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Chapter 17: the campaign in Maryland.

The Confederates had abundant reason to be satisfied with the results of the summer's operations. With an aggregate of about eighty thousand men in all Virginia, they had rescued the State from the grasp of McClellan, with his two hundred and twenty-three thousand. No invaders now polluted its soil, save at the fortified posts along the coast, where they were protected by their overwhelming naval forces, at Alexandria, and at Harper's Ferry, and Martinsburg in the Great Valley. The powerful expedition of Burnside had been recalled from North Carolina, leaving no fruits of its exertions in the hands of his Government, except the occupation of a few feeble places. The “grand army” had been reduced by battle, desertions, captures, and sickness, from its huge proportions, so that McClellan was now able to set in the field only ninety thousand men, by concentrating all those parts which had lately outnumbered and oppressed the Confederates, from the extreme west of Maryland to the capes of the Carolinian coast. The grateful people of the South might well exclaim with Jackson, in view of so grand a deliverance: “Behold! What hath God wrought!”

General Lee now determined to pursue his advantages by invading the country of his enemy in turn, and thus giving such occupation to him as would secure to Virginia, during the remainder of the season, a respite from the cruel devastations it [543] had so long suffered.. The temper of the South demanded it, swelling with the grief of its mighty wrongs, and hungering for righteous retribution. Wise policy dictated that the soil of Virginia should, if possible, be relieved of the burden of the invading and the patriot armies, which it had so long borne, and that their ravages should be retorted upon the aggressor. Maryland, it was known, had succumbed reluctantly to his yoke, and the hope was entertained that the presence of the southern army would inspirit its people to attempt something in aid of their own liberation: or that, at least, the well-grounded fears of the despot lest their discontent should endanger his Capital, would detain so large a force to defend it and to hold them prostrate, that his army in the field might be defeated upon their own soil, and a successful incursion might carry a wholesome terror into the heart of Pennsylvania. The two veteran divisions of R. H. Anderson and D. H. Hill had now overtaken the main army, diminished indeed by the losses of thepeninsular campaign, but in excellent condition. Indeed, the former of these had reached Manassa's plains on the 30th of August, early enough to support Longstreet's centre, in its decisive advance against Pope. The fragments of his army, reinforced by McClellan, were now ensconced within their lines near Alexandria, under the skilful direction of the latter General; and to attack them there would be attended with too prodigal a waste of patriot blood. General Lee therefore determined to turn aside and promptly cross the Potomac. But notwithstanding the accessions he had just received, he was made conscious, in the very attempt, of that cruel disparity of means and numbers, which robbed the Confederates of the larger part of the fruits, of their heroism. The invasion of Maryland, he well knew, would stimulate that recruiting of the depleted armies of the enemy, which their population made so easy; while he could expect no [544] material increase of his force. They would operate along great railroads, and sustain their troops with a lavish supply of transportation, stores, and ammunition, from their vast depots just at hand. He had now left his railroad communication far behind, and must provide for the wants of his army with scanty trains of wagons; while ordnance, clothing, and shoes were deficient, and impossible to obtain in adequate quantities. No generals, therefore, ever adopted a bolder project than that of Lee and Jackson, or executed it with greater promptitude. The battle of Ox Hill ended at nightfall, September 1st, amidst thunder, tempest, and a deluge of rain. On the 2nd the last remains of the beaten Federals were whipped in under the shelter of their ramparts. On the 3rd the Confederate army was upon the march for the fords of the Potomac!

The invasion determined on, two places offered themselves to General Lee for penetrating into Maryland. If he removed his army directly across the Blue Ridge to the Lower Valley, he could easily brush away the force which occupied Martinsburg; when the valley of central Pennsylvania would lie open before him, and his own line of communication could be established with the Central Virginia Railroad at Staunton, along that still abundant country. Or else, he might cross the Potomac between the Federal fortifications and the Blue Ridge, and entering the middle regions of Maryland, proceed as the movements of the enemy should indicate. He adopted the latter plan. His purpose was, first to draw the Federal army from the Virginian bank by violently threatening their Capital and Baltimore, from the other side, so that his field hospitals at Manassa's Plains, his own communications toward Orange, and the important work of removing his prisoners, wounded and spoils, from the scene of his late triumphs, might be relieved from their incursions for a Season. He also hoped, that when the head of his great column [545] began to insinuate itself between Washington and Harper's Ferry, the Federal detachment at the latter place would act upon the obvious dictate of the military art, evacuate that place to him without a struggle, and retire into communication with their friends; thus clearing his left of that annoyance. His purpose was then to move toward Western Maryland and Central Pennsylvania, establish his communications with the valley of Virginia, and drawing the Federalists afar from their base at Washington, fight them beyond the mountains. He therefore put the army in motion, September the 3rd, with the cavalry of Stuart and the fresh division of D. H. Hill in front, followed by the corps of Jackson, which still formed the body of the advanced force. He marched to Drainsville that day, and to Leesburg, the countyseat of Loudoun, the 4th of September. On the 5th, the corps passed the Potomac, at White's Ford, near Edwards' Ferry, a few miles distant, just below the scene of the bloody repulse of Ball's bluff, and established themselves upon the soil of Maryland without opposition. At this place the great river spreads itself out to the width of more than half a mile, over a pebbly and level bed; and its floods, reduced in volume by the summer heats, were but two or three feet deep. The infantry, and even the cannoneers passed, by wading through the water. All day long the column poured across, belting the shining river with a thin, dark line; and as the feet of the men were planted upon the northern bank, they uttered their enthusiasm in hearty cheers. Many a gallant man, who now touched that soil, was destined to sleep, till the last day, within it, in a stranger's grave. The first care of the Confederates, after gaining the northern bank, was to interrupt the navigation of the canal effectually, by destroying its locks, and opening the embankments, so that the waters escaped and left its bed dry. Jackson then advanced northward, and on the 6th of September occupied the Baltimore and Ohio [546] Railroad, and the flourishing town of Frederick. The arrival of the Confederates in Maryland awakened in a part of the population — a faint glow of enthusiasm. A committee of citizens met General Jackson with the present of a costly horse, and a few hundreds of the young men enlisted in the patriot army. But the opinions of the people in the upper regions of the State were divided, and the major part merely acquiesced in the occupation of the country, with a truckling caution. General Jackson employed the most stringent measures against straggling, and every outrage; and established in the town a police so strict, that its citizens were almost unconscious of the inconveniences of hostile occupation. Two appearances were now manifest in strong contrast, which have not failed to re-appear at every return of the Confederate army to the northern soil; on their part a generous forbearance and respect for private rights, almost incredible in men who had left their own homes desolated by outrages so diabolical; and on the part of the so called Union population, a disgusting brutality, which declared itself incompetent even to comprehend their magnanimity, by imputing it uniformly to fear.

