Stonewall Jackson's intentions at Harper's Ferry.
I. By Bradley T. Johnson, Brigadier-General, C. S. A.Major--General J. G. Walker, in his interesting paper in “The century” [June, 1886], states that after he had occupied Loudoun Heights on September 14th, he received a dispatch from General Jackson, by signal, substantially as follows: “Harper's Ferry is now completely invested. I shall summon its commander to surrender. Should he refuse, I will give him twenty-four hours to remove the non-combatants, and then carry the place by assault. Do not fire unless forced to.” [See p. 609.] Referring to the statement made by me in an address before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia, October 23d, 1884, that on the 14th of September General Jackson signaled the order to both McLaws and Walker, “Fire at such positions of the enemy as will be most effective,” General Walker says: “I am, of course, ignorant of what Jackson may have signaled McLaws, but it is certain I received no such order.” General Walker then goes on to show that Jackson determined to give the commanding officer of Harper's Ferry twenty-four hours before he carried the place; that he, General Walker, was satisfied that the delay of twenty-four hours would be fatal to General Lee,--as it would have been; that, therefore, against orders not to fire until he was forced to, he determined to be forced; and that he secured this end by the display of two North Carolina regiments, under Colonel M. W. Ransom, in line of battle on Loudoun Heights, in full view of the Federal batteries on Bolivar Heights. As he expected, he says, “they at once opened a heavy but harmless fire upon my regiments, which afforded me the wished — for pretext. Withdrawing the infantry to the safe side of the mountain, I directed my batteries to reply.” Thus it would appear that General Walker forced the attack on Harper's Ferry, and prevented the delay of twenty-four hours which General Jackson proposed to give; and that to this prompt attack was due the capture of Harper's Ferry, and the salvation of that part of the Army of Northern Virginia which, with Lee, Longstreet, and D. H. Hill, was waiting at Sharpsburg the reduction of the force at the former place, and the reinforcement of Lee by Jackson, McLaws, and Walker after Harper's Ferry had fallen. Twenty-four hours delay would have postponed the fall of Harper's Ferry, and the battle of the 17th would have been fought by Longstreet and D. H. Hill alone, who would have been destroyed by McClellan before Jackson could have come up. I prepared the address before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia after careful study of the records and reports of both sides, and all accessible accounts of the battle of Sharpsburg, and believe every statement made by me can be substantiated by the record, or by the statements of eye-witnesses. Unless General Walker has a copy of the dispatch referred to by him, I respectfully submit that his recollection is in error; that no intention was ever entertained by Jackson of giving twenty-four hours delay; and that General Jackson himself gave the order to Walker and McLaws to open fire, exactly as stated by me. The reasons for believing that General.Walker is mistaken in thinking that he ever received the order referred to by him, or one in any way intimating an intention of giving twenty-four hours  delay, seem to me to be conclusive. Colonel H. Kyd Douglas was aide-de-camp to Jackson, and occupied, particularly in that campaign, peculiarly confidential relations to him. His home was near Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown, the scene of operations, and he probably knew as much of General Jackson's intentions as any man living. He tells me he never heard of any such projected delay. The “lost order” No. 191--from General Lee to Jackson, Walker, and McLaws — specially directs Walker and McLaws to be in position on Loudoun. and Maryland Heights respectively by Friday morning, September 12th, and Jackson to take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad by Friday morning and “intercept such of the enemy as may attempt to escape from Harper's Ferry.” Jackson's advance division reached the vicinity of Harper's Ferry during Saturday forenoon, the 13th; Walker and McLaws reached the designated points Saturday night, but were not in position for offensive action until September 14th. Now, when the army was moving to the positions assigned by “Special orders no. 191,” it was a matter of common knowledge that McClellan's advance was in contact with our rear. Hampton had a sharp affair in the streets of Frederick late on the 12th. Fitz Lee, hanging on to the advance, located McClellan and reported his presence to Stuart, who held the mountain pass over Catoctin at Hagan's. During the 13th Stuart delayed the advance of the Federal infantry through Middletown Valley by sturdily defending the practicable points on the National road. On the 14th, when, according to General Walker, Jackson, then a day late, proposed to give the commander of Harper's Ferry twenty-four hours delay, and General Walker, in order to prevent that delay, drew the fire of the Federal guns on him on Loudoun Heights, Franklin's corps attacked Crampton's Gap about noon, and after a sharp defense drove Munford through the mountain pass. Now Crampton's Gap is in full sight of Loudoun Heights, not four miles off as the crow flies, and is in rear of McLaws's position on Maryland Heights. Jackson then knew that McClellan was thundering in his rear. Walker and McLaws could see the battle and hear the guns at Crampton's, and Walker could also see the fight at South Mountain. It would have been contrary to every known characteristic of the chief of the “Foot cavalry” for him to have given his adversary twenty-four hours breathing-time, under any circumstances, anywhere, and utterly impossible for him to have done so under these circumstances at this time. General Jackson did send General Walker an order by signal: “I do not desire any of the batteries to open until all are ready on both sides of the river, except you should find it necessary, of which you must judge for yourself. I will let you know when to open all the batteries.” In the War Records office may be seen the report of Captain J. L. Bartlett, signal officer of Jackson's corps. It contains the order to Walker and McLaws quoted by me in my address: “Fire at such positions of the enemy as will be most effective.” This order General Walker does not recollect to have received. It certainly was sent by Captain Bartlett to Walker's signal officer, and just as certainly received by the latter. It is hardly possible that so important an order, at such a time, should not have been forwarded by the signal officer to General Walker. The following order was also sent from Captain Bartlett's signal-station to General Walker's officer on Loudoun Heights:
Captain Bartlett, after reporting all messages and orders sent through his station, among which were the foregoing, says, “If any other dispatches or orders were sent at Harper's Ferry, it was done at other posts than mine.” Now, there was no signal officer except Captain Bartlett attached to Jackson's headquarters, communicating with Loudoun Heights, and his report thus shows all the orders sent by Jackson to Walker. The one quoted by General Walker is not among them; the one quoted by me is. Therefore, inasmuch as it appears that the investing force under Jackson was twenty-four hours behind the time fixed by General Lee for completing the investment of Harper's Ferry, and that Generals Jackson and McLaws knew that McClellan had been in Frederick mon the 12th, only twenty miles off; and that McClellan was actually attacking at Crampton's, three or four miles from Harper's Ferry; and that Lee, Longstreet, and D. H. Hill were then north of the Potomac, and in imminent danger of being cut off from the rest of the army at Harper's Ferry; and that General Jackson did, in fact, send the order, cited by me, to Walker and McLaws to fire at such positions of the enemy as would be most effective, and did, in fact, as soon as his troops were in position, completing the investment, issue an order of battle for the assault on Harper's Ferry: taking all these facts into consideration, we must believe that General Walker is mistaken as to the order he thinks he received, and that General Jackson never issued such order, nor entertained the idea of delaying the attack.