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Stonewall Jackson And The American Civil War by G. F. R. Henderson

Part 13 out of 19

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would no longer display the cool confidence of Gaines' Mill or even
of Malvern Hill. The places of the brave and seasoned soldiers who
had fallen would be filled by recruits; and generals who had been
out-manoeuvred on so many battle-fields might fairly be expected,
when confronted once more with their dreaded opponents, to commit
even more egregious errors than those into which they had already

September 2.

Such were the ideas entertained by Lee and accepted by the President,
and on the morning of September 2, as soon as it was found that the
Federals had sought shelter under the forts of Alexandria, Jackson
was instructed to cross the Potomac, and form the advanced guard of
the army of invasion. It may be imagined with what feelings he issued
his orders for the march on Leesburg, above which lay an easy ford.
For more than twelve months, since the very morrow of Bull Run, he
had persistently advocated an aggressive policy.* (* In Mrs.
Jackson's Memoirs of her husband a letter is quoted from her
brother-in-law, giving the substance of a conversation with General
Jackson on the conduct of the war. This letter I have not felt
justified in quoting. In the first place, it lacks corroboration; in
the second place, it contains a very incomplete statement of a large
strategical question; in the third place, the opinions put in
Jackson's mouth are not only contradictory, but altogether at
variance with his practice; and lastly, it attributes certain ideas
to the general--raising "the black flag." etc.--which his
confidential aid officers declare that he never for a moment
entertained.) The fierce battles round Richmond and Manassas he had
looked upon as merely the prelude to more resolute efforts. After he
had defeated Banks at Winchester he had urged his friend Colonel
Boteler to inform the authorities that, if they would reinforce him,
he would undertake to capture Washington. The message had been
conveyed to Lee. "Tell General Jackson," was the reply of the
Commander-in-Chief, "that he must first help me to drive these people
away from Richmond." This object had been now thoroughly
accomplished, and General Lee's decision to redeem his promise was by
none more heartily approved than by the leader of the Valley army.
And yet, though the risks of the venture were small, the prospects of
complete success were dubious. The opportunity had come, but the
means of seizing it were feeble. Lee himself was buoyed up by no
certain expectation of great results. In advocating invasion he
confessed to the President that his troops were hardly fit for
service beyond the frontier. "The army," he wrote, "is not properly
equipped for an invasion of the enemy's territory. It lacks much of
the material of war, is feeble in transportation, the animals being
much reduced, and the men are poorly provided with clothes. And in
thousands of instances are destitute of shoes...What concerns me most
is the fear of getting out of ammunition."* (* O.R. volume 19 part 2
pages 590, 591.)

This description was by no means over-coloured. As a record of
military activity the campaign of the spring and summer of 1862 has
few parallels. Jackson's division, since the evacuation of Winchester
at the end of February, that is, in six months, had taken part in no
less than eight battles and innumerable minor engagements; it had
marched nearly a thousand miles, and it had long ago discarded tents.
The remainder of the army had been hardly less severely tasked. The
demands of the outpost service in front of Richmond had been almost
as trying as the forced marches in the Valley, and the climate of the
Peninsula had told heavily on the troops. From the very first the
army had been indifferently equipped; the ill effects of hasty
organisation were still glaring; the regimental officers had not yet
learned to study the wants and comfort of their men; the troops were
harassed by the ignorance of a staff that was still half-trained, and
the commissariat officials were not abreast of their important
duties. More than all, the operations against Pope, just brought to a
successful issue, had been most arduous; and the strain on the
endurance of the troops, not yet recovered from their exertions in
the Peninsula, had been so great that a period of repose seemed
absolutely necessary. It was not only that battle and sickness had
thinned the ranks, but that those whose health had been proof against
continued hardships, and whose strength and spirit were still equal
to further efforts, were so badly shod that a few long marches over
indifferent roads were certain to be more productive of casualties
than a pitched battle. The want of boots had already been severely
felt.* (* "1000 pairs of shoes were obtained in Fredericktown, 250
pairs in Williamsport, and about 400 pairs in this city (Hagerstown).
They will not be sufficient to cover the bare feet of the army." Lee
to Davis, September 12, 1862. O.R. volume 19 part 2 page 605.) It has
been said that the route of the Confederate army from the
Rappahannock to Chantilly might have been traced by the stains of
bloody feet along the highways; and if the statement is more graphic
than exact, yet it does not fall far short of the truth. Many a stout
soldier, who had hobbled along on his bare feet until Pope was
encountered and defeated, found himself utterly incapable of marching
into Maryland. In rear of the army the roads were covered with
stragglers. Squads of infantry, banding together for protection,
toiled along painfully by easy stages, unable to keep pace with the
colours, but hoping to be up in time for the next fight; and amongst
these were not a few officers. But this was not the worst. Lax
discipline and the absence of soldierly habits asserted themselves
with the same pernicious effect as in the Valley. Not all the
stragglers had their faces turned towards the enemy, not all were
incapacitated by physical suffering. Many, without going through the
formality of asking leave, were making for their homes, and had no
idea that their conduct was in any way peculiar. They had done their
duty in more than one battle, they had been long absent from their
farms, their equipment was worn out, the enemy had been driven from
Virginia, and they considered that they were fully entitled to some
short repose. And amongst these, whose only fault was an imperfect
sense of their military obligations, was the residue of cowards and
malingerers shed by every great army engaged in protracted operations.

Lee had been joined by the divisions of D.H. Hill, McLaws, Walker,
and by Hampton's cavalry, and the strength of his force should have
been 65,000 effectives.* (* Calculated on the basis of the Field
Returns dated July 20, 1862, with the addition of Jackson's and
Ewell's divisions, and subtracting the losses (10,000) of the
campaign against Pope.) But it was evident that these numbers could
not be long maintained. The men were already accustomed to
half-rations of green corn, and they would be no worse off in
Maryland and Pennsylvania, untouched as yet by the ravages of war,
than in the wasted fields of Virginia. The most ample commissariat,
however, would not compensate for the want of boots and the want of
rest, and a campaign of invasion was certain to entail an amount of
hard marching to which the strength of the troops was hardly equal.
Not only had the South to provide from her seven millions of white
population an army larger than that of Imperial France, but from a
nation of agriculturists she had to provide another army of craftsmen
and mechanics to enable the soldiers to keep the field. For guns and
gun-carriages, powder and ammunition, clothing and harness, gunboats
and torpedoes, locomotives and railway plant, she was now dependent
on the hands of her own people and the resources of her own soil; the
organisation of those resources, scattered over a vast extent of
territory, was not to be accomplished in the course of a few months,
nor was the supply of skilled labour sufficient to fill the ranks of
her industrial army. By the autumn of 1862, although the strenuous
efforts of every Government department gave the lie to the idea, not
uncommon in the North, that the Southern character was shiftless and
the Southern intellect slow, so little real progress had been made
that if the troops had not been supplied from other sources they
could hardly have marched at all. The captures made in the Valley, in
the Peninsula, and in the Second Manassas campaign proved of
inestimable value. Old muskets were exchanged for new, smooth-bore
cannon for rifled guns, tattered blankets for good overcoats. "Mr.
Commissary Banks," his successor Pope, and McClellan himself, had
furnished their enemies with the material of war, with tents,
medicines, ambulances, and ammunition waggons. Even the vehicles at
Confederate headquarters bore on their tilts the initials U.S.A.;
many of Lee's soldiers were partially clothed in Federal uniforms,
and the bad quality of the boots supplied by the Northern contractors
was a very general subject of complaint in the Southern ranks. Nor
while the men were fighting were the women idle. The output of the
Government factories was supplemented by private enterprise.
Thousands of spinning-wheels, long silent in dusty lumber-rooms,
hummed busily in mansion and in farm; matrons and maids, from the
wife and daughters of the Commander-in-Chief to the mother of the
drummer-boy, became weavers and seamstresses; and in every household
of the Confederacy, although many of the necessities of life--salt,
coffee and sugar--had become expensive luxuries, the needs of the
army came before all else.

But notwithstanding the energy of the Government and the patriotism
of the women, the troops lacked everything but spirit. Nor, even with
more ample resources, could their wants have been readily supplied.
In any case this would have involved a long halt in a secure
position, and in a few weeks the Federal strength would be increased
by fresh levies, and the morale of their defeated troops restored.
But even had time been given the Government would have been powerless
to render substantial aid. Contingents of recruits were being drilled
into discipline at Richmond; yet they hardly exceeded 20,000 muskets;
and it was not on the Virginia frontier alone that the South was hard
pressed. The Valley of the Mississippi was beset by great armies;
Alabama was threatened, and Western Tennessee was strongly occupied;
it was already difficult to find a safe passage across the river for
the supplies furnished by the prairies of Texas and Louisiana, and
communication with Arkansas had become uncertain. If the Mississippi
were lost, not only would three of the most fertile States, as
prolific of hardy soldiers as of fat oxen, be cut off from the
remainder, but the enemy, using the river as a base, would push his
operations into the very heart of the Confederacy. To regain
possession of the great waterway seemed of more vital importance than
the defence of the Potomac or the secession of Maryland, and now that
Richmond had been relieved, the whole energy of the Government was
expended on the operations in Kentucky and Tennessee. It may well be
questioned whether a vigorous endeavour, supported by all the means
available, and even by troops drawn from the West, to defeat the Army
of the Potomac and to capture Washington, would not have been a more
efficacious means to the same end; but Davis and his Cabinet
consistently preferred dispersion to concentration, and, indeed, the
situation of the South was such as might well have disturbed the
strongest brains. The sea-power of the Union was telling with deadly
effect. Although the most important strategic points on the
Mississippi were still held by Confederate garrisons, nearly every
mile of the great river, from Cairo to New Orleans, was patrolled by
the Federal gunboats; and in deep water, from the ports of the
Atlantic to the roadsteads of the Gulf, the frigates maintained their
vigilant blockade.

