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Stonewall Jackson in Maryland.

by Henry Kyd Douglas, Colonel, C. S. A.

Roasting Green corn at the camp-fire.1

On the 3d of September, 1862, the Federal army under General Pope having been confounded, General Lee turned his columns toward the Potomac, with Stonewall Jackson in front. On the 5th of September Jackson crossed the Potomac at Whitens Ford, a few miles beyond Leesburg. The passage of the river by the troops marching in fours, well closed up, the laughing, shouting, and singing, as a brass band in front played “Maryland, my Maryland,” was a memorable experience. The Marylanders in the corps imparted much of their enthusiasm to the other troops, but we were not long in finding out that if General Lee had hopes that the decimated regiments of his army would be filled by the sons of Maryland he was doomed to a speedy and unqualified disappointment. However, before we had been in Maryland many hours, one enthusiastic citizen presented Jackson with a gigantic gray mare. She was a little heavy and awkward for a war-horse, but as the general's “Little Sorrel” had a few days before been temporarily stolen, the present was a timely one, and he was not disposed to “look a gift horse in the mouth.” Yet the present proved almost a Trojan horse to him, for the next morning when he mounted his new steed and touched her with his spur the loyal and undisciplined beast reared straight into the air, and, standing erect for a moment, threw herself backward, horse and rider rolling upon the ground. The general was stunned and severely bruised, and lay upon the ground for some time before he could be removed. He was then placed in an ambulance, where he rode during the day's march, having turned his command over to his brother-in-law, General D. H. Hill, the officer next in rank.

Early that day the army went into camp near Frederick, and Generals Lee, Longstreet, Jackson, and for a time “JebStuart, had their headquarters near one another in Best's grove. Hither in crowds came the good people of Frederick, especially the ladies, as to a fair. General Jackson, still suffering from his hurt, kept to his tent, busying himself with maps and official papers, and declined to see visitors. Once, however, when he had been called to General Lee's tent, two young girls waylaid him, paralyzed him with smiles and embraces and questions, and then jumped into [621]

Jackson's men wading the Potomac at White's Ford.2

their carriage and drove off rapidly, leaving him there, cap in hand, bowing, blushing, and speechless. But once safe in his tent he was seen no more that day. The next evening, Sunday, he went into Frederick for the first time to attend church, and there being no service in the Presbyterian Church he went to the German Reformed., As usual he fell asleep, but this time more soundly than was his wont. His head sunk upon his breast, his cap dropped from his hands to the floor, the prayers of the congregation did not disturb him, and only the choir and the deep-toned organ awakened him. Afterward I learned that the minister was credited with much loyalty and courage because he had prayed for the President of the United States in the very presence of Stonewall Jackson. Well, the general didn't hear the prayer, and if he had he would doubtless have felt like replying as General Ewell did, when asked at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, if he would permit the usual prayer for President Lincoln--“Certainly; I'm sure he needs it.”

General Lee believed that Harper's Ferry would be evacuated as soon as he interposed between it and Washington. But he did not know that Halleck, and not McClellan, held command of it. When he found that it was not [622] evacuated he knew some one had blundered, and took steps to capture the garrison and stores. On Tuesday, the 9th, he issued an order, directing General Jackson to move the next morning, cross the Potomac near Sharpsburg, and envelop Harper's Ferry on the Virginia side. In the same order he directed General McLaws to march on Harper's Ferry by way of Middletown and seize Maryland Heights, and General Walker to cross the Potomac below Harper's Ferry and take Loudoun Heights, all to be in position on the 12th, except Jackson, who was first to capture, if possible, the troops at Martinsburg.

