On the 13th of September intelligence was received of
McClellan's advance from the direction of Federal City toward South Mountain,
and on the morning of the 14th I marched with Longstreet's Corps to Boonsboro'
Gap, a narrow and winding pass, through which runs the turnpike from Hagerstown
to Federal City. I was still under arrest, with orders to move in rear of my
two brigades. The division reached the foot of South Mountain about 3.30 p. m.,
from which point could be seen the shells of the enemy, as they passed over the
rugged peaks in front, and burst upon the slope in our proximity. I could hear
the men, as they filed up the ascent, cry out along the line, " Give us Hood!"
but did not comprehend the meaning of this appeal till I arrived with the rear
of the column at the base of the ridge, where I found General Lee standing by
the fence, very near the pike, in company with his chief of staff, Colonel
Chilton. The latter accosted me, bearing a message from the General, that he
desired to speak to me. I dismounted, and soon stood in his presence, when he
said: " General, here I am just upon the eve of entering into battle, and with
one of my best officers under arrest. If you will merely say that you regret
this occurrence, I will release you and restore you to the command of your
division." I replied, " I am unable to do so, since I cannot admit or see the
justness of General Evans's demand for the ambulances my men have captured. Had
I been ordered to turn them over for the general use of the Army, I would
cheerfully have acquiesced." He again urged me to make some declaration
expressive of regret. I answered that I could not consistently do so. Then, in
a voice betraying the feeling which warmed the heart of this noble and great
warrior, he said, "Well, I will suspend your arrest till the impending battle
I quickly remounted, galloped to the front of my column,
and, with a kind welcome from my troops, reported for duty to General
Longstreet, who by this time had reached the summit of the mountain. He
immediately instructed me to file to the left, in the wake of Evans's brigade,
and to take position with my right near the pike. The advance of McClellan's
long lines could be seen moving up the slope in our front, evidently with the
purpose to dislodge our forces posted upon the sharp ridge overlooking the
valley below. Before long Major Fairfax, of Longstreet's staff, came to me in
haste with orders to move to the right of the pike, as our troops on that part
of the field had been driven back. He accompanied me to the pike, and here
turned his horse to leave, when I naturally asked if he would not guide me. He
replied, " No, I can only say, go to the right." Meantime Major Frobel's
batteries had come forward into position on top of the ridge; they opened fire,
and performed excellent service in checking the enemy. The wood and undergrowth
were dense, and nothing but a pig path seemed to lead in the direction in which
I was ordered. Nevertheless, I conducted my troops obliquely by the right
flank, and while I advanced I could hear the shouts of the Federals, as they
swept down the mountain upon our side. I then bore still more obliquely to the
right, with a view to get as far as possible towards the left flank of the
enemy before we came in contact. We marched on through the wood as rapidly as
the obstacles in our passage would admit. Each step forward brought nearer and
nearer to us the heavy Federal lines, as they advanced, cheering over their
success and the possession of our dead and wounded. Finally, I gave
instructions to General Law and Colonel Wofford, directing the two brigades, to
order their men to fix bayonets; and, when the enemy came within seventy-five
or a hundred yards, I ordered the men to front and charge. They obeyed
promptly, with a genuine Confederate yell, and the Federals were driven back
pell mell, over and beyond the mountain, at a much quicker pace than they had
descended. Night closed in with not only our dead and wounded, together with
those of our adversary in our possession, but with the mountain, on the right,
within our lines.
After the correction of my allignment, rode, at about 10 p.
m., back to the Gap, where I found General D. H. Hill and other officers on the
gallery of a tavern, near the pike, evidently discussing the outlook. As I
approached, I inquired, in an ordinary tone of voice, as to the condition of
affairs on our left, and to my surprise was met with a mysterious "
PshePshe " ; a voice added in an audible whisper, " The enemy is
just there in the corn field; he has forced us back." I thereupon suggested
that we repair without delay to General Lee's headquarters, and report the
situation. Accordingly, we rode down to the foot of the mountain, where we
found General Lee in council with General Longstreet. After a long debate, it
was decided to retire and fall back towards Sharpsburg.
