Report of Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Kelly, Eighty-Eighth New York Infantry, of the Battle of Antietam.
Hdqrs. Eighty-Eighth New York Volunteers.
Camp on Bolivar Heights, near Harper’s Ferry, October 5, 1862.
General: On the morning of the 17th of September the Irish Brigade, of which my regiment formed a part, crossed the Antietam Creek, and advanced in column until within sight almost of the enemy. The brigade then formed line of battle, and, after tearing down a fence, got into action at once. Shortly after this, General Meagher rode up along the line, encouraging the men, until his horse was killed and he himself got a severe fall.
During the engagement an aide rode up and ordered the Sixty-third and Eighty-eighth to charge and take the enemy’s colors if possible. I at once gave the order, and my regiment advanced about 20 or 30 paces; but seeing that I had no support, I halted, and inquired for Colonel Burke, and asked why he did not advance. Captain O’Neill, of the Sixty-third, said he would advance with me if he had any one to command the regiment, but not knowing who was in command he did not wish to do so.
I know not exactly how long we were in action, but we were long enough there to lose, in killed and wounded, one-third of our men (bringing in 302 and losing 104).* When relieved by the Fifth New Hampshire, I reported to General Richardson by order of one of his aides. On approaching the general, he said, “Bravo, Eighty-eighth; I shall never forget you.” The rank and file responded by giving him three hearty cheers.
He (the general) then placed me in command of the One hundred and eighth New York, and ordered us to support a battery a little in advance of where we were previously engaged, and remained there during the night and next day.
With regard to the conduct of the officers of the Eighty-eighth on that occasion, I must say that they acted to my entire satisfaction – so much so that I cannot say one is braver than another. I have the same to say of the rank and file.
Wishing I had a little more time, I am, general, most respectfully, yours,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Eighty-eighth New York Vols.
Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher.
* subsequently revised