Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, Sept 1862 (2-6A War News: Battle on Catoctin Mountain)
THE WAR IN MARYLAND
BATTLE ON CATOCTIN MOUNTAIN,
MONDAY Sept. 15.
The news that reaches here from the front, coming through a variety of sources, and of course only to be got together piece-meal, is all of a gloriously encouraging character. Our troops have been driving the enemy ever since they left Frederick, and yesterday fought them for four hours in a general engagement, defeated them, and sent them flying in rapid retreat to get out of "My Maryland." Our army has proved itself like that God of the ancient mythology who gained strength from contact with his mother earth and rises from a fall prepared with a new fund of resolution and stamina. The reverses in front of Washington left behind, in the minds of men, anger instead of dismay, and led by Generals in whom they place confidence they say they are "fighting this time to win," and so far have made their words good by acts.
Sunday is emphatically the fighting day of this war and yesterday has added another to the list of memorable battles that have occurred on it. The scene of the fight yesterday was upon what is generally called the "Second Mountain" of the Catoctin range but on the maps is called South Mountain. Our forces on Saturday drove the Rebel rear guard out of Middletown and our advance halted that night a short distance beyond that village. Early on Sunday morning the onward movement was resumed by Gen. McClellan. The Rebels were directly in front and retreated slowly and resolutely contesting every foot of ground. Up to about two o'clock the engagement was principally with artillery. The Rebels placed their batteries on every advantageous position and shelled our advance. Our artillery replied and the fire was at times very heavy, but the advantage, from the higher ground they occupied, being with the Rebels in this artillery practice. Our Generals depended more upon their infantry, and heavy columns were pushed successfully forward, driving the enemy back until about half the ascent of the mountain was gained. In doing this work some splendid dashes were made by our troops, in which Burnside's and Hooker's corps (formerly McDowell's) particularly distinguished themselves.
Between two and three o'clock the Rebels were found drawn up in line of battle, their left covering Turner's Gap, through which the pike to Hagerstown passes, and their right extending to Crampton’s Gap. Our right was led by Gen. Hooker in advance, with Gen. Franklin on the left and General Burnside’s corps in the centre. Gen. Heintzelman's corps was pressing up in the rear, and was I believe in reserve. Some portions of it may have participated in the fight.
When the enemy were thus found drawn up in line of battle on their chosen position, the engagement at once became general and fierce. The musketry fire, as described to me by the officers wounded in the battle and now here, was the most continuous and sustained of the war. It rolled rapidly and fiercely from right to left, and back and forward, with irresistible fury. Our artillery was splendidly brought up, and played its part, as usual, well. For two hours this continuous exchange of musketry and artillery continued, until the enemy began to show signs of wavering. Our extreme right had been gradual but surely pushing the enemy, crowding him toward the Gap, and threatening his flank. At five o'clock a general charge was ordered, and our men responding willingly and bravely to the call, sprang forward with an impetus that carried all before it. The Rebels fell back, endeavored to again bring their disordered columns into line of battle, but failed.
Wildly cheering and determined to win, our lines pushed forward, drove the enemy from point to point, and as the last rays of the sun gilded the mountain reached the summit. The Pass was won, and the enemy were in rapid and disordered retreat down the slope toward Boonsboro’. The pursuit was continued for two miles down the mountain, until darkness put an end to the contest.
Our army bivouacked for the night on the battle field, whilst its pickets extended some three miles forward and beyond the little village of Bolivar (not the Bolivar of Harper’s Ferry.) The Rebels left their killed and many of their wounded on the battle-field. My informants have no knowledge of the enemy's loss, except where they were engaged immediately on the right and can, therefore, give no estimate of the general loss on either side. They found the ground over which they passed thickly strewn with Rebel dead and wounded. In a cornfield where a desperate stand was made there was marked evidence of the severity with which they have been punished.
Our own loss, it is believed, is very much less, perhaps not half that of the enemy. Our men fought the whole day with that desperate valor which in battle often proves that there is safety in temerity. They literally drove the enemy nil the time, giving them no time to rally, no opportunity to recover, and thus kept them at a disadvantage. Our veterans have added new laurels to those gained on other well-fought fields, whilst the new regiments did far better than any one who would have ventured to hope. Their enthusiasm made up for their inexperience, and they rivalled their older companions in arms in the steadiness with which they went under fire.
Among our losses we have to lament that of Gen. Reno, one of Gen. Burnside’s division commanders. Gen. Reno accompanied the Hatteras expedition, and bore an important part in all battles from Roanoke Island to New Bern. He was a brave, enterprising and reliable officer. I do not know the particulars of his death, but understand that he was killed by a rifle ball, whilst feeling the position of the enemy on Sunday morning. I hear of the loss of no other of our general officers. As to the loss of line and field officers we have no reports.
We have the numerous and no doubt extravagant rumors here of the loss of the enemy. Gen. Lee is reported killed, and the best part of Longstreet’s division captured. Tracing these reports, as far as I am able, I find that Gen. Lee is reported by the prisoners taken as wounded, and some say killed. Gen. Garland, of Virginia, is certainly killed. Of prisoners, probably from fifteen hundred to two thousand have been captured, independently of the wounded left on the field.
Herald of Freedom and Torch Light
Maryland Historical Society
This story with identical wording was also found in the Baltimore American of September 15, 1862, and the Middletown Valley Register of September 19, 1862. It is possible that the Baltimore American is the source of the story. A local writer would be unlikely to use the term Catoctin Mountain for a mountain known locally as South Mountain.
Sept 10-24, 1862
Maryland Historical Society
Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862; Maryland Campaign, 1862; Hagerstown (Md.)--Newspapers.
Washington County, MD. September 1862