The morning of the 15th our forces were again in motion in
the direction of the Antietam; the cavalry and my two brigades, in addition to
Major Frobel's artillery, formed the rear guard to hold our opponents in check,
whilst the Army marched quietly to its destination. My troops, at this period,
were sorely in need of shoes, clothing and food. We had had issued to us no
meat for several days, and little or no bread; the men had been forced to
subsist principally on green corn and green apples. Nevertheless, they were in
high spirits and defiant, as we contended with the advanced guard of McClellan
the 15th and forenoon of the 16th. During the afternoon of this day I was
ordered, after great fatigue and hunger endured by my soldiers, to take
position near the Hagerstown pike, in an open field in front of * Dunkard
Church. General Hooker's Corps crossed the Antietam, swung round with its right
on the pike, and, about an hour before sunset, encountered my division. I had
stationed one or two batteries upon a hillock, in a meadow, near the edge of a
corn field and just by the pike. The Texas brigade had been disposed on the
left, and that of Law on the right. We opened fire, and a spirited action
ensued, which lasted till a late hour in the night. When the firing had in a
great measure ceased, we were so close to the enemy that we could distinctly
hear him massing his heavy bodies in our immediate front.
The extreme suffering of my troops for want of food induced
me to ride back to General Lee, and request him to send two or more brigades to
our relief, at least for the night, in order that the soldiers might have a
chance to cook their meagre rations. He said that he would cheerfully do so,
but he knew of no command which could be spared for the purpose; he, however,
suggested I should see General Jackson and endeavor to obtain assistance from
him. After riding a long time in search of the latter, I finally discovered him
alone, lying upon the ground, asleep by the root of a tree. I aroused him and
made known the half-starved condition of my troops; he immediately ordered
Lawton's, Trimble's and Hays's brigades to our relief. He exacted of me,
however, a promise that I would come to the support of these forces the moment
I was called upon. I quickly rode off in search of my wagons, that the men
might prepare and cook their flour, as we were still without meat;
unfortunately the night was then far advanced, and, although every effort was
made amid the darkness to get the wagons forward, dawn of the morning of the
17th broke upon us before many of the men had had time to do more than prepare
the dough. Soon thereafter an officer of Lawton's staff dashed up to me,
saying, " General Lawton sends his compliments with the request that you come
at once to his support.,, " To arms ,' was instantly sounded, and quite a large
number of my brave soldiers were again obliged to march to the front, leaving
their uncooked rations in camp.
Still, indomitable amid every trial, they moved off by the
right flank to occupy the same position we had left the night previous. As we
passed, about sunrise, across the pike and through the gap in the fence just in
front of Dunkard Church, General Lawton, who had been wounded, was borne to the
rear upon a litter, and the only Confederate troops, left on that part of the
field, were some forty men who had rallied round the gallant Harry Hays. I rode
up to the latter, and, finding that his soldiers had expended all their
ammunition, I suggested to him to retire, to replenish his cartridge boxes, and
reassemble his command.
The following extract from the official report of General
Jackson will convey an idea of the bloody conflict in which my two little
brigades were about to engage:
"General Lawton, commanding division, and Colonel 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, Trimble and Hays
retired to the rear, and Hood, of Longstreet's command, again took the position
from which he had been before relieved."
Not far distant in our front were drawn up, in close array,
heavy columns of Federal infantry; not less than two corps were in sight to
oppose my small command, numbering, approximately, two thousand effectives.
However, with the trusty Law on my right, in the edge of the wood, and the
gallant Colonel Wofford in command of the Texas brigade on the left, near the
pike, we moved forward to the assault. Notwithstanding the overwhelming odds of
over ten to one against us, we drove the enemy from the wood and corn field
back upon his reserves, and forced him to abandon his guns on our left. This
most deadly combat raged till our last round of ammunition was expended. The
First Texas Regiment had lost, in the corn field, fully two-thirds of its
number; and whole ranks of brave men, whose deeds were unrecorded save in the
hearts of loved ones at home, were mowed down in heaps to the right and left.
Never before was I so continuously troubled with fear that my horse would
further injure some wounded fellow soldier, lying helpless upon the ground. Our
right flank, during this short, but seemingly long, space of time, was toward
the main line of the Federals, and, after several ineffectual efforts to
procure reinforcements and our last shot had been fired, I ordered my troops
back to Dunkard Church, for the same reason which had previously compelled
Lawton, Hays and Trimble to retire.
My command remained near the church, with empty cartridge
boxes, holding aloft their colors whilst Frobel's batteries rendered most
effective service in position further to the right, where nearly all the guns
of the battalion were disabled. Upon the arrival of McLaws's Division, we
marched to the rear, renewed our supply of ammunition, and returned to our
position in the wood, near the church, which ground we held till a late hour in
the afternoon, when we moved somewhat further to the right and bivouacked for
the night. With the close of this bloody day ceased the hardest fought battle
of the war.
