his return reported that a brigade of the enemy's infantry was forming on the left, which fact I reported to General Rodman. When the order was given by General Rodman to advance, the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, which was on the right of the line, started promptly. The Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, both of which regiments were in a cornfield, apparently did not hear my order. I therefore sent an aide-de-camp to order them forward. This delay on the left placed the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers considerably in the advance of' the rest of the brigade. I asked General Rodman if I should halt the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and wait for the rest of the brigade to come up. He ordered me to advance the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, and he would hurry up the Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers I advanced with the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and commenced firing. The Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers not coming up, I turned to see if they were advancing, and saw some infantry belonging to the enemy advancing upon our left flank. Knowing that if they were not checked it would be impossible to hold this part of the field, without waiting for orders, I put the Spurs to my horse to hasten the arrival of the Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. My horse was almost immediately shot under me, which delayed my arrival. I found that the Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers had changed their front, by order of General Rodman. The line was formed facing to the left, and was nearly a prolongation of the enemy's lines, except that they faced in opposite directions. I immediately ordered Colonel Beach <ar27_454> to change his front, so as to attack the enemy on the right flank. This change was effected, though with some difficulty, owing to the fact that the regiment had been in service but three weeks, and the impossibility of seeing but a small portion of the line at once.
Almost as soon as the change was effected, the right of the enemy's lines, which was concealed in the edge of the corn-field, opened fire. Our men returned the fire and advanced, but were forced to fall back. Colonel Beach rallied them and returned to the attack, but they were again driven back, this time out of the cornfield, beyond the fence. Here they were again rallied, but as it was impossible to see the enemy, and the men were under fire for the first time, they could not be held. The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, which had held their position until this time, now, by order of Major Ward, commanding, moved more to the right, where they were sheltered in a measure from the fire in front, and changed front, so as to reply to the enemy on the left. After a few rounds, as most of the men were out of ammunition, the order was given to fall back. On the road leading to the bridge I found part of the Eleventh Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. At the bridge I collected the shattered remnants of the brigade, in hopes of making a stand, but, owing to the large loss of officers and the failure of ammunition, it was impossible to render the men of any material service. I therefore conducted the brigade across the bridge, and bivouacked for the night in front of the position held by a portion of General Sykes' command.
Battery A, Fifth Artillery, was assigned to my brigade. General Rodman, however, assumed the immediate command the night before the action, and the battery did not report to me again until after the battle.
The regimental reports not being in, it is impossible to give a more detailed account of the movements of the different regiments composing the command.
I append a list of casualties,(*) with the strength of the brigade before going into action.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Comdg. Second Brig., Third Div, Ninth Army Corps.
Capt. CHARLES T. GARDNER,
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTH CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS,
Mouth of Antietam, Md., September 19, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the report of the proceedings of the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers during the late engagement near Sharpsburg:
Lieutenant-Colonel Appelman having been wounded in the engagement, I am unable to state what orders he may have received, but can speak only from the time I took command. The Second Brigade, Third Division, Ninth Army Corps, <ar27_455> with which we were connected, held the extreme left of our line, and about 4 o'clock p.m. were ordered to advance to the support of General Willcox, on our right, who had been repulsed. We did so, and held our position far in advance, until ordered to retire by General Rodman, but not until we had lost over 50 per cent. of our regiment. The fire from artillery and musketry was very severe, the regiment receiving fire in front and on both flanks. The conduct of both officers and men was all that could be asked for, and I have to thank the officers for their active co-operation with me in the performance of their several duties. I will notice particularly the conduct of Private Charles Walker, of Company D, who brought the national colors off the field after the sergeant and every corporal of the color-guard were either killed or wounded.
Our loss was 34 killed, 139 wounded, and 21 missing; total, 194.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. EDWARD WARD,
Major, Commanding Eighth Connecticut Volunteers.
General J. D. WILLIAMS.