Even on the northern border there was hardly a gleam of light across
the sky. The Federal forces were still formidable in numbers, and a
portion of the Army of the Potomac had not been involved in Pope's
defeat. It was possible, therefore, that more skilful generalship
than had yet been displayed by the Northern commanders might deprive
the Confederates of all chance of winning a decisive victory. Yet,
although the opportunity of meeting the enemy with a prospect of
success might never offer, an inroad into Northern territory promised
good results.

1. Maryland, still strong in sympathy with the South, might be
induced by the presence of a Southern army to rise against the Union.

2. The Federal army would be drawn off westward from its present
position; and so long as it was detained on the northern frontier of
Virginia nothing could be attempted against Richmond, while time
would be secured for improving the defences of the Confederate

3. The Shenandoah Valley would be most effectively protected, and its
produce transported without risk of interruption both to Lee's army
and to Richmond.

To obtain such advantages as these was worth an effort, and Lee,
after careful consideration, determined to cross the Potomac. The
movement was made with the same speed which had characterised the
operations against Pope. It was of the utmost importance that the
passage of the river should be accomplished before the enemy had time
to discover the design and to bar the way. Stuart's cavalry formed
the screen. On the morning after the battle of Chantilly, Fitzhugh
Lee's brigade followed the retreating Federals in the direction of
Alexandria. Hampton's brigade was pushed forward to Dranesville by
way of Hunter's Mill. Robertson's brigade made a strong demonstration
towards Washington, and Munford, with the 2nd Virginia, cleared out a
Federal detachment which occupied Leesburg. Behind the cavalry the
army marched unmolested and unobserved.1

September 6.

D.H. Hill's division was pushed forward as advanced guard; Jackson's
troops, who had been granted a day's rest, brought up the rear, and
on the morning of the 6th reached White's Ford on the Potomac.
Through the silver reaches of the great river the long columns of men
and waggons, preceded by Fitzhugh Lee's brigade, splashed and
stumbled, and passing through the groves of oaks which overhung the
water, wound steadily northward over the green fields of Maryland.

(1 The Army of Northern Virginia was thus organised during the
Maryland campaign:--

Longstreet's McLaws' Division = 35,600
R.H. Anderson's Division
D.R. Jones' Division
J.G. Walker's Division
Evans' Brigade
Washington Artillery
S.D. Lee's Artillery battalion

Jackson's Ewell's (Lawton) Division = 16,800
The Light (A.P. Hill) Division
Jackson's own (J.R. Jones) Division

D.H. Hill's Division = 7,000

Pendleton's Reserve Artillery, 4 battalions = 1,000

Stuart Hampton's Brigade = 4,000
Fitzhugh Lee's Brigade
Robertson's Brigade
3 H.A. Batteries, Captain Pelham

Total 64,400

No allowance has been made for straggling. It is doubtful if more
than 55,000 men entered Maryland.)

September 7.

The next day Frederick was occupied by Jackson, who was once more in
advance; the cavalry at Urbanna watched the roads to Washington, and
every city in the North was roused by the tidings that the grey
jackets had crossed the border. But although the army had entered
Maryland without the slightest difficulty, the troops were not
received with the enthusiasm they had anticipated. The women, indeed,
emulating their Virginia sisters, gave a warm welcome to the heroes
of so many victories. But the men, whether terrorised by the stern
rule of the Federal Government, or mistrusting the power of the
Confederates to secure them from further punishment, showed little
disposition to join the ranks. It is possible that the appearance of
the Southern soldiery was not without effect. Lee's troops, after
five months' hard marching and hard fighting, were no delectable
objects. With torn and brimless hats, strands of rope for belts, and
raw-hide moccasins of their own manufacture in lieu of boots; covered
with vermin, and carrying their whole kit in Federal haversacks, the
ragged scarecrows who swarmed through the streets of Frederick
presented a pitiful contrast to the trim battalions which had
hitherto held the Potomac. Their conduct indeed was exemplary. They
had been warned that pillage and depredations would be severely dealt
with, and all requisitions, even of fence-rails, were paid for on the
spot. Still recruits were few. The warworn aspect and indifferent
equipment of the "dirty darlings," as more than one fair Marylander
spoke of Jackson's finest soldiers, failed to inspire confidence, and
it was soon evident that the western counties of Maryland had small
sympathy with the South.

There were certainly exceptions to the general absence of cordiality.
The troops fared well during their sojourn in Frederick. Supplies
were plentiful; food and clothing were gratuitously distributed, and
Jackson was presented with a fine but unbroken charger. The gift was
timely, for "Little Sorrel," the companion of so many marches, was
lost for some days after the passage of the Potomac; but the
Confederacy was near paying a heavy price for the "good grey mare."
When Jackson first mounted her a band struck up close by, and as she
reared the girth broke, throwing her rider to the ground.
Fortunately, though stunned and severely bruised, the general was
only temporarily disabled, and, if he appeared but little in public
during his stay in Frederick, his inaccessibility was not due to
broken bones. "Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson, and for a time Jeb
Stuart," writes a staff officer, "had their headquarters near one
another in Best's Grove. Hither in crowds came the good people of
Frederick, especially the ladies, as to a fair. General Jackson,
still suffering from his hurt, kept to his tent, busying himself with
maps and official papers, and declined to see visitors. Once,
however, when he had been called to General Lee's tent, two young
girls waylaid him, paralysed him with smiles and questions, and then
jumped into their carriage and drove off rapidly, leaving him there,
cap in hand, bowing, blushing, speechless. But once safe in his tent,
he was seen no more that day."* (* "Stonewall Jackson in Maryland."
Colonel H.K. Douglas. Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 621.) The
next evening (Sunday) he went with his staff to service in the town,
and slept soundly, as he admitted to his wife, through the sermon of
a minister of the German Reformed Church.* (* "The minister," says
Colonel Douglas, "was credited with much loyalty and courage, because
he had prayed for the President of the United States in the very
presence of Stonewall Jackson. Well, the general didn't hear the
prayer, and if he had he would doubtless have felt like replying as
General Ewell did, when asked at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, if he would
permit the usual prayer for President Lincoln--'Certainly; I'm sure
he needs it'")

But it was not for long that the Confederates were permitted to
repose in Frederick. The enemy had made no further reply to the
passage of the Potomac beyond concentrating to the west of
Washington. McClellan, who had superseded Pope, was powerless, owing
to the inefficiency of his cavalry, to penetrate the cordon of
Stuart's pickets, and to ascertain, even approximately, the
dispositions of the invading force. He was still in doubt if the
whole or only part of Lee's army had crossed into Maryland; and
whether his adversary intended to attack Washington by the left bank
of the Potomac, to move on Baltimore, or to invade Pennsylvania, were
questions which he had no means of determining. This uncertainty
compelled him to move cautiously, and on September 9 his advanced
guard was still twenty miles east of Frederick.

Nevertheless, the situation of the Confederates had become suddenly
complicated. When the march into Maryland was begun, three towns in
the Valley were held by the Federals. 3000 infantry and artillery
occupied Winchester. 3000 cavalry were at Martinsburg; and Harper's
Ferry, in process of conversion into an intrenched camp, had a
garrison of 8000 men. Lee was well aware of the presence of these
forces when he resolved to cross the Potomac, but he believed that
immediately his advance threatened to separate them from the main
army, and to leave them isolated, they would be ordered to insure
their safety by a timely retreat. Had it depended upon McClellan this
would have been done. Halleck, however, thought otherwise; and the
officer commanding at Harper's Ferry was ordered to hold his works
until McClellan should open communication with him.

On arrival at Frederick, therefore, the Confederates, contrary to
anticipation, found 14,000 Federals still established in their rear,
and although Winchester had been evacuated,* (* On the night of
September 2. Lee's Report, O.R. volume 19 part 1 page 139.) it was
clear that Harper's Ferry was to be defended. The existence of the
intrenched camp was a serious obstacle to the full development of
Lee's designs. His line of communication had hitherto run from
Rapidan Station to Manassas Junction, and thence by Leesburg and
Point of Rocks to Frederick. This line was within easy reach of
Washington, and liable to be cut at any moment by the enemy's
cavalry. Arrangements had therefore been already made to transfer the
line to the Valley. There, sheltered by the Blue Ridge, the convoys
of sick and wounded, of arms, clothing, and ammunition, could move in
security from Staunton to Shepherdstown, and the recruits which were
accumulating at Richmond be sent to join the army in Northern
territory. But so long as Harper's Ferry was strongly garrisoned this
new line would be liable to constant disturbance, and it was
necessary that the post should either be masked by a superior force,
or carried by a coup de main. The first of these alternatives was at
once rejected, for the Confederate numbers were too small to permit
any permanent detachment of a considerable force, and without
hesitation Lee determined to adopt the bolder course. 25,000 men, he
considered, would be no more than sufficient to effect his object.
But 25,000 men were practically half the army, and the plan, when
laid before the generals, was not accepted without remonstrance.
Longstreet, indeed, went so far as to refuse command of the
detachment. "I objected," he writes, "and urged that our troops were
worn with marching and were on short rations, and that it would be a
bad idea to divide our forces while we were in the enemy's country,
where he could get information, in six or eight hours, of any
movement we might make. The Federal army, though beaten at the Second
Manassas, was not disorganised, and it would certainly come out to
look for us, and we should guard against being caught in such a
condition. Our army consisted of a superior quality of soldiers, but
it was in no condition to divide in the enemy's country. I urged that
we should keep it in hand, recruit our strength, and get up supplies,
and then we could do anything we pleased. General Lee made no reply
to this, and I supposed the Harper's Ferry scheme was abandoned."* (*
Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 662.)

