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IX. “my Maryland” --Lee's invasion.

Gen. Mcclellan had already1 been verbally charged with the command of the defenses of Washington; and was, upon fuller advices of Pope's disasters, invested2 by the President and Gen. Halleck with the entire control, not only of those fortifications, but of “all the troops for the defense of the capital,” in obedience to the imperious demand of a large majority of the surviving officers and soldiers. Pope's original army had in great part been demolished; while that brought from the Peninsula by McClellan had been taught to attribute the general ill-fortune not to the tardiness and heartlessness wherewith Pope had been reenforced and supported by their leaders, but to his own incapacity, presumption, and folly. McClellan at once ordered a concentration of his forces within the defenses of Washington; where they were soon prepared to resist the enemy, but whither Lee had no idea of following them. Having been joined3 by D. H. Hill's fresh division, from Richmond, he sent that division at once in the van of his army to Leesburg; thence crossing, the Potomac and moving on Frederick. Jackson followed with a heavy corps, consisting of A. P. Hill's, Ewell's, and his own divisions) embracing 14 brigades, crossing4 at White's Ford and moving on Frederick, which was occupied on the 6th, without resistance. Gen. Lee, with the rest of his army, rapidly followed, concentrating at Frederick; whence he issued the following seductive address:

headquarters army of Northern Virginia, near Frederick, Sept. 8, 1862.
To the People of Maryland:
It is right that you should know the purpose that has brought the army under my command within the limits of your State, so far as that purpose concerns your-selves.

The people of the Confederate States have long watched with the deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted upon the citizens of a Commonwealth allied to the States of the South by the strongest social, political, and commercial ties, and reduced to the condition of a conquered province.

Under the pretense of supporting the Constitution, but in violation of its most valuable provisions, your citizens have been arrested and imprisoned, upon no charge, and contrary to all the forms of law.

A faithful and manly protest against this outrage, made by a venerable and illustrious Marylander5 to whom in better days no citizen appealed for right in vain, was treated with scorn and contempt.

The government of your chief city has been usurped by armed strangers; your Legislature has been dissolved by the unlawful arrest of its members; freedom of the press and of speech has been suppressed; words have been declared offenses by an arbitrary decree of the Federal Executive; and citizens ordered to be tried by military commissions for what they may dare to speak.

Believing that the people of Maryland possess a spirit too lofty to submit to such a Government, the people of the South have long wished to aid you in throwing off this foreign yoke, to enable you again to enjoy the inalienable rights of freemen, and restore the independence and sovereignty of your State.

In obedience to this wish, our army has come among you, and is prepared to assist you with the power of its arms in regaining the rights of which you have been so unjustly despoiled.

This, citizens of Maryland, is our mission, so far as you are concerned. No restraint upon your free will is intended — no intimidation will be allowed within the limits of this army at least. Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech. We know no enemies [194] among you, and will protect all of you in every opinion.

It is for you to decide your destiny freely and without constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be; and, while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.

R. E. Lee, General Commanding.

The fond expectations which had prompted this address were never realized. The Marylanders had no gluttonous appetite for fighting on the side of the Union; still less for risking their lives in support of the Confederacy. All who were inclined to fighting on that side had found their way into the Rebel lines long before; there being little difficulty in stealing across the Potomac, and none at all in crossing by night to Virginia from the intensely disloyal, slaveholding counties of south-western Maryland. In vain was Gen. Bradley T. Johnson--who had left Frederick at the outset of the war to serve in the Rebel army — made Provost-Marshal of that town, recruiting offices opened, and all manner of solicitations to enlistment set forth. The number of recruits won to the Rebel standard while it floated over Maryland probably just about equaled its loss by deserters — say from 200 to 300.

The conduct of the Rebel soldiery was in the main exemplary. Hungry, ragged, and shoeless, as they often were, they rarely entered a house except by order, and never abused women; but cattle, horses, and everything that might contribute to the subsistence or efficiency of an army, were seized by wholesale, not only for present use, but thousands of animals were driven across the Potomac to replenish their wasted and inadequate resources.

Gen. McClellan was early apprised6 of the disappearance of the Rebels from his front, and soon advised that they were crossing into Maryland. His several corps were accordingly brought across the Potomac and posted on the north of Washington; which city he left7 in command of Gen. Banks, making his headquarters that night with the 6th corps, at Rockville. He moved slowly, because uncertain, as were his superiors, that the Rebel movement across the Potomac was not a feint. But his advance, after a brisk skirmish, on the 12th entered Frederick, which the Rebels had evacuated, moving westward, during the two preceding days, and through which his main body passed next day. Here he was so lucky as to obtain a copy of Lee's general order, only four days old, developing his prospective movements, as follows:

headquarters army of Northern Virginia, September 9, 1862.
The army will resume its march tomorrow, taking the Hagerstown road. Gen. Jackson's command will form the advance; and, after passing Middletown, with such portion as he may select, take the route toward Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac at the most convenient point, and, by Friday night, take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of the enemy as may be at Martinsburg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from Harper's Ferry.

Gen. Longstreet's command will pursue the same road as far as Boonsborough, where it will halt with the reserve, supply, and baggage trains of the army.

Gen. McLaws, with his own division and that of Gen. R. H. Anderson, will follow Gen. Longstreet; on reaching Middletown, he will take the route to Harper's Ferry, and, by Friday morning, possess himself of the Maryland Heights, and endeavor to capture the enemy at Harper's Ferry and vicinity.

Gen. Walker, with his division, after [195] accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take possession of London Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning; Key's Ford on his left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable, cooperate with Gen. McLaws and Gen. Jackson in intercepting the retreat of the enemy.

Gen. D. H. Hill's division will form the rear guard of the army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve artillery, ordnance and supply trains, &c., will precede Gen. Hill.

Gen. Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Gens. Longstreet, Jackson, and MeLaws, and, with the main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army, and bring up all stragglers that may have been left behind.

The commands of Gens. Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Boonsborough or Hagerstown.

Each regiment on the march will habitually carry its axes in the regimental ordnance wagons, for use of the men at their encampments, to procure wood, &c.

By command of Gen. R. E. Lee. R. H. Chilton, Assistant Adjutant-General. Maj.-Gen. D. H. Hill, Com'ding Div.

