Surrender of Harper's Ferry.
September 20, 1862
Surrender of Harper's Ferry.
From a participant in the engagement, we have obtained some particulars with reference to the investment and subsequent surrender of Harper's Ferry. Our informant states that Gen. Jackson left Frederick on Thursday taking the Hagerstown road, and at the same time the divisions of Gens. McLaws and R. H. Anderson moved from the vicinity of Frederick for the Maryland Heights, overlooking the town of Harper's Ferry. On Wednesday, the division of Gen. Walker was sent down to destroy the canal aqueduct at the month of the Monocacy, and arrived at the point during that night. The next morning, early, before they had accomplished their purpose, an order was received from Gen. Lee, directing Gen. Walker to proceed with his forces, by forced marches, to the Loudoun Heights, via Point of Rocks, to prevent the enemy at Harper's Ferry from escaping in that direction. The division crossed the river at Point of Rocks, nine miles below Harper's Ferry, and on Fridayevening reached the position assigned them. Gen. Jackson's force reached Williamsport men the Potomac, on Fridaymorning, and immediately crossed and moved on Martinsburgtwenty miles above Harper's Ferry, where there were some three or four thousand of the enemy's forces. On the approach of Gen. Jackson this force fell back, and united with the force at Harper's Ferry, be loved to number about five thousand. Gen. Jackson pursued, and on Saturdaymorning reached Halltown, four miles Southwest of Harper's Ferry. From this point be dispatched a courier to General Walker, then in possession of the Heights south of the town, directing him not to open his guns upon the enemy's fortifications until he (Gen. J.) got in position, of which he promised to notify General Walker.
Meanwhile the divisions of McLaws and Anderson, after but little resistance, had become masters of the Heights on the Maryland side, the enemy leaving them, and joining the forces in their entrenchments on the Virginia side of the river.--On SaturdaynightGeneral Walker received orders from General Jackson to open fire upon the enemy at daylight on Sundaymorning. In obedience to this order, at day-down the stillness of the Sabbath was broken by the opening of Walkers guns upon the fortifications of the enemy on Bolivar Heights, tow miles above the railroad bridge at Harper's Ferry. At the same time the attack was made by the forces under General Jackson, and the fight, which was desperate and determined, continued throughout the day — McLaws and Anderson shelling from the Maryland side. The enemy resisted with great spirit, and their guns, of which they had a large number in position, were handled with great effect upon the column of Gen. Jackson, which had to approach them through an open space, where their guns had unobstructed play.--The shells from Walker's batteries and the impetuous attacks of Jackson's men rendered their entrenchments on Bolivar Heights too warm for the enemy, and late in the evening they fell back to Camp Hill, one miles in rear of the Bolivar fortifications. Here they had heavy guns planted and strong entrenchments thrown up, but within easy range of the batteries of McLaws and Anderson, on the opposite heights. Night coming on, the struggle ceased, Jackson's forces occupying the deserted entrenchments on the hills of Bolivar. That night old "Stonewall" sent a message to General Walker that his forces were in possession of the enemy's first line of entrenchments, and that with God's blessing, he would have Harper's Ferry and the Federal forces early the next morning.
At daylight the next morning (Monday) the fight was renewed, the enemy still offering an obstinate resistance, until about seven o'clock A. M., when their colors were struck and a capitulation proposed. Of the terms of this capitulation we have learned no particulars, but conclude that they involved the unconditional surrender of the whole force, negroes as well as Yankees. About 9 o'clock our forces entered the second line of entrenchments, the enemy having surrendered everything, guns, ordnance, and commissary stores, &c. The number of the enemy is variously estimated at from seven to twelve thousand, and the negroes from fifteen hundred to two thousand.
Of our losses we are not apprised, but judge from reports that Gen. Jackson's column suffered pretty heavily. In Walker's division we had five killed, three of these by the accidental explosion of a shell. Among the killed in this division we have heard the name of Lieut. Robertson, of French's battery.
Since the above was written we have received the following additional particulars contained in a letter to Gov. Letcher, from Col. Francis H. Smith:
Winchester,Sept. 16--After the advance of our army to Frederick, and the issuing of the admirable proclamation to the people of Maryland by Lee, a movement took place with our troops, seemingly in the direction of Pennsylvania, but really for an important movement into Virginia. After sending a portion of his troops to occupy and hold the Maryland Heights, Gen. Jackson was directed by Gen. Lee to recross the Potomac at Williamsport, take possession of Martinsburg, and then pass rapidly behind Harper's Ferry, that a capture might be effected of the garrison and stores known to be there. The movement was admirably conducted. Martinsburg fell, with a capture of 150 prisoners and some stores, the most being taken to the Ferry. The investment of Harper's Ferry was effected on Saturday. Sundaymorning there was some firing and it was renewed yesterday morning, and the result the unconditional surrender of the garrison--10,000 men with all the arms, fifty pieces of artillery, ammunition, 100 wagons, quartermaster and commissary stores, and many cars, some of which were loaded, and 600 negroes. This important conquest was effected without the loss of a man on our side. So much is official. It is reported that the cavalry 1,000 in number, escaped by Shepherdstown.
Another account, received late last night, says that the surrender took place on Mondaymorning last at 10 o'clock. The firing commanded as early as 5 o'clock in the morning. Shortly after, the Yankee sent out a flag of truce, proposing a conditional surrender; but our firing did not cease when another flag was sent proposing an unconditional surrender, when the firing ceased. General Miles, the Federal commander, is reported to be wounded. The results of this surrender, according to this last account, are as follows: 12,000 Yankee 12,000 Rufield rifles, 50 cannon, 100 four horse team a number of fine artillery horses, a large quantity of ammunition, some quartermaster and commissary stores, and 1,000 "contrabands."
--At Harper's Ferry we paroled 11,090 privates, 425 officers, took 2,000 negroes, 15,000 stand of small arms, and forty-six pieces of cannon. Col. Walker's battery took 500 horses. Our loss was three killed and forty wounded. The battle commenced Sundaymorning, and opened again Monday at daylight. Their dead were covered in the ditches — we couldn't tell how many. In the fight at Sharpsburg we took 3,000 prisoners. Gen. Garland and Col. Strange were killed. Gen. D. H. Hill was roughly handed, but managed to hold the enemy in check.
Series 1 - Volume 19 (Part I)
Report of Capt. J. L. Bartlett, Signal Officer, C. S. Army, of operations about Harpers Ferry, W. Va.
SUNDAY, September 14, 1862.
My signal-flag was up at daylight, and my glass bearing on Londoun Heights after sunrise. Major Paxton sent the following: “Artillery coming up the road to be repaired.” Before delivering this message I asked “What artillery and what road?” Major Paxton answered “Walkers, and up mountains.” About 10 a. m. comes another dispatch from Loudoun Heights: “Walker has his six rifle pieces in position. Shall he wait for McLaws?” General Jackson answers “Wait.”
General Jackson and Colonel Smead then come to signal station, and the general dictates the following:
SUNDAY, September 14, 1862.
Generals MOLAWS and WALKER:
If you can, establish batteries to drive the enemy from the hill west of Bolivar and on which Barbours house is, and any other position where he may be damaged by your artillery, and 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 lookout 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.
T. J. JACKSON, Major- General, Commanding.
P. S. If you have not rations, take steps at once to supply yourself; have beef driven to your command, so that you may have enough.