Jackson, too, would have preferred to fight McClellan first, and
consider the question of communicating afterwards;* (* Dabney volume
2 page 302.) but he accepted with alacrity the duty which his
colleague had declined. His own divisions, reinforced by those of
McLaws, R. H. Anderson,* (* Anderson was placed under McLaws'
command.) and Walker, were detailed for the expedition; Harper's
Ferry was to be invested on three sides, and the march was to begin
at daybreak on September 10. Meanwhile, the remainder of the army was
to move north-west to Hagerstown, five-and-twenty miles from
Frederick, where it would alarm Lincoln for the safety of
Pennsylvania, and be protected from McClellan by the parallel ranges
of the Catoctin and South Mountains.

Undoubtedly, in ordinary circumstances, General Longstreet would have
been fully justified in protesting against the dispersion of the army
in the presence of the enemy. Hagerstown and Harper's Ferry are
five-and-twenty miles apart, and the Potomac was between them.
McClellan's advanced guard, on the other hand, was thirty miles from
Harper's Ferry, and forty-five from Hagerstown. The Federals were
advancing, slowly and cautiously it is true, but still pushing
westward, and it was certainly possible, should they receive early
intelligence of the Confederate movements, that before Harper's Ferry
fell a rapid march might enable them to interpose between Lee and
Jackson. But both Lee and Jackson calculated the chances with a surer
grasp of the several factors. Had the general in command of the
Federal army been bold and enterprising, had the Federal cavalry been
more efficient, or Stuart less skilful, they would certainly have
hesitated before running the risk of defeat in detail. But so long as
McClellan controlled the movements of the enemy, rapid and decisive
action was not to be apprehended; and it was exceedingly improbable
that the scanty and unreliable information which he might obtain from
civilian sources would induce him to throw off his customary caution.
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
miles, had reached the battle-field;* and despite the determination
with which the attack was pressed, Turner's Gap was still held when
darkness fell. (* The order for the march had been given the night
before (The Invasion of Maryland, General Longstreet, Battles and
Leaders volume 2 page 666), and there seems to have been no good
reason, even admitting the heat and dust, that Longstreet's command
should not have joined him at noon. The troops marched "at daylight"
(5 A.M.), and took ten hours to march thirteen miles. As it was, only
four of the brigades took part in the action, and did so, owing to
their late arrival, in very disjointed fashion. Not all the
Confederate generals appear to have possessed the same "driving
power" as Jackson.)

The defence of Crampton's Gap had been less successful. Franklin had
forced the pass before five o'clock, and driving McLaws' three
brigades before him, had firmly established himself astride the
summit. The Confederate losses were larger than those which they had
inflicted. McClellan reports 1791 casualties on the right, Franklin
533 on the left. McLaws' and Munford's loss was over 800, of whom 400
were captured. The number of killed and wounded in Hill's and
Longstreet's commands is unknown; it probably reached a total of
1500, and 1100 of their men were marched to Frederick as prisoners.
Thus the day's fighting had cost the South 3400 men. Moreover,
Longstreet's ammunition column, together with an escort of 600 men,
had been cut up by the cavalry which had escaped from Harper's Ferry,
and which had struck the Hagerstown road as it marched northward into
Pennsylvania. Yet, on the whole, Lee had no reason to be chagrined
with the result of his operations. McClellan had acted with
unexpected vigour. But neither in strategy nor in tactics had he
displayed improvement on his Peninsular methods. He should have
thrown the bulk of his army against Crampton's Gap, thus intervening
between Lee and Jackson; but instead of doing so he had directed
70,000 men against Turner's Gap. Nor had the attack on Hill and
Longstreet been characterised by resolution. The advanced guard was
left unsupported until 2 P.M., and not more than 30,000 men were
employed throughout the day. Against this number 8000 Confederates
had held the pass. Cobb, one of McLaws' brigadiers, who commanded the
defence at Crampton's Gap, though driven down the mountain, had
offered a stout resistance to superior forces; and twenty-four hours
had been gained for Jackson. On the other hand, in face of superior
numbers, the position at Turner's Gap had become untenable; and
during the night Hill and Longstreet marched to Sharpsburg.

September 15.

This enforced retreat was not without effect on the morale of either
army. McClellan was as exultant as he was credulous. "I have just
learned," he reported to Halleck at 8 A.M. on the 15th, "from General
Hooker, in advance, that the enemy is making for Shepherdstown in a
perfect panic; and that General Lee last night stated publicly that
he must admit they had been shockingly whipped. I am hurrying forward
to endeavour to press their retreat to the utmost." Then, two hours
later: "Information this moment received completely confirms the rout
and demoralisation of the rebel army. It is stated that Lee gives his
losses as 15,000. We are following as rapidly as the men can move."*
(* O.R. volume 19 pages 294, 295.) Nor can it be doubted that
McClellan's whole army, unaccustomed to see their antagonists give
ground before them, shared the general's mood.* (* "The morale of our
men is now restored." McClellan to Halleck after South Mountain. O.R.
volume 19 part 2 page 294.) Amongst the Confederates, on the other
hand, there was some depression. It could not be disguised that a
portion of the troops had shown symptoms of demoralisation. The
retreat to the Antietam, although effectively screened by Fitzhugh
Lee's brigade of cavalry, was not effected in the best of order. Many
of the regiments had been broken by the hard fighting on the
mountain; men had become lost in the forest, or had sought safety to
the rear; and the number of stragglers was very large. It was not,
then, with its usual confidence that the army moved into position on
the ridge above the Antietam Creek. General Longstreet, indeed, was
of opinion that the army should have recrossed the Potomac at once.
"The moral effect of our move into Maryland had been lost by our
discomfiture at South Mountain, and it was evident we could not hope
to concentrate in time to do more than make a respectable retreat,
whereas by retiring before the battle [of Sharpsburg] we could have
claimed a very successful campaign."* (* Battles and Leaders volume 2
pages 666, 667.) So spake the voice of prudence. Lee, however, so
soon as he was informed of the fall of Harper's Ferry, had ordered
Jackson to join him, resolving to hold his ground, and to bring
McClellan to a decisive battle on the north bank of the Potomac.

Although 45,000 men--for Lee at most could count on no more than this
number, so great had been the straggling--were about to receive the
attack of over 90,000, Jackson, when he reached Sharpsburg on the
morning of the 16th, heartily approved the Commander-in-Chief's
decision, and it is worth while to consider the reasons which led
them to disagree with Longstreet.

1. Under ordinary conditions, to expect an army of 45,000 to wrest
decisive victory from one of 90,000 well-armed enemies would be to
demand an impossibility. The defence, when two armies are equally
matched, is physically stronger than the attack, although we have
Napoleon's word for it that the defence has the harder task. But that
the inherent strength of the defence is so great as to enable the
smaller force to annihilate its enemy is contrary to all the teaching
of history. By making good use of favourable ground, or by
constructing substantial works, the smaller force may indeed stave
off defeat and gain time. But it can hope for nothing more. The
records of warfare contain no instance, when two armies were of much
the same quality, of the smaller army bringing the campaign to a
decisive issue by defensive tactics. Wellington and Lee both fought
many defensive battles with inferior forces. But neither of them,
under such conditions, ever achieved the destruction of their enemy.
They fought such battles to gain time, and their hopes soared no
higher. At Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onor, where the French were
superior to the allies, Wellington repulsed the attack, but he did
not prevent the defeated armies taking the field again in a few days.
At the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, the North Anna, and Cold Harbour,
the great battles of 1864, Lee maintained his ground, but he did not
prevent Grant moving round his flank in the direction of Richmond. At
the Second Manassas, Jackson stood fast for the greater part of two
days, but he would never have driven Pope across Bull Run without the
aid of Longstreet. Porter at Gaines' Mill held 55,000 men with 35,000
for more than seven hours, but even if he had maintained his
position, the Confederate army would not have become a mob of
fugitives. No; except on peculiarly favourable ground, or when
defending an intrenched camp, an army matched with one of equal
efficiency and numerically superior, can never hope for decisive
success. So circumstanced, a wise general will rather retreat than
fight, and thus save his men for a more favourable opportunity.* (*
Before Salamanca, for instance, because Marmont, whose strength was
equal to his own, was about to be reinforced by 4000 cavalry,
Wellington had determined to retreat. It is true, however, that when
weaker than Massena, whom he had already worsted, by 8000 infantry
and 3800 sabres, but somewhat stronger in artillery, he stood to
receive attack at Fuentes d'Onor. Yet Napier declares that it was a
very audacious resolution. The knowledge and experience of the great
historian told him that to pit 32,000 Infantry against 40,000 was to
trust too much to fortune.)

