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accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take possession of Loudon IIcights, if practicable, by Friday morning; Key's Ford on his left, and the road between the end of ... the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable, cóoperate with Gen. McLaws and Gen. Jackson in intercepting the retreat of the enemy. “Gen. D. H. Hill's division will form the rear guard of the army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve artillery, ordnance and supply trains, &c., will precede Gen. Hill. “Gen. Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Gens. Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and, with the main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army, and bring up all stragglers that may have been left behind. “The commands of Gens. Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Boonsborough or IIagerstown. “Each regiment on the march will habitually carry its axes in the regimental ordnance wagons, for use of the men at their encampments, to procure wood, &c. “By command of Gen. R. E. LEE. “R. H. CHILTON, “Assistant Adjutant-General. “Maj.-Gen. D. H. IIILL, Com’ding Div.”
McClellan had thus, by a rare stroke of good fortune, become possessed of his adversary's designs, when it was too late to change them, and when it could not be known to that adversary, at least until developed by counteracting movements, that he had this knowledge, and was acting upon it. Lee had ventured the hazardous maneuver of dividing his army in a hostile country, and placing a considerable and treacherous, though fordable, river between its parts, while an enemy superior in numbers to the whole of it hung closely upon its rear. Such strategy mist have been dictated by an ineffable contempt either for the capacity of his antagonist or for the most obvious rules of war.
The order above given rendered it
clear not only that Harper's Ferry was Lee's object, and that Jackson's corps and Walker's division were ere this across the Potomac in eager quest of it, but that only McLaws's corps—20,000 men at the utmost— was now between our whole army and the coveted prize. Our corps happened then to be mainly concentrated around Frederick; but Franklin's division—nearly 17,000 strong —was some miles southward, and thus nearer to Harper's Ferry, and in front of McLaws. Had McClellan instantly put his whole army in motion, marching by the left flank on parallel roads leading directly toward the Potomac and the Ferry, and sending orders to Franklin to advance and either force his way to the Ferry or engage whomsoever might attempt to resist him, assured that corps after corps would follow swiftly his advance and second his attacks, McLaws must have been utterly crushed before sunset of the 14th, and Harper's Ferry relieved by midnight at farthest. That, instead of this, McClellan should have advanced his main body on the road tending rather north of west, through Turner's Gap to Boonsborough and Hagerstown, rather than on roads leading to Crampton's Gap and to the Potomac, is unexplained and inexplicable. The “South Mountain’ range of hills, which stretch north-eastwardly from the Potomac across Maryland, are a modified continuation of Virginia's ‘Blue Ridge,’ as the less considerable Catoctin range, near Frederick, are an extension of the ‘Bull Run' range. Between them is the valley of Catoctin creek, some ten miles wide at the Potomac, but narrowing to a point at its head. Several roads cross both ranges; the best being the National Road from Baltimore through Frederick and Middletown (the chief village of the Catoctin Valley), to Hagerstown and Cumberland. Lee, having divided his army in order to swoop down on Harper's Ferry, was compelled by McClellan's quickened and assured pursuit, based on the captured order aforesaid, to fight all our army with half of his own—reversing the strategy usual in this quarter; for, if McClellan's advance were not impeded, Harper's Ferry would be relieved. So, Gen. Pleasanton, leading our cavalry advance on the road to Hagerstown, encountered some resistance" at the crossing of Catoctin creek in Middletown; but, skirmishing occasionally with Stuart's