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   Chapter 42 SPECIAL ORDERS, NO. 191

The Long Roll By Mary Johnston Characters: 27152

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

In Lee's tent, pitched in a grove a mile from Frederick, was held a council of war,-Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Jeb Stuart. Lee sat beside the table, Jackson faced him, sabre across knees, Longstreet had his place a little to one side, and Stuart stood, his shoulder against the tent pole. The last-named had been speaking. He now ended with "I think I may say, sir, that hardly a rabbit has gotten past my pickets. He's a fine fellow, Little Mac is! but he's mighty cautious, and you couldn't exactly call him swift as lightning. He's still a score of miles to the east of us, and he knows mighty little what we are about."

Jackson spoke. "General McClellan does not know if the whole army has crossed or only part of it has crossed. He does not know whether we are going to move against Washington, or move against Baltimore, or invade Pennsylvania. Always mystify, mislead, and deceive the enemy as far as possible."

Longstreet spoke. "Well, by the time he makes those twenty miles the troops should be rested and in condition. We'll have another battle and another victory."

Lee spoke, addressing Stuart. "You have done your work most skilfully, general. It is not every army that has a Jeb Stuart!" He paused, then spoke to all. "McClellan will not be up for several days. Across the river, in Virginia, are yet fourteen thousand of the enemy. I had hoped that, scattered as they are, Washington would withdraw them when it heard of our crossing. It has not done so, however. It is not well to have in our rear that entrenched camp at Harper's Ferry. It is my idea, gentlemen, that it might be possible to repeat the man?uvre of Second Manassas."

Stonewall Jackson hitched his chair closer. Stuart chuckled joyously. Longstreet looked dubious. "Do you mean, general, that you would again divide the army?"

Lee rested his crossed hands on the table before him. "Gentlemen, did I have the Northern generals' numbers, I, too, might be cautious. Having only Robert E. Lee's numbers, I advance another policy. It is my idea again to divide the army."

"In the enemy's country? We have not fifty-five thousand fighting strength."

"Yes, in the enemy's country. And I know that we have not fifty-five thousand fighting strength. My plan is this, gentlemen. General Stuart has proved his ability to hold all roads and mask all movements. We will form two columns, and behind the screen which his cavalry provides, one column will move north and one column will move south. By advancing toward Hagerstown the first will create the impression that Pennsylvania is to be invaded. Moreover Catoctin and South Mountain are strong defensive positions. The other column will move with expedition. Recrossing the Potomac, it will invest and capture Harper's Ferry. That done, it will return at once into Maryland, rejoining me before McClellan is up."

Longstreet swore. "By God, that is a bold plan!-What if McClellan should learn it?"

"As against that, we must trust in General Stuart. These people must be driven out of Harper's Ferry. All our communications are threatened."

Longstreet was blunt. "Well, sir, I think it is madness. Pray don't send me on any such errand!"

Lee smiled. "General Jackson, what is your opinion?"

Jackson spoke with brevity. "I might prefer, sir, to attack McClellan first and then turn upon Harper's Ferry. But I see no madness in the other plan-if the movement is rapid. Sometimes to be bold is the sanest thing you can do. It is necessary of course that the enemy should be kept in darkness."

"Then, general, you will undertake the reduction of Harper's Ferry?"

"If you order me to do it, sir, I will do it."

"Very good. You will start at dawn. Besides your own you shall have McLaws's and Anderson's divisions. The remainder of the army will leave Frederick an hour or two later. Colonel Chilton will at once issue the order of march." He drew a piece of paper toward him and with a pencil made a memorandum-Special Orders, No. 191.

The remainder of the ninth of September passed. The tenth of September passed, and the eleventh, mild, balmy and extremely still. The twelfth found the landscape for miles around Frederick still dozing. At noon, however, upon this day things changed. McClellan's strong cavalry advance came into touch with Jeb Stuart a league or two to the east. There ensued a skirmish approaching in dignity to an engagement. Finally the grey drew off, though not, to the Federal surprise, in the direction of Frederick. Instead they galloped north.

The blue advance trotted on, sabre to hand, ready for the dash into Frederick. Pierced at last was the grey, movable screen! Now with the infantry close behind, with the magnificent artillery rumbling up, with McClellan grim from the Seven Days-now for the impact which should wipe out the memory of the defeat of a fortnight ago, of the second Bull Run, an impact that should grind rebellion small! They came to Frederick and found a quiet shell. There was no one there to sabre.