But Lee and Jackson had not to deal with ordinary conditions.
Whatever may have been the case in the Peninsula and in the Valley,
there can be no question but that the armies in Maryland were by no
means equal in quality. The Federals were far more accustomed to
retreat than advance. For several months, whether they were engaged
on the Shenandoah, on the Chickahominy, on the Rappahannock, or on
Bull Run, they had been invariably outmanoeuvered. Their losses had
been exceedingly severe, not only in battle, but from sickness and
straggling. Many of their bravest officers and men had fallen. With
the exception of the Second and Sixth Army Corps, commanded by Sumner
and by Franklin, by far the greater part of the troops had been
involved in Pope's defeat, and they had not that trust in their
leaders which promises a strong offensive. While at Washington the
army had been reinforced by twenty-four regiments of infantry, but
the majority of these troops had been but lately raised; they knew
little of drill; they were commanded by officers as ignorant as
themselves, and they had never fired a musket. Nor were the generals
equal in capacity to those opposing them. "If a student of history,"
says a Northern officer, "familiar with the characters who figured in
the War of Secession, but happening to be ignorant of the battle of
Antietam, should be told the names of the men who held high commands
there, he would say that with anything like equality of forces the
Confederates must have won, for their leaders were men who made great
names in the war, while the Federal leaders were, with few
exceptions, men who never became conspicuous, or became conspicuous
only through failure."* (* The Antietam and Fredericksburg. General
Palfrey page 53.) And the difference in military capacity extended to
the rank and file. When the two armies met on the Antietam, events
had been such as to confer a marked superiority on the Southerners.
They were the children of victory, and every man in the army had
participated in the successes of Lee and Jackson. They had much
experience of battle. They were supremely confident in their own
prowess, for the fall of Harper's Ferry had made more than amends for
the retreat from South Mountain, and they were supremely confident in
their leaders. No new regiments weakened the stability of their
array. Every brigade and every regiment could be depended on. The
artillery, which had been but lately reorganised in battalions, had,
under the fostering care of General Pendleton, become peculiarly
efficient, although the materiel was still indifferent; and against
Stuart's horsemen the Federal cavalry was practically useless.

In every military attribute, then, the Army of Northern Virginia was
so superior to the Army of the Potomac that Lee and Jackson believed
that they might fight a defensive battle, outnumbered as they were,
with the hope of annihilating their enemy. They were not especially
favoured by the ground, and time and means for intrenching were both
wanting; but they were assured that not only were their veterans
capable of holding the position, but, if favoured by fortune, of
delivering a counterstroke which should shiver the Army of the
Potomac into a thousand fragments.

2. By retreating across the Potomac, in accordance with General
Longstreet's suggestion, Lee would certainly have avoided all chances
of disaster. But, at the same time, he would have abandoned a good
hope of ending the war. The enemy would have been fully justified in
assuming that the retrograde movement had been made under the
compulsion of his advance, and the balance of morale have been
sensibly affected in favour of the Federals. If the Potomac had once
been placed between the opposing forces, McClellan would have had it
in his power to postpone an encounter until his army was strongly
reinforced, his raw regiments trained, and his troops rested. The
passage of the river, it is true, had been successfully forced by the
Confederates on September 5. But it by no means followed that it
could be forced for the second time in face of a concentrated enemy,
who would have had time to recover his morale and supply his losses.
McClellan, so long as the Confederates remained in Maryland, had
evidently made up his mind to attack. But if Maryland was evacuated
he would probably content himself with holding the line of the
Potomac; and, in view of the relative strength of the two armies, it
would be an extraordinary stroke of fortune which should lay him open
to assault. Lee and Jackson were firmly convinced that it was the
wiser policy to give the enemy no time to reorganise and recruit, but
to coerce him to battle before he had recovered from the defeat which
he had sustained on the heights above Bull Run. To recross the
Potomac would be to slight the favours of fortune, to abandon the
initiative, and to submit, in face of the vast numbers of fresh
troops which the North was already raising, to a defensive warfare, a
warfare which might protract the struggle, but which must end in the
exhaustion of the Confederacy. McClellan's own words are the
strongest justification of the views held by the Southern leaders:--

"The Army of the Potomac was thoroughly exhausted and depleted by the
desperate fighting and severe marching in the unhealthy regions of
the Chickahominy and afterwards, during the second Bull Run campaign;
its trains, administrative services and supplies were disorganised or
lacking in consequence of the rapidity and manner of its removal from
the Peninsula, as well as from the nature of its operations during
the second Bull Run campaign.

"Had General Lee remained in front of Washington (south of the
Potomac) it would have been the part of wisdom to hold our own army
quiet until its pressing wants were fully supplied, its organisation
was restored, and its ranks were filled with recruits--in brief,
until it was prepared for a campaign. But as the enemy maintained the
offensive, and crossed the Upper Potomac to threaten or invade
Pennsylvania, it became necessary to meet him at any cost,
notwithstanding the condition of the troops, to put a stop to the
invasion, to save Baltimore and Washington, and throw him back across
the Potomac. Nothing but sheer necessity justified the advance of the
Army of the Potomac to South Mountain and Antietam in its then
condition. The purpose of advancing from Washington was simply to
meet the necessities of the moment by frustrating Lee's invasion of
the Northern States, and when that was accomplished, to push with the
utmost rapidity the work of reorganisation and supply, so that a new
campaign might be promptly inaugurated with the army in condition to
prosecute it to a successful termination without intermission."* (*
Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 554.)

And in his official report, showing what the result of a Confederate
success might well have been, he says: "One battle lost and almost
all would have been lost. Lee's army might have marched as it pleased
on Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York. It could have
levied its supplies from a fertile and undevastated country, extorted
tribute from wealthy and populous cities, and nowhere east of the
Alleghanies was there another organised force to avert its march."*
(* O.R. volume 19 part 1 page 65.)

3. The situation in the West was such that even a victory in Maryland
was exceedingly desirable. Confederate movements in Tennessee and
Kentucky had won a measure of success which bade fair to open up a
brilliant opportunity. Should the Federals be defeated in both the
theatres of war, the blow would be felt throughout the length and
breadth of the Northern States; and, in any case, it was of the
utmost importance that all McClellan's troops should be retained in
the East.

So, when the tidings came of Jackson's victory at Harper's Ferry,
both armies braced themselves for the coming battle, the Confederates
in the hope that it would be decisive of the war, the Federals that
it would save the capital. But the Confederates had still a most
critical time before them, and Lee's daring was never more amply
illustrated than when he made up his mind to fight on the Antietam.
McClellan's great army was streaming through the passes of the South
Mountain. At Rohrersville, six miles east of the Confederate
bivouacs, where he had halted as soon as the cannonade at Harper's
Ferry ceased, Franklin was still posted with 20,000 men. From their
battle-field at Turner's Gap, ten miles from Sharpsburg, came the
70,000 which composed the right and centre; and on the banks of the
Antietam but 15,000 Southerners were in position. Jackson had to get
rid of his prisoners, to march seventeen miles, and to ford the
Potomac before he could reach the ground. Walker was twenty miles
distant, beyond the Shenandoah; and McLaws, who would be compelled by
Franklin's presence near Rohrersville to cross at Harper's Ferry and
follow Jackson, over five-and-twenty. Would they be up before
McClellan attacked? Lee, relying on McClellan's caution and Jackson's
energy, answered the question in the affirmative.

The September day wore on. The country between the South Mountain and
Sharpsburg, resembling in every characteristic the Valley of the
Shenandoah, is open and gently undulating. No leagues of woodland, as
in Eastern Virginia, block the view. The roads run through wide
cornfields and rolling pastures, and scattered copses are the only
relics of the forest. It was not yet noon when the Federal scouts
appeared among the trees which crown the left bank of the Antietam
Creek. "The number increased, and larger and larger grew the field of
blue until it seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. It was
an awe-inspiring spectacle," adds Longstreet, "as this grand force
settled down in sight of the Confederates, shattered by battles and
scattered by long and tedious marches."* (* Battles and Leaders
volume 2 page 667.) But when night fell upon the field the only
interchange of hostilities had been a brief engagement of artillery.
McClellan's advance, owing to the difficulty of passing his great
army through the mountains, and to the scarcity of roads, had been
slow and tedious; in some of the divisions there had been unnecessary
delay; and Lee had so disposed his force that the Federal commander,
unenlightened as to the real strength of his adversary, believed that
he was opposed by 50,000 men.

September 16.

Nor was the next morning marked by any increase of activity.
McClellan, although he should have been well aware that a great part
of the Confederate army was still west of the Potomac, made no
attack. "It was discovered," he reports, "that the enemy had changed
the position of some of his batteries. The masses of his troops,
however, were still concealed behind the opposite heights. It was
afternoon before I could move the troops to their positions for
attack, being compelled to spend the morning in reconnoitring the new
position taken up by the enemy, examining the ground, and finding
fords, clearing the approaches, and hurrying up the ammunition and
supply trains."* (* O.R. volume 19 part 1 page 55.)

Considering that McClellan had been in possession of the left bank of
the Antietam since the forenoon of the previous day, all these
preliminaries might well have been completed before daylight on the
16th. That a change in the dispositions of a few batteries, a change
so unimportant as to pass unnoticed in the Confederate reports,
should have imposed a delay, when every moment was precious, of many
hours, proves that Lee's and Jackson's estimate of their opponent's
character was absolutely correct. While McClellan was reconnoitring,
and the guns were thundering across the Antietam, Jackson and Walker
crossed the Potomac, and reported to Lee in Sharpsburg.* (* According
to Jackson's staff officers he himself reported shortly after
daylight.) Walker had expected to find the Commander-in-Chief anxious
and careworn. "Anxious no doubt he was; but there was nothing in his
look or manner to indicate it. On the contrary, he was calm,
dignified, and even cheerful. If he had had a well-equipped army of a
hundred thousand veterans at his back, he could not have appeared
more composed and confident. On shaking hands with us, he simply
expressed his satisfaction with the result of our operations at
Harper's Ferry, and with our timely arrival at Sharpsburg; adding
that with our reinforcements he felt confident of being able to hold
his ground until the arrival of the divisions of R.H. Anderson,
McLaws, and A.P. Hill, which were still behind, and which did not
arrive till next day."* (* Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 675.)