T. J. J.
General Jackson and staff then go to the left. I received soon after the following:
General McLaws informs me that the enemy are in his rear, and that he can do but little more than he has done. I am now ready to open.
There being no courier at the post, I carry this message to the general, and find him in front on the left. He gives me an answer, and sends Lieutenant Douglas back to signal station with me:
Do not open until General McLaws notifies me what he can probably effect. Let me know what you can effect with your command upon the enemy.
Let me know what you can probably effect with your artillery, and also with your entire command. Notify General ID. H. Hill, at Middleburg, of the enemy’s position, and request him to protect your rear. Send the same message to General Lee, near Hagerstown.
The messages next in order came from Loudoun Heights:
Walker cannot get position to bear on island.
(No signature; probably from Major Paxton.)
I am informed that the enemy are advancing by Purcellville, and have possession of the passes from the valley.
Generals WALKER and McLAWS:
Fire at such positions of the enemy as will be most effective.
Our artillery opens from this side in front of Bolivar; Walker opens from Loudoun Heights, and Yankees are seen coming down on west side of Bolivar to escape Walker’s fire, but meet an equal one from our artillery on the left of our line.
SPECIAL ORDERS, HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT,
No. . September 14, 1862.
I. 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 justify.
II. Brigadier-General Walker will take in reverse the battery on the turnpike, and also sweep with his artillery the ground occupied by the enemy, and silence the battery on the island in the Shenandoah should he find a battery there.
III. Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill will move along the left bank of the Shenandoah, and thus turn the enemy’s left flank and enter Harpers Ferry.
IV. Brigadier-General Lawton will move along the turnpike for the purpose of supporting General Hill and otherwise operating against the enemy on the left of General Hill.
V. 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:
WM. L. JACKSON, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
If any other dispatches or orders were sent at Harpers Ferry it was done at other posts than mine. Messages were doubtless sent from Loudoun Heights to Maryland Heights between Generals McLaws and Walker. Captain Adams, who was the only commissioned signal officer there, has doubtless full reports of those and all the messages and orders, it being his duty to keep them. I suggest that he be applied to for them.
JOS. L. BARTLETT.
P. S—After the surrender of Harpers Ferry I was ordered by Major Paxton to remove my station to Barbours house. I did so after notifying Captain Adams post, on Loudoun Heights, of the move, telling them to look out for my flag at that point. After locating my station at that place, however, and waving my flag for several hours, I could not get attention from Loudoun Heights to send a message, sent to me by Major Paxton, for General Walker to prepare rations and be ready to march. 1 afterward learned that the post had been evacuated at that time. Thus ended the signal service at Harpers Ferry.
Frank Moore, ed. Vol. 5. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863. pp. 439-49
THE SURRENDER OF HARPER’S FERRY
REPORT OF THE INVESTIGATING COMMISSION.
The Commission, consisting of Major-Gen. D. Hunter, United States army of volunteers, President; Major-Gen. G. Cadwalader, United States army of volunteers; Brig.-Gen. C C. Augur, United States army of volunteers; Major Donn Piatt, Assistant-Adjutant-General of volunteers; Capt. F. Ball, Aid-de-Camp of volunteers; Colonel Holt, Judge-Advocate General, called by the Government to investigate the conduct of certain officers connected with and the circumstances attending the abandonment of Maryland Heights and the surrender of Harper’s Ferry, have the honor to report the following:
On the third of September Gen. White entered Harper’s Ferry with his force from Winchester. The next day he was ordered to Martinsburgh to take command of the forces there. On the twelfth of September he again returned to Harper’s Ferry, where he remained until the surrender, without assuming the command.
On the seventh of September Gen. McClellan, the most of his forces having preceded him, left Washington under orders issued some days previously, to drive the enemy from Maryland. That night he established his headquarters at Rockville, from which, on the eleventh of September, he telegraphed to Gen. Halleck to have Col. Miles ordered to join him at once.
On the fifth of September Col. Thomas H. Ford, thirty-second Ohio, took command of the forces on Maryland Heights. Forces were placed at Solomon’ Gap and at Sandy Hook. Those at Sandy Hook, under Col. Maulsby, retired by Co. Miles’s order to the eastern slope of Maryland Heights, tow or three days previous to their evacuation by Col. Ford.
On the eleventh of September the force at Solomon’s Gap were driven in by the enemy. Col. Ford called upon Col. Miles for reinforcements. The One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New York and the Thirty-ninth New-York (Garibaldi Guards) were sent him on Friday, the twelfth of September, and on the morning of the thirteenth he was further reinforced by the One Hundred and Fifteenth New York, and a portion of a Maryland regiment under Lieut.-Col. Downey.
Col. Ford made requisition for axes and spades to enable him to construct defences on the Heights, but obtained none. With ten axes belonging to some Maryland troops, hiring all could be obtained, a slight breastwork of trees was constructed on the twelfth, near the crest of the Heights, and a slashing of timber made for a short distance in front of the breastwork.
The forces under Col. Ford were stationed at various points on the Maryland Heights, the principal force being on the crest of the hill near the breastwork and look-out.
Skirmishing commenced on Friday, the twelfth, on the crest of the hill. Early on the morning of the thirteenth the enemy made an attack on the crest of the hill, and after some time the troops retired in some confusion to the breastwork, where they were rallied. About nine o’clock a second attack was made, which the troops behind the breastwork resisted for a short time, and until Col. Sherrill, of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York, was wounded and carried off the field, when the entire One Hundred and Twenty-sixth regiment, as some witnesses testify, all but two companies, Major Hewitt states, broke and fled in utter confusion. Men and most of the officers all fled together, no effort being made to rally the regiment, except by Col. Ford, Lieut. Barras, Acting-Adjutant, and some officers of other regiments, directed by Col. Miles, then on the Heights.
Soon after the remaining forces at the breastwork fell back, under a supposed order from Major Hewitt, who himself says that he gave no such order, merely sent instructions to the captains of his own regiment that if they were compelled to retire to do so in good order. Orders were given by Col. Ford for the troops to return to their position. They advanced some distance up the Heights, but did not regain the breastwork.
That evening Colonel Miles was on Maryland Heights for some hours consulting with Colonel Ford. He left between eleven and twelve o-clock, without directly ordering Col. Ford to evacuate the Heights, but instructing him, in case he was compelled to do so, to spike the guns and throw the heavy siege-guns down the mountain.
About two o’clock, perhaps a little later, by the order of Col. Ford, the Heights were abandoned, the guns being spiked according to instructions.
On Sunday, Col. D’Utassy sent over to Maryland Heights four companies under Major Wood, who brought off, without opposition, four brass twelve-pounders, two of which were imperfectly spiked, and a wagon-load of ammunition.
Gen. White, on his return to Harper’s Ferry, on the twelfth of September, suggested to Col. Miles the propriety of contracting his lines on Bolivar Heights so as to make a better defence, but Col. Miles adhered to his original line of defence, stating that he was determined to make his stand on Bolivar Heights. General White also urged the importance of holding Maryland Heights, even should it require the taking [of] the entire force over there from Harper’s Ferry. Col. Mile, under his orders to hold Harper’s Ferry to the last extremity, while admitting the importance of Maryland Heights, seemed to regard them as applying to the town of Harper’s Ferry, and held that to leave Harper’s Ferry, even to go on Maryland Heights, would be disobeying his instructions.
