'I feel as reasonably confident of success', wrote McClellan to his wife on the morning of 14 September, 'as any one well can who trusts in a higher power.' McClellan intended to take advantage of the knowledge he had gained of the division of Lee's army through the capture of Special Order 191. He ordered Major General William Franklin's VI Corps to take Crampton's Gap, with the additional mission of offering relief to the Federal garrison at Harper's Ferry. The main Federal effort would be made twelve miles north by IX Corps led against Fox's Gap by Major General Jesse Reno, and I Corps led by Major General Joseph Hooker against Turner's Gap. The operation was directed by the commander of the right wing, Major General Ambrose Burnside. The intention was to force the passes, move on Boonsboro, and separate Longstreet from Jackson. The remainder of the Federal army would support Burnside's endeavours.
► A mountain range separated Lee's divided army from McClellan's united one. The only way over the range was through a series of passes, known locally as 'gaps'. This one is Turner's Gap, looking south-east. Rhode was positioned on the hill that slopes to the left, while Gibbon's men were down in the hollow. Generals Reno and Garland were killed on the mountain to the south, on the right, W ise's Field at Fox's Gap.
The Battle of Crampton's Gap
Major General Franklin arrived with VI Corps at Burkittsville, on the road south of Crampton's Gap, at noon. The pass was defended by elements of Mahone's Virginia brigade of Richard Anderson's division, led by Colonel William Parham, and elements of Robertson's cavalry brigade. The whole Confederate force was commanded by Thomas Munford, Colonel of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry of Robertson's brigade. Thomas Taylor Munford (1831-1918) had been a member of the 1852 graduating class of the Virginia Military Institute, and a farmer before the War. He was now an experienced combat leader, attempting with elements of two Confederate brigades to defend a mountain pass against a Federal force of two divisions. Munford placed the field pieces of Chew's Virginia Battery half-way up the mountain, to the west of the road.
► Major General William B. Franklin commanded VI Corps at Antietam, leading his troops through Cramp-ton's Gap at South Mountain. The sash antl elaborate epaulettes, shown in this period print, would have not been mom in the field.
Crampton's Gap, 14 September 1862
He placed the 6th and 12th Virginia Regiments under Colonel Parham along a stone wall, near the base of the mountain, to the east of the road. Parham's flanks were covered by the 2nd and 12th Virginia Cavalry Regiments deployed as dismounted skirmishers. Munford would hold this position against superior forces for nearly three hours.
Franklin placed the 1st Division/VI Corps led by Major General Henry W. Slocum to the right, or east side of the road, and ordered it to move against the Confederate centre and left. Slocum did so, supported by Captain Wolcott's Battery A/Maryland (Federal), Light Artillery. Slocum advanced with Colonel Joseph Bartlett's 2nd Brigade/1st Division on the left, nearest the road, and Brigadier General Alfred Torbert's 1st Brigade/1st Division on the extreme Federal right. Brigadier General John 34
Newton's 3rd Brigade/1st Division constituted the reserve.
The advance was initiated by the 2nd Brigade, led by Joseph Jackson Bartlett (1834-1893), a lawyer before the War, and now Colonel of the 27th New York Volunteers. Bartlett led his New Yorkers and the other regiments of his brigade against the stone wall held by Parham's Virginians through 'a well directed fire' from Chew's field pieces up the slope of the mountain. Captain Romeyn Beck Ayres (1825-88) meanwhile directed the guns of his Battery F/5th United States Artillery in a counter-battery duel with Chew's cannon in an attempt to cover the Federal advance. Ayres was an 1847 graduate of the United States Military Academy, a veteran of the war with Mexico, and one of the few regulars sprinkled among the Federal volunteer
army. Major General William F. Smith's 2nd Division/VI Corps conformed to Slocom's advance by moving forward on the left or western side of the road, with Colonel William Irwin's 3rd Brigade/2nd Division on Smith's right nearest the road, and Brigadier General William Brook's 2nd Brigade/2nd Division on the extreme Federal left. Brigadier General Winfield Scott Hancock's 1st Brigade/2nd Division constituted Smith's reserve.
Colonel Bartlett encountered stiff resistance and was ultimately reinforced from Newton's brigade. The final Federal movement was a general advance sometime around 1430. 'The men swept forward, with a cheer', Franklin wrote in his report, 'over the stone wall, dislodging the enemy, and pursuing him over the mountain side to the crest of the hill and down the opposite slope.' VI Corps claimed the capture of 400 prisoners from seventeen different organizations, three colours, a field piece, and 700 discarded weapons. Franklin stated that his men buried 150 Confederate soldiers on the field.
Colonel Munford reported minimal losses in his cavalry regiments, but admitted to heavier casualties among the infantry, stating in his report, 'Colonel Parham's loss must have been heavy, as they were a long time engaged, and the firing was as heavy as I ever heard.' The Confederate force commanded by Colonel Munford had, nonetheless, accomplished its mission. Franklin made no further significant advance that day beyond Crampton's Gap, discouraged by the arrival of Brigadier General Howell Cobb's brigade, and other elements of xMcLaws' Confederate Division in his front. Meanwhile, the Federal garrison commander at Harper's Ferry was forced to surrender 12,000 men and a considerable amount of war material at 0800 the following morning, 15 September, to Major General Thomas Jackson's Confederate forces.
The Battle of Turner's Gap
While Franklin was fighting his battle at Crampton's Gap, the main Federal effort was being made against the Turner's Gap position by the Federal right wing led by Major General Burnside. Major General James Longstreet was at Hagerstown, Maryland, with two Confederate divisions, while Major General Jackson was attempting to take Harper's Ferry with the majority of Lee's forces. That left the Confederate division of Daniel Harvey Hill, at Boonsboro on the evening of 13 September, to defend the Turner's Gap position. It was a critical mission because if the Federal Army of the Potomac-swept Hill aside and interposed itself between Longstreet and Jackson, then Lee's Army of Northern Virginia would be beaten in detail, if not annihilated. Corporal Woodford of the 16th Connecticut Volunteers in the Federal IX Corps wrote, 'A good many of the old soldiers think that the next battle will decide the contest. I hope so, but I have my doubts about it.'
Hill sent Garland's brigade to hold the lower Fox's Gap, and Colonel Alfred Colquitt's brigade into Turner's Gap proper. He retained his other three brigades (G. B. Anderson, Rodes, and Ripley) near Boonsboro until the situation became clear.
The North Carolinian regiments sent to defend Fox's Gap were commanded by Brigadier General Samuel Garland, an 1849 graduate of the Virginia
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