The rains that had prevailed almost without intermission
since our entrance
into Maryland, and greatly interfered with our movements, had made the
Potomac unfordable, and the pontoon bridge left at Falling Waters had been
partially destroyed by the enemy. The wounded and prisoners were sent over
the river as rapidly as possible in a few ferry boats, while the trains
awaited the subsiding of the waters and the construction of a new pontoon
On the 8th July the enemy's cavalry advanced towards Hagerstown, but was
repulsed by General Stuart, and pursued as far as Boonsboro'. With this
exception, nothing but occasional skirmishing occurred until the 12th, when
the main body of the enemy arrived. The army then took a position previously
selected, covering the Potomac from Williamsport to Falling Waters, where it
remained for two days with the enemy immediately in front, manifesting no
disposition to attack, but throwing up entrenchments along his whole line.
By the 13th the river at Williamsport though still deep, was fordable, and
a good bridge was completed at Falling Waters, new boats having been
constructed, and some of the old recovered. As further delay would enable the
enemy to obtain reinforcements, and as it was found difficult to procure a
sufficient supply of flour for the troops, the working of the mills being
interrupted by high water, it was determined to await an attack no longer.
Orders were accordingly given to cross the Potomac that night -- Ewell's
corps by the ford at Williamsport, and those of Longstreet and Hill on the
bridge. The cavalry was directed to relieve the infantry skirmishers and
bring up the rear. The movement was much retarded by a severe rain storm, and
the darkness of the night. Ewell's corps, having the advantage of a turnpike
road, marched with less difficulty, and crossed the river by 8 o'clock the
The condition of the road to the bridge, and the time consumed in the
passage of the artillery, ammunition wagons and ambulances, which could not
ford the river, so much delayed the progress of Longstreet and Hill, that it
was daylight before their troops began to cross. Heth's division was halted
about a mile and a half from the bridge to protect the passage of the column.
No interruption was offered by the enemy until about 11 A.M. when his cavalry
supported by artillery appeared in front of General Heth. A small number in
advance of the main body was mistaken for our own cavalry retiring, no notice
having been given of the withdrawal of the latter, and was suffered to
approach our lines. They were immediately destroyed or captured with the
exception of two or three, but Brigadier General Pettigrew, an officer of
great merit and promise, was mortally wounded in the encounter. He survived
his removal to Virginia only a few days. The bridge being clear, General Heth
began to withdraw. The enemy advanced, but his efforts to break our lines
were repulsed, and the passage of the river was completed by one P.M. Owing
to the extent of General Heth's line, some of his men most remote from the
bridge were cut off before they could reach it, but the greater part of those
taken by the enemy during the movement, supposed to amount in all to about
five hundred, consisted of men from various commands, who lingered behind
overcome by previous labors and hardships, and the fatigues of a most trying
night march. There was no loss of material except a few broken wagons, and
two pieces of artillery which the horses were unable to draw through the deep
mud. Other horses were sent back for them, but the rear of the column had
passed before their arrival
REPORT OF GENERAL HETH, WHO COMMANDED THE DIVISION THAT THE 13TH ALABAMA FOUGHT IN AT FALLING WATER, MD
Headquarters Heth's Division Near Rapidan Station, October 3d. 1863.
Captain W.N. STARKE,
Assistant Adjutant General, Third Army Corps:
Captain -- I have the honor to submit the
following report of the operations
of my command (Heth's and Pender's divisions) at Falling Waters, July 14th,
On the evening of the 13th July, I received orders to withdraw my command
at dark from the entrenchments near Hagerstown and move in the direction of
Falling Waters, at which point we were to cross the river on a pontoon bridge
The artillery attached to my command received its orders through its
immediate commander, and moved off a little before dark. I was directed to
leave the skirmishers in my front, and was informed that they would be
relieved during the night by the cavalry. The officers in charge of the
siirmishers were directed, as soon as relieved, to take the road followed by
The night was entirely dark and the roads in a dreadful condition the
entire distance between our breastworks and Falling Waters being ankle deep
in mud. The progress of the command was necessarily very slow and tedious,
halting every few minutes to allow the wagons and artillery in our front to
pass on. The division was twelve hours accomplishing seven miles; once
halting for two hours.
On reaching an elevated and commanding ridge of hills one mile and a half
-- possibly a little less -- from Falling Waters I was ordered by Lieutenant
General A.P. Hill to put my division in line of battle on either side of the
road and extending along the crest of this hill, facing towards Hagerstown.
On the left of the road and on the crest of this hill our engineers had
thrown up some half dozen epaulements for artillery, the spaces between the
epaulements being open. In our front was an open space, with the view
unobstructed for half to three quarters of a mile; then came a heavy piece of
timber, some three fourths of a mile in width.
I was directed, at the same time that I received the order to place my
division in line of battle, as described, to put Pender's division in rear of
my own in column of brigades.
At this point we halted, to allow the wagons and artillery to get over the
river. We remained in this position awaiting their crossing for several
hours. About ll o'clock I received orders from General Hill to move Pender's
division across the river, following General Anderson's division, and after
leaving one brigade of my division in line, to follow up the movement of the
corps as speedily as possible.
About fifteen or twenty minutes after receiving these orders and while they
were in progress of execution, a small body of cavalry -- numbering not more
than forty or forty five men -- made their appearance in our front, where the
road debouched from the woods, previously described.
I will here remark that when on the road, and some two or three miles from
the position I now occupied, a large body of our cavalry passed by my command
going to our rear.
