previous next

My conversations with General Lee in Richmond, and the President's oral instructions to me in Montgomery, had informed me distinctly that they regarded Harper's Ferry as a natural fortress-commanding the entrance into the Valley of Virginia from Pennsylvania and Maryland-and that it was occupied in that idea, and my command not that of a military district and active army, but of a fortress and its garrison. Maps, and intelligent persons of the neighborhood, told me that the principal route into “the Valley” from Pennsylvania crosses the Potomac at Williamsport, and the railroad at Martinsburg, at least twenty miles west of this garrison, and of course beyond its control. A careful examination of the position and its environs, made on the 25th, with the assistance of an engineer of great ability, Major Whiting, convinced me that it could not be held against equal numbers by such a force as then occupied it.

Harper's Ferry is untenable against an army by any force not strong enough to hold the neighboring heights north of the Potomac and east of the Shenandoah, as well as the place itself. It is a triangle formed by the Potomac, Shenandoah, and Furnace Ridge, the latter extending from river to river, a mile and a half above their junction. Artillery on the heights above mentioned to the north and east could sweep every part of this space. As the rivers are fordable at various points, it was easy to turn or invest the place, or assail it on the west (Furnace Ridge) side.

Two main routes lead from Maryland and Pennsylvania

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
W. H. C. Whiting (1)
Shenandoah (1)
R. E. Lee (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
25th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: