Battle of South Mountain
Sept. 14, 1862
South Mountain is really two separate fights on the same date, at three separate passes through the ridge that Lee is using as a shield to operate behind. Captain Charles Russell and a party of riders from the 1st Maryland Cavalry Regiment (U.S.), sent from Harper’s Ferry, ride north to find McClellan and ask for help. The message Russell carries is about Col. Miles’ command in the town of Harper’s ferry—that it cannot hold out long. In response, Gen. McClellan has assigned Gen. Franklin and the VI Corps to angle southwest, punch through Crampton’s Gap and attack McLaws overlooking Harper’s Ferry. A bit farther north, he sends Cox’s brigade, followed up soon by Gen. Burnside and the IX Corps and Hooker’s I Corps. McClellan’s plan is to push through the South Mountain (an extension of the Blue Ridge) gaps and hit Lee’s army in its divided state and defeat the Rebels piecemeal.
Battle of Crampton’s Gap: When Franklin’s two division arrive here, it takes him an inexplicable three hours or more to deploy his forces. He takes the village of Burkittsville, but it is late afternoon before he makes his attack on the pass, which is held by a very thin brigade of McLaws’ force. Franklin’s troops make a desultory attack, and are held at bay. McLaws send reinforcements, and Franklin despairs of being able to take the Gap, and sends a message to McClellan to this effect—yet, at the end of the day, the Yankees win, and drive the Rebels out, doing serious damage to several Rebel brigades, after Slocum and Baldy Smith’s division push the attack, disrupting a late reinforcement from Cobb’s Rebel brigade, and capturing nearly 400 prisoners. While witnessing Franklin’s cumbersome and slow deployment, Confederate artilleryman George Michael Neese records in his journal, "To observe the caution with which the Yankees, with their vast superior numbers, approached the mountain, it put one very much in mind of a lion, king of the forest, making exceeding careful preparations to spring on a plucky little mouse."
Battle of Fox’s and Turner’s Gap: Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill and his division of 5,000 men guard both passes. He sends word to Longstreet for reinforcements. Gen. Jacob Cox pushes his Union brigade up the heavily wooded slope toward Fox’s Gap, where they have initial success until Southern reinforcements arrive. Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, leading the 23rd Ohio in a flank attack, is seriously wounded. Gen. Reno then sends up the rest of his IX Corps, and at the height of battle, several rifle bullets strike Reno at once and he dies soon thereafter. The Federal assault at Fox’s almost succeeds until the late arrival of Hood’s brigades stop them. At Turner’s Gap, the now-famous Iron Brigade strikes one Confederate brigade and drive it back. Rodes’s Brigade is also forced back, as the Federals advance into the gap. After Jones’s division arrives with other reinforcements, and Longstreet with them, the Federal attacks slow. Gen. Hooker then deploys three entire divisions into line of battle and pushes forward, with Meade and Hatch lined up for an assault on the right. Finally, after deflecting these attacks, the Rebels withdraw, battered.
Losses: Killed Wounded Captured and Missing Total
Union 443 1,807 75 2,325
Confederate 325 1,560+ 800+ @3,300
When all is done, about 28,000 Federal troops have been engaged against about 18,000 Confederates. Although the Rebels are defeated, and the passes now open, Lee has been given another 24 hours of precious time to concentrate his army before McClellan can get at him. Lee issues orders for all troops to converge on and concentrate at Sharpsburg, Maryland.
—Battle of Harper’s Ferry, Day 2 - Still locked up firmly in the riverside railroad town, Col. Dixon Miles wonders what to do, since it appears that any Federal rescue will not come soon. Jackson finishes placing all of his larger guns, and opens fire at 1:00 PM. Col. B.F. Davis, of the 12th Illinois Cavalry, takes his regiment and a few other mounted units across the Potomac, and escapes without being discovered. As Davis’s brigade rides, they come across the wagon train of Longstreets’ corps; through a ruse, they trick the teamsters to follow them, where the entire train of over 40 wagons is driven into Union lines—the first major exploit of the Union cavalry in the Eastern Theater.
—Western Theater: Gen. Buell finally makes a commitment to pursue Bragg and the invading Confederates up into Kentucky. Buell leaves one division in Nashville, and marches north.
—Western Theater, Mississippi Campaign - Iuka. Gen. Sterling Price and his Army of the West (C.S.) advances on Iuka, Mississippi, and finds that the negligible Union force there is unwilling to contest matters. The Yankees pull out and burn what supplies they can.. Price’s troops occupy the city, and put the fire out.
|Grant counters Price's move by advancing on Iuka|
—Pres. Lincoln writes a reply to a delegation of clergymen from Chicago who have sent a written Memorial to urge him forward on the Emancipation question:
Now, then, tell me, if you please, what possible result of good would follow the issuing of such a proclamation as you desire? Understand, I raise no objections against it on legal or constitutional grounds; for, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, in time of war I suppose I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy; nor do I urge objections of a moral nature, in view of possible consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South. I view this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion. . . . I admit that slavery is the root of the rebellion, or at least its sine qua non. The ambition of politicians may have instigated them to act, but they would have been impotent without slavery as their instrument. I will also concede that emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition. I grant, further, that it would help somewhat at the North, though not so much, I fear, as you and those you represent imagine. Still, some additional strength would be added in that way to the war, and then, unquestionably, it would weaken the rebels by drawing off their laborers, which is of great importance; but I am not so sure we could do much with the blacks. . . .
Do not misunderstand me because I have mentioned these objections. They indicate the difficulties that have thus far prevented my action in some such way as you desire. I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement; and I can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God’s will, I will do. I trust that in the freedom with which I have canvassed your views I have not in any respect injured your feelings.