to a point at its head.
Several roads cross both ranges; the best being the National Road
(the chief village of the Catoctin Valley
), to Hagerstown
, having divided his army in order to swoop down on Harper's Ferry
, was compelled by McClellan
's quickened and assured pursuit, based on the captured order aforesaid, to fight all our army with half of his own — reversing the strategy usual in this quarter; for, if McClellan
's advance were not impeded, Harper's Ferry
would be relieved.
So, Gen. Pleasanton
, leading our cavalry advance on the road to Hagerstown
, encountered some resistance1
at the crossing of Catoctin creek
; but, skirmishing occasionally with Stuart
's cavalry, pressed on, backed by Cox
's division of Burnside
's corps, to find the enemy in force before Turner's Gap of South Mountain
, a few miles beyond.
This gap is about 400 feet high; the crests on either side rising some 600 feet higher; the old Hagerstown
and Sharpsburg roads, half a mile to a mile distant, on either side, rising higher than the National Road
, and materially increasing the difficulty of holding the pass against a largely superior force.
, in his eagerness to grasp the prize whereon he was intent, and in his confident assurance that McClellan
would continue the cautious and hesitating movement of six or seven miles a day by which he had hitherto advanced from Washington
, had pushed Longstreet
forward on Jackson
's track to Hagerstown
whence six of his brigades, under Anderson
, had been sent to cooperate with McLaws
against Maryland Heights
and Harper's Ferry
This left only D. H. Hill
's division of five brigades to hold Turner's Gap and tie adjacent passes, with such help as might be afforded by Stuart
's cavalry; Stuart
having reported to Hill
, on the 13th, that only two brigades were pursuing them.
He was undeceived, however, when, at 7 A. M. next morning, Cox
's division of Burnside
's corps advanced up the turnpike from Middletown
, preceded by Pleasanton
's cavalry and a battery, and opened on that defending the Gap
; while by far the larger portion of the Army of the Potomac could be seen, by the aid of a good field-glass, from a favorable position on the mountain, either advancing across the valley or winding down the opposite heights into it.
reports his division as but 5,000 strong; and even this small force had been somewhat dispersed in pursuance of the orders of Lee
and the erroneous information of Stuart
The brigade of Gen. Garland
, which was first pushed forward to meet our advance, was instantly and badly cut up, its commander being killed; when it retired in disorder, and was replaced by that of Anderson
, supported by those of Rhodes
, who held the pass firmly for hours against the most gallant efforts of Cox
's Ohio regiments.
But, meanwhile, our superior numbers, backed by desperate fighting, enabled us steadily to gain ground on either side, until the crest of the heights on the left of the pass was fairly ours, though one of our batteries had