Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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— ^his right passing through Eock-
ville — ^until McClellan's discovery
that Lee had divided his army in
order to clutch Harper's Ferry in-
duced a general quickening of move-
ment on our side. Still advancing,
he approached, at noon on the 14th,
the pass through Ceailptoh's Gap in
the South Mountain, just beyond
Burkettsville, several miles south-
westward of that at which Bumside,
leading our main advance, had, some
hours earlier, found his march ob-
structed by Hill. Before him was
Howell Cobb, with two or three brig-
ades of McLaws's division, whereof
the larger portion was some miles
farther on, operating against Mary-
land Heights and Harper's Ferry.
The Gap afforded good positfons for
defense ; but the disparity of num-
bers 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 prison-
ers, one gim, and 700 small arms.
Coidd 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 vig-
or, he was but six miles distant when
it surrendered at 8 next morning.



Stonewall Jackson, leaving Fred-
erick on the 10th, had pushea swiftly
through Middletown and Boonsbo-
rough to Williamsport, where he ro-
crossed the Potomac next day ; strik-
ing thence at Martinsburg, wliich
was held by Glen. 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 com-
mand of some 10,000 mfo, partly
withdrawn from Winchester- and
other points up the Valley, but in
good part composed of green r^-
ments, hastily levied on tidings of
the Chickahominy disasters, and offi-
cered 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



'Hill says that Gen. Rhodes, commanding
one of his brigades, estimates his loss at 422
out of 1,200 taken into action. Ckd. Gajle, 12th



Alabama, was among his killed; and OoL
O'Neal, 24th, and Lt-Ool Pickens, 12th Ala-
bama, were severely wounded.



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THE AMERICAN CONFLICT.



a good supply of provisions and muni-
tions at Martinsburg, did not allow
himself to be detained by them ; but,
hurrying on, was before Harper's Fer-
ry at 11 A. M. of the 18th. 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. B. 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 concentra-
ted his force on one of the adjacent
heights, and here held out, until time
had been afforded for his relief.
Miles did neither. He posted " the
32d Ohio, CoL T. H. Ford, on Mary-
land Heights ; where they were reen-
forced" 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 constructing" a slight



breastwork of trees near the crest,
with an abatis in its front ; where Mc^
Laws's advance appeared and com-
menqed skirmisning the Qame day.



\



WLkmrxM'% rxBBT.



An attack in force was made, early
next morning,'* and was repulsed;
but was followed at 9 o'clock by an-
other and more determined, when —
Col. E. Sherrill, 126th New York,
being severely wounded — his regi-
ment broke and fled in utter rout,
and the remaining regiments soon
followed the example, alleging an
order to retreat from Maj. Hewitt,
w^ho 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 tlieir
breastwork; and of course left the
enemy in a commanding position.
At 2 o'clock next morning," Ford,
without being further assailed, aban-
doned the Heights, so far as we still
retained them, spiking his guns : 4 of
which, at a later hour in the morn-
ing, were brought off by four com-
panies, under Maj. Wood, who went
over on a reconnoissance and encoun-
tered no opposition.

McLaws, with his own and Ander-
son's divisions, leaving Frederick on
the 10th, had entered PleasantV alley.



" Sept 6.



> Sept. 12.



"• Sept. 12.



> Sept. 13.



" Sept. 14.



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ICILES SURBEKDEES HABPBR'S PERRY.



201



via Burkettsrille, on the 11th ; and,
perceiving at once that Maryland
Heights was the key of the position,
had sent" Kershaw, with his own
and Barksdale's brigades, up a rug-
ged mountain road, impracticable
for artillery, to the crest of the Elk
Mountains, two or three miles north-
ward of Maryland Heights, with or-
ders to follow along that crest, and
80 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 Poto-
mac. 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 or-
der, through dense woods and over
very rough ground, until he encoun-
tered and worsted Ford's conmaand on
the Heights, as we have seen ; while
Wright and Anderson took, unop-
posed, the positions assigned them,
and McLaws advanced to Sandy
Hook, barring all egress from Har-
per's Ferry down the Potomac.

The morning of the lith was spent
by McLaws in cutting a road practi-
cable for artillery to the crest of
Maryland Heights, whence fire was
opened fit>m 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 like-
wise from Loudon Heights, and
Jackson's batteries were playing
from several points, some of tiiem
enfilading our batteries on Bolivar
Heights; while shots from others
readied our helpless and huddled
men in their rear. During the night,



Col. Crutchfield, Jackson's chief of
artillery, ferried 10 of EweU's guns
across tiie Shenandoah, and estab-
lished them where they could take
in reverse our best intrenchments on
BoUvar Heights; soon compelling
their evacuation and our retreat to an
inferior position, considerably nearer
the Ferry, and of course moi*e ex-
posed to and commanded by Mo-
Laws's guns on Maryland Heights.