Yet the reinforcements which Jackson and Walker had brought up were
no considerable addition to Lee's strength. Jones' division consisted
of no more than 1600 muskets, Lawton's of less than 3500. Including
officers and artillery, therefore, the effectives of these divisions
numbered about 5500. A.P. Hill's division appears to have mustered
5000 officers and men, and we may add 1000 for men sick or on
detached duties. The total should undoubtedly have been larger. After
the battle of Cedar Run, Jackson had 22,450 effectives in his ranks.
His losses in the operations against Pope, and the transfer of
Robertson's cavalry to Stuart, had brought his numbers down by 5787;
but on September 16, including 70 killed or wounded at Harper's
Ferry, they should have been not less than 16,800. In reality they
were only 11,500. We have not far to look for the cause of this
reduction. Many of the men had absented themselves before the army
crossed into Maryland; and if those who remained with the colours had
seen little fighting since Pope's defeat, they had had no reason to
complain of inactivity. The operations which resulted in the capture
of Harper's Ferry had been arduous in the extreme. Men who had taken
part in the forced marches of the Valley campaign declared that the
march from Frederick to Harper's Ferry surpassed all their former
experiences. In three-and-a-half days they had covered over sixty
miles, crossing two mountain ranges, and fording the Potomac. The
weather had been intensely hot, and the dust was terrible. Nor had
the investment of Harper's Ferry been a period of repose. They had
been under arms during the night which preceded the surrender,
awaiting the signal to assault within a few hundred yards of the
enemy's sentries. As soon as the terms of capitulation were arranged
they had been hurried back to the bivouac, had cooked two days'
rations, and shortly after midnight had marched to the Potomac,
seventeen miles away. This night march, coming on the top of their
previous exertions, had taxed the strength of many beyond endurance.
The majority were badly shod. Many were not shod at all. They were
ill-fed, and men ill-fed are on the highroad to hospital. There were
stragglers, then, from every company in the command. Even the
Stonewall Brigade, though it had still preserved its five regiments,
was reduced to 300 muskets; and the other brigades of Jackson's
division were but little stronger. Walker's division, too, although
less hardly used in the campaign than the Valley troops, had
diminished under the strain of the night march, and mustered no more
than 3500 officers and men at Sharpsburg. Thus the masses of troops
which McClellan conceived were hidden in rear of D.H. Hill and
Longstreet amounted in reality to some 10,000 effective soldiers.

It was fortunate, indeed, that in their exhausted condition there was
no immediate occasion for their services on September 16. The shadows
grew longer, but yet the Federals made no move; even the fire of the
artillery died away, and the men slept quietly in the woods to north
and west of the little town. Meanwhile, in an old house, one of the
few which had any pretensions to comfort in Sharpsburg, the generals
met in council. Staff officers strolled to and fro over the broad
brick pavement; the horses stood lazily under the trees which shaded
the dusty road; and within, Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet pored long
and earnestly over the map of Maryland during the bright September
afternoon. But before the glow of a lovely sunset had faded from the
sky the artillery once more opened on the ridge above, and reports
came in that the Federals were crossing the Antietam near Pry's Mill.
Lee at once ordered Longstreet to meet this threat with Hood's
division, and Jackson was ordered into line on the left of Hood. No
serious collision, however, took place during the evening. The
Confederates made no attempt to oppose the passage of the Creek.
Hood's pickets were driven in, but a speedy reinforcement restored
the line, and except that the batteries on both sides took part the
fighting was little more than an affair of outposts. At eleven
o'clock Hood's brigades were withdrawn to cook and eat. Jackson's
division filled their place; and the night, although broken by
constant alarms, passed away without further conflict. The Federal
movements had clearly exposed their intention of attacking, and had
even revealed the point which they would first assail. McClellan had
thrown two army corps, the First under Hooker, and the Twelfth under
Mansfield, across the Antietam; and they were now posted, facing
southward, a mile and a half north of Sharpsburg, concealed by the
wood beyond Jackson's left.


The essential paragraphs of the lost order ran as follows:--

"The army will resume its march to-morrow, taking the Hagerstown
road. General Jackson's command will form the advance, and after
passing Middletown, with such portions as he may select, take the
route towards Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac at the most convenient
point, and by Friday night (September 12) take possession of the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of the enemy as may be at
Martinsburg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from
Harper's Ferry.

"General Longstreet's command will pursue the same road as far as
Boonsboro', where it will halt with the reserve, supply, and baggage
trains of the army.

"General McLaws, with his own division and that of General Anderson,
will follow General Longstreet; on reaching Middletown he will take
the route to Harper's Ferry, and by Friday morning (September 12)
possess himself of the Maryland Heights and endeavour to capture the
enemy at Harper's Ferry and vicinity.

"General Walker with his division...will take possession of the
Loudoun Heights, if practicable by Friday morning (September 12),
...He will as far as practicable co-operate with General McLaws and
General Jackson in intercepting the retreat of the enemy.

"General D.H. Hill's division will form the rear-guard of the army,
pursuing the road taken by the main body.

"General Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the
commands of Generals Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and, with the
main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army and bring
up all stragglers.

"The commands of Generals Jackson, McLaws and Walker, after
accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will
join the main body at Boonsboro' or Hagerstown."

The second paragraph was afterwards modified by General Lee so as to
place Longstreet at Hagerstown.


1862. September 17.

It is a curious coincidence that not only were the number, of the
opposing armies at the battle of Sharpsburg almost identical with
those of the French and Germans at the battle of Worth, but that
there is no small resemblance between the natural features and
surrounding scenery of the two fields. Full in front of the
Confederate position rises the Red Hill, a spur of the South
Mountain, wooded, like the Vosges, to the very crest, and towering
high above the fields of Maryland, as the Hochwald towers above the
Rhineland. The Antietam, however, is a more difficult obstacle than
the Sauerbach, the brook which meanders through the open meadows of
the Alsatian valley. A deep channel of more than sixty feet in width
is overshadowed by forest trees; and the ground on either bank
ascends at a sharp gradient to the crests above. Along the ridge to
the west, which parts the Antietam from the Potomac, and about a mile
distant from the former stream, runs the Hagerstown turnpike, and in
front of this road there was a strong position. Sharpsburg, a village
of a few hundred inhabitants, lies on the reverse slope of the ridge,
extending in the direction of the Potomac, and only the church
steeples were visible to the Federals. Above the hamlet was the
Confederate centre. Here, near a limestone boulder, which stood in a
plot which is now included in the soldiers' cemetery, was Lee's
station during the long hours of September 17, and from this point he
overlooked the whole extent of his line of battle. A mile northward,
on the Hagerstown pike, his loft centre was marked by a square white
building, famous under the name of the Dunkard Church, and backed by
a long dark wood. To the right, a mile southward, a bold spur,
covered with scattered trees, forces the Antietam westward, and on
this spur, overlooking the stream, he had placed his right.


Between the Hagerstown pike and the Antietam the open slopes,
although not always uniform, but broken, like those on the French
side of the Sauerbach, by long ravines, afforded an admirable field
of fire. The lanes which cross them are sunk in many places below the
surface: in front of Sharpsburg the fields were divided by low stone
walls; and these natural intrenchments added much to the strength of
the position. Nor were they the only advantages. The belt of oaks
beyond the Dunkard Church, the West Wood, was peculiarly adapted for
defence. Parallel ledges of outcropping limestone, both within the
thickets and along the Hagerstown road, rising as high as a man's
waist, gave good coyer from shot and shell; the trees were of old
growth, and there was little underwood. To the north-east, however,
and about five hundred yards distant across the fields, lay the East
Wood, covering the slopes to the Antietam, with Poffenberger's Wood
beyond; while further to the left, the North Wood, extending across
the Hagerstown pike, approached the Confederate flank. The enemy, if
he advanced to the attack in this quarter of the field, would thus
find ample protection during his march and deployment; and in case of
reverse he would find a rallying-point in the North and
Poffenberger's Woods, of which Hooker was already in possession. In
the space between the woods were several small farms, surrounded by
orchards and stone fences; and on the slope east of the Dunkard
Church stood a few cottages and barns.

Access to the position was not easy. Only a single ford, near
Snaveley's house, exists across the Antietam, and this was commanded
by the bluff on the Confederate right. The stone bridges, however,
for want of time and means to destroy them, had been left standing.
That nearest the confluence of the Antietam and the Potomac, at the
Antietam Iron-works, by which A. P Hill was expected, was defended by
rifle-pits and enfiladed by artillery. The next, known as the
Burnside Bridge, was completely overlooked by the heights above. That
opposite Lee's centre could be raked throughout its length; but the
fourth, at Pry's Mill, by which Hooker and Mansfield had already
crossed, was covered both from view and fire. Roads within the
position were numerous. The Hagerstown turnpike, concealed for some
distance on either side of Sharpsburg by the crest of the ridge, was
admirably adapted for the movement of reserves, and another broad
highway ran through Sharpsburg to the Potomac.

The position, then, in many respects, was well adapted to Lee's
purpose. The flanks were reasonably secure. The right rested on the
Antietam. The left was more open; but the West Wood formed a strong
point d'appui, and beyond the wood a low ridge, rising above
Nicodemus Run, gave room for several batteries; while the Potomac was
so close that the space available for attack on this flank was much
restricted. The ground could thus be held by a comparatively small
number of men, and a large reserve set free for the counterstroke.
The great drawback was that the ridge east of the Antietam, although
commanded by the crest which the Confederates occupied, would permit
McClellan to deploy the whole of his powerful artillery, and in no
place did the range exceed two thousand yards. In case of retreat,
moreover, the Potomac, two hundred yards from shore to shore, would
have to be crossed by a few deep fords,* (* Two fords, behind the
left and centre, were examined by Major Hotchkiss during the battle
by Jackson's order, and were reported practicable for infantry.) of
which only one was practicable for waggons. These disadvantages,
however, it was impossible to avoid; and if the counterstroke were
decisive, they would not be felt.

