May 24, 1914
Battle of Sharpsburg
(by Jos. D. Pinson, Co. I, Hampton Legion)
It was my fortune during the war to be with Gen. Lee in his Maryland campaign opposing Gen. McClelland, who was the most able general that Lee ever fought against. After our stay in Maryland for several weeks, Gen. Lee saw that he could not transport rations for his army and not wanting to forage on the country for rations for his army, he decided to return to Virginia, crossing the Potomac river.
When he commenced his return to Virginia, the Yankees were in close pursuit and as we marched to column, they were frequently wounded while in line. Gen. Lee not wanting to be ____ on too hard decided to give them battle, then making us a short speech said, “Soldiers, we will have to give them battle again and I hope you will treat them as you always have done.”
Then there was a detail of men from each company for the skirmish line. As the orderly of my company was calling over the names alphabetically the captain said to me, “Pinson, you had as well volunteer; they are sure to get you anyway.” Then we were ordered to report to Lieut. Fields in front. This we did, but were told to wait until the others came, then we were ordered to deploy, saying, “now men hump yourselves and go at double quick with trail arms and get to that rock fence in front.”
We gained the fence and gave a whoop as much as to say “we mean to stay here.” Now Gen. Lee had fortified his line of battle as he supposed facing the enemy, but was mistaken, then had to reform his lines another way that was facing them.
Then the battle commenced, Lee with his 40,000 men and McClellan with his splendid army of 87,000. The fighting was desperate and the grandeur of the sight was beyond description, as our pickets gazed upon the scene, we looked over the plain and could see the pickets on the Yankee side were doing the same as well as I can remember. Lee’s line fell back some fifty yards, then they faced about, reformed and fought on. In the meantime I was uneasy for fear that they might force Lee back. I began to think of myself, just how I would get away in safety from that picket line. When the fight had commenced the men of the picket line quit firing at each other and stood gazing at the battle as it was going on. This fight was a drawn battle and many killed on both sides.
Then the battle closed for the night, both armies lying on their arms. All this was near the Potomac river.
Gen. Lee that night called his generals together and consulted as best what to do. Gen. Jackson advised him to cross the river that night, but Gen. Lee replied, “No, we will fight them again tomorrow.” Everything was quiet next morning. Gen. Lee sent Gen. Jackson and his chief engineer, Col. Lee to a certain place, Indian Mound, telling them they would have to dismount, walk and crawl to reach this place, then took observations with field glasses. Lee remarked to Jackson: “Why General Jackson a chicken rooster could not live in front of that line,” meaning the Infantry and Artillery being so well located and covering the entire front. The next day the two armies lay fronting each other all day, no fighting all that night.
Gen. Lee had moved a part of his artillery across the river to use in case the enemy followed him in crossing the river. After we crossed the soldiers seemed as game as ever. Glad to get back into Virginia, glad to rest a while, but still willing to do our best. Willing, yea, more than willing to do anything on the face of the earth that “Marse” Robert would have us do.
[Transcribed by: Sharon Strout]