The invasion of Maryland.
by James Longstreet, Lieutenant-General, C. S. A.
When the Second Bull Run
campaign closed we had the most brilliant prospects the Confederates
ever had. We then possessed an army which, had it been kept together, the Federals
would never have dared attack.
With such a splendid victory behind us, and such bright prospects ahead, the question arose as to whether or not we should go into Maryland
. General Lee
, on account of our short supplies, hesitated a little, but I reminded him of my experience in Mexico
, where sometimes we were obliged to live two or three days on green corn.
I told him we could not starve at that season of the year so long as the fields were loaded with “roasting ears.”
Finally lie determined to go on, and accordingly crossed the river and went to Frederick City.
On the 6th of September some of our cavalry, moving toward Harper's Ferry
, became engaged with some of the Federal artillery near there.
proposed that I should organize a force, and surround the garrison and capture it. I objected, and urged that our troops were worn with marching and were on short rations, and that it would be a bad idea to divide our forces while we were in the enemy's country, where he could get information, in six or eight hours, of any movement we might make.
The Federal army, though beaten at the Second Manassas
, was not disorganized, and it would certainly come out to look for us, and we should guard against being caught in such a condition.
Our army consisted of a superior quality of soldiers, but it was in no condition to divide in the enemy's country.
I urged that we should keep it well in hand, recruit our strength, and get up supplies, and then we could do anything we pleased.
made no reply to this, and I supposed the Harper's Ferry
scheme was abandoned.
A day or two after we had reached Frederick City, I went up to General Lee
's tent and found the front walls closed.
I inquired for the general, and he, recognizing my voice, asked me to come in. I went in and found Jackson
The two were discussing the move against Harper's Ferry
, both heartily approving it. They had gone so far that it seemed useless for me to offer any further opposition, and I only suggested that Lee
should use his entire army in the move instead of sending off a large portion of it to Hagerstown
as he intended to do. General Lee
so far changed the wording of his order as to require me to halt at Boonsboro
' with General D. H. Hill
being ordered to Harper's Ferry via
Bolivar Heights, on the south side; McLaws
by the Maryland Heights
on the north, and Walker
, via Loudoun Heights
, from the south-east.
This was afterward changed, and I was sent on to Hagerstown
, leaving D. H. Hill
alone at South Mountain
The movement against Harper's Ferry
began on the 10th.
made a wide, sweeping march around the Ferry
, passing the Potomac
at Williams-port, and moving from there on toward Martinsburg
, and turning thence upon Harper's Ferry
to make his attack by Bolivar Heights.
hurried march to reach Maryland Heights
could get in position, and succeeded in doing so. With Maryland Heights
in our possession the Federals
could not hold their position there.
put 200 or 300 men to each piece of his artillery and carried it up the heights, and was in position when Jackson
came on the heights opposite.
appeared upon Loudoun Heights
, south of the Potomac
and east of the Shenandoah
, thus completing the combination against the Federal
The surrender of the Ferry
and the twelve thousand Federal troops there was a matter of only a short time.
If the Confederates
had been able to stop with that, they might have been well contented with their month's campaign.
They had had a series of successes and no defeats; but the division of the army to make this attack on Harper's Ferry
was a fatal error, as the subsequent events showed.
While a part of the army had gone toward Harper's Ferry
I had moved up to Hagerstown
In the meantime Pope
had been relieved and McClellan
was in command of the army, and with ninety thousand refreshed troops was marching forth to avenge the Second Manassas
The situation was a very serious one for us. McClellan
was close upon us. As we moved out of Frederick
he came on and occupied that place, and there he came across a lost copy of the order assigning position to the several commands in the Harper's Ferry
This “lost order” has been the subject of much severe comment by Virginians
who have written of the war. It was addressed to D. H. Hill
, and they charged that its loss was due to him, and that the failure of the campaign was the result of the lost order.
As General Hill
has proved that he never received the order at his headquarters it must have been lost by some one else.1
Ordinarily, upon getting possession of such an order, the adversary
would take it as a ruse de guerre
, but it seems that General McClellan
gave it his confidence, and made his dispositions accordingly.
He planned his attack upon D. H. Hill
under the impression that I was there with 12 brigades, 9 of which were really at Hagerstown
, while R. H. Anderson
's division was on Maryland Heights
with General McLaws
exercised due diligence in seeking information from his own resources, he would have known better the situation at South Mountain
and could have enveloped General D. H. Hill
's division on the afternoon of the 13th, or early on the morning of the 14th, and then
The old Lutheran Church, Sharpsburg.
From a War-time photograph.