Early on the 10th Jackson was off. In Frederick he asked for a map of Chambersburg and its vicinity, and made many irrelevant inquiries about roads and localities in the direction of Pennsylvania. To his staff, who knew what little value these inquiries had, his questions only illustrated his well-known motto r “Mystery, mystery is the secret of success.” I was then assistant inspector-general on his staff, and also acting aide-de-camp. It was my turn this day to be intrusted with the knowledge of his purpose. Having finished this public inquiry, he took me aside, and after asking me about the different fords of the Potomac between Williamsport and Harper's Ferry, told me that he was ordered to capture the garrison at Harper's Ferry, and would cross either at Williamsport or Shepherdstown, as the enemy might or might not withdraw from Martinsburg. I did not then know of General Lee's order.

The troops being on the march, the general and staff rode rapidly out of town and took the head of the column. Just a few words here in regard to Mr. Whittier's touching poem, “Barbara Frietchie.” An old woman, by that now immortal name, did live in Frederick in those days, but she never saw General Jackson, and General Jackson never saw “Barbara Frietchie.” I was with him every minute of the time he was in that city,--he was there only twice,--and nothing like the scene so graphically described by the poet ever happened. Mr. Whittier must have been misinformed as to the incident. [See p. 619.--Editors.]

On the march that day, the captain of the cavalry advance, just ahead; had instructions to let no civilian go to the front, and we entered each village we passed before the inhabitants knew of our coming. In Middletown two very pretty girls, with ribbons of red, white, and blue floating from their hair, and small Union flags in their hands, rushed out of a house as we passed, came to the curbstone, and with much laughter waved their flags defiantly in the face of the general. He bowed and raised his hat, and, turning with his quiet smile to his staff, said: “We evidently have no friends in this town.” And this is about the way he would have treated Barbara Frietchie!

Having crossed South Mountain, at Turner's Gap, the command encamped for the night within a mile of Boonsboro‘, Here General Jackson must determine whether he would go on to Williamsport or turn toward Shepherdstown. I at once rode into the village with a cavalryman to make some inquiries, but we ran into a squadron of Federal cavalry, who without ceremony [623] proceeded to make war upon us. We retraced our steps, and although we did not stand upon the order of our going, a squad of them escorted us out of town with great rapidity. When I tried a couple of Parthian shots at them with my revolver, they returned them with interest, and shot a hole in my new hat, which, with the beautiful plume that a lady in Frederick had placed there, rolled in the dust. This was of little moment, but at the end of the town, reaching the top of the hill, we discovered, just over it, General Jackson, walking slowly toward us, leading his horse. There was but one thing to do. Fortunately the chase had become less vigorous, and, with a cry of command to unseen troops, we turned and charged the enemy. They, suspecting trouble, turned and fled, while the general quickly galloped to the rear. I recovered my hat and plume, and as I returned to camp I picked up the gloves which the general had dropped in mounting, and took them to him. Although — he had sent a regiment of infantry to the front as soon as he went back, the only allusion he made to the incident was to express the opinion that I had a very fast horse.

The next morning, having learned that the Federal troops still occupied Martinsburg, General Jackson took the direct road to Williamsport. He there forded the Potomac, the troops now singing, and the bands playing, “Carry me back to ole Virginny!” We marched on Martinsburg. General A. P. Hill took the direct turnpike, while Jackson, with the rest of his command, followed a side road, so as to approach Martinsburg from the west, and encamped four miles from the town. His object was to drive General White, who occupied Martinsburg, toward Harper's Ferry, and thus “corral” all the Federal troops in that military pen. As the Comte de Paris puts it, he “organized a kind of grand hunting match through the lower valley of Virginia, driving all the Federal detachments before him and forcing them to crowd into the blind alley of Harper's Ferry.” Fatigued by the day's march, Jackson was persuaded by his host of the night to drink a whisky toddy — the only glass of spirits I ever saw him take. While mixing it leisurely, he remarked that he believed he liked the taste of whisky and brandy more than any soldier in the army; that they were more palatable to him than the most fragrant coffee, and for that reason, with others, he rarely tasted them.

