« PreviousContinue »
MCCLELLAN'S FORTUNATE FINDING.
and Gen. Heintzelman in charge of the brought it to a conclusion as speedily forces on the Virginia side. The right as was possible. At this date, there wing consisted of the first and ninth was at Harper's Ferry, a garrison of corps, under Burnside; the centre, of about 9,000 men, under Col. D. H. the second and twelfth corps, under Miles; there were also some raw troops Sumner; and the left wing, of the sixth and a body of about 2,000 cavalry corps, urder Franklin; the entire force doing outpost duty, under Gen. White being a little over 87,000. The advance at Winchester and Martinsburg, which was made by five parallel roads, and came into Harper's Ferry on the 3d the columns were so disposed as to of September, thus making 1862 cover both Washington and Baltimore. the entire force some 13,000 in The object of McClellan in this arrange- number. Jackson was ordered, on the ment was, as he states, "to feel the 18th of September, to cross the Potoenemy; to compel him to develop his mac above, and invest Harper's Ferry intentions; to attack him should he in the rear. Two other divisions, under hold the line of the Monocacy; or to McLaws and Walker, were, the one to follow him into Pennsylvania if neces seize Maryland Heights, the other to sary." The van of our army entered cross the river and take possession of Frederick, on the 12th of September, Loudon Heights; both were to coafter some severe skirmishing with the operate with Jackson. Longstreet was enemy's cavalry, and found that the at the same time ordered, with Hill's main body of Lee's troops had left the division as a rear guard, to move totown two days before, in the direction ward Hagerstown, where they were to of Harper's Ferry. be joined by the forces sent against Harper's Ferry, after the latter had ac complished the objects of their expedi tion. The place was to be taken by the morning of the 13th of September, and the troops were to rejoin Lee immediately, and move borough or Hagerstown.
Some time previous to this, McClellan had advised the evacuation of Harper's Ferry, as a point of no importance to hold, now that Lee had crossed the Potomac, and as being exposed, with its garrison, to imminent danger of capture. But Halleck, the general-in-chief, rejected McClellan's sug gestions. Lee, however, who had supposed that, of course, there would be no attempt made to hold the place, now found it necessary to delay, for a few lays, the carrying forward of his ulterior designs, until he should have taken Harper's Ferry, and opened his mmunication with Richmond by way of the Shenandoah Valley. The work was committed to Jackson, who
By a most opportune accident, Mc Clellan found, on a table at Frederick, on the day of his arrival, a copy of Lee's official order, addressed to D. H. Hill, which directed the several movements above noted. This important document revealed to McClellan Lee's whole plan of operations, and what he intended and expected to accomplish. Heretofore McClellan had moved very slowly, for the reasons given on a
previous page, so slowly indeed that gave up the heights to McLaws, retir Lee calculated upon being able to cap- ing to Harper's Ferry; and by the ture Harper's Ferry, with its valuable morning of the 14th, the investment stores, and to get his troops together was complete. The artillery was placed again before he should be overtaken or in position during the day on Bolivar interfered with by the Union general. and Loudon Heights, and at dawn, on Being possessed of knowledge so im- the 15th of September, the combined portant at this juncture, McClellan attack began. In two hours the conacted with vigor and promptitude. He test was settled. Miles raised the ordered a rapid movement towards white flag, and Harper's Ferry surrenHarper's Ferry, so as to save it, if possi- dered. It deserves to be noted, howble, and, to Lee's surprise, he manifest-ever, that all the cavalry, numbering ed a purpose of immediately forcing the some 2,000, under command of Col. passes of South Mountain, which, if Davis, cut their way out on Saturday accomplished, would enable him to re- evening, the 13th, going by the road to lieve Harper's Ferry and also strike Sharpsburg, and capturing, on their Lee's divided columns, with fatal effect. march, Longstreet's train and over 500 Lee, therefore, at once ordered Hill's prisoners. Miles was killed by a shell, division back from Boonsborough to after the white flag was raised; our guard the passes, and sent Longstreet loss besides, in killed and wounded, from Hagerstown to Hill's support. was about 200.* Immediately after As things were now situate, McClel- the surrender, Jackson hurried off to lan expected to be able to carry out his rejoin Lee, and by an active night plan of relieving Harper's Ferry, and march, he reached Sharpsburg on the by cutting the enemy in two, to beat morning of the 16th of September. him in detail; and had Miles at the Ferry, and Ford on Maryland Heights, displayed a fair share of soldierly intelligence and vigor, he might readily have succeeded. In consequence, however, of the feeble defence under Miles, and the hasty abandonment of the Heights, which, with astonishing fatuity, had not been fortified so as to resist the enemy, McClellan's proposed relief came too late. It is hardly needful to go into details of the capture of Harper's Ferry. Jackson was in position and ready to storm the place by noon on the 13th of September; but he waited for McLaws and Walker to act in concert. On this same day, Ford
McClellan, as we have before stated, was pushing forward to overtake Lee His line of advance across South Moun tain was, for the right and centre, under Burnside, by Turner's Gap, and for the left, under Franklin, by Crampton's Gap, six miles to the southward. The
president, was appointed to inquire into this surrender. After fully reviewing the circumstances, the commission decided that the defence of Maryland Heights
* A military commission, of which Gen. Hunter was
was conducted by Col. Ford "without ability," and
that he was unfit to hold any command in the army In respect to Miles, the commission were "unanimous
upon the fact that his incapacity, amounting to almost
imbecility, led to the shameful surrender of this impor tant post." Col. Ford and Major Baird were cashiered. The commission also censured McClellan for not having relieved Harper's Ferry; respecting which, see McClellan's official report and defence.