McClellan had thus, by a rare stroke of good fortune, become possessed of his adversary's designs, when it was too late to change them, and when it could not be known to that adversary, at least until developed by counteracting movements, that he had this knowledge, and was acting upon it. Lee had ventured the hazardous maneuver of dividing his army in a hostile country, and placing a considerable and treacherous, though fordable, river between its parts, while an enemy superior in numbers to the whole of it hung closely upon its rear. Such strategy must have been dictated by an ineffable contempt either for the capacity of his antagonist or for the most obvious rules of war.

The order above given rendered it clear not only that Harper's Ferry was Lee's object, and that Jackson's corps and Walker's division were ere this across the Potomac in eager quest of it, but that only McLaws's corps--20,000 men at the utmost — was now between our whole army and the coveted prize. Our corps happened then to be mainly concentrated around Frederick; but Franklin's division — nearly 17,000 strong — was some miles southward, and thus nearer to Harper's Ferry, and in front of McLaws. Had McClellan instantly put his whole army in motion, marching by the left flank on parallel roads leading directly toward the Potomac and the Ferry, and sending orders to Franklin to advance and either force his way to the Ferry or engage whomsoever might attempt to resist him, assured that corps after corps would follow swiftly his advance and second his attacks, McLaws must have been utterly crushed before sunset of the 14th, and Harper's Ferry relieved by midnight at farthest. That, instead of this, McClellan should have advanced his main body on the road tending rather north of west, through Turner's Gap to Boonsborough and Hagerstown, rather than on roads leading to Crampton's Gap and to the Potomac, is unexplained and inexplicable.

The ‘South Mountain’ range of hills, which stretch north-eastwardly from the Potomac across Maryland, are a modified continuation of Virginia's “Blue Ridge,” as the less considerable Catoctin range, near Frederick, are an extension of the “Bull Run” range. Between them is the valley of Catoctin creek, some ten miles wide at the Potomac, but narrowing [196] to a point at its head. Several roads cross both ranges; the best being the National Road from Baltimore through Frederick and Middletown (the chief village of the Catoctin Valley), to Hagerstown and Cumberland.

Lee, having divided his army in order to swoop down on Harper's Ferry, was compelled by McClellan's quickened and assured pursuit, based on the captured order aforesaid, to fight all our army with half of his own — reversing the strategy usual in this quarter; for, if McClellan's advance were not impeded, Harper's Ferry would be relieved. So, Gen. Pleasanton, leading our cavalry advance on the road to Hagerstown, encountered some resistance8 at the crossing of Catoctin creek in Middletown; but, skirmishing occasionally with Stuart's cavalry, pressed on, backed by Cox's division of Burnside's corps, to find the enemy in force before Turner's Gap of South Mountain, a few miles beyond.

This gap is about 400 feet high; the crests on either side rising some 600 feet higher; the old Hagerstown and Sharpsburg roads, half a mile to a mile distant, on either side, rising higher than the National Road, and materially increasing the difficulty of holding the pass against a largely superior force.

Lee, in his eagerness to grasp the prize whereon he was intent, and in his confident assurance that McClellan would continue the cautious and hesitating movement of six or seven miles a day by which he had hitherto advanced from Washington, had pushed Longstreet forward on Jackson's track to Hagerstown,9 whence six of his brigades, under Anderson, had been sent to cooperate with McLaws against Maryland Heights and Harper's Ferry. This left only D. H. Hill's division of five brigades to hold Turner's Gap and tie adjacent passes, with such help as might be afforded by Stuart's cavalry; Stuart having reported to Hill, on the 13th, that only two brigades were pursuing them. He was undeceived, however, when, at 7 A. M. next morning, Cox's division of Burnside's corps advanced up the turnpike from Middletown, preceded by Pleasanton's cavalry and a battery, and opened on that defending the Gap; while by far the larger portion of the Army of the Potomac could be seen, by the aid of a good field-glass, from a favorable position on the mountain, either advancing across the valley or winding down the opposite heights into it.

Hill reports his division as but 5,000 strong; and even this small force had been somewhat dispersed in pursuance of the orders of Lee and the erroneous information of Stuart. The brigade of Gen. Garland, which was first pushed forward to meet our advance, was instantly and badly cut up, its commander being killed; when it retired in disorder, and was replaced by that of Anderson, supported by those of Rhodes and Ripley, who held the pass firmly for hours against the most gallant efforts of Cox's Ohio regiments. But, meanwhile, our superior numbers, backed by desperate fighting, enabled us steadily to gain ground on either side, until the crest of the heights on the left of the pass was fairly ours, though one of our batteries had [197] meantime been all but lost; its gunners having been shot down or driven off, and its guns saved from capture only by a determined charge of the 23d Ohio, 100th Pennsylvania, and 45th New York.

South Mountain.

The rattle of musketry ceased at noon, and for two hours only the roar of cannon was heard; the combatants on either side awaiting the arrival of reenforcements. Hitherto, only Reno's division on our side, and Hill's on that of the Rebels, had been engaged. But, at 2 P. M., Hooker's corps came up on our side, and took the old Hagerstown road, leading away from the turnpike on our right, with intent to flank and crush the Rebel left. At 3 P. M., our line of battle was formed, with Ricketts's division on the right; King's, commanded by Hatch, in the center, with its right resting on the turnpike, and Reno's on the left; and a general advance commenced, under a heavy fire of artillery.

Meantime, Hill had sent pressing messages to Longstreet, at Hagerstown, for help; and two brigades had already arrived; as Longstreet himself, with seven more brigades, did very soon afterward; raising the Rebel force in action thereafter to some 25,000 or 30,000 men. Longstreet, ranking Hill, of course took command; little to the satisfaction of Hill, who evidently thinks he could have done much better.10

The enemy's advantage in position was still very great, every movement on our part being plainly visible to them; while we could know nothing of their positions nor their strength, except from their fire and its effect. Our men were constantly struggling up rocky steeps, mainly wooded, where every wall, or fence, or inequality of ground, favors the combatants who stand on the defensive. The disparity in numbers between those actually engaged was not very great — possibly three to two--but then, our men were inspirited by the [198] consciousness that a great army stood behind them.

Still, the ground was stubbornly contested, foot by foot; Gen. Hatch, commanding the 1st division, being disabled by a wound, and succeeded by Gen. A. Doubleday. Col. Wain-wright, 76th New York, who now took command of Doubleday's brigade, was likewise wounded. But Hooker steadily advanced; and had fairly flanked and worsted the Rebel left, when darkness put an end to the fray.

The struggle on our left commenced later, and was signalized by similar gallantry on both sides; but numbers prevailed over desperation, and the Rebels were steadily forced back until the crest of the mountain was won. Here fell, about sunset, Maj.-Gen. Jesse L. Reno, mortally wounded by a musket-ball, while, at the head of his division, he was watching through a glass the enemy's movements.

Gen. Meade, with the Pennsylvania Reserves, had followed Hooker from Catoctin creek up the old Hagerstown road, so far as Mount Tabor church. He went into action on the right of Hatch's division, and was soon heavily engaged; his brigades being admirably handled by Gen. Seymour and Cols. Magilton and Gallagher, the last of whom was wounded. It had not fully reached the summit in its front, when darkness arrested the conflict. Gen. Duryea's brigade of Ricketts's division, which had been ordered to its support, was just then coming into action.

Our advance up the turnpike in the center, being contingent on success at either side, was made last, by Gibbon's brigade of Hatch's, and Hartsuff's of Ricketts's division; the artillery fighting its way up the road, with the infantry supporting on either side. The struggle here was obstinate, and protracted till 9 o'clock, when Gibbon's brigade had nearly reached the top of the pass, and had exhausted every cartridge; suffering, of course, severely. At midnight, it was relieved by Gorman's brigade of Sumner's corps, which, with Williams's, had reached the foot of the mountain a little after dark. Richardson's division had also arrived, and taken position in the rear of Hooker; while Sykes's division of regulars and the artillery reserve had halted for the night at Middletown; so that McClellan had most of his army in hand, ready to renew the action next morning.

But Lee, who was also present, and whose end had been secured by the precious hours here gained for his Harper's Ferry operations, withdrew his forces during the night; so that, when our skirmishers advanced next morning, they encountered only the dead and the desperately wounded.11 [199]

McClellan states his losses in this affair at 312 killed, 1,234 wounded, and 22 missing: total, 1,568; claims about 1,500 prisoners--no guns — and says: “The loss to the enemy in killed was much greater than our own, and probably also in wounded.” This is hardly credible; since the Rebels fought with every advantage of position and shelter, and were nowhere so driven as to lose heavily by a fire upon huddled, disorganized masses, when retreating in disorder.12

Maj.-Gen. Franklin, with the 6th corps, composed of his own, Couch's, and Sykes's divisions, forming the left wing of McClellan's army, had advanced cautiously up the north bank of the Potomac, through Tenallytown, Darnestown, and Poolesville — his right passing through Rockville — until McClellan's discovery that Lee had divided his army in order to clutch Harper's Ferry induced a general quickening of movement on our side. Still advancing, he approached, at noon on the 14th, the pass through Crampton's Gap in the South Mountain, just beyond Burkettsville, several miles south-westward of that at which Burnside, leading our main advance, had, some hours earlier, found his march obstructed by Hill. Before him was Howell Cobb, with two or three brigades of McLaws's division, whereof the larger portion was some miles farther on, operating against Maryland Heights and Harper's Ferry. The Gap afforded good positions for defense; but the disparity of numbers was decisive; and Cobb — who, of course, had orders to hold on at any cost — was finally driven out, after a smart contest of four or five hours, wherein his force was badly cut up. Our loss here was 115 killed and 418 wounded; our trophies, 400 prisoners, one gun, and 700 small arms. Could Franklin but have realized how precious were the moments, he was still in time to have relieved Harper's Ferry; whence, following up his advantage with moderate vigor, he was but six miles distant when it surrendered at 8 next morning.

Stonewall Jackson, leaving Frederick on the 10th, had pushed swiftly through Middletown and Boonsborough to Williamsport, where he recrossed the Potomac next day; striking thence at Martinsburg, which was held by Gen. Julius White, with some 2,000 Unionists. But White, warned of Jackson's approach in overwhelming strength, fled during the night of the 11th to Harper's Ferry; where he found Col. D. S. Miles, of Bull Run dishonor, in command of some 10,000 men, partly withdrawn from Winchester and other points up the Valley, but in good part composed of green regiments, hastily levied on tidings of the Chickahominy disasters, and officered by local politicians, who had never yet seen a shot fired at a line of armed men. White ranked Miles, and should have taken command; but he waived his right in deference to Miles's experience as an old army officer, and offered to serve under him; which was accepted.

Jackson, who had cheaply acquired [200] a good supply of provisions and munitions at Martinsburg, did not allow himself to be detained by them; but, hurrying on, was before Harper's Ferry at 11 A. M. of the 13th. Waiting only to ascertain that McLaws, who was to cooperate on the other side of the Potomac, and Walker, who was dispatched simultaneously from Frederick, with orders to cross the Potomac at Point of Rocks and come up on the south, so as to shut in and assail our garrison from that side of the Shenandoah, were already in position, he ordered A. P. Hill, with his division, to move down the north bank of the Shenandoah into Harper's Ferry; while Lawton, with Ewell's, and J. R. Jones, with Jackson's own division, were to advance upon and threaten the beleaguered Unionists farther and farther to their right.

Harper's Ferry is little more than a deep ravine or gorge, commanded on three sides by steep mountains, and of course defensible only from one or more of these. A commander who was neither a fool nor a traitor, seeing enemies swarming against him from every side, would either have evacuated in haste, and tried to make his way out of the trap, or concentrated his force on one of the adjacent heights, and here held out, until time had been afforded for his relief. Miles did neither. He posted13 the 32d Ohio, Col. T. H. Ford, on Maryland Heights; where they were reenforced14 by the 39th and 126th New York, and next day by the 115th New York and part of a Maryland regiment. Ford's requisition for axes and spades was not filled; and the only 10 axes that could be obtained were used in constructing15 a slight breastwork of trees near the crest, with an abatis in its front; where McLaws's advance appeared and commenced skirmishing the same day.

Harper's Ferry.

An attack in force was made, early next morning,16 and was repulsed; but was followed at 9 o'clock by another and more determined, when--Col. E. She<*>ill, 126th New York, being severely wounded — his regiment broke and fled in utter rout, and the remaining regiments soon followed the example, alleging an order to retreat from Maj. Hewitt, who denied having given it. Our men were rallied after running a short distance, and reoccupied part of the ground they had so culpably abandoned, but did not regain their breastwork; and of course left the enemy in a commanding position. At 2 o'clock next morning17 Ford, without being further assailed, abandoned the Heights, so far as we still retained them, spiking his guns: 4 of which, at a later hour in the morning, were brought off by four companies, under Maj. Wood, who went over on a reconnoissance and encountered no opposition.

McLaws, with his own and Anderson's divisions, leaving Frederick on the 10th, had entered Pleasant Valley, [201] via Burkettsville, on the 11th; and, perceiving at once that Maryland Heights was the key of the position, had sent18 Kershaw, with his own and Barksdale's brigades, up a rugged mountain road, impracticable for artillery, to the crest of the Elk Mountains, two or three miles northward of Maryland Heights, with orders to follow along that crest, and so approach and carry our position; while Wright's brigade, with 2 guns, was to take post on the southern face of South Mountain, and so command all the approaches along the Potomac. Meanwhile, McLaws, with the rest of his force, save the brigades holding Crampton's Gap, moved down Pleasant Valley to the river.

Kershaw advanced according to order, through dense woods and over very rough ground, until he encountered and worsted Ford's command on the Heights, as we have seen; while Wright and Anderson took, unopposed, the positions assigned them, and McLaws advanced to Sandy Hook, barring all egress from Harper's Ferry down the Potomac.

The morning of the 14th was spent by McLaws in cutting a road practicable for artillery to the crest of Maryland Heights, whence fire was opened from 4 guns at 2 P. M.; not only shelling our forces at the Ferry, but commanding our position on Bolivar Heights, beyond it. Before night, Walker's guns opened likewise from Loudon Heights, and Jackson's batteries were playing from several points, some of them enfilading our batteries on Bolivar Heights; while shots from others reached our helpless and huddled men in their rear. During the night, Col. Crutchfield, Jackson's chief of artillery, ferried 10 of Ewell's guns across the Shenandoah, and established them where they could take in reverse our best intrenchments on Bolivar Heights; soon compelling their evacuation and our retreat to an inferior position, considerably nearer the Ferry, and of course more exposed to and commanded by McLaws's guns on Maryland Heights.

At 9 P. M.,19 our cavalry, some 2,000 strong, under Col. Davis, 12th Illinois, made their escape from the Ferry, across the pontoon-bridge, to the Maryland bank; passing up the Potomac unassailed, through a region swarming with enemies, to the mouth of the Antietam, thence striking northward across Maryland, reaching Greencastle, Pa., next morning; having captured by the way the ammunition train of Gen. Longstreet, consisting of 50 to 60 wagons. Miles assented to this escape; but refused permission to infantry officers who asked leave to cut their way out: saying he was ordered to hold the Ferry to the last extremity.

Next morning at daybreak,20 the Rebel batteries reopened from seven commanding points, directing their fire principally at our batteries on Bolivar Heights. At 7 A. M., Miles stated to Gen. White that a surrender was inevitable, his artillery ammunition being all but exhausted; when the brigade commanders were called together and assented. A white flag was thereupon raised; but the Rebels, not perceiving it, continued their fire some 30 to 40 minutes, whereby Miles was mortally wounded. Jackson was just impelling a general infantry attack, when informed that the [202] white flag had been raised on the defenses. At 8 A. M., a capitulation was agreed to, under which 11,583 men were passed over to the enemy — about half of them New Yorkers; the residue mainly from Ohio and Maryland. Nearly all were raw levies; some of them militia, called out for three months. Among the spoils were 73 guns, ranging from excellent to worthless; 13,000 small arms, 200 wagons, and a large quantity of tents and camp-equipage. Of horses, provisions, and munitions, the captures were of small account.

Jackson, whose appreciation of the value of time was unsurpassed, did not wait to receive the surrender; but, leaving that duty to Hill, hurried off the mass of his followers to rejoin Gen. Lee; and, by marching day and night, reached the Antietam next morning.21

It is impossible to resist the conclusion that Miles, in this affair, acted the part of a traitor. He had been ordered, one month before his surrender, to fortify Maryland Heights; which he totally neglected to do. He refused or neglected to send the axes and spades required by Col. Ford, giving no reason therefor. He paroled, on the 13th, 16 Rebel prisoners, authorizing them to pass out of our lines into those of the enemy; thus giving the Rebel commanders the fullest knowledge of all wherewith ours should have wished to keep them ignorant. Another Rebel, an officer named Rouse, who had been captured and had escaped, being retaken, was allowed a private interview by Miles, and thereupon paroled to go without our lines. He, still under parole, appeared in arms at the head of his men, among the first to enter our lines after the surrender.

As to Gen. McClellan, his most glaring fault in the premises would seem to have been his designation22 of Col. Miles, after his shameful behavior at Bull Run, to the command of a post so important as Harper's Ferry. It is easy now to reproach him with the slowness of his advance from Washlington to Frederick; but it must be borne in mind that his force consisted of the remains of two beaten armies — his own and Pope's;--not so much strengthened as swelled by raw troops, hastily levied for an emergency; while opposed to him was an army of veterans, inferior indeed in numbers, but boasting of a succession of victories from first Bull Run onward, and proudly regarding itself as invincible. Perplexed as to Lee's intentions, and hampered by the necessity of covering at once Washington and Baltimore, McClellan moved slowly, indeed; but only a great military genius, or a rash, headstrong fool, would have ventured to do otherwise. After he learned at Frederick that Lee had divided his army, in his eagerness to clutch the tempting prize, McClellan blundered sadly in not hurling his army at once on McLaws, and thus cutting his way swiftly to the Ferry; yet, with all his mistakes, he moved vigorously enough to have seasonably relieved Miles, had that officer evinced loyalty and decent fitness for his position, or had Ford defended Maryland Heights with vigor and tenacity.

Halleck's insisting that Harper's Ferry should be held, after he knew [203] that the Rebel army had crossed into Maryland, is one of those puzzles so frequently exhibited in the strategy of that Generalissimo, which must find their solution in some higher, subtler, and more leisurely existence.

Gen. McClellan, at 3 A. M. of the 15th, was aware — for he telegraphed to Halleck — that he had been fighting the forces of D. H. Hill and Longstreet; that they had disappeared from his front; and that Franklin had likewise been completely successful at Crampton's Gap, on his left. He says in this dispatch: “The enemy disappeared during the night; our troops are now advancing in pursuit.” At 8 A. M., he telegraphed again — still from Bolivar, at the foot of Turner's Gap:

I have just learned from Gen. Hooker, in the advance — who states that the information is perfectly reliable — that the enemy is making for the river in a perfect panic; and Gen. Lee last night stated publicly that he must admit they had been shockingly whipped. I am hurrying every thing forward to endeavor to press their retreat to the utmost.

Had even the last sentence of this dispatch been literally true, Lee's destruction was imminent and certain.

It was now too late to save Harper's Ferry — for it had this moment fallen — but not too late to superbly avenge it. With Lee's order in his hand, McClellan must have known that the forces from which he and Franklin had just wrested the passes of the South Mountain were all that Lee had to depend upon, save those which he had detached and sent — mainly by long circuits — to reduce Harper's Ferry, and which must now be mainly on the other side of the Potomac. Precious hours had been lost by massing on his right instead of his left, and fighting for Turner's Gap, when he should only by a feint have kept as many Rebels there as possible, while he poured the great body of his army, in overwhelming strength and with the utmost celerity, through Crampton's Gap, crushing McLaws and relieving Harper's Ferry. But there was still time, if not to retrieve the error, at least to amend it. Our soldiers, flushed with unwonted victory, and full in the faith that they had just wrested two strong mountain-passes from the entire Rebel army, were ready for any effort, any peril. To press forward with the utmost rapidity, and so relieve Harper's Ferry, if that might still be, but at all events to crush that portion of the Rebel army still north of the Potomac, if it should stand at bay, and rout and shatter it should it attempt to ford the river; at the very worst, to interpose between it and the other half, under Jackson and Walker, should it attempt to escape westward by Hagerstown and Williamsport, and thus be in position to assail and overwhelm either half before it could unite with the other, was the course which seems to have been as obvious to McClellan as it must be to every one else.

The advance was again led by Gen. Pleasanton's cavalry, who overtook at Boonsborough the Rebel cavalry rear-guard, charged it with spirit, and routed it, capturing 250 prisoners and 2 gains. Richardson's division, of Sumner's corps, followed; pressing eagerly on that afternoon;23 and, after a march of 10 or 12 miles, [204] descried the Rebels posted in force across Antietam creek, in front of the little village of Sharpsburg. Richardson halted and deployed on the right of the road from Keedysville to Sharpsburg; Sykes, with his division of regulars, following closely after, came up and deployed on the left of that road. Gen. McClellan himself, with three corps in all, came up during the evening.

Lee had of course chosen a strong position; but delay could only serve to strengthen it, while giving opportunity for the arrival of Jackson, Walker, and McLaws, from Harper's Ferry; which McClellan now knew had fallen that morning: Franklin having apprised him of the hour when the sound of guns from that quarter ceased. Had McClellan then resolved to attack at daylight next morning,24 he might before noon have hurled 60,000 gallant troops against not more than half their number of Rebels; for, though Jackson arrived with his overmarched men that morning, he left A. P. Hill behind at the Ferry, while McLaws, still confronting Franklin in Pleasant Valley, was obliged to cross the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and recross it at Shepherdstown, in order to come up at all; and did not arrive until the morning of the 17th. Walker, clearing London Heights and crossing the Shenandoah on the 15th, had followed Jackson during the night, and arrived at Shepherdstown early on the morning of the 16th; crossing and reporting to Lee at Sharpsburg by noon.25

Lee, aware that every hour's delay was an inestimable advantage to him, made as great a display of force as possible throughout the 15th and 16th, though he thereby exposed his infantry — it seemed wantonly — to the fire of our artillery. But, on the morning of the 17th, when our columns advanced to the attack, and the battle began in earnest, his whole army, save A. P. Hill's division, being on hand, the regiments and brigades hitherto so ostentatiously paraded seemed to have sunk into the earth ; and nothing but grim and frowning batteries were seen covering, each hill-crest and trained on every stretch of open ground where-by our soldiers might attempt to scale those rugged steeps.

The struggle was inaugurated on the afternoon of the 16th, by our old familiar maneuver: Hooker, on our right, being directed to flank and beat the enemy's left, backed by Sumner, Franklin, and Mansfield, who were to come into action successively, somewhat nearer the enemy's center. It would have been a serious objection, ten hours before, to this strategy, that it tended, event if successful, to concentrate the enemy, by driving him back on his divisions arriving or expected from Harper's [205]


Ferry, rather than to interpose between him and them.

Hooker moved at 4 P. M.; and, making a long detour, crossed the Antietam out of sight and range of the Rebel batteries. Turning at length sharply to the left, he came to an open field, with woods in front and on either side, whence our skirmishers were saluted by scattering shots, followed by volleys of musketry from the left and front. Here Hooker — reconnoitering in the advance, as usual — halted and formed his lines; Ricketts's division on the left; Meade, with the Pennsylvania Reserves, in the center; while Doubleday, on the right, planting his guns on a hill, opened at once on a Rebel battery that had begun to enfilade our center. [206] By this time, it was dark, and the firing soon ceased; the hostile infantry lying down for the night at points within half musket-shot of each other.

At daylight next morning26 the battle was commenced in earnest: the left of Meade's and the right of Ricketts's line becoming engaged at nearly the same moment, the former with artillery, the latter with infantry; while a battery was pushed forward beyond the woods directly in Hooker's front, across a plowed field, to the edge of a corn-field beyond it, destined before night to be soaked with blood.

Hood's thin division, which had confronted us at evening, had been withdrawn during the night, and replaced by Lawton's and Trimble's brigades of Ewell's division, under Lawton, with Jackson's own division, under D. R. Jones, on its left, supported by the remaining brigades of Ewell. Jackson was in chief command on this wing, and here was substantially his old corps around him. Against these iron soldiers, Hooker's corps hurled itself, and, being superior in numbers, compelled them to give ground; but not until Jones and Lawton had been wounded, with many more field officers, and Starke, who succeeded Jones in command, killed. Early, who succeeded Lawton, was ordered by Jackson to replace Jackson's own division, which had suffered so severely and was so nearly out of ammunition that it had to be temporarily withdrawn from the combat. By this time, Ricketts and Meade had pushed the Rebel line back across the corn-field and the road, into the woods beyond, and was following with eager, exulting cheers.

But Hood's division, somewhat refreshed, had by this time returned to the front, backed by the brigades of Ripley, Colquitt. Garland (now under Col. McRae), and D. R. Jones, by whom the equilibrium of the fight was restored; our men being hurled back by terrible volleys from the woods, followed by a charge across the corn-field in heavy force. Hooker called up his nearest brigade; but it was not strong enough, and he sent at once to Doubleday: “Give me your best brigade instantly!” That brigade came down the hill on our right at double-quick, and was led by Hartsuff into the corn-field, and steadily up the slope beyond it, forming on the crest of the ridge, under a hurricane of shot and shell, and firing steadily and rapidly at the Rebel masses just before them. They held their position half an hour, unsupported, though many fell; among them their leader, Hartsuff, wounded severely; until for a second time the enemy was driven out of the corn-field into the woods.

Meantime, both sides were strengthening this wing. Ricketts's division, having attempted to advance and failed, had fallen back. Part of Mansfield's corps had gone in to their aid, and been driven back likewise, with their General mortally wounded. Doubleday's guns were still busy on our extreme right, and had silenced a Rebel battery which for half an hour had enfiladed Hooker's center. Ricketts sent word that he could not advance, but could hold his ground. Hooker, with Crawford's and Gordon's fresh brigades of [207] Mansfield's corps, came up to his support, determined again to advance and carry the woods to the right of and beyond the corn-field. Going forward to reconnoiter on foot, Hooker satisfied himself as to the nature of the ground, returned and remounted amid a shower of Rebel bullets, which he had all the morning disregarded; but the next moment a musket-ball went through his foot, inflicting a severe and intensely painful wound; which compelled him, after giving his orders fully and deliberately, to leave the field at 9 A. M. Sumner, arriving at this moment, assumed command, sending forward Sedgwick's division of his own corps to support Crawford and Gordon; while Richardson and French, with his two remaining divisions, went forward farther to the left; Sedgwick again advancing in line through the corn-field already won and lost.

But by this time McLaws — who, by marching all night, had reached Shepherdstown from Harper's Ferry that morning, and instantly crossed — had been sent forward by Lee to the aid of Jackson; while Walker's division had been hurried across from their as yet unassailed right. Again Hood's brigade was withdrawn from the front, while the fresh forces under Walker and McLaws advanced with desperate energy, seconded by Early on their left. Sedgwick was thrice badly wounded, and compelled to retire; Gens. Dana and Crawford were likewise wounded. The 34th New York--which had broken at a critical moment, while attempting a maneuver under a terrible fire — was nearly cut to pieces; and the 15th Massachusetts, which went into action 600 strong, was speedily reduced to 134. Gen. Howard, who took command of Sedgwick's division, was unable to restore its formation, and Sumner himself had no better success. Again the center of our right gave back, and the corn-field was retaken by the enemy.

But the attempt of the Rebels to advance beyond it, under the fire of our batteries, was repelled with heavy loss on their part; Col. Manning, who led Walker's own brigade, being severely wounded, and his brigade driven back. Doubleday, on our farther right, held firmly; and it seemed settled that, while either party could repel a charge on this part of the line, neither could afford to make one.

But now Franklin had come up with his fresh corps, and formed on the left; Slocum, commanding one of his divisions, was sent forward toward the center; while Smith, with the other, was ordered to retake the ground that had been so long and so hotly contested.

It was no sooner said than done. Smith's regiments, cheering, went forward on a run, swept through the corn-field and the woods, cleared them in ten minutes, and held them. Their rush was so sudden and unexpected that their loss was comparatively small; and the ground thus retaken was not again lost.

Nearer the center, French's division of Sumner's corps had attempted to carry the line of heights whereon the Rebels were posted, and had made some progress, repulsing a countercharge and capturing a number of prisoners, with some flags. Attempts successively to turn his right and then his left were foiled; but, after a bloody combat of four [208] hours, French paused, considerably in advance of the position on which the fight had commenced, but without having carried the heights.

Richardson's division of Sumner's corps advanced on the left of French, crossing the Antietam at 9 1/2 A. M., and going steadily forward under a heavy artillery fire, half way up from the creek to Sharpsburg, over very rugged ground, much of it covered with growing corn, and intersected by stone walls, which afforded every advantage to the defensive. The musketry fire on both sides was severe; but our men steadily gained ground; Caldwell's and Meagher's (Irish) brigade vieing with each other in steadiness and gallantry. Here Col. Francis C. Barlow, of Caldwell's brigade, signalized himself by seizing an opportunity to advance the 61st and 64th New York on the left, and take in flank a Rebel force, which, sheltered by a sunken road, was attempting to enfilade our line, capturing over 300 prisoners and 3 flags.

The left of this division being now well advanced, the enemy, maneuvering behind a ridge, attempted to take it in flank and rear, but was signally defeated ; the 5th New Hampshire and the 81st Pennsylvania facing to the left and meeting their charge by a countercharge, which was entirely successful. Some prisoners and the colors of the 4th North Carolina remained in our hands. The enemy next assailed the right of this division; but Col. Barlow, again advancing his two New York regiments, aided by Kimball's brigade on the right, easily repulsed it. Next, a charge was made directly on Richardson's front, which was defeated as before, and our line still farther advanced as far as Dr. Piper's house, very near to Sharpsburg, and about the center of the Rebel army at the beginning of the battle. Here artillery was brought up — this division having thus far fought without it — and, while personally directing the fire of Capt. Graham's battery, 1st U. S. Artillery, Richardson fell mortally wounded, and was succeeded by Hancock. Gen. Meagher had fallen some time before: the command of his brigade devolving on Col. Burke, of the 63d New York. One or two more attempts or menaces were made on this part of our line, but not in great force; and, though its advance was drawn back a little to avoid an enfilading fire from Rebel batteries, to which it could not respond, it held its well advanced position when night closed the battle.

Porter's corps, in our center, holding the roads from Sharpsburg to Middletown and Boonsborough, remained unengaged, east of the Antietam, until late in the afternoon; when two brigades of it were sent by McClellan to support our right; while six battalions of Sykes's regulars were thrown across the bridge on the main road to repel Rebel sharp-shooters, who were annoying Pleasanton's horse-batteries at that point. Warren's brigade was detached and sent to the right and rear of Burnside, leaving but little over 3,000 men with Porter.

Burnside's corps held our extreme left, opposite the lowest of the three bridges crossing the Antietam. He was ordered, at 8 A. M., to cross this one, which was held by Gen. R. Toombs, with the 2d and 20th Georgia, backed by some sharp-shooters and [209] the batteries of Gen. D. R. Jones, on Longstreet's right wing. Several feeble attempts to execute this order having been successively repulsed, Burnside was further ordered to carry not only the bridge but the heights beyond, and advance along their crest upon Sharpsburg; but it was not till 1 P. M. that the bridge was actually taken, by a charge of the 51st New York and the 51st Pennsylvania; the enemy making no serious resistance, and retreating to the heights as our troops came over in force. More hours passed idly; and it was after 3 P. M. before Burnside, under peremptory orders, charged up the heights, carrying them handsomely; some of his troops reaching even the outskirts of Sharpsburg.

It was an easy but a short-lived triumph ; for, thus far, Lee had been able to spare but about 3,000 men, under D. R. Jones, to hold this flank of his position. Had this success been obtained hours earlier, it might have proved decisive. The Rebel forces throughout the greater part of the day had abundant occupation on our right, so that Lee was unable to spare sufficient troops to resist a determined advance by our left; but now, just as victory seemed to smile upon our arms, A. P. Hill's division — which had only been ordered from Harper's Ferry that morning, and started at 7 1/2 o'clock--came on the ground, and, covered by a heavy fire of artillery, charged our extreme left, when disordered by charging and fighting, and drove it back in still greater confusion. Gen. Rodman, who commanded it, was mortally wounded; and the enemy, rallying with spirit and redoubling the fire of his artillery, charged in front and flank, and drove our men in confusion down the hill toward the Antietam, pursuing until checked by the fire of our batteries across the river. Gen. L. O'B. Branch, of N. C., was killed in this charge. Our reserves on the left bank now advancing, while our batteries redoubled their fire, the Rebels wisely desisted, without attempting to carry the bridge, and retired to their lines on the heights, as darkness put an end to the fray.

Jackson, during the afternoon, had been ordered by Lee to turn our right and attack it in flank and rear; but, on reconnoitering for this purpose, he found our line extended nearly to the Potomac, and so strongly defended with artillery that to carry it was impossible; so he declined to make the attempt.

So closed, indecisively, the bloodiest day that America ever saw.

Gen. McClellan states his strength — no doubt truly — in this battle at 87,164, including 4,320 cavalry, which was of small account on such ground and in such a struggle. General Couch's division, 5,000 strong, had been sent away toward Harper's Ferry — evidently through some misapprehension — and only arrived at a late hour next morning;27 as did Humphrey's division of raw recruits, which had left Frederick--23 miles distant--at 4 1/2 P. M. of the sanguinary 17th.

McClellan estimates Lee's strength at 97,445, including 6,000 artillery (400 guns), 6,400 cavalry, and making Jackson's corps number 24,778--all far too high. Lee says he had “under 40,000 men;” which probably includes neither cavalry nor A. P. Hill's division; and perhaps not [210] McLaws's. The Richmond Enquirer of the 23d (four days after the battle) says it has “authentic particulars” of the battle; and that “the ball was opened on Tuesday evening about 6 o'clock, by all of our available force, 60,000 strong, commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee in person.” And this seems to be the more probable aggregate.

Pollard, in his “Southern history of the War,” says of this battle: “It was fought for half the day with 45,000 men on the Confederate side; and for the remaining half with no more than an aggregate of 70,000 men.”

Gen. McClellan makes his entire loss in this battle 12,469: 2,010 killed, 9,416 wounded, and 1,043 missing; and says his army counted and buried “about 2,700” of the enemy, beside those buried by themselves: whence he estimates their total loss as “much greater” than ours. As the Rebels fought mainly on the defensive, under shelter of woods, and on ground commanded by their artillery, this might seem improbable. But Lee (writing his report on the 6th of March following) is silent as to his losses, while the account of them given as complete in the official publication of “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Virginia, from June, 1862, to Dec. 13th, 1862,” is palpably and purposely an under-statement. That account makes the total Rebel loss in the Maryland battles only 10,291: viz., killed, 1,567; wounded, 8,724; and says nothing of missing; while McClellan gives details of considerable captures on several occasions, and sums up as follows:

Thirteen guns, 39 colors, upward of 15,000 stand of small arms, and more than 6,000 prisoners, were the trophies which attest the success of our arms in the battles of South Mountain, Crampton's Gap, and Antietam. Not a single gun or color was lost by our army during these battles.

And the reports of Lee's corps or division commanders give the following aggregates:

 Killed.Wounded.Missing. Total.
Jackson's.3512,080 572,438
D. H. Hill's464 1,8529253,241
A. P. Hill's28 63283-- 346
Total1,8429,399 2,29213,533

D. H. Hill reports 3,241 disabled, including 4 Colonels, out of less than 5,000; and Lawton's brigade lost 554 out of 1,150.

Among the Rebel killed were Maj.-Gen. Starke, of Miss., Brig.-Gens. L. O'B. Branch, of N. C., and G. B. Anderson; Cols. Douglass (commanding Lawton's brigade), Liddell, 11th Miss., Tew, 2d N. C., Barnes, 12th S. C., Mulligan, 15th Ga., Barclay, 23d do., and Smith, 27th do. Among their wounded were Maj.-Gen. R. H. Anderson, Brig.-Gens. Lawton, Rhodes, Ripley, Armistead, Gregg, of S. C., R. Toombs and Wright, of Ga.

Lee, of course, did not care to renew the battle on the morrow of such a day; and McClellan, though reenforced that morning by about 14,000 men, stood still also. He says he purposed to renew the combat the next morning;29 but, when his cavalry advance reached the river, they discovered that Lee had quietly moved off across the Potomac during the night, leaving us only his dead and some 2,000 of his desperately wounded.

