Tarheels During the Civil War

Monday, June 6, 2011

Third North Carolina at Sharpsburg

Report of Major S.D. Thruston to Governor Zeb Vance on the action at Sharpsburg.


Head Quarters, 3d No. Ca. Troops
Camp near Winchester, Va.
Septr. 27th, 1862.

Sir,
            In consequence of a severe wound received by Col. Wm. L. DeRosset, it becomes my duty to report to your excellency, the part acted by my Regiment (3d No. Ca.) in the battles of the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th September, near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
            The evening of the 13th, Sept. about 7 o’clock P.M. we moved from our Camp on the Antietam River to the Town of Boonsboro and bivouacked near the west base of the Blue Ridge for the night:- at an early hour on the morning of the 14th were ordered forward to the top of the Ridge:- Reaching by the right flank along the Western Turnpike we reached the summit of the mountain, where this Pike crossed; here changing directions to the right, we moved along the Ridge to [blank] Gap, and were formed in line of battle preparatory to an attack upon the enemy, who was here massed in heavy force.
            In this position we rested for an hour or more, when we again moved by the right flank, to give place to Genl. Anderson’s[?] Brigade; which formed on our left at the time, I was ordered to take four Companies of my Regt:- and deploy them as skirmishers:- I proceeded to organize companies “A”, Lt. Williams; “D” Capt. Meares, “F”, Lt. Radcliffe, and “I”, Capt. Craige, as a Battalion of skirmishers, and deployed them about (200) two hundred yards in advance and covering the entire Brigade front:- This being completed, we advanced in line of battle up the side of a steep and rugged mountain, covered by an almost impenetrable growth of ivey; advancing along half a mile, my line of skirmishers, came in contact with similar line from Genl George B. Anderson’s Brigade deployed in a direction nearly perpendicular to my line, and masking my entire right:- Making a reconnaissance in person, I discovered the line of battle occupied by my Regt, and Genl Anderson’s Brigade to be so nearly at right angles to each other, as to render both inactive; this I immediately communicated to Brig. Genl. Ripley Comdg the Brigade, who ordered us to fall back to the base of the mountain which was done in good order; here the Companies of skirmishers, were ordered to their proper position in line, and the Regt. again moved by the right flank up the mountain by a steep and narrow road, falling [passing?] as the right reached the top of said mountain it being now about 9 P.M.; we rested in this position, within (200) two hundred yards of the enemy, until about 11 P.M., when we took the road to Sharpsburg. Our casualties during the day, were two (2) wounded and two (2) missing; the latter supposed to be asleep, when we left the mountain, and are prisoners.
            My Regt. dide not get an opportunity of meeting the enemy on this day, owing to some misfortunate error of position, when it was ordered forward, but evinced its readiness, as it ever has done, to defend that Flag which must leade to peace and prosperity.
            The morning of the 15th found us drawn up in line of battle, in front of the town of Sharpsburg, watching the advance of the enemy, who made his appearance about 1 P.M., a desultory fire of artillery, [illegible] we kept our position, under cover, and supporting our artillery during the day without any casualty, and slept on our arms at night.
            Early on the morning of the 16th, the enemy opened with a  heavy fire of artillery, upon the batteries supported by us, which, continuing at intervals during the morning, our position was the same as on the 15th; until about 6 P.M. when we moved by the left flank to an exposed position near the center, and in supporting distance of Genl Hoods[?] Brigade, then skirmishing with the enemy:- here we rested for the night; prepared at a moment to move in that direction where our service might be required.
            The 17th of Sept. found the Regt. at its post, while heavy skirmishing commenced in front:- about 6 A.M. the enemy opened with artillery in front and flank, subjecting us to a heavy and destructive cross fire, from which we suffered much in wounded, yet the [illegible] kept those “[illegible]” quietly and calmly awaiting orders to move forward to the attack. About 6 ½ A.M. the command “Forward” was given; we advanced in line of battle until a burning building in front, forced us to change direction by the right flank, so as to clear the obstacle, which soon as accomplished, the command by the “left flank” caused us again to advance; these manouvres, the Regt executed in splendid order, and soon placing the burning building in its