HDQRS. FOURTH REGIMENT RHODE ISLAND VOLUNTEERS,
Mouth of Antietam Creek, September 22, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this regiment in the battle of Sharpsburg on the 17th instant:
On the afternoon of the 16th, Harland's brigade, consisting of the Eighth, Eleventh, and Sixteenth Connecticut and Fourth Rhode Island, left the bivouac it had occupied on the left of the Sharpsburg road, and proceeded in a southwesterly direction, following the general course of the Antietam Creek, for 3 or 4 miles, and took up a position behind a range of hills covering a stone bridge which crossed the creek. The regiment lay upon its arms all night, having its front covered by its own pickets. The Fourth had the left of the brigade line, and upon its left lay Fairchild's brigade, of Rodman's division. About an hour after light on the morning of the 17th, the enemy's pickets commenced firing upon those of the regiments upon our left, and shortly after they began shelling the whole division line, their range being very accurate. As soon as the firing commenced, the ranks were dressed and the men directed to lie down in their places. The three left companies, being in a more exposed position, were brought in rear of the rest of the battalion.
Orders were received from Colonel Harland to follow the other brigade to the left, but before that brigade could move, the enemy opened another battery on our right, enfilading our position with a fire of round shot, and completely commanding a little rise of ground on our left, which we should have been obliged to cross to reach the ground occupied by the other brigade. This fact was reported to Colonel Harland by an officer, who returned with orders for the regiment to move to the left and rear, through some woods, in a direction to be indicated by Lieutenant Ives, of General Rodman's staff, who came back with him. The order was executed, the regiment moving by the left flank to the rear through a wooded gully, but partially concealed from the enemy, <ar27_456> who continued their heavy fire of shell and solid shot. The regiment was then drawn up in a farm lane, well protected by a hill. As the brigade filed through the wooded gully, a battery placed in rear of our original position commenced replying to the enemy, too late, however, to cover our retrograde movement, which was almost completed. Our loss in this affair was 2 killed and 8 wounded, among the latter the color-bearer and two color-corporals.
After about an hour the brigade advanced in line of battle to the top of the hill in front, making a right half-wheel, and, after crossing several fields, finally took a position on the top of the hills, at the foot of which ran the Antietam Creek, on the opposite side of which was the enemy. The action on our right was now very sharp, both artillery and infantry being engaged. Our division constituted the extreme left of the line. After a halt of some duration, the division moved by the left flank to the creek, and crossed at a ford under fire from the enemy's skirmishers, who were sheltered behind a stone wall. The Fourth, after crossing the ford, filed to the left (the other brigade going to the right, and the rest of Harland's brigade not yet having crossed), and, after throwing out Company H as skirmishers to cover the front, and Company K to the left, advanced in line toward the stone wall, the enemy retiring, but shortly after opening a fire of musketry on our left, which was soon silenced by the fire from our battery covering the ford.
