The Campaign

There was an unpleasant air of defeat hanging over the long, dusty blue columns of the Federal Army of Virginia as it sullenly retired on the Federal capital of Washington. At the two-day engagement of Second Manassas, fought near Centreville, Virginia, in the last days of August 1862, the Federal forces had been roughly handled. A determined rearguard action fought on 1 September by elements of the Federal IX Corps at Chantilly, or Ox Hill, led by Major General Isaac Ingalls Stevens prevented complete disaster; however, the retreat continued into the extensive fortifications of Washington. The Federal Army of Virginia had been thrown together hastily from various formations in the Shenandoah Valley and around Washington. The organization did not have time to sort itself out before it was engaged in a campaign with General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, fresh from driving Major General George McClellan's Federal Army of the Potomac away from Richmond. The individual soldier of the Federal Army of

Virginia believed that his regiment and his immediate comrades were capable of better effort than had been demonstrated at Second Manassas. The rank and file suspected that they had been forced to endure defective leadership. The men entertained no confidence in their army commander, Major General John Pope, nor in their corps leaders, Major Generals Franz Sigel, Nathaniel Banks, and Irwin McDowell. The Federal Army of Virginia was dispirited and acutely disappointed in their leadership as they approached the Federal Capital on the second day of September 1862. President Abraham Lincoln's summer gamble with John Pope had failed.

McClellan Takes Command

Pope had received reinforcements from McClellan's Army of the Potomac, principally V Corps commanded by Major General Fitz-John Porter, but it had not prevented his defeat at Second Manassas.

Chantilly 1862

► The Battle of Chantilly, 1 September 1862, ended the Second Manassas campaign with defeat for the North, marked by the death of the brave soldier, Union general Philip Kearny, shown here, and allowed Lee to take the offensive again.

The Lincoln administration had not been pleased with the outcome of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign, which failed to take the rebel capital at Richmond, nor had the President appreciated 'Little Mac's' persistent call for more troops; so Lincoln had formed a new army under Pope for a fresh offensive. The War Department had ordered formations away from the Army of the Potomac at such a rate that McClellan began to believe himself 'in command of nothing more than my headquarters escort'. That had been before Pope's defeat at Second Manassas, and now Robert E. Lee apparently was leading a twice victorious rebel army on Washington.

The day of the engagement at Chantilly, 1 September, McClellan received verbal orders from President Lincoln to assume command of Washington, its defences and all forces in the immediate vicinity. This order was confirmed in writing from the Adjutant General's Office on 2 September 1862. Major General McClellan was ordered by the

Government to display his considerable organizational talents, to return the Armies of Virginia and of the Potomac to fighting condition, and to save the Federal Capital. George Brinton McClellan believed that he was being called upon by an ungrateful administration to 'save the republic for a second time'. He rode out to meet Pope's returning troops. They were told that McClellan was again in command, and the effect was astonishing. Captain William H. Powell, serving then with the 4th United States Infantry Regiment in V Corps, recalled twenty four years later the dramatic impact this news had upon Pope's formations in the summer of 1862: 'Shout upon shout went out into the stillness of the night; and, as it was taken up along

▼ Lightly equipped infantrymen under 'Stonewa IV J a ckson cross the Potomac River into Maryland at White's Ford.

Wallpaper Civil War Battlefields

the road & repeated by regiment, brigade, division, and corps, we could hear the roar dying away in the distance. The effect of this man's presence upon the Army of the Potomac in sunshine or rain, in darkness or in daylight, in victory or defeat, was ever electrical and too wonderful to make it worthwhile attempting to give a reason for it.'

The Armies of Virginia and of the Potomac were consolidated as of 5 September. Major General John Pope was relieved from the command of troops, and all Federal forces in the immediate vicinity of Washington were placed under the command of Major General George McClellan. The geographic extent of McClellan's command was, however, somewhat uncertain. Major General Henry Halleck, acting as President Lincoln's chief of staff, apparently assumed that when a field force was again assembled to move against Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia some general other than McClellan would lead it. The Federal Government never had the time to consider the matter, for Lee's formations had begun crossing the Potomac River near Leesburg, Virginia, into Maryland the previous day, 4 September. McClellan was never appointed formally to the command of the field army defending the Federal Capital, a fact that explains to some extent his caution during the Maryland Campaign. McClellan wrote after the War: 'As the time had now arrived for the Army to advance, and I had received no written orders to take command of it, but had been expressly told that the assignment of a commander had not been decided, I determined to solve the question for myself I was afterwards accused of assuming command without authority, for nefarious purposes, and, in effect, fought the battles of South Mountain and Antietam with a halter around my neck; for if the Army of the Potomac had been defeated and I had survived I would, no doubt, have been tried for assuming authority without orders.'