All direct communication between Washington and Harper's Ferry was now severed. The first effect which General Lee hoped from his movement was immediately gained. McClellan, who was placed by the verbal request of Lincoln, in supreme command, began at once to withdraw his troops to the north bank of the Potomac; and the Confederate rear was delivered from all serious annoyance, save the insults of flying parties of cavalry. The other consequence, the evacuation of Harper's Ferry and Martinsburg, would also have followed, if the sound discretion of McClellan had prevailed. No sooner had he fully discovered General Lee's drift, than he requested of Halleck that the troops there and at Harper's Ferry, useless and in [547] peril where they were, should be withdrawn and brought into connexion with him. His advice was disregarded, and the speedy capture of both those detachments evinced at once the soundness of his counsel and the soundness of General Lee's expectation, that his advance on Frederick ought naturally to result in the peaceable occupation of Harper's Ferry by the Confederates. The blunder of the Federalists in remaining there, did, indeed, exert an unforeseen and indirect influence in favor of their army, as will appear in the sequel; but, as it was one which was not designed by either Halleck or McClellan, it does not acquit the former of these Generals from the charge of an error of judgment. This commander was now seized with a panic for the safety of Washington, which obfuscated his own senses, and obstructed, for a time, every effort of McClellan to act with vigor against the invaders. He was haunted with the fear that the march into Maryland was a feint,--that only a small detachment was there, while the bulk of their army was somehow hidden away in some limbus in the woods of Fairfax, whence the terrible Jackson would suddenly emerge, seize the lines of Arlington while denuded of their defenders, and thunder with his cannon upon the White House. Again, he imagined that he would suddenly recross the Potomac somewhere in the mountains, march down its southern bank, pass it a third time below McClellan's army, and, approaching Washington by its north side, capture the place, with the precious persons of the President and his minions, before the latter General could turn about. A few days after, when he heard that Jackson was indeed passing to the south side of the Potomac at Williamsport, a hundred miles away, he was sure that the catastrophe was at hand. Hence, he detained McClellan in his march; he entreated him not to proceed far from the Capital; he warned him to look well to his endangered left. These fancies of the Generalissimo are [548] of interest only as showing the conviction of Jackson's enemies, that there was nothing which was not within reach of his rapid audacity, and as evincing how happily his prowess confounded their counsels.

These uncertain and dilatory movements of the enemy gave General Jackson a respite from the 6th to the 10th of September, at Frederick, which he improved in resting and refitting his command. The day after his arrival was the Sabbath. Such was the order and discipline of the invading army, that all the churches were opened, and the people attended their worship, with their wives and children, as in profound peace. Jackson himself appeared in the German Reformed Church, as a devout worshipper. He expressed to his wife his lively delight in participating in the divine service again, after so many weeks of privation, with a regular Christian assembly, and in a commodious temple, consecrated to God.

Meantime his cavalry, under the gallant Colonel Munford, with some supporting force, observed the approaches of the enemy on the side of Washington. This officer, who had just distinguished himself on the plains of Manassa's in the most'brilliant cavalry charge of the war, skirmished daily with the enemy's advance; and, as their masses began to press more heavily upon him, fell back toward Frederick. The whole Confederate army had arrived there, and was encamped near the town. General Lee now assembled his leading Generals in council, to devise a plan of operations for the approaching shock of arms. Harper's Ferry had not been evacuated, as he hoped. His first design, of withdrawing his army in a body toward Western Maryland, for the purpose of threatening Pennsylvania, and fighting McClellan upon ground of his own selection, was now beset with this diffioulty: that its execution would leave the garriso) at Harper's Ferry to re-open their communications with their friends, to [549] receive an accession of strength, and to sit upon his flank, threatening his new line of supply up the valley of Virginia. Two other plans remained: the one was to leave Harper's Ferry to itself for the present, to concentrate the whole army in a good position, and fight McClellan as he advanced. The other was to withdraw the army west of the mountains, as at first designed, but by different routes, embracing the reduction of Harper's Ferry by a rapid combination in this movement; and then to re-assemble the whole at some favorable position in that region, for the decisive struggle with McClellan. The former was advocated by Jackson; he feared lest the other system of movements should prove too complex for realizing that punctual and complete concentration which sound policy required. The latter, being preferred by the Commander-in-Chief was adopted. It would be unjust to point to its partial results as proof of super rior sagacity in Jackson, for the impartial reader would remember that the plan of his preference was never tried; and, if it had been, the test of experiment might have shown that it also was only capable of imperfect success. It should be added that the execution of the plan which was actually adopted was marred, in some measure, by the untimely disclosure of it to the enemy. Either project was bold, and its execution would have been delicate and hazardous. The purposes of General Lee cannot be so clearly set forth in any way as by the order which unfolded them to his Lieutenants, issued at Frederick, September 9th:--

The army will resume its march to-morrow, taking the Hagerstown road. General Jackson's command will form the advance, and, after passing Middletown with such portion as he may select, will take the route toward Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac at As most convenient point, and by Friday night take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of [550] the enemy as may be at Martinsburg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from Harper's Ferry.

General Longstreet's command will pursue the same road as far as Boonesborough, where it will halt with the reserve, supply, and baggage trains of the army.

General McLaws, with his own division, and that of General R. H. Anderson, will follow General Longstreet; on reaching Middletown he will take the route to Harper's Ferry, and by Friday morning possess himself of the Maryland Heights, and endeavor to capture the enemy at Harper's Ferry and its vicinity.

General Walker, with his division, after accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take possession of Loudoun Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning; Key's Ford on his left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the. Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable, co-operate with General McLaws and General Jackson in intercepting the retreat of the enemy.

General D. H. Hill's division will form the rear-guard of the army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve artillery, ordnance, and supply-trains, &c., will precede General Hill.

General Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Generals Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws; and with the main body of the cavalry will cover the route of the army, and bring up all stragglers that may have been left behind.

The commands of Generals Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Greensborough or Hagerstown.


It will be seen that the advance was again committed to General Jackson, together with the task of making the longer circuit, and reducing Harper's Ferry. On the morning of Wednesday, September 10th, he set out, and marched across the mountains to Boonsborough. The next day, leaving Hagerstown on his right, General Jackson marched to Williamsport; and crossing the Potomac at that place, re-entered Virginia a full day's march west of Harper's Ferry. Then, dividing his forces, he sent General A. P. Hill on the direct road to Martinsburg; while he, with the other two divisions, moved to the North Mountain Depot, the nearest station west of that town. The object of these movements was to prevent the garrison of Martinsburg from escaping by the west or north. Their commander, Brigadier-General White, finding no other outlet, deserted the place on the approach of the Confederates, and retired to Harper's Ferry. They entered Martinsburg on the morning of the 12th of September, and found many valuable stores abandoned by the enemy. By the patriotic part of the population of this oppressed town General Jackson was received with an uncontrollable outburst of enthusiasm. He was now in his own military district again,--his beloved Valley; and he appeared among the astonished and delighted people almost as a visitor from the skies. The females, especially, to whom his purity and domestic virtues made him as dear as his lofty chivalry, crowded around him with their affectionate greetings; while the foremost besieged him for some little souvenir. Blushing with embarrassment, he said: “Really, ladies, this is the first time I was ever surrounded by the enemy;” and disengaged himself from them. Allotting scanty time to the indulgence of this popular emotion, he pressed forward the same day toward Harper's Ferry, and approached it from the west at eleven o'clock on the morning of the 13th. His two partners in the enterprise, Generals McLaws and [552] Walker, had not yet arrived; and it is striking evidence of his celerity, that while they had but the distance of a day's march to traverse, he completed a circuit of more than sixty miles, and arrived first. Placing his signal officer upon a conspicuous eminence, he began immediately to question the neighboring heights of Loudoun and Maryland, but received no response. He then sent by couriers; and, during the night of the 13th, received answer that General McLaws had succeeded in seizing the Maryland Heights, after a spirited and successful combat, about four and a half o'clock, P. M., while General Walker had the same evening occupied the Loudoun Heights with two regiments, without opposition.

