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Doc. 264.-Harper's Ferry.

Reason of the evacuation.

the Richmond Enquirer says:

We are now at liberty, on the best authority, to make public the true motives actuating General Johnston in what the Northern and some of the Southern papers have called the “Evacuation of Harper's Ferry.” The general, like other military men of education, had long known that Harper's Ferry, in itself, is faulty and untenable, from the facility with which it can be turned. It lies, as it were, in the small end of a “funnel,” the broader end of which could with great ease be occupied by the enemy. The heads directing the operations of the Yankee forces were well aware of this fact, but forgot that there were fully as astute heads on our side. The minute and able investigations of Major Whiting, chief engineer to General Johnston, had satisfied our leaders of the justness of these views. General Scott's plan was to turn Harper's Ferry by a column from Pennsylvania under General Patterson, effect a junction near Winchester or Strasburg with another column of McClellan's army, passing through Romney, and cut off Beauregard's and Johnston's armies from each other. This plan was completely foiled, and the enemy checkmated at their own game, as we shall explain.

On or about Thursday, the 16th instant, General Johnston having waited at Harper's Ferry long enough to make the enemy believe that he intended to contest that position to the last, and learning that they were advancing on Williamsport and Romney, sent a portion of his force to Winchester by rail. On Friday he continued this movement, sent back his tent equipage and other heavy baggage, his sick, &c., set fire to and burned the railroad bridge, and such of the public buildings as could be burned without endangering private property, spiked such of the heavy guns at Harper's Ferry as could not be removed, and on Saturday moved, with his whole army, marching on foot, in the direction of Winchester, encamping about three and a half miles southwest of Charlestown. The enemy, taking this movement as it was intended they should take it, as a retreat, crossed a brigade of their advance division, commanded by General Cadwalader, (who joined their forces on Saturday or Sunday morning,) which was moved forward towards Martinsburg.

On Sunday morning, however, General Johnston changed his line of march, at right angles, and moved square towards Martinsburg, encamping at Bunker's Hill, on the Winchester [416] and Martinsburg turnpike, twelve miles from Martinsburg, to offer battle there, or advance an attack if necessary. This movement placed the enemy in a predicament. He had not crossed his whole force, and if the opposing forces had closed he must have been beaten in detail. He therefore “acknowledged the corn,” turned tail and retreated, recrossed the river, and evacuated the valley, retiring beyond Hagerstown. A lieutenant-colonel and another (member of the Eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers) were taken prisoners during this retreat.

A day or two after this, Col. Hill, Thirteenth Virginia regiment, in command of a part of the forces who had “retreated” from Harper's Ferry, and who had been pushed forward towards Romney, as our readers have learned from our Saturday's edition, sent forward towards New Creek, on the Potomac River, eighteen miles west of Cumberland, four companies of Tennessee and Virginia troops, under Col. Vaughan, of Tennessee, who found the Yankees posted on the Maryland side of the Potomac. Our brave fellows, in the face of the enemy, forded the stream, waist-deep, drove them off in the utmost confusion, captured two pieces of loaded artillery and a stand of colors, destroyed the railroad bridge at that point, and returned to Romney, making the march of thirty-six miles and gaining a brilliant victory with — in twenty hours.

Our readers will thus see what General Johnston's “retreat from Harper's Ferry,” has done. It has thoroughly broken up General Scott's paper programme, destroyed his whole Western combination, and compelled him to remodel his whole plan. If our “retreats” do thus much, we wait with confidence to see what our advance will do.

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