The next morning the Confederates entered Martinsburg. Here the general was welcomed with great enthusiasm, and a great crowd hastened to the hotel to greet him. At first he shut himself up in a room to write dispatches, but the demonstration became so persistent that he ordered the door to be opened. The crowd, chiefly ladies, rushed in and embarrassed the general with every possible outburst of affection, to which he could only reply, “Thank you, you're very kind.” He gave them his autograph in books and on scraps of paper, cut a button from his coat for a little girl, and then submitted patiently to an attack by the others, who soon stripped the coat of nearly all the remaining buttons. But when they looked beseechingly at his hair, which was thin, he drew the line there, and managed to close the interview. These blandishments did not delay his movements, however, for in the afternoon he was off again. [624]

A Glimpse of Stonewall Jackson.

On the 13th he invested Bolivar Heights and Harper's Ferry. On this day General McClellan came into possession, by carelessness or accident, of General Lee's order of the 9th, and he was thus notified of the division of the Confederate army and the intention to capture Harper's Ferry. From this moment General Lee's army was in peril, imminent in proportion to the promptness with which the Federal commander might use the knowledge he thus obtained. The plans of the latter were quickly and skillfully made. Had they been executed more rapidly, or had Jackson been slower and less sure, the result must have been a disastrous one to us. But military critics disposed to censure General McClellan for not being equal to his opportunities should credit him with the embarrassment of his position. He had not been in command of this army two weeks. It was a large army, but a heterogeneous one, with many old troops dispirited by recent defeat, and many new troops that had never been under fire. With such an army a general as cautious as McClellan does not take great risks, nor put the safety of his army rashly “to the touch, to win or lose it all.” General McClellan was inclined by nature to magnify the forces of the enemy, and had he known General Lee's weakness he would have ventured more. Yet when we remember what Pope had done and suffered just before, and what happened to Burnside and Hooker not long after, their friends can hardly sit in judgment upon McClellan. [625]

On the afternoon of the 13th Colonel Miles, in command at Harper's Ferry, made the fatal mistake of withdrawing his troops from Maryland Heights, and giving them up to McLaws. Napier has said, “He who wars walks in a mist through which the keenest eyes cannot always discern the right path.” But it does seem that Colonel Miles might have known that to abandon these heights under the circumstances was simply suicidal.3

Jackson met with so much delay in opening communication with McLaws and Walker, and ascertaining whether they were in position, that much of the 14th was consumed. But late in the afternoon A. P. Hill gained a foothold, with little resistance, well up on the enemy's left, and established some artillery at the base of Loudoun Heights and across the Shenandoah, so as to take the Federal line on Bolivar Heights in rear. (General Hill had been placed under arrest by General Jackson, before crossing the Potomac into Maryland, for disobedience of orders, and the command of his division devolved upon General Branch, who was killed a few days later at Antietam. Believing a battle imminent, General Hill requested General Jackson to reinstate him in command of his division until the approaching engagement was over. No one could appreciate such ant appeal more keenly than General Jackson, and he at once restored General Hill to his command. The work the Light Division did at Harper's Ferry and Sharpsburg proved the wisdom of Hill's request and of Jackson's compliance with it.)

During the 14th, while Jackson was fixing his clamps on Harpers Ferry, McClellan was pushing against Lee's divided forces at Turner's Gap. Hooker and Reno, under Burnside and under the eye of General McClellan, were fighting the battle of South Mountain against D. H. Hill and Longstreet. Here Reno and Garland were killed on opposite sides, and night ended the contest before it was decided. At the same time Franklin was forcing his way through Crampton's Gap, driving out Howell Cobb commanding his own brigade and one regiment of Semmes's brigade, both of McLaws's division, Parham's brigade of R. H. Anderson's division, and two regiments of Stuart's cavalry under Colonel Munford. The military complications were losing their simplicity. Being advised of these movements, Jackson saw that his work must be done speedily. On Monday morning, at 3 o'clock, he sent me to the left to move Jones forward at first dawn, and to open on Bolivar Heights with all his artillery. This feint was executed promptly and produced confusion on the enemy's right. Troops were moved to strengthen it. Then the guns from Maryland and Loudoun Heights opened fire, and very soon, off on our right, the battle-flags of A. P. Hill. rose on Bolivar Heights, and Harper's Ferry was doomed. Returning, I found General Jackson at the church in the wood on the Bolivar and Halltown turnpike, and just as I joined him a white flag was raised on Bolivar and all the firing ceased. [626]

Lieutenant-General Ambrose P. Hill, C. S. A. From a photograph.