Gen. McClelland established his headquarters at Frederick City on the morning of the thirteenth of September. On the night of the thirteenth, after the evacuation of Maryland Heights, Col. Miles directed Captain (now Major) Russell, of the Maryland cavalry, to take with him a few men and endeavor to get through the enemy’s lines and reach some of our forces—General McClellan if possible—and to report the condition of Harper’s Ferry, that it could not hold out more than forty-eight hours, unless reinforced, and to urge the sending of reinforcements. Capt. Russell reached General McClellan’s headquarters at Frederick at nine a.m. on Sunday, the fourteenth of September, and reported as directed by Colonel Miles. Immediately upon his arrival Gen. McClellan sent off a messenger, as Captain Russell understood, to General Franklin.
At ten a.m. Capt. Russell left for the Gen. Franklin’s command, with a communication to General Franklin from Gen. McClellan. He reached Gen. Franklin about three o’clock that afternoon, and found him engaged with the enemy at Crampton’s Gap. The enemy were [sic] driven from the Gap, and the next morning, the fifteenth, Gen. Franklin passed through the Gap, advancing about a mile, and finding the enemy drawn up in line of battle in his front, drew his own forces up in a line of battle. While thus situated, the cannonading in the direction of Harper’s Ferry, which had been heard very distinctly all the morning—Harper’s Ferry being about seven miles distant—suddenly ceased, whereupon Gen. Franklin sent work to Gen. McClellan of the probable surrender of Harper’s Ferry by Colonel Miles, and did not deem it necessary to proceed further in that direction.
The battle of South-Mountain was fought on Sunday, the fourteenth.
On the same day, Sunday, during the afternoon, the enemy at Harper’s Ferry made their escape, under Colonel Davis of the Twelfth Illinois cavalry, by permission of Colonel Miles, and reached Greencastle, Pa., the next morning, capturing an ammunition-train belonging to Gen. Longstreet, consisting of some fifty or sixty wagons. The Commission regard [sic] this escape of the cavalry, etc.
Several of the infantry officers desired permission to cut their way out at the same time the cavalry made their escape, but Col. Miles refused, upon the ground that he had never been ordered to hold Harper’s Ferry to the last extremity.
On the morning of the fifteenth the enemy opened their batteries from several points—seven to nine as estimated by different witnesses--directing their attack principally upon our batteries on the left of Bolivar Heights. The attack commenced at daybreak. About seven o’clock Col. Miles represented to Gen. White that it would be necessary to surrender. Gen. White suggested that the brigade commanders be called together, which was done. Col. Miles stated that the ammunition for the batteries was exhausted, and he had about made up his mind to surrender. That was agreed to by all present, and General White was sent by Col. Miles to arrange terms.
The white flag was raised by order of Colonel Miles, but the enemy did not cease fire for some half or three quarters of an hour after. Colonel Miles was mortally wounded after the white flag was raised. The surrender was agreed upon about eight a.m. on Monday, the fifteenth of September.
The following was the testimony respectively of the officers commanding batteries: At the time of the surrender Capt. Von Schlen had some ammunition—could not tell what amount, but mostly shrapnel; had lost about one hundred rounds on Saturday, the thirteenth, by the explosion of a limber caused by one of the enemy’s shells. Captain Rigby had expended during the siege of Harper’s Ferry about six hundred rounds, with the exception of canister; had nothing but canister left. Captain Potts had expended about one thousand rounds, with the exception of canister; had only canister left. Capt. Graham had but two guns of his battery under his immediate command on the morning of the surrender; had probably one hundred rounds of all kinds, but no long-time fuses. Capt. Phillips had expended all his ammunition except some forty rounds of canister and some long-range shell too large for his guns. Capt. McGrath’s battery had been spiked and left on Maryland Heights on Saturday.
It appears that during the siege, and shortly previous, Col. Miles paroled several confederate prisoners, permitting them to pass through our lines. During the week previous to the evacuation of Maryland Heights, a Lieutenant Rouse, of the Twelfth Virginia cavalry, who had been engaged in a raid upon a train from Harper’s Ferry to Winchester a short time before, was captured and brought into Harper’s Ferry. He escaped while on the way to the hospital to have his wounds dressed, but was retaken. He was paroled, but returned in command of some rebel cavalry on the morning of the surrender. The attention of Gen. A. P. Hill was called to the fact that Lieut. Rouse was a paroled prisoner, but no attention was paid to it. Lieut. Rouse himself, on being spoken to about it, laughed at the idea of observing his parole. On Saturday, the day of the attack upon and evacuation of Maryland Heights, Col. Miles directed that sixteen confederate prisoners be permitted to pass through our lines to rejoin the rebel army at Winchester. Other cases are testified to, but those are the most important.
Of the subordinate officers referred to in this case, the Commission finds, with the exception of Col. Thomas H. Ford, nothing, nothing in their conduct that calls for censure. Gen. Julius White merits its approbation. He appears from the evidence to have acted with decided capability and courage.
In this connection the Commission calls attention to the disgraceful behavior of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York regiment of infantry, and recommends that Major Baird should, for his bad conduct, as shown by this evidence, he dismissed the service. Some of the officers, after the wounding of the gallant Colonel, such as Lieut. Barras, and others not known to the Commission behaved with gallantry, and should be commended.
In the case of Col. Ford, charged with improper conduct in abandoning the Maryland Heights, the Commission, after a careful hearing of the evidence produced by the Government and that relied on by the defence, and a due consideration of the arguments offered by counsel, find:
That on the fifth of September Col. Ford was placed in command of Maryland Heights by Col. Miles. That Col. Ford, finding the position unprepared by fortifications, earnestly urged Col. Miles to furnish him means by which the Heights could be made tenable for the small force under his command should heavy one be brought against him. That these reasonable demands were, for some cause unknown to the Commission, not responded to by the officer in command of Harper’s Ferry. That subsequently, when the enemy appeared in heavy force, Colonel Ford frequently and earnestly called upon Col. Miles for more troops, representing that he could not hold the Heights unless reinforced. That these demands were feebly or not at all complied with. That as late as the morning of the thirteenth Col. Ford sent two written demands to Col. Miles for reinforcements, and saying that with the troops then under his command he could not hold the Heights, and unless relieved or otherwise ordered, he would have to abandon them. That as late as eleven o’clock a.m. of the thirteenth, a few hours previous to the abandonment of this position, Colonel Miles said to Col. Ford that he (Colonel Ford) could not have another man, and must do the best he could, and, if unable to defend the place, he must spike the guns, throw them down the hill, and withdraw to Harper’s Ferry in good order.
The Court is then satisfied that Col. Ford was given a discretionary power to abandon the Heights, as his better judgment might dictate; and it believes from the evidence, circumstantial and direct, that the result did not to any great extent surprise nor in any way displease the officer in command at Harper’s Ferry. But this conclusion, so much relied upon by the defence, forces the Commission to a consideration of the fact, Did Colonel Ford, under the discretionary power thus vested in him, make a proper defence of the Heights, and hold them as he should have done, until driven off by the enemy?
