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[201] would be accomplished and his columns again concentrated before he would be called upon to meet the Union army. But this expectation was disappointed, and all Lee's plans for ulterior operations in Maryland were thwarted by a piece of good fortune that befell General McClellan at this time. There accidentally fell into the hands of the Union commander on the day of his arrival at Frederick a copy of Lee's official order for the above movements of his troops, whereby his whole plan was betrayed to his antagonist. Instructed of the project of his rival, McClellan immediately ordered a rapid movement towards Harper's Ferry; and Lee, unaware of what had happened, suddenly found the Union army pressing forward with an unwonted rapidity that threatened to disconcert all his plans. On the afternoon of the 13th, before Lee had received any word from Jackson, Stuart, who with his troopers was covering the Confederate rear, reported McClellan approaching the passes of South Mountain, and it became evident that if he were allowed to force these, he would be in position to strike Lee's divided columns, relieve the garrison at Harper's Ferry, and put a disastrous termination to the Confederate campaign. Lee had not intended to oppose any resistance to the passage of the South Mountain, and had already moved to Boonsboroa and Hagerstown to await Jackson's operations. But when the news of McClellan's approach reached him, he instantly ordered Hill's division back from Boonsboroa to guard the South Mountain passes, and instructed Longstreet to countermarch from Hagerstown to Hill's support.

McClellan, by his knowledge of Lee's movements, was so perfectly master of the situation, and the stake was so great as to authorize, indeed to demand, the very boldest action on his part. He knew the imperilled condition of the garrison at Harper's Ferry, which had by this time been placed under his control, and though its investment was the result of that absurd policy that, against his protest and in violation of sound military principle, had retained it in an untenable position, still he was bound to do his utmost to relieve it. McClellan

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Manassas Lee (7)
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