Under instructions from General Jackson, I rode up the pike and into the enemy's lines to ascertain the purpose of the white flag. Near the top of the hill I met General White and staff and told him my mission. He replied that Colonel Miles had been mortally wounded, that he was in command and desired to have an interview with General Jackson. Just then General Hill came up from the direction of his line, and at his request I conducted them to General Jackson, whom I found sitting on his horse where I had left him. He was not, as the Comte de Paris says, leaning against a tree asleep, but exceedingly wide-awake. The contrast in appearances there presented was striking. General White, riding a handsome black horse, was carefully dressed and had on untarnished gloves, boots, and sword. His staff were equally comely in costume. On the other hand, General Jackson was the dingiest, worst-dressed, and worst-mounted general that a warrior who cared for good looks and style would wish to surrender to. The surrender was unconditional, and then General Jackson turned the matter over to General A. P. Hill, who allowed General White the same liberal terms that Grant afterward gave Lee at Appomattox.4 [627]

The fruits of the surrender were 12,520 prisoners ( “Official Records” ), 13,000 arms, 73 pieces of artillery, and several hundred wagons.

General Jackson, after sending a brief dispatch to General Lee announcing the capitulation, rode up to Bolivar and down into Harper's Ferry. The curiosity in the Union army to see him was so great that the soldiers lined the sides of the road. Many of them uncovered as he passed, and he invariably returned the salute. One man had an echo of response all about him when he said aloud: “Boys, he's not much for looks, but if we'd had him we wouldn't have been caught in this trap!”

General Jackson lost little time in contemplating his victory. When night came, he started for Shepherdstown with J. R. Jones and Lawton, leaving directions to McLaws and Walker to follow the next morning. He left A. P. Hill behind to finish up with Harper's Ferry. His first order had been to take position at Shepherdstown to cover Lee's crossing into Virginia, but, whether at his own suggestion or not, the order was changed, and after daylight on the 16th he crossed the Potomac there and joined Longstreet at Sharpsburg. General McClellan had, by that time, nearly all his army in position on the east bank of the Antietam, and General Lee was occupying the irregular range of high ground to the west of it, with the Potomac in his rear. Except some sparring between Hooker and Hood on our left, the 16th was allowed to pass without battle, fortunately for us. In the new dispositions of that evening, Jackson was placed on the left of Lee's army. [See map, p. 636.]

The first onset, early on the morning of the 17th, told what the day would be. The impatient Hooker, with the divisions of Meade, Doubleday, and Ricketts, struck the first blow, and Jackson's old division caught it and struck back again. Between such foes the battle soon waxed hot. Step by step and marking each step with dead, the thin Confederate line was pushed back to the wood around the Dunker Church. Here Lawton, Starke (commanding in place of Jones, already wounded), and D. H. Hill with part of his division, engaged Meade. And now in turn the Federals halted and fell back, and left their dead by Dunker Church. Next Mansfield entered the fight, and beat with resistless might on Jackson's people. The battle here grew angry and bloody. Starke was killed, Lawton wounded, and nearly all their general and field officers had fallen; the sullen Confederate line again fell back, killing Mansfield and wounding Hooker, Crawford, and Hartsuff.