The evidence shows conclusively that the force upon the Heights was not well managed; that the point most pressed was weakly defended as to numbers, and after the wounding of the colonel of the One Hundred and twenty-sixth New-York infantry, it was left without a competent officer in command, Col. Ford himself not appearing nor designating any one who might have restored order and encouraged the men; that the abandonment of the Heights was premature, is clearly proved. Our forces were not driven from the hill, as full time was given to spike the guns and throw the heavier ones down the cliff, and retreat in good order to Harper’s Ferry. The next day a force returning to the Heights found them unoccupied, and brought away unmolested four abandoned guns and a quantity of ammunition.
In so grave a case as this, with such disgraceful consequences, the court cannot permit an officer to shield himself behind the fact that he did as well as he could, if in so doing he exhibits a lack of military capacity. It is clear to the Commission that Col. Ford should not have been placed in command on Maryland Heights; that he conducted the defence without ability, and abandoned his position without sufficient cause, and has shown throughout such a lack of military capacity as to disqualify him, in the opinion of the commission, for a command in the service.
The Commission has approached a consideration of this officer’s conduct in connection with the surrender of Harper’s Ferry with extreme reluctance. An officer who cannot appear before any earthly tribunal to answer or explain charges gravely affecting his character, who has met his death at the hands of the enemy, even upon the spot he disgracefully surrenders, is entitled to the tenderest [sic] care and most careful investigation. This the Commission has accorded Col. Miles, and in giving a decision only repeats what runs through our nine hundred pages of testimony, strangely unanimous upon the fact that Colonel Miles’s incapacity, amounting to almost imbecility, led to the shameful surrender of this important post.
Early as the fifteenth of August he disobeys the orders of Major-Gen. Wool to fortify Maryland Heights. When it is surrounded and attacked by the enemy, its naturally strong positions are unimproved, and from his criminal neglect, to use the mildest term, the large force of the enemy is almost upon an equality with the small force under his command. He seems to have understood and admitted to his officers that Maryland Heights is the key to the position, and yet he places Col. Ford in command with a feeble force, makes no effort to strengthen them by fortifications, although between the fifth and fourteenth of September there was ample time to do so; and to Colonel Ford’s repeated demands for means to intrench [sic] and additional reinforcements, he makes either an inadequate return or no response at all. He gives Col. Ford a discretionary power as to when he shall abandon the Heights, the fact of abandonment having, it seems, been concluded on in his own mind. For, when this unhappy event really occurs, his only exclamation was to the effect that he feared Col. Ford had given up too soon, although he must have known that the abandonment of Maryland Heights was the surrender of Harper’s Ferry. This leaving the key of the position to the keeping of Col. Ford, with discretionary power after the arrival of that capable and courageous officer who had waived his rank to serve wherever ordered, is one of the more striking facts illustrating the incapacity of Col. Miles.
Immediately previous to and pending the siege of Harper’s Ferry, he paroles rebel prisoners and permits, indeed sends them to the enemy’s headquarters. This, too, when he should have known that the lack of ammunition, the bad conduct of some of our troops, the entire absence of fortifications, and the abandonment of Maryland Heights were important facts they could, and undoubtedly did communicate to the enemy. Sixteen of these prisoners were paroled on the thirteenth, and a pass given them in the handwriting of Col. Miles, while a rebel officer by the name of Rouse, after an escape is retaken, and subsequently has a private interview with Col. Miles, is paroled, and after the surrender appears at the head of his men, among the first to enter Harper’s Ferry.
It is not necessary to accumulate evidence from the mass that throughout scarcely affords one fact in contradiction to what each one established, that Col. Miles was incapable of conducting a defence so important as was this of Harper’s Ferry.
The Commission would not have dwelt upon this painful subject were it not for the fact that the officer who placed this incapable in command should share in the responsibility, and in the opinion of the Commission Major-Gen. Wool is guilty to this extent of a grave disaster, and should be censured for his conduct.
The Commission has remarked freely on Col. Miles, an old officer who has been killed in the service of his country, and it cannot from any motive of delicacy, refrain from censuring those in high command, when it thinks such censure deserved. The General-in-Chief has testified that Gen. McClellan, after having received orders to repel the enemy invading the State of Maryland, marched only six miles per day, on an average, when pursuing this invading enemy. The General-in-Chief also testifies that in his opinion Gen. McClellan could and should have relieved and protected Harper’s Ferry, and in this opinion the Commission fully concur.
The evidence thus introduced confirms the Commission in the opinion that Harper’s Ferry, as well as Maryland Heights, was prematurely surrendered. The garrison should have been satisfied that relief, however long delayed, would come at last, and that a thousand men killed in Harper’s Ferry would have made a small loss had the post been saved, and probably saved two thousand at Antietam. How important was this defence we can now appreciate. Of the ninety-seven thousand men composing at that time the whole of Lee’s army, more than one third were attacking Harper’s Ferry, and of this the main body was in Virginia. By reference to the evidence it will be seen that at the very moment Col. Ford abandoned Maryland Heights his little army was in reality relieved by Generals Franklin and Sumner’s corps at Crampton’s Gap within seven miles of his position; and that after the surrender of Harper’s Ferry no time was given to parole prisoners before twenty thousand troops were hurried from Virginia, and the entire force went off on the double-quick to relieve Lee, who was being attacked at Antietam. Had the garrison been slower to surrender, or the army of the Potomac swifter to march, the enemy would have been forced to raise the siege, or would have been taken in detail, with the Potomac dividing his force.
Washington, November 8.
General Order No. 183.
1st. The Military Commission, of which Major-General David Hunter, United States volunteers, is President, appointed to meet in the city of Washington on the twenty-fifth of September, pursuant to Special Order No. 225, of September twenty-third, 1862, to investigate the circumstances of the abandonment of Maryland Heights and the surrender of Harper’s Ferry, have reported that Col. Thomas H. Ford, of the Third Ohio volunteers, conducted the defence of Maryland Heights without ability, abandoned his position without sufficient cause, an has shown throughout such a lack of military capacity as to disqualify him, in the estimation of the Commission, for a command in the service. The said Colonel Thomas H. Ford is, by direction of the President, dismissed from the service of the United States.
2d. The Commission having reported that the behavior of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York infantry was disgraceful, and that Major William H. Baird, for his bad conduct, ought to be dismissed, the said Major Baird, of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York volunteers, is, by direction of the President, dismissed from the service of the United States.
3d. The Commission having reported that Brig.-General Julius White, United States volunteers, acted with decided capability and courage, and merits its approbation, and having found nothing in the conduct of the subordinate officers brought before the Commission, they are released from arrest and will report for duty.
4th. The Military Commission, of which Major-Gen. Hunter is President, is dissolved.
By order of the Secretary of War.
E. D. Townsend,
Headquarters Middle Department,
Eighth Army Corps, Baltimore, November 11, 1862.
To the Editors of the Baltimore American:
In the report, as published in the newspapers, of the Commission, consisting of the following officers, Major-Gen. D. Hunter, United States volunteers; Major-General G. Cadwalader, United States volunteers; Major Donn Piatt, Assistant Adjutant-Gen. United States volunteers; Capt. F. Ball, Aid-de-Camp, United States volunteers, and Col. J. Holt, Judge-Advocate General, called by the Government to investigate the conduct of certain officers connected with, and the circumstances attending the abandonment of Maryland Heights and the surrender of Harper’s Ferry, I find the following remarks applying to myself:
“The Commission would not have dwelt upon this painful subject were it not for the fact that the officer who placed this incapable (Col. Miles) in command, should share in the responsibility, and in the opinion of the Commission, Major-General Wool is guilty to this extent of a grave disaster, and should be censured for his conduct.”
