« ZurückWeiter »
with a view of relieving the garrison at Harper's Ferry that Franklin's column was ordered to move through Crampton's Pass, in front of Burkettsville, while the centre and right marched upon Turner's Pass in front of Middletown.
On the 14th a verbal message from Colonel Miles reached General McClellan, which was the first authentic intelligence the latter had received as to the condition of things at Harper's Ferry. The messenger reported as to the position of our force there, and stated that Colonel Miles instructed him to say that be could hold out with certainty two days longer. General McClellan directed him to make his way back, if possible, with the information that he was rapidly approaching and felt confident that he could relieve the place. It does not appear that this message ever reached Colonel Miles.
On the afternoon of the 14th, General McClellan addressed a letter to Colonel Miles, giving him instructions and information, assuring him that the centre was making every effort to relieve him, and entreating him to hold out to the last extremity. Three copies of this letter were sent by three different couriers on three different routes, but none of them succeeded in reaching Harper's Ferry.
On the previous day, September 13, General McClellan had sent to General Franklin a letter of detailed instructions as to his movements, and further orders were despatched on the following day.
The results of the battle of South Mountain
considering Franklin's attack on Crampton's Pass as a part of one general and concerted plan-responded exactly to General McClellan's hopes and wishes; and the close of the action, on the evening of the 14th, found General Franklin's advance within six miles of Harper's Ferry. A despatch was sent to him from head-quarters during the night of the 14th, containing instructions as to his movements in case he should succeed in opening communication with Colonel Miles; and this would have been done had the place beld out for twentyfour hours longer. But the surrender was made at eight A.M. on the 15th.
Upon a fair examination of the case, it cannot be maintained that General McClellan is guilty of the charge made by the general-in-chief, and sanctioned by the Committee of Inquiry, that he failed to relieve and protect Harper's Ferry, having the power to do so.
THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM.
The pursuit of the enemy followed immediately after the battle of South Mountain, and on the 15th they were found strongly posted behind Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg. Our troops were not up in sufficient force to begin the attack on that day. The ground occupied by the Confederates was a rugged and wooded plateau, descending to the banks of the Antietam, which is here a deep stream, with few fords, and crossed by three stone bridges. On all favorable points the enemy's ar.
tillery was posted; and their reserves, hidden from view by the hills on which their line of battle was formed, could maneuvre without being seen by our army, and, from the shortness of their line, could easily reinforce any point which needed strengthening. Their position, stretching across the
space included between the Potomac and the Antietam, their flanks and rear protected by these streams, was very strong, and it had the further advantage of masking their numbers from our observation.
On the morning of the 16th it was discovered that the enemy bad changed the position of his batteries; and the whole forenoon was spent in reconnoitring, in examining the ground, finding fords, clearing the approaches, and hurrying up the ammunition and supply trains, which had been delayed by the rapid march of the troops. About daylight the enemy opened a heavy fire of artillery on our guns in position, which was promptly returned. Their fire was silenced for the time, but it was frequently renewed during the day.
«General McClellan's plan was to attack the enemy's left with the corps of Hooker and Mansfield, supported by Sumner's, and, if necessary, by Franklin's; and, in case of success at this point, to move Burnside's corps against the enemy's extreme right, and, having carried their position, to press along the crest towards our right, and, whenever either of these flank movements should be successful, to advance our centre with all the forces then disposable. The general in command himself
occupied a ridge on the centre, where Porter's corps, including Sykes's division, was stationed as a reserve.
About three o'clock, General Hooker crossed the Antietam by the bridge on the Hagerstown road and an adjacent ford, and soon gained the crest of the hill on the right bank of the stream. He then turned to the left, and followed down the ridge, under a sharp fire of musketry, which lasted till dark.
During the night, General Mansfield's corps crossed the Antietam by the same bridge and ford used by Hooker's.
At daylight on the 17th, General Hooker attacked the enemy's forces before him, and drove them from the open field in front of the first line of woods into a second line of woods beyond. But out of this second line a very destructive fire was poured from a body of fresh troops, before which our own forces recoiled. General Mansfield's corps was now ordered up, and came promptly into action; and for about two hours the tide of battle swayed to and fro with varying fortunes. The scene of the heaviest fighting was a piece of ploughed land, nearly enclosed by woods, and entered by a corn-field in the rear, on the crest of the hill. Three or four times this position was taken and lost, and the ground was thickly strewn with the bodies of the dead. Early in the fight, the gallant veteran General Mansfield was mortally wounded. General Hartsuff, of Hooker's corps, and General Crawford, of Mansfield's corps,
were both wounded, the former severely. Between nine and ten, General Hooker, who bad shown excellent conduct and the most brilliant courage, was shot through the foot, and, after having fainted with pain, was obliged to leave the field.
At this time General Sumner's corps reached this portion of the field, and became hotly engaged; but it suffered severely from a heavy fire of musketry and shell from the enemy's breast-works and batteries, and portions of the line were compelled to withdraw. General Sedgwick and General Dana were seriously wounded, and taken from the field. On the left, General Richardson was mortally wounded, and General Meagher disabled by the fall of his horse, shot under him.
At one o'clock the aspect of affairs on our right flank was not promising. Our troops had suffered severely, and our loss in officers had been frightful. Portions of our force were scattered and demoralized, and the corn-field before mentioned was in the enemy's possession. We were in no condition to assume the offensive, and hardly able to hold the positions we had gained. At this time General Franklin arrived upon the field with fresh troops; and while one of his divisions, under Slocum, was sent forward on the left to the support of French and Richardson, another, under Smith, was ordered to retake the woods and corn-fields which had been so hotly contested during the day. This order was executed in the most gallant style, and in ten minutes the enemy were driven out and our troops were in undisturbed possession of the whole field.