G.F. R. Henderson.

Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War online

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Moreover, only a fortnight previously the Federal army had been
heavily defeated.* (* "Are you acquainted with McClellan?" said Lee
to General Walker on September 8, 1862. "He is an able general but a
very cautious one. His enemies among his own people think him too
much so. His army is in a very demoralised and chaotic condition, and
will not be prepared for offensive operations - or he will not think
it so - for three or four weeks." - Battles and Leaders volume 2 pages
605 and 606.)

September 10.

Lee had resolved to woo fortune while she was in the mood. The
movement against Harper's Ferry once determined, it was essential
that it should be carried out with the utmost speed, and Jackson
marched with even more than ordinary haste, but without omitting his
usual precautions. Before starting he asked for a map of the
Pennsylvania frontier, and made many inquiries as to roads and
localities to the north of Frederick, whereas his route lay in the
opposite direction. "The cavalry, which preceded the column," says
Colonel Douglas, "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
kerbstone, and with much laughter waved their flags defiantly in the
face of the general. He bowed, raised his hat, and turning with his
quiet smile to the staff, said, 'We evidently have no friends in this

September 11.

"Having crossed South Mountain at Turner's Gap, the command encamped
for the night within a mile of Boonsboro' (fourteen miles from
Frederick). Here General Jackson must determine whether he would go
to Williamsport or turn towards Shepherdstown. I at once rode into
the village with a cavalryman to make some inquiries, but we ran into
a Federal squadron, who without ceremony 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 the town with
great rapidity. Reaching the top of the hill, we discovered, just
over it, General Jackson, walking slowly towards 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. As I returned
to camp I picked up the gloves which he 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 then forded the Potomac, the troops singing, the
bands playing "Carry me back to ole Virginny!" We marched on

September 12.

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, towards
Harper's Ferry, and thus "corral" all the Federal troops in that
military pen. As the Comte de Paris puts it, he "organised a grand
hunting match through the lower Valley, driving all the Federal
detachments before him and forcing them to crowd into the blind alley
of Harper's Ferry."

"The next morning the Confederates entered Martinsburg. Here the
general was welcomed with 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 are 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, and managed to close
the interview. These blandishments did not delay his movements,
however, for in the afternoon he was off again, and his troops
bivouacked on the banks of the Opequon."* (* Battles and Leaders
volume 2 pages 622 and 623. Major Hotchkiss relates that the ladies
of Martinsburg made such desperate assaults on the mane and tail of
the general's charger that he had at last to post a sentry over the

September 13th.

On the 13th Jackson passed through Halltown and halted a mile north
of that village,* (* On September 10 he marched fourteen miles, on
September 11 twenty, on September 12 sixteen, and on September 13
twelve, arriving at Halltown at 11 A.M.) throwing out pickets to hold
the roads which lead south and west from Harper's Ferry. Meanwhile,
McLaws and Walker had taken possession of the heights to the north
and east, and the intrenched camp of the Federals, which, in addition
to the garrison, now held the troops who had fled from Martinsburg,
was surrounded on every side. The Federal officer in command had left
but one brigade and two batteries to hold the Maryland Heights, the
long ridge, 1000 feet high, on the north shore of the Potomac, which
looks down on the streets of the little town. This detachment,
although strongly posted, and covered by breastworks and abattis, was
driven off by General McLaws; while the Loudoun Heights, a portion of
the Blue Ridge, east of the Shenandoah, and almost equally
commanding, were occupied without opposition by General Walker.
Harper's Ferry was now completely surrounded. Lee's plans had been
admirably laid and precisely executed, and the surrender of the place
was merely a question of hours.