If the report of the Commission in relation to the surrender of Harper’s Ferry has no more truth for its foundation than is contained in the above paragraph, it can only be regarded as a fiction, without a shadow of proof for its foundation.
It is not true that I placed “this incapable (Col. Miles) in command of Harper’s Ferry.” He was there at the time when I assumed control of this Department, and had been ordered to establish his headquarters there, on the twenty-ninth of March, by Major-Gen. McClellan, then General-in-Chief. On the thirtieth of April, the Secretary of War sent the following order to Col. Miles, at Harper’s Ferry: “You will please make daily reports of the state of your command to this Department.”
I have not now time to notice further the “censure” of the Commission; when I am at leisure, it will receive the attention which it merits.
JOHN E. WOOL
Major-General United States Army.
Somerville, Mass., September 27, 1862
To the Editor of the Boston Journal:
I have noticed with much pain and sorrow the many reflections and insinuations adverse to the character of Col. Dixon S. Miles, going the rounds in the papers, as well s the many ridiculous statements in regard to the surrender of Harper’s Ferry, and cannot but feel it my duty to deny the charges of disloyalty, and give the public a correct statement in regard to the above-mentioned lamented affair.
Our first rumors of the enemy’s crossing into Maryland near Noland’s Ferry, at the mouth of the Monocacy River, seventeen miles below Harper’s Ferry, was received o September first, from our pickets at that point who were driven in to Point of Rocks. Reenforcements [sic] were immediately received at that point. Col. Miles sent the Eighty-seventh Ohio regiment, with two twelve-pounder howitzers. The enemy crossed in very large force, cutting the canal at Seven-Mile Level, driving back our forces to Berlin, thence to Knoxville, Weaverton, and finally to Sandy Hook.
Thursday, September eleventh, the enemy were nearly fifty thousand strong in Pleasant Valley, and forced their way through Solomon’s Gap, and there “shelled out our picket” who were thrown there by Col. Ford, of the Thirty-second Ohio, who commanded Maryland Heights. He then had the Thirty-second Ohio, six hundred; Rhode Island cavalry, three hundred and fifty; Maryland cavalry, two hundred; McGrath’s artillery company, one hundred; battalion First Maryland infantry, three hundred; total, one thousand five hundred and fifty. Col. Ford represented if he had another regiment, he could hold the Heights against the whole rebel army. He was reinforced by the Garibaldi Guards, and subsequently, at his desire, the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York, the One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York, and the Third Maryland. The last order he had from Col. Miles was a peremptory one to hold those Heights; on Saturday he evacuated and crossed to Harper’s Ferry, spiking the siege-guns. Colonel Ford never received orders, either verbal or written, from Col. Miles to evacuate. The enemy did not make his appearance on the Heights for over four hours afterward. Col. Ford had the following force when he left the Heights: Thirty-second Ohio, six hundred; Capt. McGrath’s company, artillery, Fifth New-York, (heavy,) one hundred; battalion First Maryland infantry, three hundred; Third Maryland infantry, five hundred and fifty; One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York volunteers, nine hundred and fifty; One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York volunteers, nine hundred and seventy-five; Thirty-ninth New-York, Garibaldi Guard, five hundred; total, Three thousand nine hundred and seventy-five men.
Colonel Ford’s only reason for evacuating the Heights, when asked by Colonel Miles, was, “his regiments wouldn’t fight”—a stigma upon his own Thirty-second Ohio and the Garibaldians, who alone could have held the Heights until Monday.
Again, Harper’s Ferry is represented as an immense stronghold—“a Gibraltar.” Harper’s Ferry was a complete slaughter-pen—a small triangular position, contracted between two rivers, and surrounded on all sides by bluffs and hills. Gen. Jackson and Gen. Hill told me, personally, they had rather take it forty times than to undertake to defend it once. Col. Miles was wounded three quarters of an hour after the white handkerchief was displayed, emblematic of hostilities, and not after the condition of surrender was settled.
Again, I saw a statement that fifty-seven pieces of artillery were turned over, and three field-batteries besides, making seventy-five pieces—a falsity; also one hundred tons of ammunition and twenty days’ rations for fifteen thousand men—a base lie. Our men had been living on half-rations for three days previous to Gen. White’s arrival, with three thousand five hundred men, from Martinsburgh. Col. Miles seized all the flour from the mills and stores in and around Harper’s Ferry, to subsist his troops upon. The injustice done Col. Miles has emanated principally from the infantry troops, who had nothing to do with the engagements of Sunday and Monday, it being an artillery duel entirely, with the infantry in trenches about five feet deep. As for ammunition, the enemy got about forty thousand rounds of musket-cartridges, and not a single shell nor round shot. They got about fifty rounds of canister shot, (three hundred yards range.) Colonel Miles would not and did not raise the white flag until his artillerists had all reported themselves entirely out of ammunition. The enemy did not get fifteen thousand stand of arms, but about seven thousand five hundred, and most of them the men had rendered useless by taking out the lock-springs. They got the following guns: six twenty-four pounder howitzers; twelve six-pounder Napoleons, smooth; six three-inch James’s rifled-guns; four twenty-pounder rifled Parrotts; six smooth-bores, brass. Also the following guns, which were spiked and useless, on Maryland Heights: two nine-inch Dahlgrens; one fifty-pounder rifled Parrott; six twelve-pounder howitzers; four common rough; total, forty seven.
By publishing the above written items you will do justice to the public, and by stating that a more gallant and loyal officer does not exist in the States, nor does there exist a man who, under the circumstances, could have held out longer than did Colonel Miles. The Government knew his situation—knew he was pressed with one hundred thousand men who were determined to take the place—knew that the place was under a tremendous cannonade from daylight on Friday, September twelfth, till dark; again from daybreak Saturday till dark; from half-past two p.m. Sunday, the fourteenth, till dark; and at last, before daylight on Monday, September fifteenth, until the last shell and round shot was expended, at nine o’clock a.m. Col. Miles’s limb was not amputated; reaction did not take place sufficient to allow of it. He lingered until half-past four p.m. on Tuesday. On Wednesday his body was taken to Frederick in a rough box by his staff officers, and a metallic case procured, and therein conveyed to Sweet Air, Baltimore County, near Baltimore, Md. I hope justice will be done by the proper report at headquarters of the army. Justice demands that the public await the official report, which will be given the world in a few days.
I am, sir, with great respect,
Henry M. Binney
Captain and Aid-de-Camp to Colonel D. S. Miles, Commanding Division
Another serious reverse had overtaken the National arms. Harper’s Ferry, the Union stronghold on the Upper Potomac, has been overwhelmed by the rebel hordes, and on Monday morning, September fifteenth, at eight o’clock, surrendered, after three days’ fighting.