McClellan assumed command of the field forces covering the capital, which advanced towards the enemy on 5 September. It consisted of I Corps (Hooker), II Corps (Sumner), 1st Division/IV Corps (attached to the VI Corps), V Corps (Porter), VI Corps (Franklin), IX Corps (Burnside), XII Corps (Mansfield) and a cavalry division (Pleasonton). McClellan divided his forces into a right wing under Major General Ambrose Burnside, consisting of I and IX Corps, a centre division under Major General Edwin Sumner of II and XII Corps, a left wing formed by VI Corps commanded by Major General William Franklin, and a reserve employing V Corps led by Major General Fitz-John Porter. Major General Nathaniel P. Banks was left in command of the defences of Washington with III Corps (Heintzelman), XI Corps (Sigel), and various garrison formations comprising XXII Corps.

Lee's Invasion of Maryland

The Army of the Potomac moved into Maryland. 'It was awful hot and tedious,' recalled Corporal Harrison Woodford of I Company/16th Connecticut Volunteers. 'The dust was half a foot deep,' he told his brother back home. It was the first field experience for the 16th Connecticut, and Corporal Woodford added in a letter dated 10 September, after further difficult marching following Lee into Maryland: 'A Soldier's life is a hard old life to lead, but I think I can ride it through. No one knows anything of the hardships of a soldier's life until they know it by experience.' Woodford's comment might stand for all soldiers, in all the campaigns of history.

The common soldiers in Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia were, if anything, more fatigued than their opponents. Lee had given his army no rest following the Second Manassas Campaign, and now he was leading it in a counter-offensive into Maryland. The southern commander was asking a great deal from tired flesh in that September of 1862. He considered it necessary to maintain offensive momentum, to keep the Federal forces off balance, and to prevent their occupation of as much of his beloved Virginia as he could manage. In addition, there were important political reasons for a Confederate offensive. The Confederate government assumed that there were large numbers of southern supporters in Maryland, and that the state was being held in the Federal union by force alone. 'If it is ever desired to give material aid to Maryland,' wrote Robert E. Lee to President Jefferson Davis on 3 September, 'and afford her an opportunity of throwing off the oppression to which she is now subject, this would seem the most favorable.' Southern political leaders thought that a large victorious southern army, Lee's army, moving into Maryland might gain that state for the Confederacy.

There was also a southern offensive being conducted in the western theatre. Confederate forces led by General Braxton Bragg and Major General Edmund Kirby Smith were invading Kentucky. Richmond entertained the same ambitions in the 'Blue Grass State' that it had in Maryland. The trump card would be a definite Southern military success in either or both Maryland and Kentucky. A

Southern military success in territory clearly Northern. The Confederate government believed that such an event would ensure European recognition of the Confederacy as a legitimate nation. The South might then receive serious foreign military assistance, as the American colonies had from France in the American Revolution. Confederate military resources were being strained to produce offensive movements in September 1862, for the South was gambling on the economic power of 'King Cotton' and potential battlefield victories in

A. P. Hill (left) with Robert E. Lee wearing Confederate generals' uniform. That of Hill is regulation, complete with forage cap; Lee later adopted a lay-down collar instead of the stand-up version seen here; he wears no symbol of rank other than the stars on his collar. Painting by Ron Volstad.

Maryland and Kentucky. The risk for the South was great, but the stakes were high.

Special Order 191

General Robert E. Lee proposed to detach Major General Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson with six divisions (McLaws, R. H. Anderson, Walker, Lawton, J. R. Jones and A. P. Hill), for the capture of the Federal garrison at Harper's Ferry. Major General James Longstreet would lead the general advance towards Hagerstown, Maryland, with two divisions, (D. R. Jones and Hood); while D. H. Hill's division, generally under Longstreet's command, guarded the right and rear of the advancing Confederate army. After the reduction of Harper's Ferry, Lee intended to continue the forward movement towards Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, threatening Baltimore, Philadelphia, or Washington as circumstances might seem to indicate. Lee was committing two-thirds of his army to the Harper's Ferry operation, and was considerably dividing his forces. The

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia

Special Orders, No. 191.