rear, marched by the left flank, to unite with the other Regts of the Brigade, which had moved directly forward:- this union being accomplished we advanced with a shout to the encounter:- Advancing to about 100 yards, we opened fire upon the steady and well formed ranks of the enemy; drawn up in three lines of battle, and supported by artillery; here we fought unsupported by artillery, while our ranks melted rapidly before the well directed fire of the enemy’s rifles, grape and canister; in a short time, our gallant Colonel fell severely wounded, and was borne from the field. Capts Rhodes and MEares, Sts. McNair, Quincey, Corraw[?] and Gillespie had sealed their devotion to their Country, with their own glorious life bloode, which Captains Horne, Emmett and Craige; Lts. Radcliffe, Williams, Wardes[?], Graham, Bevin, DeRosset, Garland and Rhodes had been borne from the field severely wounded:- My Regt. now reduced to a mere handful, with only eight officers still gallantly held its position, with five rounds of ammunition per man, and no support yet on the field, while the enemy was bringing his third line to the attack (the 1st having broken and the 2d breaking) with these five rounds we still held the field and not until[?] the last, was fired, and the order came, did we yield one inch. Forced to retire, we did so in good order, the men turning and firing as they chanced to find a cartridge lying on the field. We continued in this manner to retire until relieved by the Division of Genl McLaws; we were then drawn off to the rear to procure ammunition and organize our shattered units, this completed we were again ordered to the front; while executing this move, a shell from one of the enemy’s guns exploded in our midst, killing instantly, the brave and gallant Captain Williams, and the young and intelligent Lieut, Speight, while (14) fourteen men were disabled. Arriving on the field, I was requested by Maj. Fairfax (Genl. Longstreet’s Staff) to relieve Col. Cooke’s Regt, then supporting a battery in the center, this being readily agreed to, I was ordered by Genl Longstreet to hold the position at all hazards; on assuming my new position, the Regt was subjected to a terrific fire of the enemy’s artillery from 2 P.M. until darkness closed the action:- the casualties during this period, were sixteen (16) wounded. Having received a painful shell wound during the action, which, growing more serious in the night, I left my Regt in command of Lieut. Thos. Armstrong (the [illegible] officer) and retired for the purpose of seeking relief; returning at an early hour on the morning of the 18th., I found it occupying the same position of the evening of the 17th:- having remained the whole time without food or even water – about 9 A.M. – on the morning of the 18th. we were relieved, and rested during the day immediately in rear of the main line of battle. At 9 P.M. we took up the line of march for the Potomac, which we crossed and bivouacked on the Va. side. Thus ended the bloody battles of the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th, in which many gallant soldiers fell a sacrifice to Northern Vandalism and Yankee brutality.
            The list of casualties, as shown by the accompanying reports, is heavy, including those of the bravest and best of the Sons of the Old North State:- while we mourn the loss of our comrades in arms, yet we have the consolation to know, that they fell at their post, gallantly defending that flag, which is alone the symbol of the free; to say that my officers behaved with coolness and bravery, is but a small meed of honor, compared with their gallant deeds, on the memorably 17th. No mark of distinction can be made, in favor of any, but the deeds of each and all will live forever in the hearts of their grateful countrymen. To the men of the Regt. all honor is due, for their noble conduct on the field and march; enduring privations and hardships without a murmur, and fighting manfully for the Honor and love of their Homes.
            To Sgt. Maj. Clarke and Prvts. Williams, Eason[?] and J.R. Heath of Co: “A” all credit is due, for their gallant services in volunteering to burn a building, directly under the fire of the enemy, and the very satisfactory manner in which it was accomplished.
            To my acting Adjutant, Lt. VanBokkelen, I am indebted for the gallant manner in which he performed his duty on the field. Of the Regiment, I can safely say, it will never betray the trust bequeathed by its “Good Old State.”
With much respect, I am Sir,
Your Very Obt. Svt.
S D Thruston,
Major Comdg. 3d No. Ca. Troops

To Hon. Zeb. Vance,
Gov: of North Carolina, in
Raleigh N.C.

Source: William L. DeRossett Collection, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.

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