Information abounded. McClellan, riding in with his staff toward evening, found himself in a sandstorm of news, through which nothing could be distinctly observed. Prominent citizens were brought before him. "Yes, general; they undoubtedly went north. Yes, sir, the morning of the tenth. Two columns, but starting one just after the other and on the same road. Yes, sir, some of our younger men did follow on horseback after an hour or two. They could just see the columns still moving north. Then they ran against Stuart's cordon and they had to turn back. Frederick's been just like a desert island-nobody coming and nobody getting away. For all he's as frisky as a puppy, Jeb Stuart's a mighty good watch dog!"

McClellan laughed. "'Beauty' Stuart!-I wish I had him here." He grew grave again. "I am obliged to you, sir. Who's this, Ames?"

"It is a priest, sir, that's much looked up to. He says he has a collection of maps-Father Tierney, will you speak to the general?"

"Faith, and that I will, my son!" said Father Tierney. "Good avenin', general, and the best of fortunes!"

"Good evening, Father. What has your collection to do with it?"

"Faith," said Father Tierney, "and that's for you to judge, general. It was the avenin' of the eighth, and I was sittin' in my parlour after Judy O'Flaherty's funeral, and having just parted with Father Lavalle at the Noviciate. And there came a rap, and an aide of Stonewall Jackson's-But whisht! maybe I am taking up your time, general, with things you already know?"

"Go on, go on! 'An aide of Stonewall Jackson's-'"

"'Holy powers!' thinks I, 'no rest even afther a funeral!' but 'Come in, come in, my son!' I said, and in he comes. 'My name is Jarrow, Father,' says he, 'and General Jackson has heard that you have a foine collection of maps.'

"'And that's thrue enough,' says I, 'and what then, my son?' Whereupon he lays down his sword and cap and says, 'May I look at thim?'"

Father Tierney coughed. "There's a number of gentlemen waiting in the entrry. Maybe, general, you'd be afther learning of the movement of the ribils with more accuracy from thim. And I could finish about the maps another time. You aren't under any obligation to be listenin' to me."

"Shut the door, Ames," said the general. "Now Father.-'May I look at them,' he said."

"'Why, av course,' said I, 'far be it from Benedict Tierney to put a lock on knowledge!' and I got thim down. 'There's one that was made for Leonard Calvert in 1643'-says I, 'and there's another showing St. Mary's about the time of the Indian massacre, and there's a very rare one of the Chesapeake-'

"'Extremely interesting' he says, 'but for General Jackson's purposes 1862 will answer. You have recent maps also?'

"'Yes, I have,' I said, and I got thim down, rather disappointed, having thought him interested in Colonial Maryland and maybe in the location of missions. 'What do you wish?' said I, still polite, though I had lost interest. 'A map of Pennsylvania,' said he-"

"A map of Pennsylvania!-Ames, get your notebook there."

"And I unrolled it and he looked at it hard. 'Good road to Waynesboro?' he said, and says I, 'Fair, my son, fair!' And says he, 'I may take this map to General Jackson?' 'Yes,' said I, 'but I hope you'll soon be so good as to return it.' 'I will,' said he. 'Bedad,' said I, 'you ribils are right good at returning things! I'll say that for you!' said I-and he rolled up the map and put it under his arm."

The general drew a long breath. "Pennsylvania invaded by way of Waynesboro. I am much obliged, Father-"

"Wait, wait, my son, I'm not done, yet! And thin, says he, 'General Jackson wants a map of the country due east from here, one,' says he, 'that shows the roads to Baltimore.'"


"'Have you got that one?' says he. 'Yis,' says I, and unrolled it, and he looked at it carefully and long. 'I see,' says he, 'that by going north from Frederick to Double Pipe Creek you would strike there the turnpike running east. Thank you, Father! May I take this one, too?' And he rolled it up and put it under his arm-"

"Baltimore," said McClellan, "Baltimore-"

"'And now, Father,' says he, 'have you one of the region between here and Washington?' ... Don't be afther apologizing, general! There are times when I want a strong word meself. So I got that map, too, and he looked at it steadily. 'I understand,' says he, 'that going west by north you would strike a road that leads you south again?'-'And that's thrue,' said I. And he looked at the map long and steadily again, and he asked what was the precise distance from Point of Rocks to Washington-"

"Point of Rocks! Good Lord! Ames, get ready to take these telegrams-"

"And thin he said, 'May I have this, too, Father?' and he rolled it up, and said General Jackson would certainly be obliged and would return thim in good order. (Which he did.) And thin he took up his cap and sword and said good avenin' and went. That's all that I know of the matter, general, saving and excepting, that the ribil columns certainly started next morning with their faces toward the great State of Pennsylvania. Don't mention it, general!-though if you are interested in good works, and I'm not doubting the same, there's an orphan asylum here-"

Having arrived at a cross-roads without a signpost McClellan characteristically hesitated. The activity of the next twelve hours was principally electrical and travelled by wire from Frederick to Washington and Washington to Frederick. The cavalry, indeed was pushed forward toward Boonsboro, but for the remainder of the army, as it came up, corps by corps, the night passed in inaction, and morning dawned on inaction. March north toward Pennsylvania, and leave Washington to be bombarded!-turn south and east toward Washington and hear a cry of protest and anger from an invaded state!-turn due east to Baltimore and be awakened by the enemy's cannon thundering against the other sides of the figure!-leave Baltimore out of the calculation and lose, perhaps, the whole of Maryland! McClellan was disturbed enough. And then, in the great drama of real life there occurred an incident.

An aide appeared in the doorway of the room in which were gathered McClellan and several of his generals. The discussion had been a heated one; all the men looked haggard, disturbed. "What is it?" asked McClellan sharply.

The aide held something in his hand. "This has just been found, sir. It seems to have been dropped at a street corner. Leaves and rubbish had been blown over it. The soldier who found it brought it here. He thought it important-and I think it is, sir."

He crossed the floor and gave it to the general. "Three cigars wrapped in a piece of paper! Why, what-A piece of paper wrapped around three cigars. Open the shutters more widely, Ames!"

Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia

September 9, 1862.


The army will resume its march to-morrow, taking the Hagerstown road. General Jackson's command will form the advance, and after passing Middletown with such portion as he may select, take the route toward Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac at the most convenient point, and by Friday morning take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of the enemy as may be at Martinsburg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from Harper's Ferry.

General Longstreet's command will pursue the main road as far as Boonsborough, where it will halt with reserve, supply, and baggage trains of the army.

General McLaws, with his own division and that of General R. H. Anderson, will follow General Longstreet. On reaching Middletown he will take the route to Harper's Ferry, and by Friday morning possess himself of the Maryland Heights and endeavour to capture the enemy at Harper's Ferry and vicinity.

General Walker with his division, after accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettesville, take possession of Loudoun Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning, Key's Ford on his left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will as far as possible co?perate with generals McLaws and Jackson and intercept the retreat of the enemy.

General D. H. Hill's division will form the rearguard of the Army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve artillery, ordnance and supply trains, etc., will precede General Hill.

General Stuart will detach a

squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of generals Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and, with the main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army, bringing up all stragglers that may have been left behind.

The commands of Generals Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Boonsboro or Hagerstown.

By command of General R. E. Lee,

R. H. Chilton,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

In the room at Frederick there was a silence that might have been felt. At last McClellan rose, and stepping softly to the window, leaned his hands upon the sill, and looked out at the bright blue sky. He turned presently. "Gentlemen, the longer I live, the more firmly I believe that old saying, 'Truth is stranger than fiction!'-By the Hagerstown Road-General Hooker, General Reno-"

On the morning of the tenth Stonewall Jackson, leaving Frederick, marched west by the Boonsboro Road. Ahead, Stuart's squadrons stopped all traffic. The peaceful Maryland villages were entered without warning and quitted before the inhabitants recovered from their surprise. Cavalry in the rear swept together all stragglers. The detachment, twenty-five thousand men, almost half of Lee's army, drove, a swift, clean-cut body, between the autumn fields and woods that were beginning to turn. In the fields were farmers ploughing, in the orchards gathering apples. They stopped and stared. "Well, ain't that a sight?-And half of them barefoot!-and their clothes fit for nothing but scarecrows. Well, they ain't robbers. No-and their guns are mighty bright!"

South Mountain was crossed at Turner's Gap. It was near sunset when the bugles rang halt. Brigade by brigade Stonewall Jackson's command left the road, stacked arms, broke ranks in fair, rolling autumn fields and woods. A mile or two ahead was the village of Boonsboro. Jackson sent forward to make enquiries Major Kyd Douglas of his staff. That officer took a cavalryman with him and trotted off.

The little place looked like a Sweet Auburn of the vale, so tranquilly innocent did it lie beneath the rosy west. The two officers commented upon it, and the next moment ran into a Federal cavalry company sent to Sweet Auburn from Hancock for forage or recruits or some such matter. The blue troopers set up a huzzah, and charged. The two in grey turned and dug spur,-past ran the fields, past ran the woods! The thundering pursuit fired its revolvers; the grey turned in saddle and emptied theirs, then bent head to horse's neck and plied the spur. Before them the road mounted. "Pass the hill and we are safe!-Pass the hill and we are safe!" thought the grey, and the spur drew blood. Behind came the blue-a dozen troopers. "Stop there, you damned rebels, stop there! If you don't, when we catch you we'll cut you to pieces!" Almost at the hilltop one of the grey uttered a cry. "Good God! the general!"

Stonewall Jackson was coming toward them. He was walking apparently in deep thought, and leading Little Sorrel. He was quite alone. The two officers shouted. They saw him look up, take in the situation, and put his hand on the saddle bow. Then, to give him time, the two turned. "Yaaiih! Yaaaaiiahh!" they yelled, and charged the enemy.

The blue, taken by surprise, misinterpreted the first shout and the ensuing action. There must, of course, be coming over the hill a grey force detached on some reconnoissance or other from the rebel horde known to be reposing at Frederick. Presumably it would be cavalry-and coming at a gallop! To stop to cut down these two yelling grey devils might be to invite destruction. The blue troopers first emptied their revolvers, then wheeled horse, and retired to Sweet Auburn, out of which a little later the grey cavalry did indeed drive them.

In the last of the rosy light the two officers, now again at the hilltop, saw the camp outspread below it and coming at a double quick the regiment which Jackson had sent to the rescue. One checked his horse. "What's that?" asked the other.

"The general's gloves. He dropped them when he mounted."

He stooped from his horse and gathered them up. Later, back in camp, he went to headquarters. Jackson was talking ammunition with his chief of ordnance, an aide of A. P. Hill's standing near, waiting his turn. "Well, Major Douglas?"

"Your gloves, general. You dropped them on the hilltop."

"Good! put them there, major, if you please.-Colonel Crutchfield, the ordnance train will cross first. As the batteries come up from the river see that every caisson is filled. That is all. Now, Captain Scarborough-"

"General Hill very earnestly asks, sir, that he may be permitted to speak to you."

"Where is General Hill? Is he here?"

"Yes, sir, he is outside the tent."

"Tell him to come in. You have a very good fast horse, Major Douglas. There is nothing more, I think, to-night. Good-night."

A. P. Hill entered alone, without his sword. "Good-evening, General Hill," said Jackson.

Hill stood very straight, his red beard just gleaming a little in the dusky tent. "I am come to prefer a request, sir."

"Yes. What is it?"

"A week ago, upon the crossing of the Potomac, you placed me under arrest for what you conceived-for disobedience to orders. Since then General Branch has commanded the Light Division."


"I feel certain, sir, that battle is imminent. General Branch is a good and brave soldier, but-but-I am come to beg, sir, that I may be released from arrest till the battle is over."

Stonewall Jackson, sitting stiffly, looked at the other standing, tense, energetic, before him. Something stole into his face that without being a smile was like a smile. It gave a strange effect of mildness, tenderness. It was gone almost as soon as it had come, but it had been there. "I can understand your feeling, sir," he said. "A battle is imminent. Until it is over you are restored to your command."

The detachment of the Army of Northern Virginia going against Harper's Ferry crossed the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at Williamsport and forded the Potomac a few hundred yards below the ferry. A. P. Hill, McLaws, Walker, Jackson's own, the long column overpassed the silver reaches, from the willows and sycamores of the Maryland shore to the tall and dreamy woods against the Virginia sky. "We know this place," said the old Army of the Valley. "Dam No. 5's just above there!" Regiment by regiment, as it dipped into the water, the column broke into song. "Carry me back to Old Virginny!" sang the soldiers.

At Martinsburg were thirty-five hundred blue troops. Stonewall Jackson sent A. P. Hill down by the turnpike; he himself made a détour and came upon the town from the west. The thirty-five hundred blue troops could retire southward, a thing hardly to their liking, or they could hasten eastward and throw themselves into Harper's Ferry. As was anticipated, they chose the latter course.

Stonewall Jackson entered Martinsburg amid acclaim. Here he rested his troops a few hours, then in the afternoon swung eastward and bivouacked upon the Opequon. "At early dawn," he marched again. Ahead rode his cavalry, and they kept the roads on two sides of Harper's Ferry. A dispatch came from General Lafayette McLaws. General Jackson:-After some fighting I have got the Maryland Heights. Loudoun Heights in possession of General Walker. Enemy cut off north and east.