The church stands at the east end of the village, on Main street, and was a Federal hospital after the battle.
Burnside's skirmishers gained a hold in the first cross-street below the church, where there was considerable fighting.
On the hill in the extreme distance Main street becomes the Shepherdstown road, by which the Confederates retreated.--Editors. |
turned upon McLaws
at Maryland Heights
, before I could have reached either point.
As it was, McClellan
, after finding the order, moved with more confidence on toward South Mountain
, where I). H. Hill
was stationed as a Confederate rear-guard with five thousand men under his command.
As I have stated, my command was at Hagerstown
, thirteen miles farther on. General Lee
was with me, and on the night of the 13th we received information that McClellan
was at the foot of South Mountain
with his great army.
ordered me to march back to the mountain early the next morning.
I suggested that, instead of meeting McClellan
there, we withdraw Hill
and unite my forces and Hill
's at Sharpsburg
, at the same time explaining that Sharpsburg
was a strong defensive position from which we could strike the flank or rear of any force that might be sent to the relief of Harper's Ferry
I endeavored to show him that by making a forced march to Hill
my troops would be in an exhausted condition and could not make a proper battle.
listened patiently enough, but did not change his plans, and directed that I should go back the next day and make a stand at the mountain.
After lying down, my mind was still on the battle of the next day, and I
was so impressed with the thought that it would be impossible for us to do anything at South Mountain
with the fragments of a worn and exhausted army, that I rose and, striking a light, wrote a note to General Lee
, urging him to order Hill
away and concentrate at Sharpsburg
To that note I got no answer, and the next morning I marched as directed, leaving General Toombs
, as ordered by General Lee
, at Hagerstown
to guard our trains and supplies.
We marched as hurriedly as we could over a hot and dusty road, and reached the mountain about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, with the troops much scattered and worn.
In riding up the mountain to join General Hill
I discovered that everything was in such disjointed condition that it would be impossible for my troops and Hill
's to hold the mountain against such forces as McClellan
had there, and wrote a note to General Lee
, in which I stated that fact, and cautioned him to make his arrangements to retire that night.
We got as many troops up as we could, and by putting in detachments here and there managed to hold McClellan
in check until night, when Lee
ordered the withdrawal to Sharpsburg
On the afternoon of the 15th of September my command and Hill
's crossed the Antietam Creek
, and took position in front of Sharpsburg
, my command filing into position on the right of the Sharpsburg and Boonsboro' turnpike
, and D. H. Hill
's division on the left.
Soon after getting into position we found our left, at Dunker Church, the weak point, and Hood
, with two brigades, was changed from my right to guard this point, leaving General D. H. Hill
between the parts of my command.
That night, after we heard of the fall of Harper's Ferry
, General Lee
ordered Stonewall Jackson
to march to Sharpsburg
as rapidly as he could come.
Then it was that we should have retired from Sharpsburg
and gone to the Virginia
side of the Potomac
The moral effect of our move into Maryland
had been lost by our discomfiture at South Mountain
, and it was then evident we could not hope to concentrate
South-eastern stretch of the sunken road,--or “bloody Lane.”
[see map, P. 636.1] from a photograph taken in 1885.|
in time to do more than make a respectable retreat, whereas by retiring before the battle we could have claimed a very successful campaign.
On the forenoon of the 15th, the blue uniforms of the Federals
appeared among the trees that crowned the heights on the eastern bank of the Antietam.
The number increased, and larger and larger grew the field of blue until it seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see, and from the tops of the mountains down to the edges of the stream gathered the great army of McClellan
It was an awe-inspiring spectacle as this grand force settled down in sight of the Confederates
, then shattered by battles and scattered by long and tiresome marches.
On the 16th Jackson
came and took position with part of his command on my left.
Before night the Federals
attacked my left and gave us a severe fight, principally against Hood
's division, but we drove them back, holding well our ground.
was relieved from the position on the left, ordered to replenish his ammunition, and be ready to resume his first position on my right in the morning.
's forces, who relieved ]Hood, were extended to our left, reaching well back toward the Potomac
, where most of our cavalry was. Toombs
had joined us with two of his regiments, and was placed as guard on the bridge on my right.
, who had thrown his corps against my left in the afternoon, was reinforced by the corps of Sumner
's division was also drawn into position for the impending battle.
was over against my right, threatening the passage of the Antietam
at that point.
On the morning of the 17th the Federals
were in good position along the Antietam
, stretching up and down and across it to our left for three miles. They had a good position for their guns, which were of the most approved make and metal.
Our position overcrowned theirs a little, but our guns were inferior and our ammunition was very imperfect.