cavalry, pressed on, backed by Cox's division of Burnside's corps, to find the enemy in force before TURNER's GAP of South Mountain, a few miles beyond. This gap is about 400 feet high; the crests on either side rising some 600 feet higher; the old IIagerstown and Sharpsburg roads, half a mile to a mile distant, on either side, rising higher than the National Road, and materially increasing the difficulty of holding the pass against a largely superior force. Lee, in his eagerness to grasp the prize whereon he was intent, and in his confident assurance that McClellan would continue the cautious and hesitating movement of six or seven miles a day by which he had hitherto advanced from Washington, had pushed Longstreet forward on Jackson's track to Hagerstown,” whence
six of his brigades, under Anderson, had been sent to cooperate with McLaws against Maryland Heights and Harper's Ferry. This left only D. II. Hill's division of five brigades to hold Turner's Gap and the adjacent passes, with such help as might be afforded by Stuart's cavalry; Stuart having reported to Hill, on the 13th, that only two brigades were pursuing them. IIe was undeceived, however, when, at 7 A. M. next morning, Cox's division of Burnside's corps advanced up the turnpike from Middletown, preceded by Pleasanton's cavalry and a battery, and opened on that defending the Gap; while by far the larger portion of the Army of the Potomac could be seen, by the aid of a good field-glass, from a favorable position on the mountain, either advancing across the valley or winding down the opposite heights into it. IIill reports his division as but 5,000 strong; and even this small force had been somewhat dispersed in pursuance of the orders of Lee and the erroneous information of Stuart. The brigade of Gen. Garland, which was first pushed forward to meet our advance, was instantly and badly cut up, its commander being killed; when it retired in disorder, and was replaced by that of Anderson, supported by those of Rhodes and Ripley, who held the pass firmly for hours against the most gallant efforts of Cox's Ohio regiments. But, meanwhile, our superior numbers, backed by desperate fighting, enabled us steadily to gain ground on either side, until the crest of the heights on the left of the pass was fairly ours, though one of our batteries had
* Sept. 13.
* Sept. 11.
*Hill, in his official report, says:
“Maj.-Gen. Longstreet came up about 4 o'clock, with the commands of Brig.-Gens.
Evans and D. R. Jones. I had now become familiar with the ground, and knew all the vital
only Reno's division on our side, and Hill's on that of the Rebels, had been engaged. But, at 2 P.M., Hooker's corps came up on our side, and took the old Hagerstown road, leading away from the turnpike on our right, with intent to flank and crush the Rebel left. At 3 P. M., our line of battle was formed, with Ricketts's division on the right; King's, commanded by Hatch, in the center,
with its right resting on the turn
pike, and Reno's on the left; and a general advance commenced, under a heavy fire of artillery. Meantime, Hill had sent pressing messages to Longstreet, at Hagerstown, for help ; and two brigades had already arrived; as Longstreet himself, with seven more brigades, did very soon afterward; raising the Rebel force in action thereafter to some 25,000 or 30,000 men. Longstreet, ranking Hill, of course took command; little to the satisfaction of Hill, who evidently thinks he could have done much better.” The enemy's advantage in position was still very great, every movement on our part being plainly visible to them; while we could know nothing of their positions nor their strength, except from their fire and its effect. Our men were constantly struggling up rocky steeps, mainly wooded, where every wall, or fence, or inequality of ground, favors the combatants who stand on the defensive. The disparity in numbers between those actually engaged was not very great—possibly three to two—but then, our men were inspirited by the points; and, had these troops reported tomo, the result might have been different. As it was, they took wrong positions: and, in their
exhausted condition after a long march, they were broken and scattered."