Nor had matters progressed less favourably elsewhere. In exact
accordance with the anticipations of Lee and Jackson, McClellan, up
till noon on the 13th, had received no inkling whatever of the
dangerous manoeuvres which Stuart so effectively concealed, and his
march was very slow. On the 12th, after a brisk skirmish with the
Confederate cavalry, his advanced guard had occupied Frederick, and
discovered that the enemy had marched off in two columns, one towards
Hagerstown, the other towards Harper's Ferry, but he was uncertain
whether Lee intended to recross the Potomac or to move northwards
into Pennsylvania. On the morning of the 13th, although General
Hooker, commanding the First Army Corps, took the liberty of
reporting that, in his opinion, "the rebels had no more intention of
going to Pennsylvania than they had of going to heaven," the Federal
Commander-in-Chief was still undecided, and on the Boonsboro' road
only his cavalry was pushed forward. In four days McClellan had
marched no more than five-and-twenty miles; he had been unable to
open communication with Harper's Ferry, and he had moved with even
more than his usual caution. But at noon on the 13th he was suddenly
put into possession of the most ample information. A copy of Lee's
order for the investment of Harper's Ferry, in which the exact
position of each separate division of the Confederate army was laid
down, was picked up in the streets of Frederick, and chance had
presented McClellan with an opportunity unique in history.* (*
General Longstreet, in his From Manassas to Appomattox, declares that
the lost order was sent by General Jackson to General D.H. Hill, "but
was not delivered. The order," he adds, "that was sent to General
Hill from general headquarters was carefully preserved." General
Hill, however, in Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 570 (note), says:
"It was proper that I should receive that order through Jackson, and
not through me. I have now before me (1888) the order received from
Jackson. My adjutant-general swore affidavit, twenty years ago, that
no order was received at our office from General Lee." Jackson was so
careful that no one should learn the contents of the order that the
copy he furnished to Hill was written by his own hand. The copy found
by the Federals was wrapped round three cigars, and was signed by
Lee's adjutant-general.) He was within twenty miles of Harper's
Ferry. The Confederates were more than that distance apart. The
intrenched camp still held out, for the sound of McLaws' battle on
the Maryland Heights was distinctly heard during the afternoon, and a
resolute advance would have either compelled the Confederates to
raise the siege, or have placed the Federal army between their widely
separated wings.

But, happily for the South, McClellan was not the man for the
opportunity. He still hesitated, and during the afternoon of the 13th
only one division was pushed forward. In front of him was the South
Mountain, the name given to the continuation of the Blue Ridge north
of the Potomac, and the two passes, Turner's and Crampton's Gaps,
were held by Stuart. No Confederate infantry, as Lee's order
indicated, with the exception, perhaps, of a rear-guard, were nearer
the passes than the Maryland Heights and Boonsboro'.* (* For the lost
order, see Note at end of chapter.) The roads were good and the
weather fine, and a night march of twelve miles would have placed the
Federal advanced guards at the foot of the mountains, ready to force
the Gaps at earliest dawn. McClellan, however, although his men had
made no unusual exertions during the past few days, preferred to wait
till daylight.

Nevertheless, on the night of the 13th disaster threatened the
Confederates. Harper's Ferry had not yet fallen, and, in addition to
the cavalry, D.H. Hill's division was alone available to defend the
passes. Lee, however, still relying on McClellan's irresolution,
determined to hold South Mountain, thus gaining time for the
reduction of Harper's Ferry, and Longstreet was ordered back from
Hagerstown, thirteen miles west of Boonsboro', to Hill's assistance.

September 14.

On the same night Jackson, at Halltown, opened communications with
McLaws and Walker, and on the next morning (Sunday) he made the
necessary arrangements to ensure combination in the attack. The
Federal lines, although commanded by the Maryland and Loudoun Heights
to the north and east, opposed a strong front to the south and west.
The Bolivar Heights, an open plateau, a mile and a quarter in length,
which has the Potomac on the one flank and the Shenandoah on the
other, was defended by several batteries and partially intrenched.
Moreover, it was so far from the summits occupied by McLaws and
Walker that their guns, although directed against the enemy's rear,
could hardly render effective aid; only the extremities of the
plateau were thoroughly exposed to fire from the heights.

In order to facilitate communication across the two great rivers
Jackson ordered a series of signal stations to be established, and
while his own batteries were taking up their ground to assail the
Bolivar Heights he issued his instructions to his colleagues. At ten
o'clock the flags on the Loudoun Heights signalled that Walker had
six rifled guns in position. He was ordered to wait until McLaws, who
was employed in cutting roads through the woods, should have done the
same, and the following message explained the method of attack: -

"General McLaws, - If you can, establish batteries to drive the enemy
from the hill west of Bolivar and on which Barbour's House is, and
from any other position where he may be damaged by your artillery.
Let me know when you are ready to open your batteries, and give me
any suggestions by which you can operate against the enemy. Cut the
telegraph line down the Potomac if it is not already done. Keep a
good look-out against a Federal advance from below. Similar
instructions will be sent to General Walker. 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.


"Major-General Commanding."* (* Report of Signal Officer, O.R. volume
19 part 1 page 958.)

About half-past two in the afternoon McLaws reported that his guns
were up, and a message "to fire at such positions of the enemy as
will be most effective," followed the formal orders for the
co-operation of the whole force.

"Headquarters, Valley District,

"September 14, 1862.

"1. To-day Major-General McLaws will attack so as to sweep with his
artillery the ground occupied by the enemy, take his batteries in
reverse, and otherwise operate against him as circumstances may

"2. Brigadier-General Walker will take in reverse the battery on the
turnpike, and sweep with his artillery the ground occupied by the
enemy, and silence the batteries on the island of the Shenandoah
should he find a battery (sic) there.