The left of the position was assigned to Jackson, with Hood in third
line. Next in order came D.H. Hill. Longstreet held the centre and
the right, with Walker in reserve behind the flank. Stuart, with
Fitzhugh Lee's brigade and his four guns, was between the West Wood
and the Potomac. Munford's two regiments of cavalry, reinforced by a
battery, held the bridge at the Antietam Iron-works, and kept open
the communication with Harper's Ferry; and twenty-six rifled pieces
of the reserve artillery were with D.H. Hill. From the Nicodemus Run
to the bluff overhanging the Burnside Bridge is just three miles, and
for the occupation of this front the following troops were at Lee's

Men Guns

Jackson: 5,500 16*
Jones' Division..
Ewell's Division (General Lawton)

(* The majority of Jackson's guns appear to have been left behind the
team. Having broken down, at Harper's Ferry.)

D.R. Jones' Division
Hood's Division (detached to Jackson)
Evans' Brigade. 8,000 50

D.H. Hill's Division. 5,000 26
Walker's Division. 3,500 12

Fitzhugh Lee's Brigade.
Munford's Brigade. 2,500 4

Reserve Artillery 1,000 26
------ ---
25,500 134

On the far side of the Potomac the Shepherdstown Ford was protected
by the remainder of the reserve artillery, with an infantry escort;
but so small was the force whose retreat was thus secured that nearly
every man was required in the fighting-line. Except the divisions of
Hood and Walker, 5500 men all told, there was no immediate reserve.

But at daybreak on the 17th the troops which had been left at
Harper's Ferry were rapidly coming up. McLaws and Anderson, who had
started before midnight, were already nearing the Potomac; Hampton's
cavalry brigade was not far behind, and orders had been dispatched to
A.P. Hill. But could these 13,000 bayonets be up in time-before
Hooker and Mansfield received strong support, or before the Burnside
Bridge was heavily attacked? The question was indeed momentous. If
the Federals were to put forth their whole strength without delay,
bring their numerous artillery into action, and press the battle at
every point, it seemed hardly possible that defeat could be averted.
McClellan, however, who had never yet ventured on a resolute
offensive, was not likely, in Lee's judgment, to assault so strong a
position as that held by the Confederates with whole-hearted energy,
and it was safe to calculate that his troops would be feebly handled.
Yet the odds were great. Even after the arrival of the absent
divisions' no more than 35,000 infantry, 4000 cavalry, and 194 guns
would be in line, and the enemy's numbers were far superior.

(* Men Guns
A.P. Hill's Division 5,000 18
McLaws' Division 4,500 24
B.H. Anderson's Division 3,500 18
Hampton's Cavalry Brigade 1,500 --
------ --
14,500 60 )

McClellan had called in Franklin from Rohrersville, and his muster
roll was imposing.

Men Guns

First Corps--Hooker 14,856 40
Second Corps--Sumner 18,813 42
Fifth Corps--Porter 12,930 70
Sixth Corps--Franklin 12,300 36
Ninth Corps--Burnside 13,819 35
Twelfth Corps--Mansfield 10,126 36
Cavalry--Pleasanton 4,320 16
------ ---
87,164 275

In comparison with the masses arrayed between the Red Hill and the
Antietam, the Confederate army was but a handful.

5 A.M.

Notwithstanding McClellan's caution, the opening of the battle was
not long delayed. Before sunrise the desultory firing of the pickets
had deepened to the roar of battle. Hooker, who had been ordered to
begin the attack, forming his troops behind the North Wood, directed
them on the Dunkard Church, which, standing on rising ground,
appeared the key of the position. Jackson had already thrown back his
two divisions at nearly a right angle to the Confederate front. His
right, which connected with the left of D.H. Hill, and resting on the
western edge of the East Wood extended as far as the Miller House,
was held by Lawton, with two brigades in front and one in second
line. West of the Hagerstown turnpike, and covering the ground as far
as the Nicodemus Farm, was Jones' division; the Stonewall and Jones'
brigades in front, Taliaferro's and Starke's along the edge of the
wood in rear. Three guns stood upon the turnpike; the remainder of
the artillery (thirteen) guns was with Stuart on the high ground
north of Nicodemus Run. Hood, in third line, stood near the Dunkard
Church; and on Hood's right were three of Longstreet's batteries
under Colonel Stephen Lee.

The ground which Jackson had been ordered to occupy was not
unfavourable for defence, although the troops had practically no
cover except the rail-fences and the rocky ledges. There was a wide
and open field of fire, and when the Federal skirmishers appeared
north of the Miller House the Confederate batteries, opening with
vigour at a range of eight hundred yards, struck down sixteen men at
the first salvo. This fire, and the stubborn resistance of the
pickets, held the enemy for some time in check; but Hooker deployed
six batteries in reply, and after a cannonade of nearly an hour his
infantry advanced. From the cover of the woods, still veiled by the
morning mist, the Federals came forward in strong force. Across the
dry ploughed land in Lawton's front the fight grew hot, and on the
far side of the turnpike the meadows round the Nicodemus Farm became
the scene of a desperate struggle. Hooker had sent in two divisions,
Meade on the left and Doubleday on the right, while a third under
Ricketts acted in close support of Meade.* (* Doubleday's Division
consisted of Phelps', Wainwright's, Patrick's, and Gibbon's brigades;
Rickett's Division of Duryea's, Lyle's, and Hartsuff's; and Meade's
Pennsylvania Division of Seymour's, Magilton's, and Anderson's.) The
attack was waged with the dash and energy which had earned for Hooker
the sobriquet of Fighting Joe, and the troops he commanded had
already proved their mettle on many murderous fields. Meade's
Pennsylvanians, together with the Indiana and Wisconsin regiments,
which had wrought such havoc in Jackson's ranks at Grovetown, were
once more bearing down upon his line. Nor were the tactics of the
leaders ill-calculated to second the valour of the troops. Hooker's
whole army corps of 12,500 men was manoeuvred in close combination.
The second line was so posted as to render quick support. No portion
of the front was without an adequate reserve in rear. The artillery
was used in mass, and the flanks were adequately guarded.

The conflict between soldiers so well matched was not less fierce
than when they had met on other fields. Hooker's troops had won a
large measure of success at South Mountain three days previously, and
their blood was up. Meade, Gibbon, and Ricketts were there to lead
them, and the battle opened with a resolution which, if it had
infected McClellan, would have carried the Sharpsburg ridge ere set
of sun. Stubborn was the resistance of Jackson's regiments, unerring
the aim of his seasoned riflemen; but the opposing infantry,
constantly reinforced, pressed irresistibly forward, and the heavy
guns beyond the Antietam, finding an opening between the woods, swept
the thin grey line from end to end. Jones' division, after fighting
for three-quarters of an hour on the meadows, fell back to the West
Wood; General Jones was carried wounded from the field, and the guns
on the turnpike were abandoned.

6.30 A.M.

So tremendous was the fire, that the corn, said Hooker, over thirty
acres was cut as close by the bullets as if it had been reaped with
the sickle, and the dead lay piled in regular ranks along the whole
Confederate front. Never, he added, had been seen a more bloody or
dismal battle-field. To the east of the turnpike Lawton's division,
strengthened at the critical moment by the brigade in second line,
held Meade in check, and with a sharp counterstroke drove the
Pennsylvanians back upon their guns. But Gibbon, fighting fiercely in
the centre by the Miller House, brought up a battery in close support
of his first line, and pressed heavily on the West Wood until the
Confederate skirmishers, creeping through the maize, shot down the
gunners and the teams;* (* This battery of regulars, 'B' 4th U.S.
Artillery, lost 40 officers and men killed and wounded, besides 33
horses. O.R. volume 19 part 1 page 229.) and Starke, who had
succeeded Jones, led the Valley regiments once more into the open
field. The battle swayed backwards and forwards under the clouds of
smoke; the crash of musketry, reverberating in the woods, drowned the
roar of the artillery; and though hundreds were shot down at the
shortest range neither Federal nor Confederate flinched from the
dreadful fray. Hooker sent in a fresh brigade, and Patrick,
reinforcing Gibbon with four regiments, passed swiftly to the front,
captured two colours, and made some headway. But again the Virginians
rallied, and Starke, observing that the enemy's right had become
exposed, led his regiments forward to the charge. Doubleday's
division, struck fiercely in front and flank, reeled back in
confusion past the Miller House, and although the gallant Starke fell
dead, the Confederates recovered the ground which they had lost.
Jackson's men had not been left unaided. Colonel Lee's guns had
themselves to look to, for along the whole course of the Antietam
McClellan's batteries were now in action, sweeping the Sharpsburg
ridge with a tremendous fire; but Stuart, west of the Nicodemus Farm,
had done much to embarrass Hooker's operations. Bringing his
artillery into action, for the ground was unsuited to cavalry, he had
distracted the aim of the Federal gunners, and, assailing their
infantry in flank, had compelled Doubleday to detach a portion of his
force against him. Jackson, with supreme confidence in the ability of
his men to hold their ground, had not hesitated to reinforce Stuart
with Early's brigade, the strongest in his command; but before
Doubleday was beaten back, Early had been recalled.