consciousness that a great army stood behind them. Still, the ground was stubbornly contested, foot by foot; Gen. Hatch, commanding the 1st division, being disabled by a wound, and succeeded by Gen. A. Doubleday. Col. Wainwright, 76th New York, who now took command of Doubleday's brigade, was likewise wounded. But Hooker steadily advanced; and had fairly flanked and worsted the Rebel left, when darkness put an end to the fray. The struggle on our left commenced later, and was signalized by similar gallantry on both sides; but numbers prevailed over desperation, and the Rebels were steadily forced back until the crest of the mountain was won. IIere fell, about sunset, Maj.-Gen. Jesse L. Reno, mortally wounded by a musket-ball, while, at the head of his division, he was watching through a glass the enemy's movements. Gen. Meade, with the Pennsylvania Reserves, had followed IIooker from Catoctin creek up the old Hagerstown road, so far as Mount Tabor church. He went into action on the right of IIatch's division, and was soon heavily engaged; his brigades being admirably handled by Gen. Seymour and Cols. Magilton and Gallagher, the last of whom was wounded. It had not fully reached the summit in its front, when dark
ness arrested the conflict. Gen. Duryea’s brigade of Ricketts's division, which had been ordered to its support, was just then coming into action. Our advance up the turnpike in the center, being contingent on success at either side, was made last, by Gibbon's brigade of IIatch's, and IIartsuff's of Ricketts's division ; the artillery fighting its way up the road, with the infantry supporting on either side. The struggle here was obstinate, and protracted till 9 o'clock, when Gibbon's brigade had nearly reached the top of the pass, and had exhausted every cartridge; suffering, of course, severely. At midnight, it was relieved by Gorman's brigade of Sumner's corps, which, with Williams's, had reached the foot of the mountain a little after dark. Richardson's division had also arrived, and taken position in the rear of Hooker; while Sykes's division of regulars and the artillery reserve had halted for the night at Middletown ; so that McClellan had most of his army in hand, ready to renew the action next morning. But Lee, who was also present, and whose end had been secured by the precious hours here gained for his IIarper's Ferry operations, withdrew his forces during the night; so that, when our skirmishers advanced next morning, they encountered only the dead and the desperately wounded.” and Garland killed. Gen. Hooker alone has over a thousand more prisoners; 700 having been sent to Frederick. It is stated that Lee gives his loss as fifteen thousand. We are following as rapidly as the men can move. “GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, Major-Gen.” McClellan seems here to suppose that he had fought and beaten the main body of the Rebel
* Gen. McClellan sent four successive dispatches to Gen. Halleck concerning this assair; whereof the following is the latest and most erroneous : “HEADQUARTERS ARMY of THE PotoMAC, } “Boliva R Sept. 15–10 A. M. “To H. W. HALLEck, General-in-Chief: “Information this moment received completely confirms the rout and demoralization of the Rebel army. Gen. Lee is reported wounded
army; yet how could he think so with Lee's order of the 9th beforo him?
Maj.-Gen. Franklin, with the 6th corps, composed of his own, Couch's, and Sykes's divisions, forming the left wing of McClellan's army, had advanced cautiously up the north bank of the Potomac, through Tenallytown, Darnestown, and Poolesville —his right passing through Rockville—until McClellan's discovery that Lee had divided his army in order to clutch Harper's Ferry induced a general quickening of movement on our side. Still advancing, he approached, at noon on the 14th, the pass through CRAMPTON's GAP in the South Mountain, just beyond Burkettsville, several miles Southwestward of that at which Burnside, leading our main advance, had, some hours earlier, found his march obstructed by Hill. Before him was Howell Cobb, with two or three brigades of McLaws's division, whereof the larger portion was some miles farther on, operating against Maryland Heights and Harper's Ferry. The Gap afforded good positions for defense; but the disparity of numbers was decisive; and Cobb—who,
*Hill says that Gen. Rhodes, commanding
one of his brigades, estimates his loss at 422 out of 1,200 taken into action. Col. Gayle, 12th
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 prisoners, one gun, and 700 small arms. Could 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 vigor, he was but six miles distant when it surrendered at 8 next morning.
Stonewall Jackson, leaving Frederick on the 10th, had pushed swiftly through Middletown and Boonsborough to Williamsport, where he recrossed the Potomac next day; striking thence at Martinsburg, which was held by Gen. 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 IIarper's Ferry; where he found Col. D. S. Miles, of Bull Run dishonor, in command of some 10,000 men, partly withdrawn from Winchester and other points up the Valley, but in good part composed of green regiments, hastily levied on tidings of the Chickahominy disasters, and officered 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 Alabama, was among his killed; and Col. O'Neal, 24th, and Lt.-Col. Pickens, 12th Alabama, were severely wounded.