Back of McClellan's line was a high ridge upon which was his signal station overlooking every point of our field.
D. R. Jones
's brigades of my command deployed on the right of the Sharpsburg pike
, while Hood
's brigades awaited orders.
D. H. Hill
was on the left extending toward the Hagerstown-Sharpsburg pike
, and Jackson
extended out from Hill
's left toward the Potomac
The battle opened, heavily with the attacks of the corps of Hooker
, and Sumner
against our left center, which consisted of Jackson
's right and D. H. Hill
So severe and persistent were these attacks that I was obliged to send Hood
to support our center.
The Federals forced us back a little, however, and held this part of our position to the end of the day's work.
With new troops and renewed efforts McClellan
continued his attacks upon this point from time to time,
The sunken road, or “bloody Lane.”
from a photograph taken since the War.
This view is from the second bend in the lane, looking toward the Hagerstown pike, the Dunker Church wood appearing in the background.
In the foreground Richardson crossed to the left into the cornfield near Piper's house.
The house in the middle-ground, erected since the war, marks the scene of French's hard fight after passing Roulette's house.
while he brought his forces to bear against other points.
The line swayed forward and back like a rope exposed to rushing currents.
A force too heavy to be withstood would strike and drive in a weak point till we could collect a few fragments, and in turn force back the advance till our lost ground was recovered.
A heroic effort was made by D. H. Hill
, who collected some fragments and led a charge to drive back and recover our lost ground at the center.
He soon found that his little band was too much exposed on its left flank and was obliged to abandon the attempt.
Thus the battle ebbed and flowed with terrific slaughter on both sides.
The Federals fought with wonderful bravery and the Confederates
clung to their ground with heroic courage as hour after hour they were mown down like grass.
The fresh troops of McClellan
literally tore into shreds the already ragged army of Lee
, but the Confederates
never gave back.
I remember at one time they were surging up against us with fearful
The sunken road, looking East from Roulette's Lane.
From a photograph taken in 1885.|
I was occupying the left over by Hood
, whose ammunition gave out. He retired to get a fresh supply.
Soon after the Federals
moved up against us in great masses.
We were under the crest of a hill occupying a position that ought to have been held by from four to six brigades.
The only troops there were Cooke
's regiment of North Carolina infantry, and they were without a cartridge.
As I rode along the line with my staff I saw two pieces of the Washington Artillery (Miller
's battery), but there were not enough men to man them.
The gunners had been either killed or wounded.
This was a fearful situation for the Confederate
I put my staff — officers to the guns while I held their horses.
It was easy to see that if the Federals
broke through our line there, the Confederate army would be cut in two and probably destroyed, for we were already
Confederate dead (of D. H. Hill's division) in the sunken road.
From a photograph.|
badly whipped and were only holding our ground by sheer force of desperation.
sent me word that his ammunition was out. I replied that he must hold his position as long as he had a man left.
He responded that he would show his colors as long as there was a man alive to hold them up. We loaded up our little guns with canister and sent a rattle of hail into the Federals
as they came up over the crest of the hill.
That little battery shot harder and faster, with a sort of human energy, as though it realized that it was to hold the thousands of Federals at bay or the battle was lost.
So warm was the reception we gave them that they dodged back behind the crest of the hill.
We sought to make them believe we had many batteries before them.
As the Federals
would come up they would see the colors of the North Carolina regiment waving placidly and then would receive a shower of canister.
We made it lively while it lasted.
In the meantime General Chilton
, General Lee
's chief of staff, made his way to me and asked, “Where are the troops you are holding your line with?”
I pointed to my two pieces and to Cooke
's regiment, and replied, “There they are; but that regiment hasn't a cartridge.”
's eyes popped as though they would come out of his head; he struck spurs to his horse and away he went to General Lee
I suppose he
made some remarkable report, although I did not see General Lee
again until night.
After a little a shot came across the Federal
front, plowing the ground in a parallel line.
Another and another, each nearer and nearer their line.
This enfilade fire, so distressing to soldiers, was from a battery on D. H. Hill
's line, and it soon beat back the attacking column.
Meanwhile, R. H. Anderson
came to our support and gave us more confidence.
It was a little while only until another assault was made against D. H. Hill
, and extending far over toward our left, where McLaws
were supporting Jackson
In this desperate effort the lines seemed to swing back and forth for many minutes, but at last they settled down to their respective positions, the Confederates
holding with a desperation which seemed to say, “We are here to die.”
Meantime General Lee
was over toward our right, where Burnside
was trying to cross to the attack.
, who had been assigned as guard at that point,
1.--View of William Roulette's farm-house.
