's gap of the South
mountain, six miles to the southward from Turner
's gap and Hill's field of action, another battle raged on that same Sunday afternoon. McLaws
had left 1,200 men to hold that pass, in guarding his rear, while he occupied Maryland heights
Against these Franklin
threw 8,000 from his advance.
The resistance lasted until dark, when the Confederates
gave way and Franklin
took possession of the gap, and thus interposed the head of a strong Federal column between Lee
in Pleasant valley
and on Maryland heights
might have said to himself, in the words of Longstreet
, as he reflected on the positions of his army at the close of the 14th, that the prospect ‘was not inviting.’
The two divisions in his immediate presence were not compacted; Longstreet
was advising that something else than fighting be done.
The other three of his divisions were a dozen miles away, separated from each other by great rivers, and could only reach him by circuitous marches and after the fall of Harper's Ferry
, an event which had not yet taken place.
His stout heart was doubtless throbbing with intense emotion, which none but a heroic and God-trusting spirit could control, when, at 8 of the evening, nearly two hours after sunset, he wrote to McLaws
: ‘The day has gone against us, and the army will go by Sharpsburg
and cross the river.
It is necessary for you to abandon your position to-night; . . your troops you must have in hand to unite with this command, which will retire by Sharpsburg
The outlook to McLaws
was a brighter one.
The investment of Harper's Ferry
was completed, and neither officer nor soldier doubted but that, with Jackson
in command, the early morning of the 15th would find him in possession of that town, of the 11,000 Federals there beleaguered and of the large munitions of war there gathered.
promptly added to his line in Pleasant valley
, to which his men had fallen back from Crampton
's gap, and prepared to hold his rear against Franklin
's advance until Harper's Ferry
was captured and the way opened for him to cross the Potomac
on the Federal
pontoon, and in that way, through Virginia
, reach Lee
, as he was ordered to do. Lee
's vigorous defense of the South
mountain passes near Boonsboro
had won a day from McClellan
and given Jackson
time to complete the investment of Harper's Ferry