At 9 p. M.," 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 re-
gion swarming with enemies, to the
mouth of the Antietam, thence stri-
king northward across Maryland,
reaching Greencastle, Pa., next morn-
ing ; 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 : say-
ing he was ordered to hold the Ferry
to the last extremity.

Next morning at daybreak,'* 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 artiUery ammu-
nition being all but exhausted ; when
the brigade commanders were called
together and assented. A white flag
was thereupon raised ; but the Eebels,
not perceiving it, continued their
fire some 80 to 40 minutes, whereby
Miles was mortally wounded. Jack-
son was just impelling a general in-
fantry attack, when informed that the



* Sept 12.



' Sept. 14.



'Sept. 16.



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THE AMERICAN CONFLICT.



wliite flag had been raised on the de-
fenses. 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 quan-
tity 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, hur-
ried off the mass of his followers to
rejoin Gen. Lee; and, by marching
day and night, reached the Antietam
next morning."

It is impossible to resist the con*
elusion 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 Eebel
prisoners, authorizing them to pass
out of our lines into those of the
enemy ; thus giving the Rebel com-
manders the fullest knowledge of all
wherewith ours should have wished
to keep them ignorant. Another
Rebel, an oflScer 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 afrer the sur-
render.

As to Gen. McClellan, his most
glaring fault in the premises would
seem to have been his designation"
of Col. Miles, after his shameful be-
havior 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 Washington 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 fij^t 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, McClel-
lan 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 blun-
dered 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 vig-
orously enough to have seasonably
relieved Miles, had that officer
evinced loyalty and decent fitne^
for his position, or had Ford defend-
ed Maryland Heights with vigor and
tenacity.

Halleck's insisting that Harper's
Ferry should be held, afl;er he knew



'Sept 16.



"March 29.



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MoCLBLLAIS: ADVANCES TO THE AKTIETAK.



203



that £he 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
16th, was aware — ^for he telegraphed
to Halleck — that he had been fight-
ing the forces of D. H. Hill and
Longstreet; that they had disap-
peared from his front; and that
Franklin had likewise been com-
pletely 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 tele-
graphed 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 infor-
mation is perfectly reliable — that the enemy
is making for the river in a perfect panic ;
and Gen. Lee last night stated pablioly that
he mnst admit they had been shockingly
whipped. I am hurrying every thiog for-
ward to endeavor to press their retreat to
the ntmost.^'

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

It was now too late to save Har-
per'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 Eebek there as
possible, while he poured the great
body of his army, in overwhelming
strength and with the utmost celer-
ity, through Crampton's Gap, crush-
ing 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 en-
tire Rebel army, were ready for any
effort, any peril. To press forward
with the utmost rapidity, and so re-
lieve 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 diould
stand at bay, and rout and shatter it
shoidd it attempt to ford the river ;
at the very worst, to interpose be-
tween it and the other half, under
Jackson and Walker, should it at-
tempt to escape westward by Hagers-
town 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 Mc-
CleUan as it must be to every one
else.

The advance was again led by
Gen. Pleasanton's cavalry, who over-
took at'Boonsborough the Rebel cav-
alry rear-guard, charged it with spirit,
and routed it, capturing 250 prison-
ers and 2 guns. Richardson's divi-
sion, of Sumner's corps, followed;
pressing eagerly on that afternoon ; "
and, after a march of 10 or 12 miles.



• Sept. 15.



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S04



THE AMEBIOAN GONFLIOT.



descried the Bebels posted in force
across Aihtetak Cbeek, in front of
the little village of Shabpsbubo.
Kichardson halted and deployed on
the right of the road from Keedys-
ville to Sharpsburg ; Sykes, with his
division of r^ulars, following closely
after, came np and deployed on the
left of that road. Gen. McClellan
himself, with three corps in all, came
np during the evening.

Lee had of conrse chosen a strong
position ; but delay could only serve
to strengthen it, while giving oppor-
tunity 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,** he might before noon have
hurled 60,000 gallant troops against
not more than half their number of
Bebels; for, though Jackson arrived
with his overmarched men that morn-
ing, he left A. P. Hill behind at
the Ferry, while McLaws, still con-
fronting Franklin in Pleasant Val-
ley, 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, clear-
ing Loudon Heights and crossing the
Shenandoah on the 15th, had fol-
lowed Jackson during the night, and



arrived at Shepherdstown early on
the morning of the 16th ; crossing
and reporting to Lee at Sharpsburg
by noon."