The village of Harper's Ferry has already been described, as occupying the angle between the Potomac and Shenandoah, where these two rivers unite, immediately before their passage through the gorge of the Blue Ridge. The town ascends, in a rambling fashion, a ridge which fills the space between the two rivers, and which is itself almost a mountain. This range of highlands, known as Bolivar Heights, upon its reverse, presents a regular acclivity, looking toward the southwest over the open country of the valley, which extends from the Shenandoah to the Potomac. The former stream separates them from the Loudoun Heights, and across the latter, they are confronted by the Maryland Heights. Along the crest of Bolivar Heights the Federalists had constructed a defensive line of earthworks, with heavy abattis, and many batteries of artillery. On the morning of September 14th, General Jackson placed himself in communication with his associates, and taking the chief direction as senior officer, proceeded to dispose everything for the capture of the place, with its entire garrison. Brigadier-General Walker carried four rifled cannon to the crest of Loudoun Heights, supported by a portion of his infantry; while with the remainder he guarded [553] the roads by which the enemy might seek to escape eastward. Major-General McLaws established himself in Pleasant Valley, a mountain vale embraced between the main crest of the Blue Ridge, and a subsidiary range parallel to it on the west, known as Elk Ridge. It is the southern promontory of this, which,--immediately overlooking the river and village, is known as Maryland Heights. After seizing this commanding position, as has been related, he devoted the night of the 13th and the forenoon of the 14th, to constructing a road along the crest of Elk Ridge, by which cannon could be carried out upon its southern extremity. By two o'clock P. M. four pieces of artillery were established there, with great labor, overlooking the whole town, and a part of the enemy's works on Bolivar Heights. The remainder of General McLaws' force was employed in watching the outlets from Harper's Ferry down the Potomac, where the main road, the railroad and the caaal, passed under the mountain's foot, and to guarding his real against the approach of the heavy force of McClellan; who sought to raise the siege by pressing him from the north. But while the guns of McLaws and Walker upon the mountains now rendered the town untenable to the Federalists, they could not dislodge them from their main line upon Bolivar Heights; and here, it was plain, they would cling, in the hope of being relieved by McClellan, until the place was actually forced. So that the main struggle, after all, fell to the corps of General Jackson. He directed the division of Hill toward the Shenandoah, and that of Taliaferro, under Brigadier-General J. R. Jones, to the banks of the Potomac. The division of Ewell, under Brigadier-General Lawton, marched upon the Charlestown turnpike, and supported Hill. On the 14th General Jackson, observing an eminence upon the extreme right of the enemy's line, and next the Potomac, occupied only by horsemen, directed the Stonewall Brigade, under Colonel Grigsby, to seize it. This [554] was done without much difficulty; and the hill was at once crowned by the batteries of Poague and Carpenter. On his right, a similar operation, of still greater importance, was happily effected by General A. P. Hill. Perceiving an elevated piece of ground, (whence the Federal position along Bolivar Heights could be enfiladed at the distance of only a thousand yards,) which seemed to be defended by infantry behind a heavy abattis without artillery, Hill sent three brigades under General Pender, to storm it. This was effected in most gallant style, and with slight loss. During the night Major Walker, director of his artillery, by indefatigable exertions, carried several batteries to the position thus won; while the remainder of the infantry of the division, availing themselves of the darkness, and the precipitous ravines which descend to the Shenandoah, insinuated themselves down its left bank, and took post in rear of the enemy's left. By these dispositions, the fate of the garrison was sealed. But General Jackson, to make sure of his work, also directed his chief of artillery, Colonel Crutchfield, to pass eleven pieces of artillery from Ewell's division across the Shenandoah, and establish them upon its right bank, so as to take a part of the Federal line in reverse. To the division of Ewell was assigned the front attack, in the centre.

This arrangement of the Confederate forces has been described in its completeness, because there is no more beautiful instance in the whole history of the military art, of a grand combination absolutely complete and punctual, irrevocably deciding the struggle before it was begun, and yielding a perfect result, which left nothing more to be desired. In the afternoon of the 14th, the guns of McLaws and Walker, upon the two mountains, had given the enemy a foretaste of their overthrow, by silencing their batteries nearer the Potomac, and searching the whole encampment and barracks with their shells at will. [555] But Jackson was now ready also; and at dawn on the 15th he proceeded to give to his adversary the coup de grace. He ordered all the different batteries to open at once. McLaws and Walker plunged their shot among the Federal masses from the heights; Poague and Carpenter scourged their right with a resistless fire; Lawton advanced to the attack with artillery and infantry in front; and the enfilading batteries of General Hill and Colonel Crutchfield swept their men from the ramparts by a storm of projectiles. After an hour of furious cannonading, all the Federal batteries were silenced. General Jackson had directed that at this signal, Hill should instantly advance, and storm the place upon the right. His brigades were just moving, the gallant Pender again in front, supported by two advanced batt, ries, when amidst the surges of smoke, a white flag was seen waving from a prominent height within the town. Hill arrested the tempest of battle at once; and sending an officer to ascertain tile purpose of the enemy to surrender, soon after entered the town, and received the submission of its commander. The senior officer present, Colonel Miles, had just fallen by a mortal wound; Brigadier-General White, the next in command, surrendered at discretion, with a garrison of eleven thousand men, seventy-three pieces of artillery, thirteen thousand stand of small arms, a great. number of wagons and horses, and a vast accumulation of stores of every description. When General Hill entered the place, all was confusion and panic, and the defenders had already lost every appearance of subordination.

General Jackson granted most liberal terms to the prisoners, although they had placed themselves at his will. The officers were dismissed with their side-arms and personal effects, upon their parole; and wagons, with horses, lent them to remove their baggage to the Federal lines. The privates also, were disarmed, and released upon parole. The force of General Lee was too [556] small to permit, at this critical hour, the detachment of men to conduct them into the interior. This magnificent capture confirmed the judgment of General Joseph E. Johnston, who decided in 1861 that Harper's Ferry was an untenable position for a garrison menaced by a large army. The only resource for the Federal commander, when he saw his enemies approaching, was a retreat to the Maryland Heights. These commanded the Loudoun Heights, as they, in turn, commanded the village. He should have retreated thither at the beginning with his light artillery, destroyed his stores, and broken up the bridges between himself and Harper's Ferry. That place would have then been as untenable to Jackson as it had been to him, and he would have speedily restored communication between himself and McClellan, who was approaching from the north.

The surrender of Harper's Ferry was received at 9 o'clock A. M., the 15th of September. General Jackson, assigning to Hill the receiving of the captured persons and property, immediately resumed his march to rejoin General Lee at Sharpsburg with his two remaining divisions. By a toilsome night march, he reached that place on the morning of Tuesday, September 16th. He also ordered McLaws and Walker to descend, pass through Harper's Ferry, and follow him. The Commander-in-Chief was now demanding their presence with urgency. To understand its cause, other lines of events must be resumed.

