Before General McClellan
, he recommended to the proper authorities that the garrison at Harper's Ferry
should be withdrawn by way of Hagerstown
to aid in covering the Cumberland Valley
, or that, taking up the pontoon bridge and obstructing the railroad bridge, it should fall back to the Maryland Heights
and there hold out to the last.
This was unquestionably judicious advice; but it was not deemed proper to adopt either of the plans suggested.
The garrison was not withdrawn,--as would have been the wiser course, for the position was of no value as a strategic point, as the enemy's troops then stood,--nor were measures taken to protect them from capture.
It was not until the 12th that General McClellan
was directed to assume command of the garrison at Harper's Ferry
, as soon as he should open communication with that place; but when this order was received, all communication from the direction he was approaching was cut off. Nothing, therefore, was left to be done but to endeavor to relieve the garrison. Artillery was ordered to be fired by our advance, at frequent intervals, as a signal that relief was at hand; and these reports, as was afterwards ascertained, were distinctly heard at Harper's Ferry
It was confidently expected that Colonel Miles
would hold out till our forces had carried the mountain-passes and were in a condition to send a detachment to his relief; and this he assuredly might have done, had he been competent to the important command intrusted to him. And it was