2.--Roulette's spring-house, in which Confederate prisoners were confined during the battle.
3.--Roulette's spring, a copious fountain which refreshed many thirsty soldiers of both armies. |
did handsome service.
His troops were footsore and worn from marching, and he had only four hundred men to meet the Ninth Corps.
The little band fought bravely, but the Federals
were pressing them slowly back.
The delay that Toombs
caused saved that part of the battle, however, for at the last moment A. P. Hill
came in to reinforce him, and D. H. Hill
dis-covered a good place for a battery and opened with it. Thus the Confederates
were enabled to drive the Federals
back, and when night settled down the army of Lee
was still in possession of the field.
But it was dearly bought, for thousands of brave soldiers were dead on the field and many gallant commands were torn as a forest in a cyclone.
It was heart-rending to see how Lee
's army had been slashed by the day's fighting.
Nearly one-fourth of the troops who went into the battle were killed or wounded.
We were so badly crushed that at the close of the day ten thousand fresh troops could have come in and taken Lee
's army and everything it had. But McClellan
did not know it, and [apparently] feared, when Burnside
was pressed back, that Sharpsburg
was a Confederate victory, and that he would have to retire.
As it was, when night settled down both armies were content to stay where they were.
During the progress of the battle of Sharpsburg General Lee
and I were riding along my line and D. H. Hill
's, when we received a report of movements of the enemy and started up the ridge to make a reconnoissance.
and I dismounted, but Hill
declined to do so. I said to Hill
, “If you insist on riding up there and drawing the fire, give us a little interval so that we may not be in the line of the fire when they open upon you.”
and I stood on the top of the crest with our glasses, looking at the movements of the Federals
on the rear left.
After a moment I turned my glass to the right — the Federal
As I did so, I noticed a puff of white smoke from the mouth of a cannon.
“There is a shot for you,” I said to General Hill
The gunner was a mile away, and the can-non-shot came whisking through the air for three or four seconds and took off the front legs of the horse that Hill
sat on and let the animal down upon his stumps.
The horse's head was
After the battle-position of the Confederate batteries in front of Dunker Church.
From a photograph.|
so low and his croup so high that Hill
was in a most ludicrous position.
With one foot in the stirrup he made several efforts to get the other leg over the croup, but failed.
Finally we prevailed upon him to try the other end of the horse, and he got down.
He had a third horse shot under him before the close of the battle.
That shot at Hill
was the second best shot I ever saw. The best was at Yorktown
There a Federal officer came out in front of our line, and sitting down to his little platting table began to make a map. One of our officers carefully sighted a gun, touched it off, and dropped a shell into the hands of the man at the little table.2
When the battle was over and night was gathering, I started to Lee
's headquarters to make my report.
In going through the town I passed a house that had been set afire and was still burning.
The family was in great distress, and I stopped to do what I could for them.
By that I was detained until after the other officers had reached headquarters and made their reports.
My delay caused some apprehension on the part of General Lee
that I had been hurt; in fact, such a report had been sent him. When I rode up and dismounted he seemed much relieved, and, coming to me very hurriedly for one of his dignified manner, threw his arms upon my shoulders and said:
Here is my old war-horse at last.
When all the reports were in, General Lee
decided that he would not be prepared the next day for offensive battle, and would prepare only for defense, as we had been doing.
The next day [the 18th] the Federals
failed to advance, and both armies remained in position.
During the day some of the Federals
came over under a flag of truce to look after their dead and wounded.
The following night we withdrew, passing the Potomac
with our entire army.
After we had crossed, the Federals
made a show of pursuit, and a force of about fifteen hundred crossed the river and gave a considerable amount of trouble to the command under Pendleton
A. P. Hill
Field-hospitals at Captain Smith's barns, near Sharpsburg.
From a photograph.
These pictures, according to a letter received by the editors from Dr. Samuel.
Sexton (8th Ohio), represent two field-hospitals established for the use of French's division at Antietam.
The upper one was in charge of Dr. Sexton, who sent back the wounded men under his care at the front to this place during the battle, and afterward organized a hospital for all of the wounded soldiers found there,--utilizing for that purpose Captain Smith's barns, and erecting, besides, a number of shelters (shown in the cut) out of Virginia split-rails, set up on end in two parallel rows, meeting at the top, where they were secured.
The sheds thus made were afterward thatched with straw, and could accommodate about 10 or 15 men each.
The lower picture shows an adjacent hospital for wounded Confederate prisoners, which was in charge of Dr. Anson Hurd of the 14th Indiana, who is seen standing on the right. |
was sent back with his division, and attacked the Federals
who had crossed the river in pursuit of us. His lines extended beyond theirs, and he drove them back in great confusion.