About the commencement of the month, Col. Dixon H. [sic] Miles of Bull Run memory, who succeeded General Sigel (Gen. Saxton’s successor) to the command of the post, began to apprehend a forward movement by the enemy. On Monday, September first, the Eighty-seventh Ohio, Colonel Banning, was sent down with two howitzers to the vicinity of Noland’s Ferry, to prevent their crossing. They took up a position on the Maryland side of the canal, which runs parallel with the river. The enemy appeared and succeeded in crossing, when Colonel Banning destroyed the canal-bridge, killed five of the enemy, and withdrew before the large force with no loss. From that time, it was known that the enemy had entered Maryland, and Colonel Miles began to strengthen his position at every point. His force consisted of the Twelfth New-York State militia, Col. Ward; Eighty-seventh Ohio, (three months’ regiment,) Colonel Banning; One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York, Col. Sherrill; One Hundred and Eleventh New-York, Col. Segoine; First Maryland home brigade, Colonel Halsby; Eighth New-York cavalry, Col. Davis; First Maryland cavalry, Colonel Russell; a detachment of First Maryland cavalry, (home brigade;) two companies of Fifth New-York artillery, commanded by Captains McGrath and Graham; Fifteenth Indiana, and one or two more Western batteries. All of the infantry, with the exception of the three months’ men, were raw troops. Gen. White retreated about this time to Martinsburgh, via Harper’s Ferry, leaving a portion of his command here. On Thursday evening, being obliged to evacuate Martinsburgh, owing to the approach of Stonewall Jackson, the remainder of General White’s brigade fell back to the Ferry.
On the morning of this day, the enemy had begun to make their appearance, three miles away, on the Maryland Heights, near Solomon’s Gap, having ascended from the rear. During the week we had advanced to the extreme top of the mountain, and constructed a barricade of trees four hundred yards in front of what is known as the “look-out,” and not far from an open clearing. Col. Ford, of the Thirty-second Ohio, appointed to guard the Heights, desired very much to make the fight at Solomon’s Gap, through which they would have to enter, believing that he could hold it successfully. Being, however, overruled in his wish, he deployed on Friday afternoon portions of his own and the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York as pickets, under Major Hewitt, Thirty-second Ohio, along the mountain this side of the gap. Skirmishing commenced at about half-past three, continuing until sundown. Owing to the thick underbrush, the skirmish was of a bushwhacking character, as, indeed, was all the fighting on the Heights. The Garibaldi Guards, Thirty-ninth New-York, were in the mean time scouting still further to the left. Under cover of night Major Hewitt deployed his men as pickets from one side to the other of the mountain, and then went down to headquarters to ask for reinforcements, believing that the enemy would attack him in force on the morrow. He was promised two or three regiments as soon as they could come up in the morning.
Few slept that night. At daybreak the line of battle was formed about three hundred yards in front of our barricade, as follows; Companies K and B, First Maryland home brigade, held the extreme right, the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York next in order, Thirty-second Ohio front and center, Garibaldi Guard extreme left. The reinforcements were sent up late, eight companies of the Third Maryland home brigade not reaching the field until eight o’clock, and the One Hundred and Eleventh New-York not until near noon, too late to render any assistance to companies I and H of the First Maryland cavalry. “Russell’s Roughs” advanced on foot with revolver and carbines in hand, in front of the line of battle near to the clearing. The appearing on the other side, they fell back. The rebels then, about seven o’clock opened with musketry on the front and right, and made two partial charges, in which they were handsomely repulsed. Fighting became general along the whole line, continuing one hour. At the end of this time the rebels received reinforcements and advanced with terrific yells, at the same time beating the long roll. The One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York then became disorganized, and the whole line fell back to the barricade, fighting as they receded. Having reached the barricade, a new stand was made, Col. Sherrill, dismounting from his horse, and, with revolver in each hand, rallying his wavering troops. The balls fell thick and fast around him, but he never flinched, calling upon his boys to stay by him, until he was shot in the mouth by a musket-ball, and borne to the rear. Two thirds of the regiment rallied and fought well during the rest of the engagement. We maintained our position for several hours, company K, of the First Maryland home brigade, with its handful of men, preventing a flank movement on the right. But the enemy turning our left flank, we were obliged to fall back again for some distance. The Eighth company of the Maryland home brigade then coming to the support, we advanced, reoccupying the lookout. Again, however, the enemy succeeded in flanking us on the left, and we were obliged to fall back, first to the guns and afterward down the mountain.
Our larger guns on the Heights commenced shelling the woods in their rear at ten o’clock p.m., (one hour and twenty minutes after the order to spike them had been given.) They were then dismounted, spiked, and otherwise rendered ineffective. Too much praise cannot be awarded to Capt. McGrath, when commanding the guns, for the skilful [sic] manner in which he manned them. A detachment of Fremont’s, more familiarly know as “jackass” guns, were taken to the Heights during the day, and rendered valuable assistance. They were manned by company I, Twelfth regiment New-York State militia. Col. Ford, though seriously indisposed, left his couch repeated to go upon the field.
Capt. Russell, of the Maryland home brigade, who exchanged the pastorate of the Presbyterian church at Williamsport for his captaincy, displayed much fearlessness and courage, at one time mounting the breastworks in full view of the rebels, who were close upon it. Lieut. St. Clair, company B, Thirty-second Ohio, also exhibited much heroism. First Lieut. Samuel A. Barnes, of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York, showed so much coolness while endeavoring to rally his wavering companions, as to attract the attention of Col. Miles. Lieut.-Col. Downy, of the Third Maryland home brigade, was also complimented by the Colonel for his courage and skill in handling his troops. Corporal Chapman, of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York, brought down a rebel colonel. During the engagement, the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth unfortunately fired upon one another, killing three. By a premature explosion, two members of Capt. McGrath’s battery were blow to pieces. I was standing close by at the time watching the splendid firing of the piece. God deliver me from ever again witnessing such a painful sight as those mangled and disfigured bodies presented. One lived for several moments, but died as we were lifting him into an ambulance. The men who were manning the gun at the time of the accident were as follows: Gough, first sponger and loader, killed; Flanagan, first sponger, killed; M. Kennedy, first shotman; Haney, first assistant sponger; Gorman, first train tackle-man; Cunningham, first train tackle-man; Acaney, second train tackle-man; Thomas Gallaway, first handspike man; John Farrell, second handspike man; McKenny, powder-man; Cook, First Captain; Griffin, Second Captain; Captain McGrath, who stood by directing the fire, was thrown to the ground, and at first supposed to be killed. He soon recovered.
While several members of company K, First Maryland, were taking breakfast, after the first repulse of the enemy, five different balls struck the table. W. Henior, of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York, had his hat shot off; Gordon Williams, of the Thirty-second Ohio, had his right lock of hair shot away. A rebel ball carried away a portion of the gun-stock belonging to M. H. Bingham, of company C, Third Ohio, and glancing, struck W. Koff’s gun, of the same company.
At four o’clock the regiments retreated down the mountain in good order, and the Maryland Heights were thenceforward lost to us.
Who gave the order for their evacuation, I am unable to say. Certain it is, that every soldier was ready to stigmatize its author, whoever he may have been, as a coward or traitor. And yet it may have been best under the circumstances. Had more troops been drawn from Bolivar Heights for the defence of the large guns, our position then might have been so weakened as to invite an easy and successful attack from the enemy, who had made their appearance in that direction in large numbers.
No sooner had our troops retired to the valley before the rebels occupied the heights above the guns and deliberately commenced a musketry-fire upon the village below, which was returned by our soldiers. A shell from one of our batteries posted near the bridge, however, caused them to skedaddle in quick time. Every body retired that night, feeling that all was lost unless reinforcements arrived, and expected to be awoke on the morrow with the booming of artillery from the evacuated heights.