Lee, aware tiiat 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 col-
umns advanced to the attack, and the
battle began in earnest, his whole
army, save A. P. Hill's division, be*
ing on hand, the regiments and brig-
ades hitherto so ostentatiously para-
ded seemed to have sunk into the
earth; and nothing but grim and
frowning batteries were seen cover-
ing each hill-crest and trained on
every stretch of open groimd where-
by our soldiers might attempt to
scale those rugged steeps.

The struggle was inaugurated on
the afternoon of the'Wth, by our old
faminar maneuver: Hooker, on our
right, being directed to flank and
beat the enemy's left, backed by
Sumner, Franldin, and Mansfield,
who were to come into action suc-
cessively, somewhat nearer the ene-
my's center. It would have been
a serious objection, ten hours before,
to this strategy, that it tended, even
if successful, to concentrate the ene-
my, by driving him back on his divi-
sions arriving or expected from Har-



•* Sept 16.

** McClellan, in his report, says :

"It had been hoped to engage the enemy
during the 15th;" but, "after a rapid examina-
tion of the position, I found that it was too late
to attack that day, and at once directed the plac-
ing of the batteries in position in the center,
and indicated the bivouacs for the diflbrent
oorps* massing them near and on both sides of
the Sharpsburg turnpike. The corps we're not



all in their positions until the next morning after
sunrise."

George W. Smalley, correspondent of Tfm
JHbunAf writes from the battle-Held on the 17th
as follows:

"After the brilliant victory near Middletown,
Gen. McClellan pushed forward his army ri4)id1y,
and reached Keedysville with three corps OQ
Monday night On the day following, the two
armies faced each other idly until night**



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HOOKER ADTANOES AT ANTIBTAM.



205




per's Ferry, rather than to mterpoee
between him and them.

Hooker moved at. 4 p. h.; and,
making a long detonr, croesed the
Antietam ont of sight and range
of ike Bebel batteriecu Turning at
fength sharply to the left, he came
to an open field, with woods in front
and on either side, whei|ce onr skir-
miahers 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 ;
Eicketts's division on the left ; Meade,
with the Pennsylvania Beserves, in
the center; while Doubleday, on the
right, planting his guns on a hill,
opened at once on a Eebel battery
that had begun to enfilade our cen-



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206



THE AMERICAN CONFLICT.



ter. 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 morning," 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 infan-
try ; while a battery was pushed for-
ward 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 re-
placed byLawton's and Trimble's brig-
ades of Ewell's division, under Law-
ton, with Jackson's own division, un-
der 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 Law-
ton, was ordered by Jackson to re-
place Jackson's own division, which
had sufiered so severely and was
so nearly out of ammunition that
it had to be temporarily withdrawn
from the combat. By this time,
Kicketts and Meade had pushed
the Eebel 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 re-
freshed, 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. Hook-
er 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, form-
ing on the crest of the ridge, under a
hurricane of shot and shell, and fir-
ing steadily and rapidly at the Rebel
masses just before them. They held
their position half an hour, unsup-
ported, though many fell; among
them their leader, Hartsufi^, wounded
severely ; until for a second time the
enemy was driven out of the corn-
field into the woods.

Meantime, both sides were strength-
ening this wing. Ricketts's division,
having attempted to advance and
failed, had fallen back. Part of
Mansfield's corps had gone in to tlieir
aid, and been driven back likewise,
with their General mortally wound-
ed. 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 coidd hold
his ground. Hooker, with Craw-
ford's and Gordon's fresh brigades of



• Sept 17.



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THE FIGHT ON OUB BIGHT AND CENTEB.



20T



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, Hook-
jer satisfied himself as to the nature
of the ground, returned and re-
mounted amid a shower of Rebel
bullets, which he had all the morning
disregarded ; but the next moment a
musket-ball went through his foot, in-
flicting a severe and intensely pain-
fill wound; which compelled him,
after giving his orders fully and de-
liberately, to leave the field at 9 a. m.
Sumner, arriving at this monaent,
assumed command, sending forward
Sedgwick's division of his own corps
to support Crawford and Gordon;
whQe Richardson and French, with
his two remaining divisions, went for-
ward 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 firom 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 fi*om
their as yet unassailed right. Again
Hood's brigade was withdrawn from
the front, while the fresh forces un-
der 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 84th



Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 28 of 113)