The army will resume its march to-morrow, taking the Hagerstown road. Gen. Jackson s command will form the advance, and after passing Middletown, with such portion as he may select, will take the route towards Sharpshurg, cross thePotomac at the most convenient point, and by Friday night take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of the enemy as may he at Martinshurg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from Harper's Ferry.

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

Gen. McLaws, with his own division and that of Gen. R. H. Anderson, will follow Gen. Longstreet; on reaching Middletown he will take the route to Harper's Ferry, and by Friday morning possess himself of the Maryland Heights and endeavor to capture the enemy at Harper's Ferry and vicinity.

Gen. Walker, with his division, after accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take possession of Loudon Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning; Key's Ford on his left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable, co-operate with Gen. McLaws and Gen. Jackson in intercepting the retreat of the enemy.

Gen. D. //. Hill's division will form the rear-guard of the army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve artillery, ordnance, and supply trains, etc., will precede Gen. Hill.

Gen. Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Gens. Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and, with the main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army and bring up all stragglers that may have been left behind.

The commands of Gens. Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Boonsborough or Hagerstown.

Each regiment on the march will habitually carry its axes in the regimental ordnance-wagons, for the use of the men at their encampments, to procure wood, etc. By command of Gen. R. E. Lee

Major-Gen. D. H. Hill, Commanding Division.

A, After finding the orders that indicated how Lee's men would he distributed, McClellan finally led his army west to catch the Confederates off guard.

Here he takes the salute of adoring civilians in Frederick City, Maryland, 12 September 1862. His advance would, however, be too slow.

Confederate army was taking a chance, but Lee reasoned that after their defeat at Second Manassas the Federals would not move quickly, particularly if McClellan was in command. Lee issued Special Order 191, therefore, at Frederick, Maryland, on 9 September, detailing this operational plan. It contained the specific locations of Lee's formations for the next few days and clearly stated Lee's general intentions. He ordered that all his division commanders receive copies for their guidance while major portions of the Army of Northern Virginia operated separately.

The Federal army entered Frederick on 12 September, the same day that the siege of Harper's Ferry was commenced by Jackson's forces. The next morning private soldiers of the 27th Indiana Volunteers, camped on ground recently used by Daniel Harvey Hill's Confedei ate division, found a copy of Special Order 191 Wiapped around some cigars. They realized the importance of their discovery, and by afternoon McClellan was in possession of General Lee's entire plan of operations. The astonishing carelessness, or more darkly the treachery of some Confederate staff officer now lost to history, had presented the commander of the Army of 12

A, After finding the orders that indicated how Lee's men would he distributed, McClellan finally led his army west to catch the Confederates off guard.

Here he takes the salute of adoring civilians in Frederick City, Maryland, 12 September 1862. His advance would, however, be too slow.

the Potomac with the intelligence necessary to destroy Lee's army in detail before it could concentrate. The captured intelligence caused McClellan to move swiftly - far more swiftly than Lee could have imagined. He ordered the Federal army to force the passes over the South Mountain range of the Blue Ridge through Crampton's Gap, and through Turner's Gap and its subsidiary, Fox's Gap. McClellan would move on Boonsboro, interposing his army between the forces of Jackson at Harper's Ferry and Longstreet near Hagerstown. But McClellan did not move swiftly enough, and historians have castigated him for not ordering a night march on the thirteenth. It would be morning on 14 September before the Army of the Potomac was in position opposite the key South Mountain positions.

Lee was made aware by a citizen of Southern sympathies on the evening of 13 September of the

M Major General John G. Walker's division took possession of Loudoun Heights at Harper's Ferry as McClellan was closing in on Lee's Army. Yet Walker and his men would manage to march to Sharpsburg in time to he of tremendous service.

disastrous news that McClellan was in possession of Special Order 191. The Army of Northern Virginia was dangerously separated, the reduction of Harper's Ferry was in hand, but not completed; and McClellan was on the move fully informed of Lee's intentions. Lee ordered an immediate withdrawal south of the Potomac River. He also instructed Longstreet to support D. H. Hill's division deployed to cover the passes McClellan must use to divide the Confederate army. The stage was set for the engagements of Crampton's Gap and Turner's Gap, known collectively as South Mountain, fought on 14 September 1862.

M Major General John G. Walker's division took possession of Loudoun Heights at Harper's Ferry as McClellan was closing in on Lee's Army. Yet Walker and his men would manage to march to Sharpsburg in time to he of tremendous service.

▼ Walker's troops held a commanding position on Loudoun Heights which are, as seen in this wartime sketch, the dominating position near Harper's Ferry.



HOOKER ¿ddletown




Boteler's Ford

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