A narrative of service with the Third Wisconsin Infantry/Battle of South Mountain

Battle of South Mountain

We were ready to march by four o'clock on the morning of the 14th. But we might as well have stayed in camp until seven. The road west from Frederick was a fine, broad turnpike, wide enough for two or three wagons abreast, but it was now completely choked with the ammunition and provision wagons of the troops in advance. Even after we did finally get started, and were clear of the town, we had to march through the fields and woods on either side of the road.

When we reached the top of the Catoctin Mountains, we could hear the sound of artillery and musketry fire on the next mountain ridge beyond. Occasionally we could even catch a glimpse of the lines of our troops as they moved up the slopes to assault the position of the enemy. We were now rapidly marched down the mountain and turned off by a circuitous route to the right, in order to strike the enemy on the left flank. Before we could reach their position, however, it had already been carried by assault, and the enemy had taken advantage of the darkness to make good their retreat. Such was the battle of South Mountain.

We now countermarched to the turnpike near Middletown, where we went into camp at one o'clock in the morning. We had been on the road for twenty-two consecutive hours, most of the time climbing over rocks and through brush on the mountain side. Again we were on the march, at eight o'clock the next morning, crossing South Mountain as we had crossed the Catoctin Mountains, with the wagon train occupying the road and the troops in the woods along the side. We passed through Boonsborough in the afternoon, and by night had reached nearly to Keedysville.

The road was strewn with the muskets and other accoutrements of the enemy fleeing from South Mountain, together with a great deal of plunder that they had gathered in Maryland. There was every indication that they had retreated in a state of demoralization. The houses in Boonsborough and the vicinity were filled with their wounded, and we were constantly meeting squads of from twenty to one hundred prisoners who were being sent back from the front. Occasional artillery firing in the front seemed to indicate that we were being waited for not far ahead.