confed3.gif (5429 bytes)Sharpsburg, September 17th 1862.

The night before the battle Early’s brigade spend on Alfred Poffenberger’s farm on the extreme left of the Confederate battleline. As the battle started at dawn the brigade was ordered further left to assist Confederate Cavalry General J.E.B. Stuart’s Horse Artillery. The brigade was ordered back to the West Woods, but the 13th Virginia was at the request of J.E.B.Stuart retained to support the Horse Artillery. The Regiment was placed in the cornfield north of A. Poffenberger’s farm, where they spend the time during the heavy fighting at Miller’s cornfield.

When the fighting changed to the West Woods as the Division of Union General Sedgwick started it’s attack on the West Woods, the 13th went into action acting as skirmish line for the artillery. The brigade of Union Brigadier General Gorman was leading the attack. As the Union Divison charged into the West Woods the 1st Minnesota and the 82nd New York of the leading Union brigade advanced three times into Poffenberger’s cornfield and three times they were driven back by the 13th Virginia. The cornfield north of A. Poffenberger’s farm lent itself to a debacle similar to the one which occurred in the Miller Cornfield.

At this time Captain John Pelham of the Horse Artillery decided to move a section of twelve pound Napoleons a short distance to the north in order to flank the Union right at Nicodemus Farm. When they pulled north across the plowed field, the teams and limbers got bogged down in the soft mud. The 13th Virginia was brought in to manhandle the field pieces up the slope to the crest west of the barn. With about fifty men to each artillery piece, the infantrymen slung their weapons and shouldered and dragged the guns and their limber chests into battery. With the guns deployed John Pelham ordered the infantrymen to fan out and commence firing into the retreating 19th Massachusetts and 1st Minnesota, of Sedgwick’s Division, which were retirering from the West Wood onto the farm.

The sharpshooters of the 13th Virginia and Captain John Pelham’s artillerists made the position of the 19th Massachusetts too hot to hang onto. The guns loaded with double shotted canister, pounded the New Englanders’ flank. Every time the Union soldiers attempted to move, the 13th Virginia drove them to cover. The two retreating Federal regiments could not endure more and retreated north through the Nicodemus barnyard and beyond. They were the last  Union regiments to leave the West Woods. The struggle around the West Woods was costly to both sides. In twenty minutes 2210 Union soldiers of some 5000 engaged were injured or killed. Although heavily engaged the 13th Virginia only suffered one killed and five wounded. This was the last major fighting on the left of the Confederate line and the fighting shifted towards the center, and late in the day, further towards the right.

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The Official Records

O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]

SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
No. 206.—Part of Report of Maj. Gen. James E. B. Stuart, C. S. Army, commanding cavalry, of operations September 2-20.

HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY CORPS,
February 13, 1864.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the cavalry division, from the battle of Groveton Heights, August 30, 1862, to the recrossing of the Potomac, September 18, 1862 :

* * * * * * * * * *

…………..The next morning (Sept.16th), more infantry and a portion of the cavalry having been brought up to this point, preparations were made to repulse any attack, Maj. Gen. R. H. Anderson being now in immediate command at this point. The battle of Boonsborough, or South Mountain, having taken place the evening previous, resulted unfavorably to us, and the troops occupying that line were on the march to Sharpsburg. The garrison at Harper's Ferry surrendered during the forenoon. Late on the afternoon previous, Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee arrived at Boonsborough and reported to the commanding general, having been unable to accomplish the object of his mission, which his report will more fully explain. His command was assigned to the important and difficult duty of occupying the line of battle of the infantry, to enable it to withdraw during the night; and early next morning his command was charged with bringing up the rear of that column to Sharpsburg, while Hampton accomplished the same for McLaws' command, moving out of Pleasant Valley to Harper's Ferry.

I reported, in person, to General Jackson at Harper's Ferry, and thence rode, at his request, to the commanding general, at Sharpsburg, to communicate to him General Jackson's news and information. Our army being in line of battle on the heights overlooking the Antietam, I was assigned to the left, where Brig. Gen. Fitz. Lee's brigade took position after his severe engagement near Boonsborough between the enemy and his rear guard, Munford's small command being on the right.