TURNER'S GAP AND CRAMPTON PASS.
South Mountain range, near Turner's Pass, is about 1,000 feet in height, and forms a strong natural military barrier. The practicable passes are not numerous, and are readily defensible, the gaps abounding in fine positions. Turner's Pass is the more prominent, being that by which the national road crosses the mountains. Crampton's Pass also was important to be secured, in order to furnish the means of reaching the flank of the enemy.
Early on the morning of the 14th of September, Gen. Pleasanton, with a cavalry force, reconnoitred the position of the enemy, whom he discovered to occupy the crest of commanding hills in the gap on either side of the national road, and upon advantageous ground in the centre, upon, and near the road, with artillery bearing upon all the approaches to their position. About eight o'clock, a portion of Burnside's command moved up the mountain to the left of the main road, dividing as they advanced into two columns. They carried handsomely the rebel position on the crest in their front, and gained possession of an important point for further operations. The enemy gathered in force, but our men being supported by other troops, fully maintained the ground which they had won. Gen. Reno was among the killed.
the eminence to the right of this entrance to the gap, which was executed with spirit and success. Ricketts's division pressed up the mountain about five o'clock, and Gibbon's brigade late in the afternoon, forced the rebels back, and some hours after dark, remained in undisturbed possession of the field.
Our loss in this engagement was severe, being 328 killed and 1,463 wounded and missing; the rebel loss was estimated to be above 3,000, of which 1,500 were prisoners.
Crampton's Pass, meanwhile, the carrying of which had been committed to Gen. Franklin, was vigorously and decisively attacked. The enemy were driven from their position at the base of the mountain, and forced back up the mountain until they reached their battery near the road. Here they made a stand; but our troops pressed forward, and after an action of three hours the crest was gained and the enemy retreated hastily down the other side of the mountain. Four hundred prisoners were taken, and several hundred of the rebels were killed and wounded. Franklin's loss was 115 killed, and 416 wounded. During the night, Lee abandoned the position at Turner's Gap, and our right and centre, on the morning of the 25th of September, passed through to the west About three o'clock P.M., Hooker's side of the mountain. McClellan or corps moved up to the right of the dered an immediate pursuit of the remain road by a country road, which, treating enemy, which was prosecuted, bending to the right, then turning up to however, only for a few miles, when it to the left, circuitously wound its way was discovered that Lee had resolved beyond the crest of the pass to the to make a stand at Antietam Creek. mountain house, on the main road. McClellan had hoped to have a fight on Meade was sent by Hooker to attack the 15th, and drive Lee's army into the
river; but on arriving at the front and examining the position, he found it to be too late to attack that day. Orders were given for every preparation to be completed, and the corps to be in their places on both sides of Sharpsburg turnpike at the earliest moment.
Lee's position was carefully and judiciously selected. His flanks were protected by the Potomac, which here makes a sharp curve, and his front was covered by Antietam Creek. The rebel line was drawn in front of Sharpsburg, Longstreet being on the right and D. H. Hill on the left. Hood's two brigades were posted on the left to protect the road running northwardly across the Potomac to Hagerstown. Jackson held the reserve near the left. The ground chosen was well adapted for defence, and batteries were posted on the heights at various points. It was evidently a matter of necessity for Lee to check McClellan's advance, and on this battle depended the answer to the question, whether he should be in a position to carry out his ulterior designs, or abandon the attempt altogether.
and terrible struggle, hour after hour, through the day. Mansfield came to Hooker's support, and lost his life on the field. Sedgwick's, Richardson's and French's divisions of Sumner's corps took their full share in the battle, and by the efficient aid of the artillery held their ground. Burnside, who was posted opposite the rebel right, was ordered to force the passage across Antietam Creek; but, although this was of the first importance to be done promptly and thoroughly, Burnside lost several hours in the effort, and thereby enabled Lee to press severely upon Sumner's corps on his left, and arrest our men in their onward course to victory. It was one o'clock before a passage was effected, and two hours passed before the attack on the crest was made. About three o'clock this was accomplished, and the rebel battery on the Sharpsburg ridge was captured. Just then A. P. Hill, with the portion of troops under his com mand, arrived from Harper's Ferry by way of Shepherdstown. Reinforcing Jones on the field with over 2,000 fresh troops, the offensive was resumed, and Burnside was compelled to retire to the cover of the hill bordering on Antietam Creek. As darkness was fast approaching the battle was now brought to a close for the day, both sides being thoroughly wearied, after having spent some fourteen hours in this bloody struggle.* A this bloody struggle. Thus, as McClellan affirms in his report, "the Army
The morning of the 16th of September was occupied by McClellan in care fully examining the ground, posting his troops, batteries, etc., and perfecting all the arrangements for immediate attack. Hooker was sent across Antietam Creek, near Keedysville, and ordered to turn the enemy's left. A sharp contest ensued; but it was too late in the day to effect any advantage. At daylight, September 17th, Hook er renewed the combat, Jackson's force holding the rebel left. It was a fierce
* The numbers engaged in this battle have been
variously estimated. McClellan makes Lee's force not much short of 100,000, and his own about 90,000. aggregate of 70,000, against 130,000 under McClellar.
cession writers say that Lee fought the battle with an