Morning came, but with it no signs of the enemy, (except in front.) Our guns and camps on the mountains remained just as we had left them, and yet the silence was ominous of no good. One rifled six-pounder and one twelve-pounder Napoleon remained posted at the bridge to guard it and prevent an approach from Sandy Hook below. The First Maryland home brigade took position near the pontoon-bridge, to destroy it should the enemy attempt to make a crossing, while a portion of the Eighty-seventh Ohio were so posted as to guard the approach from Winchester. Four twenty-pound Parrotts, three twenty-four howitzers, and several twelve and six-pounders were planted in the graveyard, half-way up the hill, and behind the first line of intrenchments [sic], to open on Loudon and Maryland Heights. They continued shelling them for several hours. The line of battle was formed on the breastworks behind the Bolivar Heights, nearly as it had been the day before, namely, Col. D’Utassy occupied the extreme right with his brigade, consisting of the Sixty-fifth Illinois, One Hundred and Eleventh, One Hundred and Fifteenth, and Thirty-ninth New-York, Garibaldi Guard, Capt. Phelps’s New-York and Fifteenth Indiana batteries, and two sections of the Fifth New-York artillery. Col. Trimble’s brigade, consisting of the Thirty-second and Sixtieth Ohio, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth and One Hundred and Twenty-fifth New-York, detachments of the Third Maryland home brigade, Ninth Vermont, (deployed as skirmishers,) and Rigby’s battery, occupied the extreme left. The Twelfth New-York militia remained posted behind the first intrenchments [sic], and a portion of Capt. Potts’s battery were moved up to the Bolivar Heights and planted near the Charlestown road. Gen. White commanded the heights, Major McIlvaine all the artillery, and Gen. Miles held command over all the forces. Col. Baring, acting Brigadier-General, whose forces consisted of all the infantry and artillery (Fifth New-York and Potts’s battery) behind the first line of intrenchments [sic], continued to shell the neighboring heights. About twelve o’clock, two companies of the Garibaldi Guard and two of the Sixty-fifth Ohio bravely ascended the Maryland Heights, secured some of their camp equipage, and brought down four of the pieces of artillery, which had been left spiked. This was a daring deed. On the day before a portion of the Garibaldians, who were doing picket-duty, barely escaped capture, no word having been sent them to retreat. Hour after hour passed by, and no signs of the enemy appearing on the heights, we were beginning to think that they were foiled in their plans, and that the only force we should have to contend with was that in front.
The hope, however, was dispelled when, at ten minutes to two o’clock, they opened a furious fire simultaneously from Maryland, Loudon Heights, and Sandy Hook, with howitzers. Our artillery replied with much spirit, Captains McElrath and Graham, of the Fifth artillery, silencing the Loudon batteries. Shot and shell flew in every direction, and the soldiers and citizens were compelled to seek refuge behind rocks, in houses, and elsewhere. The enemy opened two more guns on the Shepherdstown and a full battery on the Charlestown roads. Heavy cannonading was thus brought to bear upon us from five different points. Yet we held our own manfully until it closed, toward sunset. About dusk, the enemy in front opened a musketry-fire on our left, which was replied to by the Thirty-second Ohio, Ninth Vermont, and First Maryland. It continued some time, when our forces were obliged to contract their lines, the rebels having turned our left flank.
An attempt to storm Rigby’s battery, about eight o’clock, which did fearful execution, signally failed. During the afternoon the One Hundred and Eleventh and One Hundred and Fifteenth and Thirty-ninth New-York moved down the hill to the outskirts of a piece of woods, where they took up position for the night. By some mistake the One Hundred and Eleventh fired into one another about nine o’clock, killing several. All became quiet, and the men slept on their arms. During the night the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth New-York fell back to a ravine running at right angles with our line of defence, and the Ninth Vermont changed position, so as to support Rigby’s battery. Under cover of the night the enemy planted new batteries in every direction.
Monday morning the rebels opened fire on Bolivar Heights at five o’clock, which was replied to until eight, when our ammunition gave out. The rebel batteries were so arranged as to enfilade us completely. To hold out longer seemed madness. Where is McClellan, that he does not send us reinforcements? Heavy firing is heard in the direction of Martinsburgh and Sandy Hook, indicating the presence of Siegel and Banks, but why are no reinforcements sent to us? Fully one week and a half has elapsed since the enemy crossed into Maryland, evidently with the design of capturing this place. Are we to be left to our fate?
A few minutes after eight a council of war was held. The brave Col. D’Utassy, for one, voted never to surrender, and requested that he might have the privilege of cutting his way out. White flags were run up in every direction, and a flag of truce was sent to inquire on what conditions a surrender would be accepted. Gen. A. P. Hill sent back word that it must be unconditional. Further parleying resulted in our obtaining the following liberal conditions, which were accepted:
The officers were to be allowed to go out with their side-arms and private effects; the rank and file with every thing save arms and equipments.
A murmur of disapprobation ran along the whole line when it became known that we had surrendered. Capt. McGrath burst into tears, exclaiming: “Boys, we have got no country now.” Other officers exhibited a corresponding degree of grief, while the soldiers were decidedly demonstrative in their manifestations of rage. Yet, what could be done? Rebel batteries were opened on us from seven different directions, and there was no hope of reinforcements reaching us.
If afterwards ascertained from confederate officers that the forces which beleaguered us were not far short of one hundred thousand. Gen. D. H. Hill’s army, consisting of several divisions, was posted on the Maryland Heights, and Gen. Walker, with several brigades, on Loudon. Those directly in front of us were commanded by Jackson and A. P. Hill, and consisted, among others, of Jackson’s old division, now commanded by Gen. Stark, (at present under arrest,) Ewell’s division, Gen. Gregg’s South0Carolina brigade, numbering six regiments, Gen. Branch’s brigade of North-Carolinians, Generals Pindar’s and Archy’s brigades, Second Louisiana, and Second and Third Virginia brigades.
As soon as the terms of surrender were completed, Gens. A. P. Hill and Jackson rode into town, accompanied by their staff, and followed by a troop of Loudon soldiers, who straightway commenced looking for “those d----- Loudon guerrillas,” referring to Capt. Means’s Union company, who were fortunately not to be found. Gen. Hill immediately took up his headquarters in the tavern-stand, next to Col. Miles’s. Old “Stonewall,” after riding down to the river, returned to Bolivar Heights, the observed of all observers. Hew was dressed in the coarsest kind of homespun, seedy and dirty at that; wore an old hat which any Northern beggar would consider an insult to have offered him, and in his general appearance was in no respect to be distinguished from the mongrel, bare-footed crew who follow his fortunes. I had heard much of the decayed appearance of the rebel soldiers, but such a looking crowd! Ireland in her worst straits could present no parallel, and yet they glory in their shame.
As soon as Jackson returned from the village, our entire force was mustered on Bolivar preparatory to stacking arms and delivering over generally. They comprised the following:
|Twelfth N. Y. State Militia, from New-York,||600|
|One Hundred and Eleventh New-York—raw troops,||1,000|
|One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York—raw troops,||1,000|
|One Hundred and Twenty-fifth New-York—raw troops,||976|
|One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York—raw troops,||1,000|
|Eighty-seventh Ohio—three months’ regiment,||850|
|First Maryland Home Brigade,||800|
|Third Maryland Home Brigade,||500|
|Fifth New-York Artillery,||267|
|Phillip’s New-York Battery,||120|
|Officers connected with Headquarters and Commissary Department,||50|
|Sick and wounded in hospitals,||312|
All of the cavalry, numbering about two thousand, under the command of Col. Davis, cut their way out Saturday evening, going by the road to Sharpsburgh, and capturing on its way, Longstreet’s train, and more than a hundred prisoners. They comprised the following: Eight New-York, Twelfth Illinois, Rhode Island and Maryland. They left at nine o’clock, crossing to Maryland on the pontoon-bridge. Rebel pickets fired on them as they passed by.
