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[314] direction of Harper's Ferry through Pleasant Valley on the other. A third road leaves Middletown in a southern direction, skirting the eastern side of the mountains, which it goes round by encircling the course of the Potomac at Harper's Ferry. Between the river and the high rocks which line its borders, there is a space of only a few metres in width, which gives passage to a canal, a railway and a wagon-road running alongside of each other. A handful of men is sufficient to block this alpine gorge, and from the opposite bank a few guns, firing over the boiling waters of the river, can sweep the road with grape.

At the entrance of the pass, while the Potomac precipitates itself, intersecting at a right angle the mountains which seem drawn up to bar its passage, the Shenandoah, skirting the foot of these mountains, comes to mingle its waters with the former, to take advantage of the same opening, and to leap with it over the barrier which it has been coasting all the way from its source. Above their confluence, in a very picturesque situation, is seated the little town of Harper's Ferry, in the form of an amphitheatre, on the east slopes of a hill, the summit of which is two or three kilometres from these, and which, under the name of Bolivar Heights, extends from one river to the other. These slopes are entirely commanded by the two spurs of the principal chain of mountains, which, south and north of the Potomac Gap, rise to a height of more than six hundred metres above the waters of the river. The northern heights, which form the extremity of South Mountain, are known by the name of Maryland Heights, while those at the south, which terminate the Blue Ridge, are called London Heights. They are placed like two sentries, having at their feet Harper's Ferry, the Bolivar Hills, all the roads leading to the city, and the two rivers which encircle it. Their possession, therefore, is indispensable to the defence of Harper's Ferry, which in itself is nothing but a kind of blind alley fatal to any one who permits himself to be driven upon it. It was in this blind alley that Lee had determined to capture Miles and his small army.

He ordered Jackson to march upon Boonesboroa, then to wheel round to the left, recross the Potomac at Sharpsburg and capture Martinsburg with its garrison, so as to cut off the retreat of the

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