Report of Major James Cavanagh, Sixty-Ninth New York Infantry, of the Battle of Antietam.
Hdqrs. 69th Regiment N. Y. S. Vols., Irish Brigade
Camp on the Field, near Sharpsburg, Md., September 21, 1862
General: Agreeably to request, I herewith transmit to you the following report of our participation in the late battle of the 17th instant:
As you are aware, Lieutenant Colonel James Kelly had command of our regiment up to the time he was wounded and borne from the field, which I deeply regret happened to so brave an officer, the fight being yet, so far as our regiment was concerned, only a short time in progress. The command thus devolving upon your humble servant, the control of the regiment was in the hands of myself, ably assisted by the adjutant, Lieutenant James J. Smith. I may here mention the sorrow I felt, which extended to the whole of my command, when I heard that our acting major, Captain Felix Duffy, had been mortally wounded in the early part of the engagement. Ably assisted by such of my line officers as had been spared me, we used our best endeavors to maintain our reputation and uphold the prestige of our flag. We remained upon the field in the front line until we had expended the last round of cartridges, and only left it when the fire of the enemy had ceased and the brigade was relieved by that of General Caldwell.
I hardly know in what terms to express my appreciation of our regiment, both officers and men, and in making any particular mention of bravery on the field, I speak of those who actually came under my own observation. Captain James E. McGee, of Company F, most particularly distinguished himself by his coolness and bravery during the whole engagement, and while in the heat of battle, after his command had been almost entirely decimated, picking up the green flag, the bearer of which had been carried from the field wounded, and bearing its folds aloft throughout the battle. Captain James Saunders, of Company A, and Captain Richard Moroney, Company I, I am proud to say, acted most bravely, cheering on their men, and encouraging them throughout the battle. Lieutenant Terrance Duffey, of Company G, and First Lieutenant John T. Toal, of Company H, I am also happy to say, throughout that trying hour did all that could be expected in rallying their commands, which had become so greatly reduced in numbers. Of the many officers who entered the field, the above whom I have mentioned are all that were left me, the remainder having been either killed or wounded during the engagement.
I cannot forbear mentioning the deep sorrow that has been cast over our regiment by our great loss in officers and men. Those that were of us, and who are now numbered among the gallant dead, I can speak of as having been good
soldiers, and an honor to our race – Captain Felix Duffy, Lieutenant Patrick J. Kelly, Lieutenant Charles Williams, and Lieutenant John Conway. I feel that our regiment has sustained a great loss, and one the recollection of which will be ever green in my memory. For those officers who have been wounded, and are for a time prevented from rejoining their commands, I can only speak as I have of the few that are left with me. Good soldiers, brave men, I cheerfully
recommend for your consideration all of them, who in this fight stood nobly up for their country, and only left the field when borne away wounded. Among them I will mention the brave Captains Shanley and Whitty, both disabled for the second time, and Lieutenants Nagle and Patrick Kearney, who, until wounded, did the regiment good service by their gallant conduct.
Among the non-commissioned officers who particularly distinguished themselves on the field, I take occasion to mention the following as being most worthy of your consideration for promotion to a commission, viz: First Sergts. Murtha Murphy, Company C; Michael Brennan, Company B; Bernard O’Neil, Company C, and Soucoth Mansergh, Company H. Among the privates who also distinguished themselves during the action, I also recommend Patrick O’Neil, of Company C, and John Kelly, of Company – ; and of the non-commissioned staff, Sergt. Major Patrick Callahan, who on the field behaved with great gallantry.
In conclusion, I beg to call your attention to the fact that we had with us in the battle some forty-odd new recruits, who, considering all things, behaved well, and were of great assistance to us.
Congratulating you on your many narrow escapes from time to time during that memorable day, I have the honor to be, respectfully, yours,
Major, Commanding Sixty-Ninth Regiment New York State Vols.
Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher,
Commanding Irish Brigade, Sumner’s Corps.