On the afternoon of the 16th the enemy was discovered moving a column across the Antietam to the pike, with the view of turning our left beyond the Dunkard church. This was duly reported and the movement watched. A little skirmishing took place before night. I moved the cavalry still farther to the left, making way for our infantry, and crowned a commanding hill with artillery, ready for the attack in the morning. General Jackson had arrived in time from Harper's Ferry, with a part or his command, on the night before, to take position on this line, and the attack began very early next morning. The cavalry was held as a support for the artillery, which was very advantageously posted so as to bring an enfilading fire upon the enemy's right.

About this time Lieut. Col. John T. Thornton, of the Third Virginia Cavalry, was mortally wounded at the head of his regiment. To the service he was a brave and devoted member. In him one of the brightest ornaments of the State has fallen.

This fire was kept up with terrible effect upon the enemy, and the position of the artillery being somewhat endangered, Early's brigade was sent to me by General Jackson as additional support. The enemy had advanced too far into the woods near the Dunkard church for the fire to be continued without danger of harming our own men. I accordingly withdrew the batteries to a position farther to the rear, where our own line could be seen, and ordered General Early to rejoin his division, with the exception of the Thirteenth Virginia Infantry, commanded by Captain [F. V.] Winston, which was retained as a support for the artillery. The artillery opened from its new position, at close range, upon the enemy with still more terrible effect than before. The Thirteenth Virginia Infantry, being within musket range, did telling execution. Early's division now pouring a deadly fire into their front, while the artillery and its support were bearing so heavily upon their flank, the enemy soon broke in confusion, and were pursued for half a mile along the Williamsport turnpike. I recognized in this pursuit part of Barksdale's and part of Semmes' brigades; and I also got hold of one regiment of Ransom's brigade, which I posted in an advantageous position on the extreme left flank after the pursuit had been checked by the enemy's reserve artillery coming into action. Having informed General Jackson of what had transpired, I was directed by him to hold this advance position, and that he would send all the infantry he could get in order to follow up the success. I executed this order, keeping the cavalry well out to the left, and awaiting the arrival of re-enforcements. These re-enforcements were, however, diverted to another part of the field, and no further engagement took place on this part of the field beyond a desultory artillery fire………..

 

…………I regret exceedingly that I have not the means of speaking more in detail of the brave men of other commands, whose meritorious conduct was witnessed both at Sharpsburg and Williamsport, but whose names, owing to the lapse of time, cannot be now recalled, and I have no reports to assist me. Brigadier-General Early, at the former place, behaved with great coolness and good judgment, particularly after he came in command of his division, and Col. (since General) William Smith, Forty-ninth Virginia Infantry, was conspicuously brave and self-possessed. One of the regiments of Ransom's brigade, also becoming detached from the brigade, behaved with great gallantry, and for a long time held an important detached position on the extreme left, unaided.

The gallant Pelham displayed all those noble qualities which have made him immortal. He had under his command batteries from every portion of General Jackson's command. The batteries of Poague, Pegram, and Carrington (the only ones which now recur to me) did splendid service, as also did the Stuart Horse Artillery, all under Pelham. The hill, held on the extreme left so long and so gallantly by artillery alone, was essential to the maintenance of our position.

Maj. H�ros von Borcke displayed his usual skill, courage, and energy. His example was highly valuable to the troops.

Cadet W. Q. Hullihen, C. S. Army, was particularly distinguished on the field of Sharpsburg for his coolness and his valuable services as acting aide-de-camp. I deem it proper to mention here, also, a young lad named Randolph, of Fauquier, who, apparently about twelve years of age, brought me several messages from General Jackson under circumstances of great personal peril, and delivered his dispatches with a clearness and intelligence highly creditable to him.

Private R. T. Clingan, Company G, Cobb's Georgia Legion, one of my couriers, was killed while behaving with the most conspicuous bravery, having borrowed a horse to ride to the field. He had been sent to post a battery of artillery from his native State.

Captain [R. E.] Frayser, Signal Corps [see below], rendered important services to the commanding general from a mountain overlooking the enemy on the Antietam.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. E. B. STUART,

Major-General.

Col. R. H. CHILTON,

Chief of Staff, Army of Northern Virginia.

 

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** Regarding Captain R. E. Frayser, Signal Corps - look at our links page for the link to
Signal Corps Association Reenactors' Division