7.30 A.M.

It was now half-past seven. The battle had been in progress nearly
three hours, and Hooker's attack had been repulsed. But fresh troops
were coming into action from the north and north-east, and Lawton's
and Jones' divisions were in no condition to withstand a renewed
assault. No less than three officers in succession had led the
latter. Not one single brigade in either division was still commanded
by the officer who brought it into action, and but few regiments. Of
4200 infantry,* (* Early's brigade had not yet been engaged.) 1700
had already fallen. Never had Jackson's soldiers displayed a spirit
more akin to that of their intrepid leader, and their fierce courage
was not to be wasted. Reinforcements were close at hand. Early's
brigade, 1100 strong,* (* One small regiment was left with Stuart.)
was moving across from Nicodemus Run into the West Wood. Hood brought
his Texans, 1800 muskets, to the relief of Lawton; and on Hood's
right, but facing eastward, for Ricketts was working round Jackson's
right, three of D.H. Hill's brigades, hitherto hidden under cover,
came rapidly into line. Lawton's division, nearly half the command
being killed or wounded, was withdrawn to the Dunkard Church; but on
the skirt of the West Wood the heroic remnant of the Valley regiments
still held fast among the limestone ledges.

The 8,500 infantry which McClellan had sent to Hooker's assistance
formed the Twelfth Army Corps, commanded by Mansfield; and with those
men, too, Jackson's soldiers were well acquainted.* (* Mansfield's
corps consisted of two divisions, commanded by Crawford (two
brigades) and Greene (three brigades). The brigadiers were Knipe,
Gordon, Tynedale, Stainbrook, Goodrich.) They were the men who had
followed Banks and Shields from Kernstown to Winchester, from Port
Republic to Cedar Run; and the Valley army had not yet encountered
more determined foes. Their attack was delivered with their wonted
vigour. Several regiments, moving west of the turnpike, bore down on
the West Wood. But coming into action at considerable intervals, they
were roughly handled by Jones' division, now commanded by Colonel
Grigsby, and protected by the rocks; and Stuart's artillery taking
them in flank they were rapidly dispersed. East of the highroad the
battle raged with still greater violence. Hood and his Texans, as
Lawton's brigades passed to the rear, dashed across the corn-field
against Meade and Ricketts, driving back the infantry on the
batteries, and shooting down the gunners. But the Federal line
remained unbroken, and Mansfield's troops were already moving
forward. Crawford's brigade, and then Gordon's, struck the Texans in
front, while Greene, working round the East Wood, made a resolute
onslaught on D.H. Hill. The struggle was long and bloody. The men
stood like duelists, firing and receiving the fire at fifty or a
hundred paces. Crawford lost 1000 men without gaining a foot of
ground; but Gordon turned the scale, and Hood's brigades were
gradually forced back through the corn-field to the Dunkard Church. A
great gap had now opened in Jackson's line. Jones' division, its
flank uncovered by Hood's retreat, found itself compelled to seek a
new position. D.H. Hill's brigades, in the same plight, gave ground
towards Sharpsburg; and Greene, following in pursuit, actually
crossed the turnpike, and penetrated the West Wood; but neither
Hooker nor Mansfield were able to support him, and unassisted he
could make no progress.

(MAP of Approximate positions of the Troops during the attacks of
Hooker and Mansfield on the Confederate left, at the Battle of

9 A.M.

At this moment, as if by common consent, the firing ceased on this
flank of the battle; and as McClellan's Second Army Corps, led by
Sumner, advanced to sustain the First and Twelfth, we may stand by
Jackson near the Dunkard Church, and survey the field after four
hours' fighting.

Assailed in front by superior numbers, and enfiladed by the batteries
beyond the Antietam, the Confederate left had everywhere given back.
The East Wood was in possession of the enemy. Their right occupied
the Miller House; their centre, supported by many batteries, stood
across the corn-field; while the left, thrust forward, was actually
established on the edge of the West Wood, some five hundred yards to
northward of the church. But if Jackson had yielded ground, he had
exacted a fearful price. The space between the woods was a veritable
slaughter-pen, reeking under the hot September sun, where the blue
uniforms lay thicker than the grey. The First Army Corps had been cut
to pieces. It had been beaten in fair fight by Jackson's two
divisions, counting at the outset less than half its numbers, and
aided only by the cavalry. It had lost in killed and wounded over 100
officers and 2400 men. Hooker himself had been struck down, and as
far as the Antietam the field was covered with his stragglers. The
Twelfth Corps had suffered hardly less severely; and Mansfield
himself, an old man and a gallant soldier, was dying of his wounds.
His batteries indeed remained in action, pouring shot and shell on
the West Wood and the Dunkard Church; but his infantry, reduced by
more than 1500 rifles, could do no more than hold their ground.

Nor was the exhaustion of the enemy the only advantage which the
Confederates had gained by the slaughter of 4000 men. The position to
which Jackson had retired was more favourable than that from which he
had been driven. The line, no longer presenting a weak angle, was
almost straight, and no part of the front was open to enfilade.
Stuart and his artillery, withdrawn to a more favourable position,
secured the left. D.H. Hill on the right, though part of his force
had given way, still held the Roulette House and the sunken road, and
the troops in the West Wood were well protected from the Northern
batteries. The one weak point was the gap occupied by Greene's
Federals, which lay between Grigsby's regiments in the northern angle
of the West Wood and Hood's division at the Dunkard Church. The
enemy, however, showed no signs of making good his opportunity;
Early's brigade was close at hand, and Lee had promised further

A glance southward showed that there was no reason for despair. Over
all the field lay the heavy smoke of a great artillery battle. From
near the Dunkard Church to the bluff overhanging the Antietam, a
distance of two miles, battery on battery was in line. Here were
Longstreet's artillery under Stephen Lee, together with the
six-and-twenty guns of Cutts' reserve battalion, forty-eight guns in
all; the divisional batteries of D.H. Hill, and the Washington
artillery of New Orleans,* (* Both D.H. Hill and the Washington
artillery had sixteen guns each.) and in addition to these eighty
guns others were in action above the Burnside Bridge. An array even
more formidable crowned the opposite crest; but although the
Confederate batteries, opposed by larger numbers and heavier metal,
had suffered terribly, both in men and in materiel, yet the infantry,
the main strength of the defence, was still intact.* (* "Our
artillery," says General D.H. Hill, "could not cope with the superior
weight, calibre, range, and number of the Yankee guns; hence it ought
only to have been used against masses of infantry. On the contrary,
our guns were made to reply to the Yankee guns, and were smashed up
or withdrawn before they could be effectually turned against massive
columns of attack." After Sharpsburg Lee gave orders that there were
to be no more 'artillery duels' so long as the Confederates fought
defensive battles.) The cliffs of the Red Hill, replying to the
rolling thunder of near 800 guns, gave back no echo to the sharper
crack of musketry. Save a few skirmishers, who had crossed the
Sharpsburg Bridge, not one company of McClellan's infantry had been
sent into action south of the Dunkard Church. Beyond the Antietam,
covering the whole space between the river and the hills, the blue
masses were plainly to be seen through the drifting smoke; some so
far in the distance that only the flash of steel in the bright
sunshine distinguished them from the surrounding woods; others moving
in dense columns towards the battle:

Standards on standards, men on men;
In slow succession still.

But neither by the Sharpsburg nor yet by the Burnside Bridge had a
single Federal regiment crossed the stream; Lee's centre and right
were not even threatened, and it was evident his reserves might be
concentrated without risk at whatever point he pleased.

Walker's division was therefore withdrawn from the right, and McLaws,
who had reached Sharpsburg shortly after sunrise, was ordered to the
front. G. T. Anderson's brigade was detached from D.H. Hill; and the
whole force was placed at Jackson's disposal. These fresh troops,
together with Early's regiments, not yet engaged, gave 10,000 muskets
for the counterstroke, and had Hooker and Mansfield been alone upon
the field the Federal right wing would have been annihilated. But as
the Confederate reserves approached the Dunkard Church, Sumner, whom
McClellan had ordered to cross Pry's Bridge with the Second Army
Corps, threw three divisions against the West Wood and the Roulette
House. In three lines, up the slope from the Antietam, at sixty yards
distance and covering a wide front, came Sedgwick on the right,
French on the left, and Richardson to the left rear. So orderly was
the advance of those 18,000 Northerners, and so imposing their array,
that even the Confederate officers watched their march with
admiration, and terrible was the shock with which they renewed the

Sedgwick, emerging from the East Wood, moved directly over the
corn-field, crossed the turnpike, and entering the West Wood to
northward of the point still held by Greene, swept through the
timber, and with a portion of his advanced brigade reached the
further edge. Greene, at the same moment, moved upon the Dunkard
Church, and Early, who with the fragments of Jones' division was
alone within the wood, marched rapidly in the same direction.
Attacked suddenly in flank from behind a ridge of rock Greene's
regiments were driven back; and then Early, observing Sedgwick's
third line pushing across the turnpike, reformed his troops for
further action. Greene, for the moment, had been disposed of, but a
more formidable attack was threatening. Sedgwick's 6000 muskets,
confronted only by some 600* (* Letter of Jackson's Adjutant-General.
Memoirs of W.N. Pendleton D.D. page 216.) of the Valley soldiers
under Grigsby, were thronging through the wood, and a change of front
southward would have sent them sweeping down the Confederate line.
Early could hardly have withstood their onset; Hood was incapable of
further effort, and D.H. Hill was heavily pressed by French. But
Jackson's hand still held the reins of battle. During the fierce
struggle of the morning he had remained on the edge of the West Wood,
leaving, as was his wont, the conduct of the divisions to his
subordinates, but watching his enemy with a glance that saw beyond
the numbers arrayed against him. He had already demanded
reinforcements from General Lee; and in anticipation of their speedy
arrival their orders had been already framed. They had not been
called for to sustain his front, or to occupy a new position. Despite
the thronging masses of the Federals, despite the fact that his line
was already broken, attack, and attack only, was in Jackson's mind,
and the reserves and the opportunity arrived together. A staff
officer was dispatched to direct Walker, on the left, to sustain the
Texans, to clear the West Wood, and to place a detachment in the gap
between the Dunkard Church and the batteries of Colonel Lee;* (*
Sharpsburg. By Major-General J.G. Walker, C.S.A. Battles and Leaders
volume 2 pages 677 and 678.) while Jackson himself, riding to meet
McLaws, ordered him "to drive the enemy back and turn his right."
Anderson's brigade was sent to support McLaws, and Semmes' brigade of
McLaws' division was detached to strengthen Stuart.