"3. Major-General A.P. Hill will move along the left bank of the
Shenandoah, and thus turn the enemy's left flank and enter Harper's

"4. Brigadier-General Lawton will move along the turnpike for the
purpose of supporting General Hill, and otherwise operating against
the enemy to the left of General Hill.

"5. Brigadier-General Jones will, with one of his brigades and a
battery of artillery, make a demonstration against the enemy's right;
the remaining part of his division will constitute the reserve and
move along the turnpike.

"By order of Major-General Jackson,


"Acting Assistant Adjutant-General"* (* Report of Signal Officer,
O.R. volume 19 part 1 page 659.)

Jackson, it appears, was at first inclined to send a flag of truce,
for the purpose of giving the civilian population time to get away,
should the garrison refuse to surrender; but during the morning heavy
firing was heard to the northward, and McLaws reported that he had
been obliged to detach troops to guard his rear against McClellan.
The batteries were therefore ordered to open fire on the Federal
works without further delay.

According to General Walker, Jackson, although he was aware that
McClellan had occupied Frederick, not over twenty miles distant,
could not bring himself to believe that his old classmate had
overcome his prudential instincts, and attributed the sounds of
battle to a cavalry engagement. It is certain that he never for a
single moment anticipated a resolute attempt to force the passages of
the South Mountain, for, in reply to McLaws, he merely instructed him
to ask General P. H. Hill to protect his rear, and to communicate
with Lee at Hagerstown. Had he entertained the slightest suspicion
that McClellan was advancing with his whole force against the
passages of the South Mountain, he would hardly have suggested that
Hill would be asked to defend Crampton's as well as Turner's Gap.


With full confidence, therefore, that he would have time to enforce
the surrender of Harper's Ferry and to join Lee on the further bank
of the Potomac, the progress of his attack was cautious and
methodical. "The position in front of me," he wrote to McLaws, "is a
strong one, and I desire to remain quiet, and let you and Walker draw
attention from Furnace Hill (west of Bolivar Heights), so that I may
have an opportunity of getting possession of the hill without much
loss." It was not, then, till the artillery had been long in action,
and the fire of the enemy's guns had been in some degree subdued,
that the infantry was permitted to advance. Although the Federal
batteries opened vigorously on the lines of skirmishers, the
casualties were exceedingly few. The troops found cover in woods and
broken ground, and before nightfall Hill had driven in the enemy's
pickets, and had secured a knoll on their left flank which afforded
an admirable position for artillery. Lawton, in the centre, occupied
a ridge over which ran the Charlestown turnpike, brought his guns
into action, and formed his regiments for battle in the woods. Jones'
division held the Shepherdstown road on Lawton's left, seized Furnace
Hill, and pushed two batteries forward.

No attempt was made during this Sunday evening to storm the Bolivar
Heights; and yet, although the Confederate infantry had been hardly
engaged, the enemy had been terribly shaken. From every point of the
compass, from the lofty crests which looked down upon the town, from
the woods towards Charlestown, from the hill to westward, a ceaseless
hail of shells had swept the narrow neck to which the garrison was
confined. Several guns had been dismounted. More than one regiment of
raw troops had dispersed in panic, and had been with difficulty
rallied. The roads were furrowed with iron splinters. Many buildings
had been demolished, and although the losses among the infantry,
covered by their parapets, had been insignificant, the batteries had
come almost to their last round.

During the night Jackson made preparations for an early assault. Two
of A.P. Hill's brigades, working their way along the bank of the
Shenandoah, over ground which the Federal commander had considered
impassable, established themselves to the left rear of the Bolivar
Heights. Guns were brought up to the knoll which Hill had seized
during the afternoon; and ten pieces, which Jackson had ordered to be
taken across the Shenandoah by Keyes' Ford, were placed in a position
whence they could enfilade the enemy's works at effective range.
Lawton and Jones pushed forward their lines until they could hear
voices in the intrenchments; and a girdle of bayonets, closely
supported by many batteries, encircled the hapless Federals. The
assault was to be preceded by a heavy bombardment, and the advance
was to be made as soon as Hill's guns ceased fire.

September 15.

