The 6th Alabama Infantry was part of Rodes' Brigade along with the 3rd, 5th, 12th, and 26th Alabama Infantry Regiments. The following provides some details of the actions of the 6th Alabama Infantry at the Battle of South Mountain where J. S. Soles was wounded:
General Lee had divided his forces just past Frederick, leaving Rodes’ Brigade about half a mile west of Boonsboro to guard the gap in the mountains near the village, while Longstreet had passed on to Hagerstown, and Jackson, A. P. Hill and McLaws had gone to capture Harpers Ferry. General George McClellan, the Union commander, learned that Lee had divided his forces on September 13, 1862, by the discovery of the infamous lost order, Special Orders # 191, and advanced to attack the Confederates. Needing time to reunite his forces, General Lee gave Hill’s Division orders to delay the Union advance at all costs. Brigadier General Robert Rodes was assigned the task of stopping the Union advance through Turner’s Gap, the main pass of South Mountain. There, Rodes’ Brigade was to face an entire Union Division.
On the morning of September 14, 1862, Rodes’ Brigade relieved Anderson’s Brigade about a half mile west of Boonsboro. At about noon, the five regiments that made up the Brigade were ordered to follow Ripley’s Brigade and move up to the top of the mountain, where they took up a position on the ridge left of the National Road. They stayed there about three quarters of an hour under artillery fire part of the time. Scouts and skirmishers were advanced in front and left. The troops were then ordered to occupy another bare hill about three quarters of a mile further left, crossing the deep Frosttown Road gouge in order to get to the new position. This movement left a wide interval between the right of the Brigade and the rest of the Division. The men spread themselves across the mountain slopes and by three o’clock, became engaged with the enemy.
General Robert Rodes could easily observe massive lines of Federals approaching the mountain, followed by a second wave and a third, all aimed directly at his position. Three Divisions of first-rate Union troops were approaching his lone Brigade. The attack was led by the 3rd Division of I Corps, commanded by General George C. Meade, whose three brigade division contained thirteen regiments of Pennsylvania Reserves. Just as the Yankees began to move forward, Major Whiting, General Rodes’ Adjutant General, came running down the mountain and called to Lieutenant Colonel Hobson of the 5th Alabama. He told him that he would have to leave part of his regiment there between the Frosttown and Zittlestown Roads, and follow the 6th Alabama Infantry with the other part to the top of the mountain, because the enemy was extending beyond their left.
He then hastily moved the rest of the regiment up the Zittlestown Road following Colonel Gordon’s 6th Alabama toward the Widow Main’s farm. They took up a position on the hillside just south of her place. Due to the dense woods and terrain, none of the regiments maintain physical contact with another. The 6th Alabama Infantry had taken a position in front of the Widow Main’s house, along her farm lane. Just as they were doing this, the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (275 men) reached the western edge of the woods about eighteen hundred feet to the east. The Pennsylvanians had swept past the 5th Alabama’s skirmishers, who were in the gorge below their left wing, unobserved by anyone in the 5th or 6th Alabama. Union General Seymour sent word back to headquarters, that he could flank the Confederate left wing. At about 5:00 P.M., he received approval from General Meade to proceed.
Lieutenant Colonel Hobson and the rest of the regiment were further to the left near the Widow Main’s farm, in a gorge or deep ravine which adjoined the position of Colonel John Gordon’s 6th Alabama Infantry. 1st Lieutenant George Reed and his Company E, had been sent out as skirmishers toward a patch of wooded ground immediately south of the Zittlestown Road and about fifteen hundred feet to the right front of Colonel Thomas Gallagher’s Pennsylvania Reserve Brigade. The 6th Alabama Infantry had taken a position in front of the Widow Main’s house, along her farm lane. Just as they were doing this, the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (275 men) reached the western edge of the woods about eighteen hundred feet to the east. The Pennsylvanians had swept past the 5th Alabama’s skirmishers, who were in the gorge below their left wing, unobserved by anyone in the 5th or 6th Alabama. Union General Seymour sent word back to headquarters, that he could flank the Confederate left wing. At about 5:00 P.M., he received approval from General Meade to proceed.
Meanwhile, the 9th Pennsylvania of Colonel Gallagher met stiff resistance from the 5th Alabama skirmishers under Lieutenant George Reed’s command. The two units exchanged fire at a range of fifty yards. The skirmishers then retired quickly to a stone wall which skirted the base of the mountain along the western end of the open field north of N. Haupt’s cabin. There, they re-joined the regiment whose left wing was now moving to assist the 6th Alabama who were facing the onslaught of General Seymour’s troops. Colonel Gordon’s 6th Alabama dashed into the woods east of the Main house and caught the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves and their second line (2nd Pennsylvania Reserves and two companies of the 1st Pennsylvania Reserves) in the open field on the slope north of the Zittlestown Road. Their sudden fire staggered the 13th Pennsylvania. The 2nd Pennsylvania hurried to their assistance and joined ranks with the 13th for the remainder of the engagement. The left wing of the 5th Alabama, moving to the cover of the stone wall on the northern side of the large cornfield, opened fire upon Seymour’s exposed left flank. As the 6th Alabama slipped back towards the Main farm, drawing the remainder of the Pennsylvanians after them, General Seymour decided to commit his last regiment, the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves.
