Imágenes de páginas

a good supply of provisions and munitions at Martinsburg, did not allow

himself to be detained by them; but, hurrying on, was before Harper's Ferry at 11 A. M. of the 13th. 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 IIarper's Ferry; while Lawton, with Ewell's, and J. R. 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 concentrated 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 Maryland Heights; where they were réenforced" 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

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

* Sept. 5. * Sept. 12.

* Sept. 12.

* Sept. 13. ” Sépt. 14.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

via Burkettsville, 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 rugged mountain road, impracticable for artillery, to the crest of the Elk Mountains, two or three miles northward of Maryland IIeights, with orders to follow along that crest, and so 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 Potomac. 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 order, through dense woods and over very rough ground, until he encountered and worsted Ford’s command on the Heights, as we have seen; while Wright and Anderson took, unopposed, the positions assigned them, and McLaws advanced to Sandy Hook, barring all egress from IIarper's Ferry down the Potomac. The morning of the 14th was spent by McLaws in cutting a road practicable for artillery to the crest of Maryland IIeights, whence fire was opened from 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 likewise from Loudon Heights, and Jackson's batteries were playing from several points, some of them enfilading our batteries on Bolivar Heights; while shots from others reached our helpless and huddled men in their rear. During the night,

Col. Crutchfield, Jackson's chief of artillery, ferried 10 of Ewell's guns across the Shenandoah, and established them where they could take in reverse our best intrenchments on Bolivar Heights; soon compelling their evacuation and our retreat to an inferior position, considerably nearer the Ferry, and of course more exposed to and commanded by McLaws'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 region swarming with enemies, to the mouth of the Antietam, thence striking northward across Maryland, reaching Greencastle, Pa., next morning; 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: saying he was ordered to hold the Ferry to the last extremity. Next morning at daybreak,” the Rebel batteries rêopened from seven commanding points, directing their fire principally at our batteries on Bolivar IIeights. At 7 A. M., Miles stated to Gen. White that a surrender was inevitable, his artillery ammunition being all but exhausted; when the brigade commanders were called together and assented. A white flag was thereupon raised; but the Rebels, not perceiving it, continued their fire some 30 to 40 minutes, whereby Miles was mortally wounded. Jackson was just impelling a general infantry attack, when informed that the

* Sept. 12. * Sept. 14. * Sept. 15.

white flag had been raised on the defenses. 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 quantity 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 IIill, hurried 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 conclusion that Miles, in this affair, acted the part of a traitor. IIe had been ordered, one month before his surrender, to fortify Maryland IIeights; 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 Rebel prisoners, authorizing them to pass out of our lines into those of the enemy; thus giving the Rebel commanders the fullest knowledge of all where with ours should have wished to keep them ignorant. Another Itebel, an officer 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 after the surrender. As to Gen. McClellan, his most glaring fault in the premises would seem to have been his designation” of Col. Miles, after his shameful behavior 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 first 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, McClellan 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 blundered 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 vigorously enough to have seasonably relieved Miles, had that officer evinced loyalty and decent fitness for his position, or had Ford defended Maryland Heights with vigor and tenacity. Halleck's insisting that Harper's Ferry should be held, after he knew that the 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.

*Sept. 16.

* March 29.

[ocr errors]

Gen. McClellan, at 3 A.M. of the 15th, was aware—for he telegraphed to Halleck—that he had been fighting the forces of D. II. Hill and Longstreet; that they had disappeared from his front; and that Franklin had likewise been completely 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 telegraphed 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 information is perfectly reliable—that the enemy is making for the river in a perfect punic; and Gen. Lee last night stated publicly that he must admit they had been shockingly whipped. I am hurrying every thing forward to endeavor to press their retreat to the utmost.” Had even the last sentence of this dispatch been literally true, Lee's destruction was imminent and certain. It was now too late to save Harper'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 Rebels there as possible, while he poured the great body of his army, in overwhelming strength and with the utmost celerity, through Crampton's Gap, crushing McLaws and relieving IIarper'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 entire Rebel army, were ready for any effort, any peril. To press forward with the utmost rapidity, and so relieve IIarper'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 should stand at bay, and rout and shatter it

should it attempt to ford the river; . descried the Rebels posted in force across ANTIETAM CREEK, in front of the little village of SHARPSBURG. Tichardson halted and deployed on the right of the road from Keedysville to Sharpsburg; Sykes, with his division of regulars, following closely after, came up and deployed on the left of that road. Gen. McClellan himself, with three corps in all, came up during the evening. Lee had of course chosen a strong position; but delay could only serve to strengthen it, while giving opportunity for the arrival of Jackson, Walker, and McLaws, from IIarper'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 Tebels; for, though Jackson arrived with his overmarched men that morning, he left A. P. IIill behind at the Ferry, while McLaws, still confronting Franklin in Pleasant Walley, was obliged to cross the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and récross it at Shepherdstown, in order to come up at all; and did not arrive until the morning of the 17th. Walker, clearing Loudon IIeights and crossing the Shenandoah on the 15th, had followed Jackson during the night, and

at the very worst, to interpose between it and the other half, under Jackson and Walker, should it attempt to escape westward by IIagerstown 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 McClellan as it must be to every one else. The advance was again led by Gen. Pleasanton's cavalry, who overtook at Boonsborough the Rebel cavalry rear-guard, charged it with spirit, and routed it, capturing 250 prisoners and 2 guns. Richardson's division, of Sumner's corps, followed; pressing eagerly on that afternoon ;” and, after a march of 10 or 12 miles,

* Sept. 15.

arrived at Shepherdstown early on the morning of the 16th ; crossing and reporting to Lee at Sharpsburg by noon.” Lee, aware that 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 columns advanced to the attack, and the battle began in earnest, his whole army, save A. P. IIill's division, being on hand, the regiments and brigades hitherto so ostentatiously paraded seemed to have sunk into the earth; and nothing but grim and frowning batteries were seen covering each hill-crest and trained on every stretch of open ground whereby our soldiers might attempt to scale those rugged steeps. The struggle was inaugurated on the afternoon of the 16th, by our old familiar maneuver: IIooker, on our right, being directed to flank and beat the enemy's left, backed by Sumner, Franklin, and Mansfield, who were to come into action successively, somewhat nearer the enemy's center. It would have been a serious objection, ten hours before, to this strategy, that it tended, even if successful, to concentrate the enemy, by driving him back on his divisions 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 different
corps, massing them near and on both sides of
the Sharpsburg turnpike. The corps were not

all in their positions until the next morning after
George W. Smalley, correspondent of The
Tribune, writes from the battle-field on the 17th
as follows:
“After the brilliant victory near Middletown,
Gen. McClellan pushed forward his army rapidly,
and reached Keedysville with three corps on
Monday night. On the day following, the two
armies faced each other idly until night.”

« AnteriorContinuar »