The enemy then commenced a fire of grape and shell upon us, and the Sixteenth Connecticut, which had just crossed the ford and was taking a position to support our left, retired, passing along our rear. After it had passed, this regiment, by Colonel Harland's orders, took a more sheltered position at right angles to our original one. From here we moved to the right, in the direction taken by Colonel Fairchild's brigade, through a wooded ravine, through which ran the creek. The steepness of the hill-side, the thickness of the wood, and the accurate range of the enemy's batteries made the passage through this defile a matter of considerable difficulty. Upon clearing the woods we lay waiting orders for a short time under a hill-side, which the enemy were shelling, the rest of the brigade having passed on while we were in the woods. From here the regiment was ordered by Colonel Harland's aide to cross the hill behind which it was lying (a plowed field), and to form in line in a corn-field, and to move to the support of the Sixteenth Connecticut, which lay in a deep valley between two hills planted with corn. The regiment moved forward by the right flank in fine order, although subjected to the fire of rebel batteries, of which it was in full view. Descending into the valley to its support, it found the Sixteenth Connecticut giving way and crowding upon its right, compelling it to move to the left, and rendering it almost impossible to dress the line, which an advance in line of battle across two fields of full-grown corn had slightly deranged. It was now subjected to sharp musketry fire from the front, but as the enemy showed the national flag (the corn concealing their uniform), and as our troops had been seen in advance on our right, moving diagonally across our front, the order to cease firing was given, and a volunteer officer to go forward to ascertain who was in our front was called for. Lieuts. George E. Curtis and George H. Watts immediately stepped forward, and placing themselves one on each side of the color bearer (Corporal Tanner, Company G), carried the flag up the hill within 20 feet of the rebels, when the enemy tired, killing the corporal. Lieutenant Curtis seized the colors and returned, followed by Lieutenant Watts. The order to commence firing was then given, <ar27_457> and Colonel Steere sent me to the Sixteenth Connecticut to see if they would support us in a charge up the hill, but the corn being very thick and high, I could find no one to whom to apply. I returned to tell the colonel that we must depend upon ourselves. He then sent to the rear for support. Before they could arrive, the enemy outflanked us with a brigade of infantry, which descended the hill to our left in three lines, one firing over the other and enfilading us. The regiment on our right now broke, a portion of them crowding on our line. Colonel Steere ordered the regiment to move out of the gully by the right flank, and I left him to carry the order to the left, of which wing I had charge, the colonel taking the right (the major being sick, and no adjutant, there were only two field officers to handle the regiment). The regiment commenced the movement in an orderly manner, but, under the difficulty of keeping closed up in a corn-field, the misconception of the order on the left, and the tremendous fire of the enemy, consisting of musketry, shell, and grape, the regiment broke. Colonel Steere, as I afterward learned, was severely wounded in the left thigh, immediately after 1 left him to repeat on the left the order to leave the corn-field. An attempt was made to rally the regiment to the support of a battery at some distance back from the corn-field, but before many had been col-leered the battery retired, when the efforts became unavailing.
I desire to bring to your notice Lieutenants Curtis and Watts, who volunteered to carry the colors forward in the corn-field, and the following non-commissioned officers and privates: Sergeants Wilson, Company A; Coon, Company B; Morris, Company C; Corporals Leonard, Company A; Farley, Company C, and Privates McCann, Company B, and Peck, Company C, who rallied, after the regiment was broken, on the left of the Fifty first Pennsylvania, and continued fighting until all their ammunition was gone, when I ordered them to recross the river to regain the regiment. All the food the men had during the entire day was the very small quantities of salt pork and hard bread they were able to find in an abandoned camp, during the short rest after the shelling out in the morning.
The entire loss during the day was 21 enlisted men killed, 5 officers and 72 enlisted men wounded, and 2 missing. A list of the names, as furnished by the captains of companies, has been forwarded to the Adjutant General.
Colonel Steere commends in the highest terms the conduct of the regiment upon that day. I can only add that throughout the day I never saw an officer but that he was encouraging and directing his men.
The men fought well, as is proved by the fact that they were engaged constantly with the enemy during nine or ten hours, all of which time they were under arms; that they finally broke, under such a very severe fire, and the pressure of a broken regiment, is not surprising, although much to be regretted. Of the present state of the regiment I have only the most favorable report to give.
By direction of Colonel Steere, I have organized the regiment into eight companies, the members of Companies I and K being divided among the others temporarily, although in all reports and musters they will be borne upon their own rolls. In this way officers are gained to officer the other companies, and the companies are made practically larger. The three days just spent in camp, although broken by marching orders, have in part rested the then from the fatigues of the two battles and constant marches to which they have been subjected since the 4th of this month. <ar27_458>
The temporary loss of its commanding officer at the time when his experience can be of so much use is a severe blow to the regiment.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH B. CURTIS,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Fourth Rhode Island.
His Excellency WILLIAM SPRAGUE,
Governor State of Rhode Island.