The following is an account from the Union lines. "The Bucktail regiment" says Mr. Sypher, "commanded by Colonel McNeil, was deployed as skirmishers in front of the division, and was closely followed by the whole line of battle; the enemy's outposts were rapidly driven in, forced from the hills, and routed from the ravines, until suddenly the regiments of the First Brigade arrived at a cornfield, 'full of rebels,' protected by a stone wall at the foot of the abrupt mountain side; the Bucktails received a terrific volley of musketry, which brought them to a halt; General Seymour, who was on the ground with his men, seeing that this was the critical moment, called out to Colonel Roberts, commanding the First Regiment, to charge up the mountain, and at the same instant, turning to Colonel Fisher, of the Fifth Regiment, whose men were coming up in well-dressed lines, he exclaimed: 'Colonel, put your regiment into that cornfield and hurt somebody.' 'I will, General, and I'll catch one alive for you' was the cool reply of Colonel Fisher. The Second regiment, commanded by Captain Byrnes, and the Sixth, Colonel Sinclair, were ordered forward at the same time. The men of the Fifth Pennsylvania leaped the stone wall, immediately captured twelve prisoners, and sent them back to the General." The men they captured were Lieutenant George Reed and some of his skirmishers that made up the right wing of the regiment.
Another account from a Union soldier: “Our boys were presently placed in a position to advance upon the enemy, which they did in gallant style. The 1st Brigade occupied the extreme right, and drove the Rebel skirmishers through a wood to the base of a steep, rocky, almost inaccessible hill, upon the face of which and behind the rocks immense boulders, were the enemy in force. Our boys charged up this hill and drove the Rebels from their cover at the point of the bayonet, to do which they had to drag themselves up by the bushes that grew between the rocks. The Rebels retreated behind a stone wall at the edge of a cornfield, and made a stand, from which they poured volley after volley into our brave boys, who, nothing daunting drove the Rebels from their shelter and through the cornfield to the top of the mountain, where a number of prisoners were captured behind a large stone pile. The Rebels were terrible cut up during the several brilliant charges made to this point. They fled in confusion to a hill (in the direction of Mountain House), where they again made a stand, but were driven from it with great loss.
As the battle continued, due to their overwhelming numbers, the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves were able to push forward driving the remnants of the 5th Alabama Infantry into the skirmishers of the 6th Alabama, who had taken cover in the woods on the mountainside. It is likely at this point in the action that the following incident took place. The enemy was steadily advancing on the Confederate line and at a distance of about one hundred yards menaced a charge. A Union officer, mounted on a white horse, was impetuously urging them onward. It was obvious to Lieutenant Colonel Hobson, given the dire circumstances, that it was necessary to remove this brave and gallant officer. He immediately selected skilled riflemen to “pick him off”. This was unerringly done, and at his fall the enemy hesitated, was checked, the fortunes of the day changed. Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hobson managed to swing back the left wing of the 5th Alabama and through gallant fighting, was able to silence the enemy and work his way up to the crest of the mountain and join ranks with the 6th Alabama, the only regiment to maintain its' order under the steady hand of Colonel Gordon. However, under increased pressure from General Seymour’s troops, the Confederates were forced to quit the field around the Main farm and headed south, towards the main road. In doing so, the Rebels allowed the Yankees to close within one hundred yards before opening fire. At least twenty of their pursuers fell dead. In the growing darkness, the troops of Rodes Brigade managed to fight their way back towards the National Pike where they formed a line along the edge of the woods parallel to and about two hundred yards from the road.
General Rodes had managed a fighting retreat to Turner’s Gap ending after about four and a half hour of constant combat, while giving up only about half a mile of ground. However, his ranks were decimated having lost about 425 of his 1200 men. As a further testament to the tenacity with which these brave men fought, General McClellan, in his official report, says: "It is believed that the force opposed to us at Turner's Gap consisted of D. H. Hill's Corps (15,000), and a part, if not the whole of Longstreet's Corps, and perhaps a part of Jackson's, probably some 30,000 in all. We went into action with about 30,000 and our losses amounted to 312 killed, 1,234 wounded and 22 missing; total 1,568." The entire Confederate force at Turner’s Gap that day was not more than 4000 men! The delay that Rodes and his men had succeeded in creating was enough to allow General Lee to consolidate his forces at a small town on the western side of South Mountain. There, three days later, would be fought the Battle of Sharpsburg.