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of man against man, company against company, regiment against regiment. The woods, the ledges of rock, all the natural lines of attack and defence, were for some time blazing with steady sheets of dazzling flame and ringing with sharp volleys. But our line moved on with the sweeping and irresistible force of a mighty flood, and the Confederates soon began to waver and give way. They were driven up to the top of the mountain, and thence down on the other side. At six o'clock the enemy had been beaten from all their positions, and we held undisturbed possession of the heights.
The battle of South Mountain reflected bigh honor
upon the officers and men who too's part in it. The judicious plans of the general commanding were admirably and successfully carried out. Our numbers were probably somewhat larger than the enemy's; but this advantage was more than counterbalanced by his superiority in position, on the crest and sides of a hill, with woods and rocky ledges for shelter and defence, and broken ground everywhere to embarrass the movements of our troops.
Our losses were three hundred and twelve killed, twelve hundred and thirty-four wounded, twentytwo missing. Among the killed was General Reno, a brave and valuable officer, who was General McClellan's classmate at West Point.
At the same time with the battle of South Mountain, an engagement took place at Crampton's Pass, between a division under General Franklin and a portion of the Confederate army. found in the rear of Burkettsville, at the base of
the mountain, with infantry posted in force on both sides of the road, and artillery in strong positions to defend the approaches to the Pass. They were forced from their positions by a steady charge of our line, and driven up the slope, and at the end of three hours' fighting the crest was carried, and the enemy fled down the mountain on the other side.
On the 12th of September, the Confederate force under General Jackson, which had been detached for the purpose, appeared before Harper's Ferry, and on the 15th the unfortunate and bumiliating surrender of that position took place,—the Union cavalry having, on the night of the 14th, cut their way through the enemy's line and reached Greencastle, Pa., in safety the next morning. The untoward surrender of this post awakened a very strong feeling throughout the country, and a court of inquiry was immediately summoned to investigate the circumstances. The court met in Washington on the 25th of September, and their report was published early in November. It gives a detailed narrative of the surrender, and states the conclusion that "the incapacity" of Colonel Miles, the commanding officer (who, happily for him, was killed during the assault), “ amounting almost to imbecility, led to the shameful surrender of this important post." The report also strongly reflects upon" the military incapacity" of Colonel Ford, the officer second in command, in consequence of which he was dismissed from the service of the United States.
But the military commission diverges a little
from its legitimate path of inquiry, and lends itself to the persistent hostility with which General McClellan was pursued by the general-in-chief, in the paragraphs following :
“The commission has remarked freely on Colonel Miles, an old officer, who has been killed in the service of his country; and it cannot, from any motives of delicacy, refrain from censuring those in high command when it thinks such censure deserved.
“The general-in-chief has testified that General 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, he could and should have relieved and protected Harper's Ferry; and in this opinion the commission fully concur.”
Upon these charges General McClellan quietly and pertinently remarks in his Report,
“I have been greatly surprised that this commission, in its investigations never called upon me, nor upon any officer of my staff, nor, so far as I know, upon any officer of the Army of the Potomac able to give an intelligent statement of the movements of that army. But another paragraph in the same report makes testimony from such sources quite superfluous. It is as follows:
"By a reference to the evidence it will be seen that, at the very moment Colonel Ford abandoned Maryland Heights, his little army was in reality relieved by Generals Franklin's and Sumner's corps at Crampton's Gap, within seven miles of his position.'
“The corps of Generals Franklin and Sumner were a part of the army which I at that time had the honor to
command, and they were acting under my orders at Crampton's Gap and elsewhere; and if, as the commission states, Colonel Ford's little army was in reality relieved' by those officers, it was relieved by me.”
It will be observed that the general-in-chief testifies and the commission reports on an issue not then legitimately on trial; and that is, the rate at which the army of General McClellan marched during the Maryland campaign. Good haters should have good memories; and the general-inchief had apparently forgotten, when he was censuring General McClellan before the commission for moving only six miles a day, that only a short time before he had been apprehensive that the army was going too fast, and was thus uncovering Washington as well as exposing its own front and
Why, in point of fact, the army moved no more than six miles a day may be easily explained.
In the first place, it was not distinctly known where the rebel army was going, and it was necessary to proceed cautiously, so as to keep watch upon it and be ready to anticipate and foil any sudden movement. In the second place, the invading army was well organized, well disciplined, led by a skilful commander, and flushed with victory, whereas our own was demoralized by a recent defeat and by a sudden change in command; and these slow marches were necessary for organization and consolidation, and to establish true relations between the soldiers and their new leader. But to return to the surrender of Harper's
Ferry. Before General McClellan left Washington, he recommended to the proper authorities that the garrison at Harper's Ferry should be withdrawn by way of Hagerstown to aid in covering the Cumberland Valley, or that, taking up the pontoon bridge and obstructing the railroad bridge, it should fall back to the Maryland Heights and there hold out to the last. This was unquestionably judicious advice; but it was not deemed proper to adopt either of the plans suggested. The garrison was not withdrawn,-as would have been the wiser course, for the position was of no value as a strategic point, as the enemy's troops then stood, -nor were measures taken to protect them from capture.
It was not until the 12th that General McClellan was directed to assume command of the garrison at Harper's Ferry, as soon as he should open communication with that place; but when this order was received, all communication from the direction he was approaching was cut off. Nothing, therefore, was left to be done but to endeavor to relieve the garrison. Artillery was ordered to be fired by our advance, at frequent intervals, as a signal that relief was at hand; and these reports, as was afterwards ascertained, were distinctly heard at Harper's Ferry. It was confidently expected that Colonel Miles would hold out till our forces had carried the mountain-passes and were in a condition to send a detachment to his relief; and this he assuredly might have done, bad he been competent to the important command intrusted to him. And it was