Lee having posted 8 batteries on the Virginia bluffs of the Potomac, supported by 600 infantry under Pendleton, [211] to cover his crossing, Gen. Porter, at dark,30 sent across Gen. Griffin, with his own and Barnes's brigades, to carry them. This was gallantly done, under the fire of those batteries, and 4 guns taken; but a reconnoissance in force, made by part of Porter's division next morning31 was ambushed by A. P. Hill, a mile from the ford, and driven pell-mell into the river, with considerable loss, after a brief struggle; the Rebels taking 200 prisoners. They held that bank thenceforth unmolested until next day, and then quietly disappeared.

Lee moved westward, with the bulk of his army, to the Opequan creek, near Martinsburg; his cavalry, under Stuart, recrossing the Potomac to Williamsport, whence he escaped on the approach of Gen. Couch's division. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was now pretty thoroughly destroyed for some distance by the Rebels--neither for the first nor the last time. Gen. McClellan sent forward Gen. Williams on his left to retake Maryland Heights, which he did32 without opposition; as Gen. Sumner, two days later, occupied Harper's Ferry.

Lee soon retired to the vicinity of Bunker Hill and Winchester; whence, seeing that he was not pursued nor imperiled by McClellan, he dispatched33 Stuart, with 1,800 cavalry, on a bold raid into Pennsylvania. Crossing the Potomac above Williamsport, Stuart pushed on rapidly to Chambersburg, where he destroyed a large amount of supplies; and, retiring as hurriedly as he came, he made a second circuit of McClellan's army, recrossing without loss into Virginia at White's Ford, below Harper's Ferry. McClellan, hearing he had gone on this raid, felt entirely confident that he could not escape destruction, and made extensive preparations to insure it; but his plans were foiled by lack of energy and zeal. Stuart paroled at Chambersburg 275 sick and wounded, whom he found there in hospital; burned the railroad depot, machineshops, and several trains of loaded cars, destroying 5,000 muskets and large amounts of army clothing. Perhaps these paid the Rebels for their inevitable waste of horse-flesh, and perhaps not.

Here ensued a renewal of the old game of cross-purposes — McClellan calling loudly and frequently for reenforcemenets, horses, clothing, shoes, and supplies of all kinds, which were readily promised, but not always so promptly supplied ; Halleck sending orders to advance, which were not obeyed with alacrity, if at all. A distemper among the horses throw 4,000 out of service, in addition to the heavy losses by Rebel bullets and by over-work. Halleck states that McClellan's army had 31,000 horses on the 14th of October; McClellan responds that 10,980 were required to move ten days provisions for that army, now swelled to 110,000 men, beside 12,000 teamsters, &c.; and that, after picketing the line of the Potomac, he had not 1,000 desirable cavalry. His entire cavalry force was 5,046; his artillery horses, 6,836; he needed 17,832 animals to draw his forage; so that he was still 10,000 short of the number actually required for an advance.

At length, Gen. McClellan crossed [212] the Potomac, between the 26th of October and the 2d of November; and, moving unopposed down the east side of the Blue Ridge (Lee's army being still in the Valley, but moving parallel with ours), occupied Snicker's Gap and Manassas; and had advanced to Warrenton, when he was relieved from command,34 directed to turn it over to Gen. Burnside, and report by letter from Trenton, N. J.; which he proceeded forthwith to do. Thus ended his active participation in the war.

1 Sept. 1.

2 Sept. 2.

3 Sept. 2.

4 Sept. 5.

5 Roger B. Taney, to wit.

6 Sept. 3.

7 Sept. 7.

8 Sept. 13.

9 Sept. 11.

10 Hill, in his official report, says:

Maj.-Gen. Longstreet came up about 4 o'clock, with the commands of Brig.-Gens. Evans and D. R. Jones. I had now become familiar with the ground, and knew all the vital points; and, had these troops reported to me the result might have been different. As it was, they took wrong positions: and, in their exhausted condition after a long march, they were broken and scattered.

11 Gen. McClellan sent four successive dispatches to Gen. Halleck concerning this affair; whereof the following is the latest and most erroneous:

headquarters army of the Potomac, Bolivar Sept. 15--10 A. M.
To H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief:
Information this moment received completely confirms the rout and demoralization of the Rebel army. Gen. Lee is reported wounded and Garland killed. Gen. Hooker alone has over a thousand more prisoners; 700 having been sent to Frederick. It is stated that Lee gives his loss as fifteen thousand. We are following as rapidly as the men can move.

McClellan seems here to suppose that he had fought and beaten the main body of the Rebel army; yet how could he think so with Lee's order of the 9th before him?

12 Hill says that Gen. Rhodes, commanding one of his brigades, estimates his loss at 422 out of 1,200 taken into action. Col. Gayle, 12th Alabama, was among his killed; and Col. O'Neal, 24th, and Lt.-Col. Pickens, 12th Alabama, were severely wounded.

13 Sept. 5.

14 Sept. 12.

15 Sept. 12.

16 Sept. 13.

17 Sept. 14.

18 Sept. 12.

19 Sept. 14.

20 Sept. 15.

21 Sept. 16.

22 March 29.

23 Sept. 15.

24 Sept. 16.

25 McClellan, in his report, says:

It had been hoped to engage the enemy during the 15th ;

but. “after a rapid examination of the position, I found that it was too late to attack that day, and at once directed the placing of the batteries in position in the center, and indicated the bivouacs for the different corps, massing them near and on both sides of the Sharpsburg turnpike. The corps were not all in their positions until the next morning after sunrise.”

George W. Smalley, correspondent of The Tribune, writes from the battle-field on the 17th as follows:

After the brilliant victory near Middletown, Gen. McClellan pushed forward his army rapidly, and reached Keedysville with three corps en Monday night. On the day following, the two armies faced each other idly until night.

26 Sept. 17.

27 Sept. 18.

28 Jackson expressly states that A. P. Hill's losses were not included in his return.

29 Sept. 19.

30 Sept. 19.

31 Sept. 20.

32 Sept. 20.

33 Oct. 10.

34 Nov. 7.

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