All night long the Confederates slept upon their arms, waiting for
the dawn. When day broke, a soft silver mist, rising from the broad
Potomac, threw its protecting folds over Harper's Ferry. But the
Southern gunners knew the direction of their targets; the clouds were
rent by the passage of screaming shells, and as the sun, rising over
the Loudoun Heights, dispersed the vapour, the whole of Jackson's
artillery became engaged. The Federal batteries, worked with stubborn
courage, and showing a bold front to every fresh opponent, maintained
the contest for an hour; but, even if ammunition had not failed them,
they could not have long withstood the terrible fire which took them
in front, in flank, and in reverse.* (* The ten guns which had been
carried across the Shenandoah were specially effective. Report of
Colonel Crutchfield, Jackson's chief of artillery. O.R. volume 19
part 1 page 962.) Then, perceiving that the enemy's guns were
silenced, Hill ordered his batteries to cease fire, and threw forward
his brigades against the ridge. Staunch to the last, the Federal
artillerymen ran their pieces forward, and opened on the Confederate
infantry. Once more the long line of Jackson's guns crashed out in
answer, and two batteries, galloping up to within four hundred yards
of the ridge, poured in a destructive fire over the heads of their
own troops. Hill's brigades, when the artillery duel recommenced, had
halted at the foot of the slope. Beyond, over the bare fields, the
way was obstructed by felled timber, the lopped branches of which
were closely interlaced, and above the abattis rose the line of
breastworks. But before the charge was sounded the Confederate
gunners completed the work they had so well begun. At 7.30 A.M. the
white flag was hoisted, and with the loss of no more than 100 men
Jackson had captured Harper's Ferry with his artillery alone.

The general was near the church in the wood on the Charlestown road,
and Colonel Douglas was sent forward to ascertain the enemy's
purpose. "Near the top of the hill," he writes, "I met General White
(commanding the Federals), and told him my mission. Just then General
Hill came up from the direction of his line, and on 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 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 afterwards gave Lee at Appomattox. The fruits of the
surrender were 12,520 prisoners, 13,000 small arms, 73 pieces of
artillery, and several hundred waggons.

"General Jackson, after 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.""* (* Battles and Leaders volume 2 pages
625 to 627.)

The completeness of the victory was marred by the escape of the
Federal cavalry. Under cover of the night 1200 horsemen, crossing the
pontoon bridge, and passing swiftly up the towpath under the Maryland
Heights, had ridden boldly beneath the muzzles of McLaws' batteries,
and, moving north-west, had struck out for Pennsylvania. Yet the
capture of Harper's Ferry was a notable exploit, although Jackson
seems to have looked upon it as a mere matter of course.

"Through God's blessing," he reported to Lee at eight o'clock,
"Harper's Ferry and its garrison are to be surrendered. As Hill's
troops have borne the heaviest part of the engagement, he will be
left in command until the prisoners and public property shall be
disposed of, unless you direct otherwise. The other forces can move
off this evening so soon as they get their rations. To what point
shall they move? I write at this time in order that you may be
apprised of the condition of things. You may expect to hear from me
again to-day, after I get more information respecting the number of
prisoners, etc."* (* O.R. volume 19 part 1 page 951. General
Longstreet (From Manassas to Appomattox page 233) suggests that
Jackson, after the capitulation of Harper's Ferry, should have moved
east of South Mountain against McClellan's rear. Jackson, however,
was acquainted neither with McClellan's position nor with Lee's
intentions, and nothing could have justified such a movement except
the direct order of the Commander-in-Chief.)

Lee, with D.H. Hill, Longstreet, and Stuart, was already falling back
from the South Mountain to Sharpsburg, a little village on the right
bank of the Antietam Creek; and late in the afternoon Jackson,
Walker, and McLaws were ordered to rejoin without delay.* (* The
Invasion of Maryland, General Longstreet, Battles and Leaders volume
2 page 666.) September 14 had been an anxious day for the Confederate
Commander-in-Chief. During the morning D.H. Hill, with no more than
5000 men in his command, had seen the greater part of McClellan's
army deploy for action in the wide valley below and to the eastward
of Turner's Gap. Stuart held the woods below Crampton's Gap, six
miles south, with Robertson's brigade, now commanded by the gallant
Munford; and on the heights above McLaws had posted three brigades,
for against this important pass, the shortest route by which the
Federals could interpose between Lee and Jackson, McClellan's left
wing, consisting of 20,000 men under General Franklin, was steadily

The positions at both Turner's and Crampton's Gaps were very strong.
The passes, at their highest points, are at least 600 feet above the
valley, and the slopes steep, rugged, and thickly wooded. The enemy's
artillery had little chance. Stone walls, running parallel to the
crest, gave much protection to the Southern infantry, and loose
boulders and rocky scarps increased the difficulties of the ascent.
But the numbers available for defence were very small; and had
McClellan marched during the night he would probably have been master
of the passes before midday. As it was, Crampton's Gap was not
attacked by Franklin until noon; and although at the same hour the
advanced guard of the Federal right wing had gained much ground, it
was not till four in the evening that a general attack was made on
Turner's Gap. By this time Longstreet, after a march of thirteen

Online LibraryG.F. R. HendersonStonewall Jackson and the American Civil War → online text (page 59 of 85)