Forming into line as they advanced, McLaws and Walker, leaving the
Dunkard Church on their right, and moving swiftly through the wood,
fell suddenly on Sedgwick's flank. Early joined in the melee, and
"the result," says Palfrey, a Northern general who was present on the
field, "was not long doubtful. Sedgwick's fine division was at the
mercy of their enemy. Change of front was impossible. In less time
than it takes to tell it the ground was strewn with the bodies of the
dead and wounded, while the unwounded were moving off rapidly to the
north. Nearly 2000 men were disabled in a moment."* (* Memoirs page
572. The Antietam and Fredericksburg page 87.) And the impetus of the
counterstroke was not yet spent. Gordon's brigade of the Twelfth
Corps had been dispatched to Sedgwick's help, but McLaws had reformed
his troops, and after a short struggle the Confederates drove all
before them.

Confusion reigned supreme in the Federal ranks. In vain their
powerful artillery, firing case and canister with desperate energy,
strove to arrest the rush of the pursuing infantry. Out from the West
Wood and across the cornfield the grey lines of battle, preceded by
clouds of skirmishers, pressed forward without a check, and the light
batteries, plying whip and spur, galloped to the front in close
support. Hope rose high. The Southern yell, pealing from ten thousand
throats, rang with a wild note of anticipated triumph, and Jackson,
riding with McLaws, followed with kindling gaze the progress of his
counterstroke attack. "God," he said to his companion, as the shells
fell round them and the masses of the enemy melted away like the
morning mist, "has been very kind to us this day."

But the end was not yet. Sedgwick's brigades, flying to the
north-east, rallied under the fire of their batteries, and as the
Confederates advanced upon the East Wood, they found it already
occupied by a fresh brigade. Smith's division of the Sixth Corps had
been sent forward by McClellan to sustain the battle, and its arrival
saved his army from defeat. Once more the corn-field became the scene
of a furious struggle, the Southerners fighting for decisive victory,
the Federals for existence. So impetuous was McLaws' attack that the
regiments on his left, although checked by the fences, drove in a
battery and dashed back the enemy's first line; but the weight of the
artillery in front of the North Wood, supported by a portion of
Smith's division, prevented further advance, and a Federal brigade,
handled with rare judgment, rushed forward to meet the assailants in
the open. Sharp was the conflict, for McLaws, a fine soldier, as
daring as he was skilful, strove fiercely to complete the victory;
but the fight within the woods and the swift pursuit had broken the
order of his division. Brigade had mingled with brigade, regiment
with regiment. There were no supports; and the broken ranks, scourged
by the terrible cross-fire of many batteries, were unable to
withstand the solid impact of the Federal reserve. Slowly and
sullenly the troops fell back from the deadly strife. The enemy, no
less exhausted, halted and lay down beyond the turnpike; and while
the musketry once more died away to northward of the Dunkard Church,
Jackson, rallying his brigades, re-established his line along the
edge of the West Wood.

Near the church was a portion of Walker's division. Further north
were two of McLaws' brigades; then Armistead, who had been sent
forward from Sharpsburg, and then Early. A brigade of McLaws'
division formed the second line, and Anderson was sent back to D.H.
Hill. Hood also was withdrawn, and the survivors of Jones' division,
many of whom had shared in the counterattack, were permitted to leave
the front.

10.30 A.M.

Their rifles were no longer needed, for from half-past ten onwards,
so far as the defence of the Confederate left was concerned, the work
was done. For many hours the West Wood was exposed to the
concentrated fire of the Federal artillery; but this fire, although
the range was close, varying from six to fifteen hundred yards, had
little effect. The shattered branches fell incessantly among the
recumbent ranks, and the shells, exploding in the foliage, sent their
hissing fragments far and wide; yet the losses, so more than one
general reported, were surprisingly small.

But although the enemy's infantry had been repulsed, no immediate
endeavour was made by the Confederates to initiate a fresh
counterstroke. When Lee sent McLaws and Walker to Jackson's aid, he
sent in his last reserve, for A.P. Hill had not yet reached the
field, and R. H. Anderson's division had already been taken to
support the centre. Thus no fresh troops were available, and the
Federal right was strong. At least fifteen batteries of artillery
were in position along the edge of the North Wood, and they were
powerfully supported by the heavy guns beyond the stream.

Yet the infantry so effectively protected was only formidable by
reason of its numbers. The First Corps and the Twelfth no longer
existed as organised bodies.* (* It was not until two o'clock that
even Meade's Pennsylvanians were reformed.) Sedgwick's division of
the Second Corps was still more shattered. Only Smith's division was
effective, and General McClellan, acting on the advice of Sumner,
forbade all further attack. Slocum's division of the Sixth Corps,
which reached the East Wood at twelve o'clock, was ordered to remain
in rear as support to Smith. The Confederate left wing, then, had
offered such strenuous resistance that eight divisions of infantry,
more than half of McClellan's army, lay paralysed before them for the
remainder of the day. 30,500 infantry, at the lowest calculation,(1)
and probably 100 guns, besides those across the Antietam, had been
massed by the Federals in this quarter of the field.

(1) Hooker 11,000
Mansfield 8,500
Sedgwick 6,000
Smith 5,000

Jackson's numbers, even after he had been reinforced by McLaws and
Walker, at no time approached those arrayed against him, and 19,400
men, including Stuart and three brigades of Hill, and 40 guns, is a
liberal estimate of his strength.(2)

(2) Lawton 3,600
Jones 1,800
Hood 2,000
Stuart 1,500
G.T. Anderson 1,000
Walker 3,500
McLaws 4,500
D.H. Hill (3 brigades) 1,500

The losses on both sides had been exceedingly heavy. Nearly 13,000
men, 3 including no less than fifteen generals and brigadiers, had
fallen within six hours.

(3) The Federals engaged against Jackson lost in five and a half
hours 7000 officers and men. During the seven hours they were engaged
at Gravelotte the Prussian Guard and the Saxon Army Corps lost
10,349; but 50,000 infantry were in action. The percentage of loss
(20) was about the same in both cases. The Confederate losses up to
10.30 A.M. were as follows:
Jones 700
Lawton 1,334
Hood 1,002
McLaws 1,119
Walker 1,012
Anderson 87
D.H. Hill (estimate) 500
5,754 (29 p.c.)

But although the Confederate casualties were not greatly exceeded by
those of the enemy, and were much larger in proportion to their
strength, the Federals had lost more than mere numbers. The morale of
the troops had suffered, and still more the morale of the leaders.
Even Sumner, bravest of men, had been staggered by the fierce assault
which had driven Sedgwick's troops like sheep across the corn-field,
nor was McClellan disposed to push matters to extremity.

Over in the West Wood, on the other hand, discouragement had no
place. Jackson had not yet abandoned hope of sweeping the enemy from
the field. He was disappointed with the partial success of McLaws'
counterstroke. It had come too late. The fortuitous advance of
Smith's division, at the very crisis of the struggle, had, in all
human probability, rescued the Federal right from a terrible defeat.
Had McLaws been able to reach the East Wood he would have compelled
the hostile batteries to retreat; the Federal infantry, already
shattered and disorganised, could hardly have held on, and the line
would have been broken through. But although one opportunity had been
lost, and he was once more thrown on the defensive, Jackson's
determination to make the battle decisive of the war was still
unshaken. His judgment was never clearer. Shortly before eleven
o'clock his medical director, appalled by the number of wounded men
sent back from the front, and assured that the day was going badly,
rode to the West Wood in order to discuss the advisability of
transferring the field hospitals across the Potomac. Dr. McGuire
found Jackson sitting quietly on 'Little Sorrel' behind the line of
battle, and some peaches he had brought with him were gratefully
accepted. He then made his report, and his apprehensions were not
made less by the weakness of the line which held the wood. The men,
in many places, were lying at intervals of several yards; for support
there was but one small brigade, and over in the corn-fields the
overwhelming strength of the Federal masses was terribly apparent.
Yet his imperturbable commander, apparently paying more attention to
the peaches than to his subordinate's suggestions, replied by
pointing to the enemy and saying quietly, "Dr. McGuire, they have
done their worst."

Meanwhile, the tide of battle, leaving Jackson's front and setting
strongly southwards, threatened to submerge the Confederate centre.
French's division of Sumner's corps, two brigades of Franklin's, and
afterwards Richardson's division, made repeated efforts to seize the
Dunkard Church, the Roulette Farm, and the Piper House.

1 P.M.

From before ten until one o'clock the battle raged fiercely about the
sunken road which was held by D.H. Hill, and which witnessed on this

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