On the 12th of September, the advance of McClellan's grand army having discovered that all the Confederates had left Frederick, ventured to enter the place. The next day, a copy of General Lee's order, directing the movements of his whole army, which had been unfortunately dropped in the town, was discovered and sent to the Federal General. Satisfied at once of its authenticity, he perceived that he now had the clew for which he had been groping so cautiously, and determined to disregard the [557] groundless fears of the despotism at Washington, and to press the Confederates, henceforward, with vigor. He saw correctly that celerity of movement might now make him master of the situation, and adopted a plan of operations dictated by the highest skill. This was to push his great army westward as rapidly as possible by several parallel routes so near together as to render a concentration on either rapid and easy; to feel all the passes across the mountain which were held by Lee, and as soon as he effected an entrance at any, to collect his whole force beyond that barrier between the Confederates near Harper's Ferry and the other wing, supposed to be tending toward Hagerstown; to crush the former first, delivering the beleaguered garrison, and then turn upon the latter. That all this was not effected, was due to the surprising promptitude with which Jackson reduced Harper's Ferry, and to the heroic tenacity of McLaws and D. H. Hill in holding the Pleasant Valley and Boonsborough Gap against him, until the Confederate army could be concentrated. On the 14th, the Federal left wing, in great force, under General Franklin, forced Crampton's Gap, by which McLaws had approached Harper's Ferry. But when they passed the first crest of the mountain, they found McLaws, with a strong rear-guard, drawn up across the Pleasant Valley with so bold a front, that they feared both to attack him and to expose their flank by proceeding farther west. Here Franklin lost a day invaluable to his commander, by pausing to confront McLaws until the fall of Harper's Ferry on the 15th opened to the latter a safe exit, by which he retired toward the appointed rendezvous. On the 14th of September, also, the remainder of the Federal army, moving from Frederick by the main road toward Boonsbororough hurled its vast masses all day against D. H. Hill, in the mountain pass in front of that place. This determined soldier held his ground with less than five [558] thousand men, when General Longstreet coming to his support in the afternoon, sustained the onset until nightfall. They then withdrew their divisions toward Sharpsburg, under favor of the darkness, and arrived at that position on the 15th, while their enemies pursued sluggishly, bravely resisted by the cavalry of FitzHugh Lee. In the combat of Boonsborough Gap, McClellan, with that usual exaggeration of the numbers of his enemy to which his timid temperament inclined him, placed the force of D. H. Hill at fifteen thousand, and that of Longstreet at as many more. A large portion of his army arrived in front of the Confederate position at Sharpsburg on the same day with them, and he might have immediately attacked with the prospect of overwhelming the three divisions opposed to him. But the absence of Franklin with his whole left wing, which was detained in Pleasant Valley by McLaws, the cumbrous size of his vast and sluggish host, and his own caution, consumed both that day and the 16th. Then, two divisions of the corps of Jackson and that of General Walker were in position, and the hope of beating the Southern army in detail was at an end.

The position selected-by General Lee for his final colcentration is marked by the little village of Sharpsburg, a cluster of German farm-houses, which had spent its quiet existence amidst the hills and woods, dreaming little of the fame which was to connect its name forever with the greatest battle of this gigantic campaign. It is situated at the intersection of six roads, two and a half miles east of the Potomac, and one mile west of Antietam Creek, a picturesque mill-stream, which descends from the north, and separates between the rolling hills of the great valley, and the long, sloping ridges which form the western bases of the Blue Ridge, or South Mountain. The roads which centre at the village lead southward to Harper's Ferry, northward to Hagerstown, westward to Shepherdstown, upon the Virginian [559] [560] shore of the Potomac, eastward to Boonsborough, and southeastward to Pleasant Valley. It was by the last two that McClellan's army approached; and these highways passed the Antietam upon substantial bridges of stone; while other practicable crossings, above and below, were offered by fords and country roads of less note. The country around Sharpsburg is elevated and rolling, with woods, fields, farm-houses, and orchards interspersed, divided by stone fences, and scarred here and there with ledges of limestone which project a few feet from the soil. It offered, therefore, a strong defensive position for an army receiving the attack of its enemies; but the ground lay under two grave objections, of which the one was, that this army had the Potomac in its immediate rear, and the other, that its lines were almost enfiladed by the heavy rifled artillery of the assailants, posted upon the ascending ridges which rose from the eastern margin of the Antietam toward the mountain. Here, however, General Lee began the formation of his line of battle, on the 15th of September, by placing the divisions of D. H. Hill, Longstreet and Hood upon the range of hills in front of Sharpsburg, and overlooking Antietam Creek. His line was nearly parallel to this stream, and had Longstreet upon the right and Hill upon the left of the road which led to Boonsborough: while Hood's two brigades, stationed upon the left of Hill, extended that wing to the highway leading to Hagerstown. The evening of that day was expended by the Federalists in feeble reconnoissances. But on the morning of the 16th they were evidently busy in posting their batteries, and disposing their vast masses for a pitched battle. At mid-day General Jackson arrived, with the two divisions under the command of Brigadier-Generals Jones and Lawton, and, after granting his men a few hours' repose, took position on the left of Hood, nearly filling the space between the Hagerstown road and the Potomac. To rest his extreme left in [561] the neighborhood of the river, he was compelled to retract it somewhat from the direct line. This exposed him to two inconveniences,--that his position was thereby more completely enfiladed by hostile batteries in front of his right, and that space was thus left between him and the Antietam for the collecting of a heavy force of the Federalists before his left, and on the hither side of that barrier. But no other choice was left him; the vast numbers of McClellan would otherwise have enabled that General to swing around between his extreme left and the river. General Walker, arriving with his two brigades a little after Jackson, was posted on the right of Longstreet. After spending the day in a heavy but useless cannonade, McClellan advanced to the assault about sunset on the 16th and attacked the two brigades of Hood, on the left of the centre, in great numbers. These veteran commands received the onset with firmness, and inflicted serious loss upon the assailants. The combat continued far into the night, and was suspended without result; when Hood's troops were relieved by the brigades of Trimble and Lawton, from the division of Ewell (now commanded by Lawton), that they might have a much needed respite during the night, to prepare food and replenish their ammunition. The two divisions of Jackson now occupied the whole left, from that of D. H. Hill forth, and the command of Hood became the reserve. Thus the troops lay down upon their arms, with the skirmishers immediately confronting the lines of the enemy, and sought such repose asthey might, amidst the alarms of a continual dropping fire.