When the cavalry alluded to made its appearance, it was at once observed by
myself, General Pettigrew and several members of my staff, as well as many
others. On emerging from the woods, the party faced about, apparently acting
on the defensive. Suddenly facing my position, they galloped up the road and
halted some one hundred and seventy five yards from my line of battle. From
their manceuvring, and the smallness of numbers, I concluded it was a party
of our own cavalry, pursued by the enemy. In this opinion I was sustained by
all present. It was not until I examined them critically with my glasses, at
a distance of not more than one hundred and seventy five yards, that I
discovered they were Federal troops. The men had been restrained from firing
up to this time by General Pettigrew and myself. The command was now given
(orders) to fire. At the same time the Federal officer in commwd gave the
order to charge. The squad passed the intervals separating the epaulements,
and fired several shots. In less than three minutes all were killed or
captured, save two or three, who are said to have escaped.
General Pettigrew received a wound in one of his hands at Gettysburg, in
consequence of which he was unable to manage his horse, which reared and fell
with him. It is probable, when in the act of rising from the ground, that he
was struck by a pistol ball in the side (left), which, unfortunately for
himself and his country, proved mortal.
A soldier of the Seventh Tennessee regiment was at the same time mortally
wounded. This was the entire loss of my command from this charge. Thirty
three of the enemy's dead were counted, six prisoners fell into our hands,
also a stand of colors. Very soon after this a large body of dismounted
cavalry, supported by artillery, of which I had none, made a vigorous attack
on Brockenbrough's brigade, which was deployed in line of battle to the right
of the road.
Brockenbrough repelled the attack, and drove the enemy back into the woods,
following him up for some distance. The enemy was now heavily reinforced, and
Brockenbrough was compelled to fall back. His brigade, having been badly cut
up on the 1st and 3d at Gettysburg, was much reduced in numbers.
Seeing that the enemy evidently designed turning his right flank and thus
cutting him off from the river, Brockenbrough deployed his brigade as
skirmishers, extending well to the right. About this time the enemy appeared
on my left flank in force, also in my front.
Seeing the attack was becoming serious, I ordered the several brigades of
Pender's division (except Thomas', which had crossed the river) to return. I
at the same time sent a message to the Lieutenant General Commanding,
requesting that artillery might be sent me, as I had none. On returning, my
aid informed me that General Hill directed me to withdraw my command as
speedily as possible and cross the river.
When this order was received, my line of skirmishers occupied a front of a
mile and a half -- the left resting on the canal, the right bending around
well towards the Potomac.
The orders were that the several brigades in line should withdraw
simultaneously, protecting their front by a strong line of skirmishers and
converge toward the road leading to Falling Waters.
In order to cover this movement, Lane's brigade was formed in line of
battle about five hundred yards in rear of the advanced line, protected by a
heavy line of skirmishers. The first brigade that passed through Lane's line
of battle was reformed in line of battle a quarter of a mile or more in rear
of Lane's position; and so on till the command reached the south bank of the
With the extended line of skirmishers in my front, and being compelled to
fall back upon a single road, it was not surprising that in attempting to
reach the road, over ravines impassible at many points, and through a thick
undergrowth and wood, and over a country with which both men and officers
were unacquainted that many of them were lost and thus fell into the hands of
the enemy, who pushed vigorously forward on seeing that I was retiring.
The enemy made two cavalry charges, and on each occasion I witnessed the
unhorsing of the entire party. I desire here to brand upon its perpetrator a
falsehood, and correct an error.
The commander of the Federal forces -- General Meade -- reported to his
Government, on the statement of General Kilpatrick, that he (General
Kilpatrick) had captured a brigade of infantry at Falling Waters. To this
General Lee replied in a note to General Cooper that no organized command had
General Meade recently wrote a note to his Government reaffirming his first
statement, Upon the authority of General Kilpatrick. General Kilpatrick, in
order to glorify himself, has told a deliberate falsehood. He knows full well
that no organized body of men were captured -- not even a company was
captured, nor the majority of a single company. He asserts, however, that he
captured an entire brigade.
The error I wish to correct is attributing all the men captured by the
enemy on the 14th as belonging to my command. I think I state correctly when
I say that three out of four of the men captured by the enemy were captured
between our works near Hagerstown and the point where I engaged the enemy,
and were the representatives of every corps, division and brigade who passed
over this road. My staff officers alone succeeded in driving from barns and
houses, immediately on the roadside, several hundred stragglers, who probably
never reached their commands, and these were but a small proportion of the
men who straggled.
In conclusion, I will add that the brigade commanders did their duty, and
the losses sustained were not attributable to any errors or shortcomings of
theirs, but resulted from causes beyond their control.
The rear guard of a large army, protecting its crossing over a wide river,
can seldom fail to lose heavily if vigorously pursued by the enemy,
especially when in the act of crossing. Under the circumstances, attacked as
we were by a large and momentarily increasing force, we have every reason to
be thankful that our losses were so small.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
POINT LOOKOUT PRISON
"The ground was inclosed at Point Lookout for
a prison in July, 1863, and the
first installment of prisoners arrived there on the 25th of that month from
the Old Capitol, Fort Delaware and Fort McHenry, some of the Gettysburg
captures. One hundred and thirty six arrived on the 31st of the same month
from Washington, and on the 10th of August another batch came from Baltimore, having been captured at Falling Waters. Every few weeks the number was
increased, until they began to count by thousands.
Source: Extractions from Southern Historical Society Papers