In the Military Biography of Stonewall Jackson, edited by
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, D. D., occur the following passages (pp. 330-31) in
reference to this engagement:
"Seeing Hood in their path the enemy paused, and a Northern
correspondent writes: 'While our advance rather faltered, the rebels, greatly
reinforced, made a sudden and impetuous onset, and drove our gallant fellows
back over a portion of the hard won field. What we had won, however, was not
relinquished without a desperate struggle, and here, up the hills and down,
through the woods and the standing corn, over the ploughed land and clover, the
line of fire swept to and fro as one side or the other gained a temporary
" Hood was now fighting with his right toward the main line
of the enemy, for General Hooker had swept round so far, that, as we have said,
his line was almost at right angles with its original position. Hood threw
himself into the action with great gallantry, and says in his report: 'Here I
witnessed the most terrible clash of arms by far that has occurred during the
war. The two little giant brigades of my command wrestled with the mighty
force, and although they lost hundreds of their officers and men, they drove
them from their position, and forced them to abandon their guns on our left.'
'One of these brigades numbered only eight hundred and fifty-four (854) men '
The following morning I arose before dawn and rode to the
front where, just after daybreak, General Jackson came pacing up on his horse,
and instantly asked, " Hood, have they gone ? " When I answered in the
negative, he replied " I hoped they had,', and then passed on to look after his
brave but greatly exhausted command.
The subjoined letter, I have no doubt, obtained my promotion
about this period. I had no knowledge of its existence until after the close of
the war, when it was handed to me in New York by Mr. Meyer, to whom I am
indebted for the favor. He was at the time of the surrender a clerk in the War
Office, at Richmond, and, in consideration of the unsettled condition of
affairs, placed it among his papers for preservation:
" HEADQUARTERS, V. DIST., Sept. 27th, 1862.
" GENERAL:I respectfully recommend that Brig. Genl. J.
B. Hood be promoted to the rank of a Major General. He was under my command
during the engagements along the Chickahominy, commencing on the 27th of June
last, when he rendered distinguished service. Though not of my command in the
recently hard fought battle near Sharpsburg, Maryland, yet for a portion of the
day I had occasion to give directions respecting his operations, and it gives
me pleasure to say that his duties were discharged with such ability and zeal,
as to command my admiration. I regard him as one of the most promising officers
of the army.
" I am, General, your obedient servant, (Signed) T. J.
JACKSON, Major General.,'
"General S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. A.
" Endorsed, New York, November 9th, 1866." "The enclosed
letter from General Jackson to General Cooper was handed to General Hood by Mr.
Meyer (a former clerk in the War Department at Richmond), at the Southern Hotel
in this city. The letter is the original, and preserved by Mr. Meyer. "
(Signed) F. S. STOCKDALE."
The foregoing letter is doubly kind in its tenor, inasmuch
as I was not serving in General Jackson's Corps at the time.
During the 18th the Confederate Army remained in possession
of the field, buried the dead, and that night crossed near Shepherdstown to the
south side of the Potomac. Soon thereafter my division marched to a point north
of Winchester, and passed a pleasant month in the beautiful Valley of the
Shenandoah. My arrest, which General Lee, just prior to the battle of
Boonsboro, Gap, had been gracious enough to suspend, was never reconsidered;
the temporary release became permanent, and, in lieu of being summoned to a
Court Martial, I was shortly afterwards promoted to the rank of Major General
with the command of two additional brigades. The accession of Benning's and
Anderson's brigades, which had already taken part in a number of battles,
composed a division which any general might justly have felt honored to
command. The former brigade had been gallantly led by General Toombs at
Sharpsburg. I experienced much interest in training these troops, as I
endeavored to excite emulation among them and thoroughly arouse their pride, in
accordance with the system of education I had pursued with the Fourth Texas
Regiment, Law's, and my original brigade. Under the unfortunate organization of
brigades by States, I lost the Eighteenth Georgia Regiment and Hampton's
Legion, to both of which commands, I, as well as my Texas troops, had become
warmly attached. The former had served with me longer than the latter, and in
every emergency had proved itself bold and trusty; it styled itself, from a
feeling of brotherhood, the Third Texas.
Whilst I lost these two excellent bodies of men, I gained
the Third Arkansas, a large regiment, commanded by Colonel Van Manning, a brave
and accomplished soldier, who served with distinction, and, in truth, merited
higher rank and a larger command. I also lost the Sixth North Carolina, Ninth
and Eleventh Mississippi Regiments, which, after long and gallant service in
Law's brigade, were also transferred to other commands; thus, unfortunately,
were severed relations which had been engendered and strengthened by common
trials and dangers.
* In my official report erroneously called St. Mumma