The morning of the 17th of September dawned with all the mellow splendor of the American autumn; but scarcely had the sun arisen, when its quiet and beauty were obscured by the thunders and smoke of a terrific cannonade, which burst from the whole Federal line. The plan of McClellan's battle was, to advance his right first, under the lead of Generals Hooker and [562] Mansfield, who had already made a lodgement west of the Antietam, to overpower the Confederate left, and then to sweep down the stream, taking the remainder of General Lee's line in reverse, and forcing it simultaneously by a front attack. To effect the first part of this design, he hurled against the left the corps of Hooker, Mansfield, and Sumner, containing, by his own statement, forty-four thousand combatants, and supported by five or six batteries of rifled artillery from his reserves, besides the numerous guns attached directly to their movements. But so far was this force from proving adequate to his purpose, he relates that the corps of Franklin, then numbering twelve thousand men, was necessarily brought up as a reserve, and a part of it engaged, to prevent the Confederates from retorting his assault upon their left by a serious disaster. Thus, the post of danger and of glory again fell to the devoted corps of Jackson. The divisions present were now diminished by battle, straggling, and overpowering fatigues, to an aggregate of less than seven thousand men. With this little band, supported by five thousand reserves under Hood and McLaws, of whom the latter only arrived from Harper's Ferry in the crisis of the battle, did Jackson hold his ground throughout the day, and breast every onset of the deluge of enemies. His dispositions have already been described in part. The brigades of Lawton and Trimble were between the Hagerstown road and the command of D. H. Hill. On the left of these, and parallel to that road, was the division of Jones. The brigades of Early and Hayes were at first detached to support the horse artillery of General Stuart, who, with a portion of his cavalry, had seized an elevated hill distant nearly a mile from the infantry, whence he proposed to threaten the extreme right of the Federalists. Hays was immediately recalled from this movement to the support of Lawton's brigade, leaving Early to guard the batteries of Stuart. This [563] General, finding that the wide interval between him and General Jackson's left allowed the intrusion of the enemy, almost immediately removed his guns to a height somewhat farther to the rear, and nearer to his friends. From this position he rendered essential service, not only in guarding their flank, but in repulsing the onsets of the Federalists, by a spirited cannonade. But the advance of their infantry had begun simultaneously with the furious fire of their batteries, and, by sunrise, the skirmishers were hotly engaged in the woods east of the Hagerstown road. Very soon the Confederates were driven out, and the position was occupied by large masses of Federal infantry, with several batteries of artillery, which assailed the Confederate line in front, while the rifled guns in the distance raked them with a murderous fire from their right. But under this double ordeal, the veterans of Jackson stood firm, and returned the fire, inflicting a terrible slaughter upon their enemies. For more than an hour this unequal contest raged with unabated. fury. The brigade of Hayes was speedily called from the second line into the first. General Lawton, commanding the division, was severely wounded. Colonel Douglass, leading his brigade, was killed. Colonel Walker, commanding Trimble's brigade, was wounded and unhorsed. General J. R. Jones, commanding the old division of Jackson, was compelled to leave the field, and the gallant General Starke, succeeding. him, was immediately slain. Trimble's brigade had one-third, and the others half their men hors du combat; and four out of five of their field officers were killed or wounded. The whole line was speedily reduced to a shattered remnant, which still fought with invincible tenacity, from hillock to hillock, and ledge to ledge, as they retired. It was in this terrific crisis that General Jackson commanded Hood to return to the front and relieve the division of Lawton, and recalled Early with his brigade, to assume the command vacated [564] by the wounding of the latter. With his accustomed prowess the heroic Texan rushed forward against the teeming multitudes of the enemy, and stayed the tide of battle. His two little brigades engaged five times their own numbers; and in a deadly grapple, of several hours' duration, drove them steadily back a quarter of a mile, and re-established the Confederate lines. After firing away all his cartridges, he caused his men to replenish their supply from the slain of both armies, and still maintained the struggle, until the Federalists, about mid-day, remitted their exertions.

But General Early brought other succors to the failing line at the same time with Hood. Marching his brigade by its right flank over sheltered ground in the rear of the Confederate lines, he brought it, at the moment when the division of Starke was almost overpowered, to their assistance. They had been driven from the Hagerstown road, across an elevated field, and into a wood beyond, where the dauntless Colonels Grigsby and Stafford were endeavoring to rally a few score of their brigades. The Federalists had already posted a battery in the road; and, thinking the left successfully turned, were advancing heavy columns of infantry against both the right and the left of the ground which Early had just assumed. Informing General Jackson of his critical position, he assigned to Colonel Grigsby the task of holding the left column in check for a few moments, and moved his own brigade farther to the right, so as to confront the other, concealed from them by the undulations of the ground. Having gained the desired position, he suddenly disclosed his line, advanced, and attacked them with fury. They gave way before him, and he pursued them with great slaughter to the road. At this opportune moment the brigades of General McLaws began to arrive to his support,--Kershaw and Barksdale upon his right, and Semmes upon his left. The Federal column, threatening [565] that part of his line had just come far enough to endanger his left flank and rear, as he advanced against the routed enemy in his front. Early therefore arrested his men in the ardor of their pursuit, changed his front, and advanced upon this second body of enemies, in conjunction with Semmes, Grigsby, and Stafford. By this combined attack they were swept summarily, with great loss, from the woods, and the lines were finally restored. At the same time, the other brigades of McLaws were advanced on Early's right with admirable skill and spirit, by their commander; and drove the enemy across the woods and fields for half a mile, strewing the ground with killed and wounded. The whole of General Jackson's line was then re-established by the united troops of Hood, McLaws, and Early; and the conflict of the infantry sunk into a desultory skirmish of outposts. But the baffled Federalists kept up, during the remainder of the day, a furious cannonade upon his position, under which his men lay quiet behind the hillocks, rocky ledges, and fences, suffering but little loss. The share of his wearied troops in the glories of the day was now completed. In the afternoon, indeed, instructed by the Commander-in-Chief, he made an attempt to effect a diversion in favor of his comrades upon the right and centre, by attacking the extreme right of the Federalists in conjunction with General Stuart. But their lines were found to extend so near tile Potomac, and to be so fortified with artillery, that the experiment was relinquished. During this terrible conflict General Jackson exposed his life with his customary imperturbable bravery, riding among his batteries and directing their fire, and communicating his own indomitable spirit to his men. Yet he said to a Christian comrade, that on no day of battle had he ever felt so calm an assurance that he should be preserved from all personal harm, through the protection of his Heavenly Father.

While McClellan was accumulating his chief strength against [566] the Confederate left, he was also diligently preparing for an attack in force upon the centre, by feeling its lines with a heavy artillery fire. No sooner had the tempest exhausted its fury upon Jackson, than it burst upon D. H. Hill and Longstreet, with almost equal violence; but it was met with the same determined resistance. To describe its course would lead the reader over a precisely parallel story of fourfold numbers, resisted by the thin Confederate lines, with a sublime heroism which supplied every defect of force; of the lamentable martyrdom of devoted officers and men, but avenged by bloody slaughters of the assailants; of shattered brigades reduced to handfuls, and of fearful onslaughts, turned back by the rally of these unconquerable men, when the effort seemed almost madness. At one moment, he would see vast masses of the enemy pouring through a breach in the single line of Hill, and about to seize the very key of the Confederate position, arrested and turned back by that General with four field-pieces, and a few hundreds of bayonets, rallied from several broken brigades. At another, he would see Longstreet, sitting alone upon his horse, near a battery of four field-pieces, which was supported by the North Carolina regiment of Cooke, without a single cartridge, and thus confronting and beating back a whole line of battle.