And now D. H. Hill led in the rest of his division; Hood also took part, to the right and left, front and rear of Dunker Church. The Federal line was again driven back, while artillery added its din to the incessant [628] rattle of musketry. Then Sumner, with the fresh division of Sedgwick, re-formed the Federal line and renewed the offensive. Hood was driven back, and Hill partly; the Dunker Church wood was passed, the field south of it entered, and the Confederate left turned. Just then McLaws, hurrying from Harper's Ferry, came upon the field, and hurled his men against the victorious Sedgwick. He drove Sedgwick back into the Dunker wood and beyond it, into the open ground. Farther to our right, the pendulum of battle had been swinging to and fro, with D. H. Hill and R. H. Anderson hammering away at French and Richardson, until the sunken road became historic as “bloody lane.” Richardson was mortally wounded and Hancock assumed command of his division.

Brigadier-General William E. Starke. From a Tintype. In the cannonade which began with dawn of the 17th, General J. R. Jones, commanding the left division of Jackson, was stunned and injured by a shell which exploded directly over his head. General Starke was directed to take command of the division, which he led against Hooker, and a half-hour later he fell pierced by three minie-balls. Of that terrible struggle Stonewall Jackson says in his report: “The carnage on both sides was terrific. At this early hour General Starke was killed. Colonel Douglass, commanding Lawton's brigade, was also killed. General Lawton, commanding division, and Colonel Walker, commanding brigade, were severely wounded. More than half of the brigades of Lawton and Hays were either killed or wounded, and more than a third of Trimble's, and all the regimental commanders in those brigades, except two, were killed or wounded.”--Editors.

For a while there was a lull in the storm. It was early in the day, but hours are fearfully long in battle. About noon Franklin, with Slocum and W. F. Smith, marched upon the field to join the unequal contest. Smith tried his luck and was repulsed. Sumner then ordered a halt. Jackson's fight was over, and a strange silence reigned around Dunker Church.

General Lee had not visited the left that day. As usual he trusted to Jackson to fight his own battle and work out salvation in his own way. How well he did it, against the ablest and fiercest of McClellan's lieutenants, history has told.

During all this time Longstreet, stripped of his troops,--sent to the help of Jackson,--held the right almost alone, with his eye on the center. He was now called into active work on his own front, for there were no unfought troops in Lee's army at Sharpsburg; every soldier on that field tasted battle.

General Burnside, with his corps of fourteen thousand men, had been lying all day beyond the bridge which now bears his name. Ordered to cross at 8 o'clock he managed to get over at 1, and by 3 was ready to advance.5 He [629] moved against the hill which D. R. Jones held with his little division of 2500 men. Longstreet was watching this advance. Jackson was at General Lee's headquarters on a knoll in rear of Sharpsburg. A. P. Hill was coming, but had not arrived, and it was apparent that Burnside must be stayed, if at all, with artillery. One of the sections, transferred to the right from Jackson at the request of General Lee, was of the Rockbridge Artillery, and as it galloped by, the youngest son of the general-in-chief, Robert E. Lee, Jr., a private at the guns, black with the grime and powder of a long day's fight, stopped a moment to salute his father and then rushed after his gun. Where else in this war was the son of a commanding general a private in the ranks?

Going to put this section in place, I saw Burnside's heavy line move up the hill, and the earth seemed to tremble beneath their tread. It was a splendid and fearful sight, but for them to beat back Jones's feeble line was scarcely war. The artillery tore, but did not stay them. They pressed forward until Sharpsburg was uncovered and Lee's line of retreat was at their mercy. But then, just then, A. P. Hill, picturesque in his red battle-shirt, with 3 of his brigades, 2500 men, who had marched that day 17 miles from Harper's Ferry and had waded the Potomac, appeared upon the scene. Tired and footsore, the men forgot their woes in that supreme moment, and with no breathing time braced themselves to meet the coming shock. They met it and stayed it. The blue line staggered and hesitated, and, hesitating, was lost. At the critical moment A. P. Hill was always at his strongest. Quickly advancing his battle-flags, his line moved forward, Jones's troops rallied on him, and in the din of musketry and artillery on either flank the Federals broke over the field. Hill did not wait for his other brigades, but held the vantage gained until Burnside was driven back to the Antietam and under the shelter of heavy guns. The day was done. Again A. P. Hill, as at Manassas, Harper's Ferry, and elsewhere, had struck with the right hand of Mars. No wonder that both Lee and Jackson, when, in the delirium of their last moments on earth, they stood again to battle, saw the form of A. P. Hill leading his columns on; but it is a wonder and a shame that the grave of this valiant Virginian in Hollywood cemetery has not a stone to mark it and keep it from oblivion.