The artillery taken comprised the following:
Twelve 3-inch rifled guns.
Six 24-pound howitzers.
Four 20-pound Parrott guns.
Six 12-pound guns.
Four 12-pound howitzers.
Two 10-inch Dahlgrens.
One 50-pouind Parrott.
Six 6-pound guns,
and several pieces of “Fremont’s Guns,” of but little value. Seven of the whole number were thoroughly spiked. But few horses were taken, the cavalry having secured most of them. The Commissary Department comprised six days’ rations for twelve thousand men. This embraces nearly all the Government property which was surrendered.
GEN. JACKSON’S OFFICIAL DISPATCH.
Headquarters Valley District, September 16, 1862
Colonel: Yesterday God crowned our arms with another brilliant success on the surrender, at Harper’s Ferry, of Brig.-General White and eleven thousand troops, an equal number of small arms, seventy-three pieces of artillery, and about two hundred wagons. In addition to other stores, there is a large amount of camp and garrison equipage. Our loss was very small. The meritorious conduct of officers and men will be mentioned in a more extended report.
I am, Colonel, your obedient servant,
T. J. Jackson
Col. R. H. Chilton,
Assistant Adjutant General.
From a participant in the engagement we have obtained some particulars with reference to the investment and subsequent surrender of Harper’s Ferry. Our informant states that Gen. Jackson left Frederick on Thursday, taking the Hagerstown road, and at the same time the division of Generals McLaws and R. H. Anderson, moved from the vicinity of Frederick for the Maryland Heights, overlooking the town of Harper’s Ferry. On Wednesday, the division of Gen. Walker was sent down to destroy the canal aqueduct at the mouth of the Monocacy, and arrived at that point during the night. The next morning early, before they had accomplished their purpose, an order was received form Gen. Lee directing Gen. Walker to proceed with his forces, by forced marches, to the Loudon Heights, via Point of Rocks, to prevent the enemy at Harper’s Ferry from escaping in that direction.
The division crossed the river at Point of Rocks, nine miles below Harper’s Ferry, and on Friday evening reached the position assigned to them. Gen. Jackson’s force reached Williamsport, on the Potomac, on Friday morning, and immediately crossed and moved on Martinsburgh, twenty miles above Harper’s Ferry, where there were some three or four thousand of the enemy’s forces. On the approach of Gen. Jackson this force fell back and united with the force at Harper’s Ferry, believed to number about five thousand. Gen. Jackson pursued, and on Saturday morning reached Halltown, four miles south-west of Harper’s Ferry. From this point he despatched a courier to Gen. Walker, then in possession of the Heights south of the town, directing him not to open his guns on the enemy’s fortifications until he (Gen. Jackson) got in position, of which he promised to notify Gen. Walker.
Meanwhile the divisions of McLaws and Anderson, after but little resistance, had become masters of the Heights on the Maryland side, the enemy leaving them, and joined the forces in their intrenchments [sic] on the Virginia side of the river. On Saturday night Gen. Walker received orders from Gen. Jackson to open fire upon the enemy at daylight on Sunday morning. In obedience to this order, at day-dawn, the stillness of the Sabbath was broken by the opening of Walker’s guns upon the fortifications of the enemy on Bolivar Heights, two miles above the railroad bridge at Harper’s Ferry. At the same time the attack was made by the forces under Gen. Jackson, and the fight, which was desperate and determined, continued throughout the day—McLaws and Anderson shelling from the Maryland side.
The enemy resisted with great spirit, and the guns, of which they had a large number in position, were handled with great effect upon the columns of Gen. Jackson, which had to approach them through an open space, where their guns had unobstructed play. The shells from Walker’s batteries and the impetuous attacks of Jackson’s men rendered their intrenchments on Bolivar Heights too warm for the enemy, and late in the evening they fell back to Camp Hill, one mile in the rear of the Bolivar fortifications. Here they had their heavy guns planted and strong intrenchments thrown up, but within easy range of the batteries of McLaws and Anderson on the opposite heights. Night coming on, the struggle ceased, Jackson’s forces occupying the deserted intrrenchments on the hills of Boliver. That night old “Stonewall” sent a message to Gen. Walker that his forces were in possession of the enemy’s first line of entrenchments, and that with God’s blessing, he would have Harper’s Ferry and the Federal forces early next morning.
At daylight the next morning, (Monday,) the fight was renewed, the enemy still offering an obstinate resistance, until about seven o’clock A.M., when their colors were struck and a capitulation proposed. Of the terms of this capitulation we have learned no particulars, but conclude they involve the unconditional surrender of the whole force, Negroes as well as Yankees. About nine o’clock our forces entered the second line of intrenchments, the enemy having surrendered every thing, guns, ordnance and commissary stores, etc. The number of the enemy is variously estimated at from seven to twelve thousand, and the Negroes from fifteen hundred to two thousand.
Of our losses we are not apprised, but judge from reports that Gen. Jackson’s column suffered pretty heavily. In Walker’s division we had five killed, three of these by the accidental explosion of a shell. Among the killed in this division, we have heard the name of Lieut. Robertson, of French’s battery.
LATER.—Since the above was written we have received the following additional particulars, contained in a letter to Gov. Letcher from Col. Francis H. Smith:
Winchester, September 16
After the advance of our army to Frederick, and the issuing of the admirable proclamation to the people of Maryland by Lee, a movement took place with our troops, seemingly in the direction of Pennsylvania, but really for an important movement into Virginia. After sending a portion of his troops to occupy and hold the Maryland Heights, Gen. Jackson was directed by Gen. Lee to recross the Potomac at Williamsport, take possession of Martinsburgh, and then pass rapidly behind Harper’s Ferry, that a capture might be effected of the garrison known to be there. The movement was admirably conducted. Martinsburgh fell, with a capture of one hundred and fifty prisoners and some stores, the most of which were being taken to the Ferry.
The investment of Harper’s Ferry was effected on Saturday. Sunday morning there was some firing and the result was the unconditional surrender of the garrison—ten thousand men, with all the arms, fifty pieces of artillery, ammunition, one hundred wagons, quartermaster and commissary stores, and many cars, some of which were loaded, and nine hundred Negroes. This important conquest was effected without the loss of a man on our side. So much is official. It is reported that the cavalry, one thousand in number, escaped by Shepherdstown.
Another account, received late last night, says that the surrender took place on Monday morning last, at ten o’clock. The firing commenced as early as five o’clock in the morning. Shortly after the Yankees sent out a flag of truce, proposing an unconditional surrender, when the firing ceased. General Miles, the Federal commander, is reported to be wounded.
The results of the surrender, according to this last account, are as follows: Twelve thousand Yankees, thirteen thousand Enfield rifles, fifty cannon, one hundred four-horse teams, a number of fine artillery horses, a large quantity of ammunition, some quartermaster and commissary stores, and one thousand “contrabands.”
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: September 1862