The Final Attack

 

The Sherrick Farm

This page consists of quotes made about the final attack at the Battle of Antietam.  It was last updated on December 22, 2011.  There are 25 quotes in this collection.

 

Confederate Quotes

 

“Toombs came up at double-quick and formed a line of battle in the ditch behind the fence about one hundred yards in our rear.”

A South Carolina artilleryman recalls Toomb’s counterattack

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“The tide of the enemy surged back, and breaking into confusion, passed out of sight”

A.P. Hills report on his attack at Antietam

From General A. P. Hill – The Story of a Confederate Warrior by James I. Robertson.  New York:  Random House, 1987.

 

“I…ordered my men to open fire upon them, at the same time to be cool and aim well, which they did [and soon] the enemy gave way.”

Captain McGregor describing the counterattack of the 17th Georgia

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“Toombs, cool in the hour of danger, but impetuous in the charge, seemed to court death by the exposure of his person and the intrepid manner in which he rushed at the head of the column, apparently, into the very jaws of death.” Federal Union A journalist describes Toomb’s actions

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

“startling addition that the enemy had broken our line and were nearly up to the [Harpers Ferry] road with not a soldier of ours in their front.’

Henry L. Benning describes the Union advance

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“I have understood that the credit of retaking Sharpsburg was perhaps claimed for General A.P. Hill.  Toombs is the man, however.”

Henry L. Benning after the war on the role of Toombs in the attack south of Antietam

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“as we entered the field the enemy did not fail to salute us with well directed shells [and] a shell burst in our midst, tore our flag, flag bearers, and one other man all to pieces. Another was so mangled that he died soon. A more horrid sight I have never seen.”

Ivy W. Duggan describes the arrival of the 15th Georgia on the field

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“the battle raged severely on our left [and more Federal units] endeavored to press us vigorously on the right. We were not engaged except in skirmishing, until late in the evening.”

Ivy W. Duggan describes the fighting on his front.

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“[enemy] advanced in great numbers, and were already in good range of our trusty Enfield’s. The order to fire was obeyed with the greatest alacrity. For some time the enemy preserved an admirable line, but at length it began to waver, we leaped the fence, raised a yell, and pushed the scattered fugitives over ground strewn with their own fallen. New lines of reinforcements were met in the same manner….[We] had no reinforcements [but] chivalry [was] displayed on this occasion, while our little regiment loaded itself with laurels, [which] challenges admiration beyond everything I have ever witnessed. I have never seen it equaled before! I never expect to see it again.”

Ivy W. Duggan describes the counterattack of the 15th Georgia

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“we met Toombs’ brigade of Georgians advancing in line of battle to our relief. Hastily forming in their rear we returned to our former line which by this time a well directed volley from this little brigade of Georgians had restored again to our possession….General Toombs rides up and down the line like one frantic, telling the men to stand firm.”

Virginian private John Dooley describes Toombs counterattack

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“It is A.P.Hill from Harper’s Ferry”

Robert E. Lee to Lt John A. Ramsay of the Rowan Artillery at the famous conversation involving Rowan’s binoculars.   I N.C. Regiments, 575

From R.E. Lee A Biography by Douglas Southall Freeman.  New York Scribners, 1934.

 

“Go in cheerfully boys.” Robert E. Lee calls out to sixty-six survivors of the 1st North Carolina who are about to enter battle for the third time that day after 3PM

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“A retreat would have left the town of Sharpsburg and General Longstreet’s rear open to the enemy, and was inadmissible. I, therefore, with less than one-fifth of the enemy’s numbers, determined to give him battle.”

Robert Toombs

Toombs describing his situation and the threat to the Confederate right.

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 

“the gallant conduct of Toomb’s brigade at Sharpsburg was the theme of both sides [and] the country rang with its exploits and the fiery Georgian became the toast of the army.”

The Atlanta Southern Confederacy credits Toomb’s brigade with halting Burnside’s attack.

From Burnside’s Bridge The Climactic Struggle of the 2nd and 20th Georgia at Antietam Creek by Phillip T. Tucker. Mechanicsburg:  Stackpole, 2000.

 Union Quotes

“pouring in a sweeping fire as they advanced, and our men fell like sheep at the slaughter”

a member of the 4th RI describing AP Hills attack at Antietam .  George H. Allen, Forty Six Months in the 4th RI Volunteers (Providence 1887), 147

From General A. P. Hill – The Story of a Confederate Warrior by James I. Robertson.  New York:  Random House, 1987.

 

“The movement of the dark columns with arms and banners glittering in the sun, following the double line of skirmishers, dashing forward at a trot, loading and firing alternately as they moved, was one of the most brilliant and exciting exhibitions of the day.”