At four o'clock in the afternoon, McClellan transferred his attack to the Confederate right, and attempted with the corps of Burnside, to force the bridge over the Antietam, leading from the Pleasant Valley. This was immediately defended by several batteries, and two regiments of General Toombs's Georgia brigade, stationed near the stream. These troops held the enemy's advance in check until they had passed the stream in great numbers below; when they were necessarily withdrawn, to avoid capture. Burnside now crossed the bridge in great force, and attacked Longstreet's right, under General D. R. Jones, forcing [567] him from the range of hills which commanded the approaches. An advance of a few hundred yards more would have given the enemy control of the roads leading from Sharpsburg to the Potomac; but here also through the providence of the Commander-in-Chief, timely succor was at hand. The remaining division of General Jackson's corps, under General A. P. Hill, having been ordered up from Harper's Ferry, had just reached the field, and was now sent to the support of the right wing. This General, advancing four of his brigades, with his batteries, attacked the Federalists, flushed with confidence, but disordered by the rapidity of their advance, and immediately arrested their career. Assailed in flank by Toombs, and in front by Branch, Gregg and Archer, they wavered, broke, and fled in confusion to the banks of the Antietam, where they sought protection under the fire of the numerous artillery upon the opposite hills. In this splendid combat, two thousand men of Hill's division, assisted by the brigade of Toombs, routed the fourteen thousand of Burnside, and drove them under the shelter of McClellan's reserves, The General was now compelled to pass from the aggressive to the defensive, and was happy to be able to prevent the Confederates from crossing the bridge in turn, forcing back his left, and separating him from the mountain base which he destined for his refuge in case of disaster. To the anxious appeals of Burnside for more men, and more guns, to meet “the overpowering odds” against him, he had no reply to give. Contenting themselves with posting their beaten infantry, and their artillery so as to contest the passage of Hill, they awaited the night, which speedily came to their assistance. With this affair, the bloody day was closed. The two armies held the same positions which they occupied when it began, save that in the centre, the Confederate line was retracted about two hundred yards. In [568] no battle of the war had the shock of arms been so violent as in this, or the cannonade so terrible. On both sides, portions of the forces engaged were almost totally disintegrated by the fury of the struggle. The whole organized remainder of brigades appeared in the form of a few companies, and divisions were reduced to the size of regiments.

The exhaustion of the Confederates forbade the thought of following up their successes. But had they been stronger, the adroit position of McClellan gave them little encouragement to attempt it. He was able to place the Antietam in his front, and to occupy upon the eastern side, ground of commanding height. Had he been forced back from this, he would have retired to ranges of hills still more elevated, whence his numerous and powerful artillery would have been employed with still more fatal effect; and had he been defeated, this would only have driven him to the mountain, where he would have been unassailable. But on the morning after the battle, General Lee firmly awaited another attack in his first position. His army had been recruited already, by the return of thousands of the foot-sore and the stragglers to their ranks, and he was nothing loth to try conclusions again, upon the same ground, with his gigantic adversary. McClellan had no stomach whatever for another wrestle of the sort he had just escaped; and thus, during the 18th, the two adversaries stood at bay, and busied themselves in burying their dead, and removing their wounded. In the afternoon, General Lee, learning that McClellan was about to receive large accessions of fresh troops, and having no corresponding increase of his own strength in prospect, determined to recross the Potomac at Shepherdstown. As soon as the darkness set in, this movement was commenced, and was continued all night. The trains, the artillery, the wounded, were passed safely over; while the troops forded the shallow stream in a continuous column. [569] Nothing was left to the enemy, except a few hundred wounded men, whose sufferings would have been aggravated by their removal, and a few disabled guns and caissons. The corps of General Jackson now brought up the rear; and its passage was not completed until 10 o'clock A. M. on the 19th. For hours, he was seen seated upon his horse in the middle of the river, as motionless as a statue, watching the passage of his faithful men; nor did he leave this station until the last man and the last carriage had touched the southern shore. He then retired with his troops; and having made suitable dispositions for guarding the fords, sought encampments for them, where they might find the much needed repose.

When McClellan perceived that the Confederates had retired he began to claim the battle of Sharpsburg as a glorious victory. He forgot that at Malvern Hill he had also claimed a splendid victory because he was permitted to do something similar to that which General Lee had now done, except that it was less successful. There he had stood on the defensive in the position of his choice; he had beaten off the assailants with a loss equal to his own; he had held his ground, in the main, until the close of the battle; and he had then stolen off in the darkness, leaving his enemy to bury his dead, and to care for many of his wounded. Here General Lee had received the attacks of his foe in his chosen position; had repelled them all with enormous slaughter; had slept upon his own ground; had sent his wounded to the rear; had buried his dead, save where the impetuosity of his victorious men had carried them into the enemy's line; had offered battle defiantly on the succeeding day; and, after this, had retired at his leisure, and unmolested. If Malvern Hill was a victory for McClellan, by parity of reasoning, Sharpsburg was more a victory for Lee. But the Confederates did not claim it as a decisive victory, [570] for it did not gain them the main object for which it was fought.

It has been said that this object was gained, for it was the whole end of the battle to win a safe exit out of Maryland, after the brilliant capture of Harper's Ferry. This statement is incorrect.

The evening of the day on which Harper's Ferry fell, more than half of the army was safely out of Maryland, the corps of Jackson, and the divisions of McLaws, Anderson, and Walker; it was necessary for them to re-enter Maryland, in order to fight at Sharpsburg. Nor is it true that their return was necessary to extricate the remaining divisions of Longstreet, D. H. Hill, and Jones. These crossed the Antietam to Sharpsburg with impunity, in the face of McClellan's huge host, during the forenoon of September 15th, and the onset upon them did not begin in earnest until the dawn of the 17th. Surely the same skill and firmness might have conducted them in safety four miles farther, across the Potomac to Shepherdstown. The battle of Sharpsburg was fought by the Confederates, not to purchase a secure retreat, but to open their way for triumphant invasion; to redeem their offers of aid to oppressed Maryland; to conquer. a peace by defeating their oppressors upon their own soil. This truth displays at once the daring and hardihood of General Lee's conceptions, and his confidence in the prowess of his army. He believed them capable of everything, and so was not afraid to require of them the greatest things.

In the daring policy of delivering this battle, General Jackson had emphatically concurred with him upon his arrival from Harper's Ferry in advance of his corps. When the Commander-in-Chief determined to withdraw across the Potomac again, he also approved this movement; but added that, in view of all the circumstances, it was better to have fought the battle in Maryland, than to have left it without a struggle. In the larger part of this admirable army, it may be truly said, his confidence was [571] justly reposed; but in this instance, he exacted of them that of which human nature was scarcely capable. The marches and combats which introduced the great day of Sharpsburg, exhausted the strength of the men in advance. Many were absent because they were unable to march with deficient rations, and illshod; and many others, who had faithfully dragged their weary limbs to the field, had neither strength of muscle nor animal spirits for its duties. This army, jaded, foot-sore, and half famished, was sustained under the toils of the bloody day, only by its lofty principle, and its devotion to its leaders. To their adversaries, even, they appeared wan and haggard, albeit they were as terrible as hungry wolves. Men among them were seen, while advancing to the charge through orchards of the German farmers, under a hail of death, greedily devouring the apples from the trees.