Some sprang over the bluffs of the river and were killed; some were drowned and others were shot.3
Proceeding on our march, we went to Bunker Hill
, where we remained for several days.
A report was made of a Federal advance, but it turned out to be only a party of cavalry and amounted to nothing.
As soon as the cavalry
Blackford's, or Boteler's, Ford, Prom the Maryland side.
From a recent photograph.
This picture, taken from the tow-path of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, shows the ford bellow Shepherdstown by which Lee's army retreated after Antietam, the cliff on the Virginia side being the scene of the disaster to the 118th Pennsylvania, or Corn Exchange, regiment.
When Porter's corps arrived at the Potomac in pursuit, on September 19th, Confederate artillery on the cliffs disputed the passage.
A small Union force, under General Griffin, moved across the river in face of a warm fire, and, scaling the heights, captured several pieces of artillery.
This attacking party was recalled during the night.
Next morning, the 20th, two brigades of Sykes's division crossed and gained the heights on the left by the cement mill, while one brigade of Morell's division advanced to the right toward Shepherdstown and ascended the heights by way of the ravine.
The 118th Pennsylvania formed beyond the crest and abreast of the dam. Soon the Confederates attacked with spirit.
The Union forces were withdrawn without much loss, except to the 118th Pennsylvania, which was a new regiment, numbering 737 men, and had been armed, as it proved, with defective rifles.
They made a stout resistance, until ordered to retreat, when most of the men fled down the precipitous face of the bluff and thence across the river, some crossing on the dam, the top of which was then dry. They were also under fire in crossing; and out of 361 in killed, wounded, and captured at this place, the 118th Pennsylvania lost 269. |
retired we moved back and camped around Winchester
, where we remained until some time in October.
Our stragglers continued to come in until November, which shows how many we had lost by severe marches.
The great mistake of the campaign was the division of Lee
If General Lee
had kept his forces together, he could not have suffered defeat.
he had hardly 37,000 men,4
who were in poor condition for battle, while McClellan
had about 87,000, who were fresh and strong.
The next year, when on our way to Gettysburg
, there was the same situation of affairs at Harper's Ferry
, but we let it alone.
was not satisfied with the result of the Maryland campaign
, and seemed inclined to attribute the failure to the Lost Dispatch
; though I believe he was more inclined to attribute the loss of the dispatch to the fault of a courier or to other negligence than that of the officer to whom it was directed.
Our men came in so rapidly after the battle that renewed hope of gathering his army in great strength soon caused Lee
to look for other and new prospects, and to lose sight of the lost campaign.
But at Sharpsburg
was sprung the keystone of the arch upon which the Confederate
was quite satisfied with the campaign, as the Virginia
papers made him the hero of Harper's Ferry
, although the greater danger was with McLaws
, whose service was the severer and more important.
lost nearly 20,000 by straggling in this campaign,--almost twice as many as were captured at Harper's Ferry
The battle casualties of Jackson
's command from the Rappahannock
to the Potomac
, according to the “Official Records
,” were 4629, while mine, including those of R. H. Anderson
's division, were 4725, making in all, 9354.
That taken from the army of 55,000 at the Second Manassas
left a force of 45,646 moving across the Potomac
To that number must be added the forces that joined us; namely, D. H. Hill
with 5000, McLaws
with 4000, and Walker
's army on entering Maryland
was made up of nearly 57,000 men, exclusive of artillery and cavalry.
As we had but 37,000 at Sharpsburg
, our losses in the several engagements after we crossed the Potomac
, including stragglers,
reached nearly 20,000.
Our casualties in the affairs of the Maryland campaign
, including Sharpsburg
, were 13,964.
Estimating the casualties in the Maryland campaign
at 2000, it will be seen that we lost at Sharpsburg
11,000 to 12,000.
Only a glance at these figures is necessary to impress one with the number of those who were unable to stand the long and rapid marches, and fell by the wayside, viz., 8000 to 9000.
The Virginians who have written of the war have often charged the loss of the Maryland campaign
It is unkind to apply such a term to our soldiers, who were as patient, courageous, and chivalrous as any ever marshaled into phalanx.
Many were just out of the hospitals, and many more were crippled by injuries received in battle.
They were marching without sufficient food or clothing, with their muskets, ammunition, provisions, and in fact their all, packed upon their backs.
They struggled along with bleeding feet, tramping rugged mountain roads through a heated season.
Such soldiers should not be called “laggards” by their countrymen.
Let them have their well-earned honors though the fame of others suffer thereby.