A staff officer recalling Burnside’s final assault against Sharpsburg

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan S. Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005.

 

“knew no more about tactics than about Hebrew”

Charles M. Coit, a Connecticut captain of Co H 8th Conn regarding the 16th Conn.

From Lincoln’s Darkest Year The War in 1862 by William Marvel. Boston: Houghtin Mifflin Company Company, 2008.

 

“The mental strain was so great that I saw at that moment the singular effect mentioned, I think in the life of Goethe on a similar occasion-the whole landscape for an instant turned slightly red.”

David Thompson, a soldier from the 9th NY describing an attack against a rebel battery during the final attack

From Mr. Lincoln’s Army by Bruce Catton.  New York: Anchor Books 1990.

 

“Can you do any good by a cavalry charge?”

George B. McClellan

McClellan to his cavalry chief Alfred Pleasanton at around 11:45 am when things looked bad for the Federal attacks, Sep 17 1862

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“We could hear firing on our right and front, but knew nothing more. About ten A.M., Capt. Christ on Gen. Cox’ staff came to see me, and said, “The General wishes you to take the bridge.” I asked him what bridge. He said he didn’t know. I asked him where the stream was, but he didn’t know. I made some remarks not complimentary to such a way of doing business, but he went off, not caring a cent. Probably he had done the correct thing.”

George Crook describes receiving his orders to capture the bridge

From George Crook His Autobiography edited and arranged by Martin F. Schmitt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946.

 

“While we were lying under the bluffs waiting for the troops to get into position, I strolled up the creek to a wooded knoll that looked over towards the enemy’s position at Sharpsburg. I could see from this position. I saw two batteries on a clear field, trained on the road leading to Sharpsburg, evidently intended to open on our troops immediately at the rise of the hill. I reported this to Gen. Cox, who asked Gen. O. B. Willcox to accompany me back and look at the situation. When I had pointed out the batteries, he remarked that they had no men with them, which so disgusted me that I left him and went off.”

George Crook describes the final attack toward Sharpsburg

From George Crook His Autobiography edited and arranged by Martin F. Schmitt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946.

 

“Things began to look rather squally”

Poet Walt Whitman’s brother George in a letter to his mother several weeks later

From Counter-Thrust From the Peninsula to the Antietam by Benjamin Franklin Cooling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska 2007.

“You may call the feeling fear or anything you choose. I don’t deny that I trembled and wished we were well out of it. I tried to do my duty and am satisfied. I came off the field side by side with Col. Beach. Afterward we led the remnants of our own regiment and the 11th [11th Connecticut] on to the field again through as hot a fire as I saw any time during the day. So far as my experience goes, I should not be sorry to see the war ended tomorrow without firing another shot, and yet I am a little eager to see one more battle. Not from any reckless desire for the excitement, but I have a little practical knowledge now and I think I should be more at home next time and perhaps do better. I should be considerable cooler, I have not doubt.”

Adjutant John H. Burnham of 16th CT

From “Antietam Eyewitness Accounts.” by Scott D. Hartwig. [Online] Available http://www.historynet.com/antietam-eyewitness-accounts.htm

 

Tell Father I am really careful & never expose myself unnecessarily. When poor Rodman was shot his division at once became partially demoralized & probably nothing but my presence prevented it from falling back disastrously. Scammon who commanded Cox’s old division stood manfully by me. My right was all ecure but Rodman & Scammon were pressed & the extreme left, Sturgis was in danger. I told Rodman’s brigade commanders that we could hold the ground & would & agreed with them & Scammon to assist the left by a charge bayonet (our ammunition being exhausted) along the whole line, when we were ordered to fall back near the bridge. I had my Washington horse killed in the same battle; he was being led with my escort. I called him “Reno.” Another horse, “Burnside” was disabled, & Roebuck came up just in time. Burnside [the horse] is nearly well. Arndt keeps them in splendid order. Adieu. God bless you & the children….Also send me 3 flannel drawers & 3 thick flannel shirts.”

Orlando Willcox in a letter to his wife describes the action at Antietam

From Forgotten Valor – The Memoirs, Journals & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox.Robert G. Scott Editor. Kent:  Kent State University Press, 1999

 

“Alas I cannot. Words are inadequate to the task.  Piles of heads, arms, legs and fragments of other portions of humanity all thrown together promiscuously.  It is over now, and we laugh at our fears, that is human, so am I.”

William Relyea, a member of the 16th CT describing the Antietam Battlefields

From  “All Who Went into That Battle Were Heroes-Remembering the 16th Connecticut Volunteers at Antietam.”by Lesley J. Gordon. The Antietam Campaign. Ed. Gary Gallagher  Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press,  1999.

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