William H. S. Burgwyn’s view of The Battle of Antietam

William H. S. Burgwyn writes to his Brother “Harry” Henry King Burgwyn Jr. about the Battle of Antietam.

“Thirty Fifth Regiment N.C.T

Camp near Martinsville Va. September 23, 1862

Dear Harry

I suppose ere this you have heard of the capture or Harpers Ferry with 14,000 Yankees and a great battle near Sharpsburg on the 17th just. I was present at both but it Harpers Ferry there was no fighting what the artillery did.

On the 16th we waded the Potomac and bivouacked about a mile and a half on the other side opposite Shepherdstown. Next day about 3 AM we were moved to our position in line of battle but had it changed constantly about 9 AM we were ordered into the thickest of it and where our troops had been repulsed. The brigade was formed in line of battle and marched splendidly through the severe shower of grape and canister and shell but not a man wayward till we came to a fence right in front of us which we had to climb and consequently threw us into more or less confusion and just then the shells and things came thick and fast and at this very time my second lieutenant was shot and it threw us right more confusion. I jumped in front of the Regiment and tried all I could to form the Regiment. Col. Ransom and myself think I rallied them very quickly and then general Ransom gave the command “Forward” The men hesitated a little and I seized the colors from the color bearer and called on the men to follow. Then Col. R made me give them up to him and I turned round and called on the men to follow waving my sword and encouraging them. The whole brigade then marched forward in line of battle and kept dressed better than in a dress parade. We had not gone far before we came to a line of woods and somebody commenced cheering as some hundred Yankees prisoners came through our lines. We were then ordered to charge through the woods which were about 100 yards with widening in direction of our right to about 400 yards. The Yankees had possession of the skirt of woods opposite us and we were ordered to clean the woods of them. They met the Regiment on our right the 49th with a severe fire wounding and killing a great many but the fire not being far enough to the left to hurt us. We charged up to the skirts driving the Yankees in front of us and then fired upon them lying down they fled like geese and then their artillery opened upon us about 300 yards distance. Just at the skirts of the woods where we were lying down was sloping and artillery passed over us. We stayed there some time and when they marched around to the Right by the right flank halted fronted and ordered to charge the enemy that were in the skirts of the woods general J. E. B. Stuart ordering us to do so we charge beyond the point of the woods and there found two batteries one not over 200 yards from us they immediately opened upon us but pointed their guns too low and we immediately felt back in the woods to place something like the other place and lay down. And then commenced such a storm of grape canister and balls that they say was far worse and more severe then Meadow Hill but we were in a little hollow in the grape and canister past about three or 4 feet above us the Yankees making it graze the top of the hill we were shelled there all day till about five with some slight interruption when the Yankees endeavor to retake the place.

Col. Ransom has praised me very much about my action there and Maj. Gen. R. Says they told him I acted most gallantly.

We march from Rapidan Station to a little town in Maryland without one days rest and we have twice entered Maryland and then twice driven back making four times we have waded the Potomac. We retreated or fell back after the Battle of Sharpsburg across the river and in our haste lost all her baggage and bed clothing but no regimen but ours lost officer’s baggage or bed clothing.

I have no more time to write more as I have written mother and have got to write her some more as our quartermaster goes to Raleigh today to get clothing [illegible] for the men.

Your Affect brother

W.H.S. Burgwyn”


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