Here, then, was one explanation of the imperfection of General Lee's victory. Another, more important, was in the miserable vice of straggling, which the mistaken good nature of officers had fostered. For in this army, so heroic as a body, there were two elements commingled,--the precious metal and the vile dross,--the true, patriot, citizen soldier, animated by a high principle, and the base skulker, who did nothing, save under compulsion. The great vice of the Southern armies was on this occasion prevalent: that the ignorance of the practical details of duty among officers, with the easy bonhommie of their character, remitted the bonds of discipline; so that the base were not compelled to act with the true, as one body. The losses of the army from straggling had begun upon the Rappahannock. When it moved thence against Pope, at Manassa's, the country behind it was left infested with thousands of laggards and deserters, who preyed upon the substance of the citizens, and wandered about, with arms in their hands, defying arrest. At every stage [572] of the march this depletion increased, until, at the final struggle, there were fewer Confederate soldiers in line of battle, along the Antietam, than there were along the course of the Potomac, and the roads over which the army had marched. General Lee declares that the battle was fought with less than forty thousand men. The confusion reigning in many parts of the army make an accurate enumeration forever impossible. But the highest estimate made by well-informed actors in the scene gave him thirty-three thousand effective men. General McClellan declares officially, that Lee's line of battle was exeedingly short. All who fought in it testified that it was also exceedingly thin. In contrast with this sober revelation of facts, the confident estimates of the Federal General are set in a ridiculous light, when he formally announces, to a mal, the exact number present in each of the Confederate corps, and makes up an aggregate of ninetyseven thousand four hundred and forty-five combatants, opposed to him on the Antietam. The fact that the Confederates defended themselves successfully against the ninety thousand men whom he hurled against them, supported by the most numerous and complete artillery ever arrayed on a field of battle, is a testimony to the heroism of the men and the skill of the officers, almost inexpressibly glorious. The commendation of Jackson is best written by his adversary, when he says, in his Report, “One division of Sumner's, and all of Hooker's corps, on the right, had, after fighting most valiantly for several hours, been overpowered by numbers, driven back in great disorder, and much scattered.” Those numbers, so overpowering, were, as the reader has seen, less than seven thousand jaded men, supported by a few hundreds of reserves from McLaws. That the Confederates accomplished so much with their fragment of an army, is the best apology for the daring policy of their commander. Had all his men been in their places, and had they fought as the thirty-three thousand fought, [573] it is no idle vaticination to say, that the battle of Sharpsburg would have been a magnificent and decisive triumph. The apprehensions which McClellan confessed as possessing his breast after its close (September 18th), shall express its probable results. “At that moment, Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded, the national cause could afford no risks of defeat. One battle lost, and almost all would have been lost. Lee's army might then have marched, as it pleased, on, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York. It could have levied its supplies from a fertile and undevastated country, extorted tribute from wealthy and populous cities; and nowhere east of the Alleghanies was there another organized force able to arrest its march.”

But it will be well to pause here, and answer a question which has doubless been frequently raised in the reader's mind, by the astonishing discrepancies between the confident estimates made by McClellan of his adversary's numbers and the sober statements of the Confederate reports. The doubt has arisen, “Can it be, that a General of McClellan's acknowledged skill should be so incapable of measuring the size of the force acting before him, or that an official occupying so high a position among a civilized people can be so capable of deliberate lying concerning matters of fact?” The answer is to be found chiefly in the traits of his people. Their general vanity and falsehood prompted his officers and men, when beaten by the Confederates, to cover their own cowardice under wondrous tales of the overpowering numbers before which they gave way. Thus, McClellan, who, it was well known, was not accustomed to risk his person by too near an inspection of the incidents of battle, was perpetually made the victim of a system of lies and exaggerations, passed upon him by his subordinates, to cloak their own cowardice. It is to precisely this source that the most of his military blunders are [574] traceable. And this is one among the manifold illustrations ot the intrinsic weakness of sin. Virtue is always the stronger in the end.

To return. Another cause of imperfect success to the Confederate arms, was the too great dispersion of their forces before the battle. The fact that so much was effected with the portion present on the morning of the 17th, shows how complete the victory might have been, had all the divisions been on the ground, and suitably refreshed by rest and food. The prize at Harper's Ferry, left within General Lee's grasp, not by the forecast, but by the folly of the enemy, yet proved the occasion of their rescue from destruction. The splendid bait was seized; but it caused Jackson to arrive wearied and depleted by forced marches, and it detained the divisions of A. P. Hill, McLaws, and Anderson, and then placed them at the scene of combat with exhausted strength, after it had been raging for hours. Had those forces been present at the beginning, which arrived during the day, a concerted onset would have converted the repulse of McClellan into a disastrous defeat.

The cause of the Confederates suffered also from indiscreet management of their artillery in some parts of the field. Inferior in number and range of guns, in the quantity and quality of ammunition, and in the experience of the gunners, it should not have attempted to cope with the distant Federal batteries. To them: it should have made no reply: but, protecting itself from their fire until the auspicious moment, it should have confined itself to driving back their masses of infantry, when they ventured to expose themselves at close quarters.

The prime error of McClellan in this campaign was his mistake concerning the numbers of his opponent; for out of this his other errors grew. Of these, not the least was his timid delay in pressing General Lee at Sharpsburg, and McLaws at Pleasant [575] Valley, on the 15th and 16th. He had then attained that opportunity to deal with the parts of the invading army separated, for which he represented himself as manoeuvring: a great captain would have used the precious advantage while it lasted, by hurling his troops at once, with such imperfect preparation as they might have, against their foes. His handling of his forces on the 17th was also faulty in two important particulars. His attacks upon the Confederate left, centre, and right, were successive, instead of simultaneous. The one movement was decided adversely before the next was seriously begun, and the wings of his army consequently gave each other little mutual support. And second: it was an inexcusable error to permit the day to be decided against him, with fifteen thousand reserves of veteran troops lying passive behind the Antietam. For all useful purposes, the corps of Fitz-John Porter might as well have been in Washington City. It may be right for the General who is very distant from his supplies and reinforcements, to husband his reserves, even at the cost of surrendering a victory; but McClellan was very near to his, having two or three fresh divisions within a few hours' march. It appears, therefore, that the faults of his tactics here were again those of over-caution. His best apology is to be found in the indomitable quality of the troops opposed to him.

It remains to speak of the losses of the two parties to this sanguinary battle. General Jackson reported a total loss in his command, during the operations at Harper's Ferry and Sharpsburg, of three hundred and fifty-one officers and men killed, two thousand and thirty wounded, and fifty-seven missing. Nearly all of this loss was incurred at the latter place. The loss of the whole Confederate army, while in Maryland, was ten thousand three hundred, killed and wounded, of whom one thousand five hundred and sixty-seven were killed. The confusions of the [576] campaign left no means to discriminate between those lost at Boonsborough and Crampton's Gaps, at Harper's Ferry, and in the final struggle. General McClellan asserts that the losses of the Confederates in killed and wounded, at the two places first named, were as great as two thousand five hundred. If this is true, then the casualties of the Confederates at Sharpsburg were under eight thousand. He sets down the aggregate of his own losses during the Maryland campaign at about fifteen thousand two hundred men, of whom two thousand were killed and wounded in the preliminary skirmishes and combats. He thus leaves thirteen thousand as his loss in the battle of Sharpsburg. His own blunders, in the indiscreet attempts he so often made to estimate the casualties of his adversary, are a lesson of caution against a too dogmatic attempt to correct this statement. It will therefore be left, with the accompanying fact, that the hospital returns of the medical authorities of his Government showed an increase of thirty thousand patients, from his command, as consequent upon the operations of this short campaign.