The battle at Sharpsburg was the result of unforeseen circumstances and not of deliberate purpose. It was one of the bloodiest of the war, and a defeat for both armies. The prestige of the day was with Lee, but when on the night of the 18th he recrossed into Virginia, although, as the Comte de Paris says, he “left not a single trophy of his nocturnal retreat in the hands of the enemy,” he left the prestige of the result with McClellan. And yet when it is known that General McClellan had 87,000 troops at hand, and General Lee fought the battle with less than 35,000,6 an army depleted by battles, weakened by privations, broken down by marching, and “ruined by straggling,” it was unquestionably on the Confederate side the best-fought battle of the war.

1 “we had been faring very badly since we left Manassas Junction, having had only one meal that included bread and coffee. Our diet had been Green corn, with beef without salt, roasted on the end of ramrods. We heard with delight of the ‘plenty’ to be had in Maryland; judge of our disappointment when, about 2 o'clock at night, we were marched into a dank clover-field and the order came down the line, ‘men, go into that corn-field and get your rations — and be ready to march at 5 in the morning. Don't burn any of these fencerails.’ of course we obeyed orders as to the corn, but, the rails suffered.”--extract from a letter written by Lieut. Robert Healy, of Jackson's corps.

2 Lieutenant Robert Healy, of the 55th Virginia, in Stonewall Jackson's command, tells the following incident of the march into Maryland: “the day before the corps waded the Potomac at White's Ford, they marched through Leesburg, where an old lady with upraised hands, and with tears in her eyes exclaimed: ‘the Lord bless your dirty ragged souls!’ Lieutenant Healy adds: ‘Don't think we were any dirtier than the rest, but it was our luck to get the blessing.’ ”--Editors.

3 General Julius White says in his report ( “Official Records,” Vol. XIX., Pt. I., p. 523): “It will be noticed that Colonel Ford claims to have been ordered by Colonel Miles to evacuate the heights. Colonel Miles, however, denied to me ever having given such an order, but said he gave orders that if it became necessary to abandon the heights the guns were to be spiked and dismounted.” See also General White's statements, p. 612.--Editors.

4 Of the expectations of Jackson's men, Lieutenant Robert Healy says, in a letter written in 1886:

“On the evening of the 14th we took position within six hundred yards of a Federal fort on Bolivar Heights. We lay that night in a deep ravine, perpendicular to the Shenandoah. The next morning by dawn I crept up) the hill to see how the land lay. A few strides brought me, to the edge of an abatis which extended solidly for two hundred yards, a narrow bare field being between the abatis and the foot of the fort, which was garnished with thirty guns. They were searching the abatis lazily with grape-shot, which flew uncomfortably near at times. I thought I had never seen a more dangerous trap in my life. The order had been given that we were to charge at sunrise. I went back, and Austin Brocken-brough asked, ‘How is it’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘we'll say our prayers and go in like men.’ ‘Not as bad as that’ ‘Every bit; see for yourself.’ He went up and came back looking very grave. Meanwhile, from the east, north-west, and north-east our cannon opened and were answered by the Federal guns from Bolivar Heights. We were down in a ravine; we could see nothing; we could only hear. Presently, along our line came the words, ‘Prepare to charge!’ We moved steadily up the hill; the sun had just risen; some one said: ‘Colonel, what is that on the fort;’ ‘Halt,’ cried the colonel, ‘they have surrendered.’ A glad shout burst from ten thousands men. We got into the place as soon as we could, but the way was so difficult it took us a half hour.” Editors.

5 See General Cox's statements, p. 647.--Editors.

6 See notes on pp. 565 and 603 as to the strength of the forces on each side.--Editors.

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