Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 13, 1862

September 13, 1862: Maryland Campaign - The Lost Orders - In one of the most memorable mischances of the war, Sergeant John Bloss and Corporate Barton W. Mitchell of the 27th Indiana Infantry Regiment, while resting in a field where Confederates had camped just two days earlier, find a copy of Gen. Lee’s Special Orders No. 191, issued a few days ago, lying in the grass wrapped around a few cigars. The soldiers pass the papers on to their colonel, and it gets passed up the chain of command to division commander Gen. Alpheus Williams, whose adjutant recognizes the handwriting of Col. Chilton, the Confederate colonel who wrote the copy of the orders. The orders find their way to Gen. McClellan, who is jubilant and shakes the paper at his staff, saying, "Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home." At this point, Gen. Jacob Cox’s division is a short day’s march from South Mountain, and Gen. Franklin’s VI Corps is within earshot of Harper’s Ferry, where Stonewall Jackson is firing artillery into the Union camp. McClellan orders Pleasanton’s cavalry to cautiously probe South Mountain–and there is a bit of skirmishing there, as a result, but Pleasanton finds out little. Lee’s Lost Orders reveal every detail of splitting up his army into six or more pieces—and that McClellan is only 12 miles away from the nearest piece: D.H. Hill’s lone division, at the passes through South Mountain, the last geographical shield for Lee’s movements. (See Sept. 9, 1862 blog.) However—and with McClellan, there is always a however—Little Mac waits for a full six hours before he issues orders to get his army moving, and even then, the orders do not allow the army to move until first light on Sept. 14, the next day. Still, McClellan sends this telegram to Pres. Lincoln, and is unable to restrain his buoyant and overconfident tone:
HEADQUARTERS, Frederick, September 13, 1862–12 m.
I have the whole rebel force in front of me, but am confident, and no time shall be lost. I have a difficult task to perform, but with God's blessing will accomplish it. I think Lee has made a gross mistake, and that he will be severely punished for it. The army is in motion as rapidly as possible. I hope for a great success if the plans of the rebels remain unchanged. We have possession of Catoctin. I have all the plans of the rebels, and will catch them in their own trap if my men are equal to the emergency. I now feel that I can count on them as of old. All forces of Pennsylvania should be placed to co-operate at Chambersburg. My respects to Mrs. Lincoln. Received most enthusiastically by the ladies. Will send you trophies. All well, and with God's blessing will accomplish it.

Relative positions of the armies in Maryland, Sept. 13, 1862
Click on map to enlarge.

—1st Lt. Josiah Marshall Favill, a young Englishman serving in the 57th New York Infantry, gives this vivid account of the Union troops re-occupying Frederick, Maryland, which is principally a Unionist town:
September 13. Remained in bivouac yesterday near Clarksburg, and this morning marched for Frederick City, arriving in the afternoon. As we entered the main street the drums sounded attention, and the troops marched in regular order, with bands playing and colors flying. We were received with open arms by the inhabitants, who crowded the streets and sidewalks, waving handkerchiefs, and showing every manifestation of delight. Women and girls ran into the ranks handing out water, pies, bouquets and handkerchiefs, and were beside themselves with joy. The crowd, indeed, was so great; that we had all we could do to keep our horses from stepping on them. When the Fifty-second regiment reached the principal part of the town, it broke out into one of its sonorous and magnificent war songs, producing a wonderful effect. This is the first real opportunity we have had of showing off to our grateful countrywomen, and we made the most of it, displaying our horsemanship to the best advantage. We passed through the town, going into bivouac on the western side. As soon as the troops were established in bivouac, Colonel Parisen and I rode back to town, and spent the evening there, meeting a lot of army fellows we had long lost sight of. Frederick City is nearly fifty miles northwest of Washington and is close to the South Mountain range. The whole of the army is near by and the enemy between us and the Potomac.

—Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, of the 23rd Ohio of Cox’s Division, adds his eyewitness to the scene in Frederick:
We marched in just at sundown, the Twenty-third a good deal of the way in front. There was no mistaking the Union feeling and joy of the people — fine ladies, pretty girls, and children were in all the doors and windows waving flags and clapping hands. Some "jumped up and down" with happiness. Joe enjoyed it and rode up the streets bowing most gracefully. The scene as we approached across the broad bottom-lands in line of battle, with occasional cannon firing and musketry, the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in view, the fine town in front, was very magnificent. It is pleasant to be so greeted. The enemy had held the city just a week. "The longest week of our lives," "We thought you were never coming," "This is the happiest hour of our lives," were the common expressions.

—As a result of Little Mac’s orders to his cavalry, we have this episode from George Michael Neese, of Chew’s Battery, serving with Gen. Stuart’s Rebel cavalry division:
We went into battery near Jefferson and fired on them a while, then fell back slowly toward Middletown. About noon, by pressing and flanking, the enemy forced General Stuart to fall back on the National Road a little faster than the programme called for. Then we made a forced retreat in order to keep the Yankee flankers from interfering with our rear or cutting us off from the main body of our cavalry which was on the National Road. . . . but when we arrived within one mile of Middletown we learned that the Yankee cavalry, which is getting bold, adventurous, mighty, and numerous in these latter days, had forced our cavalry on the National Road back a little faster than common, and had possession of Middletown.

—The C.S.S. Alabama captures the whaler Altahama, out of New Bedfore, in Azorean waters, and burns the prize at sea.


—Stonewall Jackson’s troops have fully invested Harper’s Ferry, and Col. Dixon Miles, the garrison commander, makes no serious attempt to break out. Most of his 14,000 men are green troops. The importance of Harper’s Ferry to the Rebels is partly due to the fact that it sits across Lee’s line of supply and retreat. But mostly its arsenals are stocked with modern rifle muskets in large quantity, and munitions and equipment of all sorts. As Jackson’s men occupy Bolivar Heights, he is shocked to see that the Yankees have made no attempt to hold the heights.

Battle of Harper’s Ferry: Day 1 - Col. Miles’ first mistake was not fortifying the heights surrounding the town, and he is left to defend just the town itself, which is at the bottom of a bowl between three high ridges—although across the river, Miles placed four regiments of Federals under Col. Ford on Maryland Heights. In the wee hours of this morning, McLaws sends forward Kershaw’s South Carolinian brigade, while Barksdale’s Mississippians try to turn Ford’s right flank. Ford’s green troops break and run, and all of the high ground is now in Southern hands. Rebel guns begin to shell the Federal positions. Miles smuggles out a small party of cavalry who dash toward Frederick and the Gen. McClellan with news of the siege.
Harper's Ferry, Virginia, 1862


—Kentucky: Realizing that Gen. Bragg and his Confederates are in Glasgow, Kentucky, far to the north of Nashville, Gen. Buell understands that Bragg is not after Nashville, but Kentucky. He orders Gen. George M. Thomas to march quickly north to Bowling Green with two divisions, to stave off a Rebel attack on this vital link in Federal communications.


—The Rebel guerilla chief Col. Porter, at the head of 500 men, raids Palmyra, Missouri this day, and breaks out 40 Rebel prisoners who were being held there by the Federals.

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