The close of this series of events was marked by one more combat, which shed a parting beam of glory upon the military genius of General Jackson, and the bravery of a part of his troops. After crossing the Potomac upon the 19th of September, he withdrew his corps four miles, upon the road toward Martinsburg, and caused them to encamp. Brigadier-General Pendleton, the chief of the reserved artillery of General Lee's army, was stationed with thirty guns upon the heights overlooking the river, supported by the shattered remnant of Lawton's brigade, to guard it against the passage of the enemy in pursuit. These arrangements had not long been made, when the Federalists began to establish heavy batteries of artillery upon the opposite heights, to protect the advance of their troops to the attack; and Fitz-John Porter's corps, which had been held in reserve at [577] Sharpsburg, appeared on the river-bank. This General,. after nightfall, sent a detachment across a point above the batteries of Pendleton; which, advancing unobserved, came so near the base of the heights upon which he was posted, as to be protected from an effectual cannonade; while the infantry, discouraged by their previous losses, and the absence of their accustomed commander, were seized with panic, and fled. The thirty guns of Pendleton were now exposed to capture, and four of them fell at once into the hands of the Federalists; while the captains of the other batteries withdrew the remainder, to rescue them from a similar fate. At midnight General Pendleton came to the camps of the army, to report these alarming facts; and added to them, what he then supposed to be true, that all his guns had met the fate of the four first taken.

Lee had already made provision against a pursuit of McClellan, although deeming him probably too much crippled at Sharpsburg to venture immediately into Virginia, by entrusting the defence of his rear to General Jackson, and by sending General Stuart with his cavalry back across the river at Williamsport, to threaten the enemy's right flank and harass his movements. But now, concluding from the report of General Pendleton, that the Federal army might be attempting to follow him, he sent at once to General Jackson, directing him to prepare for assailing them, and informing him of his purpose to support the attack, if necessary, with his whole army. But General Jackson, to whom Pendleton had made the same report, as to the General commanding the approaches next the enemy, did not tarry for further prompting. He had already risen, and gone toward Boteler's Ford, a crossing a little below the position just lost by Pendleton, and had ordered the division of A. P. Hill, that of Early, (who was now the successor of Lawton,) and that of D. H. Hill, (which had the day before been permanently. [578] assigned to his corps,) to follow him thither immediately. Meantime General Lee had sent orders to General Longstreet to countermarch his corps and rejoin him, that he might proceed with him to the support of Jackson. The messengers sent to place the latter in communication with the Commander-in-Chief, with difficulty found him, in advance of all his troops, without escort, examining the posture of the enemy's force, while the division of A. P. Hill was rapidly advancing to the front.”

On the north bank of the Potomac were planted seventy pieces of heavy artillery, while under their protection, a considerable force of infantry had passed to the southern side, and were drawn up in line upon the high banks next the river. Under the direction of General Jackson, Hill formed his gallant division in two lines, and advanced to the attack, regardless of the terrific storm of projectiles from the batteries beyond the river. The enemy attempted for a time to resist him, by bearing heavily against his left; but his second line, marching by the left flank, disclosed itself from behind the first, and advanced to its support; when the two charging simultaneously, and converging toward the mass of the Federalists, swept them down the hill, and drove them into the river. Now occurred a scene of carnage, in which the bloodiest spirit of revenge might have sated itself for all the losses suffered at the hands of the enemy. The troops of Hill rushed down the declivity regardless of the plunging shot and shell of the opposing batteries, hurled their adversaries by hundreds into the water, and as they endeavored to struggle across, picked them off with unerring aim. The surface of the broad river was black with the corpses of the foe, and few of the luckless column ever reached the northern bank. This was one of those rare opportunities, which victory sometimes gives to her favorites, to repay themselves in one triumphant hour for all the sufferings and injuries of a campaign; [579] and well did the veterans of Hill employ the precious season. When the last of the intruders was destroyed or escaped, they withdrew a short distance, and guarded the ford for the remainder of the day; but McClellan had learned a lesson which inspired due regard for the Confederate rear, and henceforth kept a respectful distance. When a second messenger from General Lee arrived, to seek for General Jackson, he found him watching the repulse of the enemy. His only remark was: “With the blessing of Providence, they will soon be driven back.” In this combat, General A. P. Hill did not employ a single piece of artillery, but relied upon the musket and bayonet alone. Early was at hand with his division to support him; but no occasion arose for his assistance. The whole loss of the Confederates was thirty killed, and two hundred and thirty-one wounded. The Federalists admitted a loss of three thousand killed and drowned, and two hundred prisoners; and one large brigade was nearly extinguished by the disaster.

General McClellan, in his narrative of his war, only notices the combat of Boteler's Ford as a reconnoissance of secondary importance, which he despatches in a few lines. But it does not admit of question, that it was the beginning of a General advance against General Lee. Commanders do not make mere reconnoissances with seventy pieces of heavy artillery, laboriously posted upon difficult heights. General McClellan declared himself under the most urgent pressure from Washington, not to allow the “Rebels,” whom he had described to his masters as a herd of fugitives discomfited by his mighty arm, to escape without destruction. He was commanded to follow stroke with stroke, until they were consumed from off the face of the earth. He found it necessary to make a formal argument, to show that he was not blameworthy for postponing their destruction later than the morning of September 18th. He declared that all his [580] dispositions were made to fight a general action on the 19th, and that nothing prevented it, save the retreat of General Lee during the night. The reader who duly weighs these things will hardly believe but that the advance of the 20th, at Boteler's Ford, was the commencement of that general assault, intended for the previous day.

This truth is necessary to enable him to apprehend the value of the service now rendered to his country by the military genius of Jackson. The Confederate army, wearied by almost superhuman exertions; reduced by battle and straggling; deprived of its known leaders, by the wounding or death of the larger number of the gallant field officers present; and disheartened by its terrible sufferings,--was in no condition to fight another pitched battle. General Jackson appreciated these facts, and hence felt the urgent necessity of avoiding a general action by a prompt resistance to the initial movements of the Federalists. When he had decided this, he showed equal judgment in selecting the division of A. P. Hill to lead the attack-This body of troops, arriving at Sharpsburg late in that dreadful day, had taken a short and comparatively bloodless, but glorious, share in its labors in repulsing the corps of the feeble Burnside. Their numbers were less diminished and their spirits less worn than those of any other troops in the army. To them, therefore, General Jackson entrusted the post of honor on this morning,--and well did they discharge the trust. Through them, General Jackson probably saved the army on that occasion from destruction.

It is always as unwise as it is evil, to misrepresent the truth. The Federalists, in their overweening vanity and arrogance, claimed a victory at Sharpsburg to which they knew they were not entitled; and filled the public ear with fictions of the discomfiture of the Confederates which they knew were exaggerated. [581] They thus created for themselves a moral necessity to press them with boldness, and the penalty was the slaughter of September 20th. The three thousand corpses floating down the Potomac, or lining its banks, were the price paid by them for the rain boastings of September 17th.

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