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[129] ordered to occupy and hold a pass in the South Mountains, which, if gained by McClellan, would have enabled him to relieve Harper's Ferry and possibly to prevent the junction of our scattered army and destroy the divisions in detail, or drive them precipitately south of the Potomac with great loss of artillery and transportation.

General Lee's object in crossing the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge, afterwards avowed (Series 1, Vol. XIX, part 1, page 145), was to induce the enemy, by threatening Washington and Baltimore, to evacuate Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry, to establish his own line of communication through the Valley, and then by advancing towards Pennsylvania to draw the enemy away from his own base of supplies. General Lee had not contemplated making a stand at South Mountain-probably not at Sharpsburg, or at any point north of the Potomac. But the continued occupation of Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry made it necessary to move directly upon the former place and to invest the latter, where both garrisons ultimately united. In consequence of the delay in reducing the garrison it became essential to the safety of Lee's army that McClellan's entire force should be held in check for a whole day at the pass in the South Mountains by Hill's depleted division, now numbering only 4,000, as a glance at the map with a knowledge of the disposition of Lee's different divisions will show.

Longstreet with his whole force, estimated at 4,000, was at Hagerstown, while Jackson had disposed his own command, including Mc-Laws' and A. P. Hill's divisions, either with a view to an attack on Harper's Ferry or to cutting off the retreat of the force occupying it. Three days later McClellan, according to his own report, advanced to the attack at Sharpsburg with 87,000 men. Of this vast army probably 33,000 were in the force actually engaged in the assault upon the little Spartan band of D. H. Hill for five hours without cessation before Longstreet's advance brigade arrived at 3:30, and was followed by others coming up from that time till dark. The late Justice Ruffin, the Colonel of the Thirteenth North Carolina, standing by the side of the gallant Garland when he was instantly killed, discovered a moment later that the other regiments of the brigade had retired, leaving his command surrounded by the enemy. Facing to the rear in an instant, he ordered his regiment to charge, and embarrassed by a painful wound, performed the desperate feat of cutting his way through the serried ranks of the enemy. A few moments

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R. E. Lee (4)
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