"Good! good!" said Jackson. "North, east, south, and west."

On the Maryland side of the Potomac, some miles to the north of Harper's Ferry, Lee likewise received a report-brought in haste by a courier of Stuart's. General:-The enemy seems to have waked up. McClellan reported moving toward South Mountain with some rapidity. I am holding Crampton and Turner's Gaps. What are my orders?

Lee looked eastward toward South Mountain and southward to Harper's Ferry. "General McClellan can only be guessing. We must gain time for General Jackson at Harper's Ferry." He sent word to Stuart. "D. H. Hill's division returning to South Mountain General Longstreet ordered back from Hagerstown. We must gain time for General Jackson. Hold the gaps."

D. H. Hill and Stuart held them. High above the valleys ran the roads-and all the slopes were boulder-strewn, crested moreover by broken stone walls. Hooker and Reno with the First and Ninth corps attacked Turner's Gap, Franklin's corps attacked Crampton's Gap. High above the country side, bloody and determined, eight thousand against thirty thousand, raged the battle.

Stonewall Jackson, closely investing Harper's Ferry, posting his batteries on both sides of the river, on the Maryland Heights and Loudoun Heights, heard the firing to the northward. He knit his brows. He knew that McClellan had occupied Frederick, but he knew nothing of the copy of an order found wrapped around three cigars. "What do you think of it, general?" ventured one of his brigadiers.

"I think, sir, it may be a cavalry engagement. Pleasanton came into touch with General Stuart and the Horse Artillery."

"It could not be McClellan in force?"

"I think not, sir. Not unless to his other high abilities were added energy and a knowledge of our plans.-Captain Page, this order to General McLaws: General:-You will attack so as to sweep with your artillery the ground occupied by the enemy, take his batteries in reverse, and otherwise operate against him as circumstances may justify. Lieutenant Byrd, this to General Walker: General:-You will take in reverse the battery on the turnpike and sweep with your artillery the ground occupied by the enemy, and silence the batteries on the island of the Shenandoah. Lieutenant Daingerfield, this to General A. P. Hill: General:-You will move along the left bank of the Shenandoah, and thus turn the enemy's flank and enter Harper's Ferry."

This was Sunday. From every hilltop blazed the grey batteries, and down upon the fourteen thousand blue soldiers cooped in Harper's Ferry they sent an iron death. All afternoon they thundered, and the dusk knew no cessation. Harper's Ferry was flame-ringed, there were flames among the stars. The air rocked and rang, the river shivered and hurried by. Deep night came and a half silence. There was a feeling as if the earth were panting for breath. All the air tasted powder.

A. P. Hill, struggling over ground supposed impassable, was in line of battle behind Bolivar Heights. Lawton and Jones were yet further advanced. All the grey guns were ready-at early dawn they opened. Iron death, iron death!-they rained it down on Harper's Ferry and the fourteen thousand in garrison there. They silenced the blue guns. Then the bugles blew loudly, and Hill assaulted. There were lines of breastworks and before them an abattis. The Light Division tore through the latter, struck against the first. From the height behind thundered the grey artillery.

For a day and a night the blue defence had been stubborn. It was over. Out from the eddying smoke, high from the hilltop within the town, there was shaken a white flag. A. P. Hill received the place's surrender, and Stonewall Jackson rode to Bolivar Heights and then into the town. Twelve thousand prisoners, thirteen thousand stands of arms, seventy-three guns, a great prize of stores, horses, and wagons came into his hand with Harper's Ferry.

On the Bolivar turnpike the Federal General White and his staff met the conqueror. The first, general and staff, were handsomely mounted, finely equipped, sparklingly clean and whole. The last was all leaf brown-dust and rain and wear and tear, scarfed and stained huge boots, and shabby forage cap. The surrender was unconditional. Formalities over, there followed some talk, a hint on the side of the grey of generous terms, some expression on the side of the blue of admiration for great fighters, some regret from both for the mortal wound of Miles, the officer in command. Stonewall Jackson rode into the town with the Federal general. The streets were lined with blue soldiers crowding, staring. "That's him, boys! That's Jackson! That's him! Well!"

Later A. P. Hill came to the lower room in a stone house where the general commanding sat writing a dispatch to Lee. Jackson finished the thing in hand, then looked up. "General Hill, the Light Division did well. I move almost at once, but I shall leave you here in command until the prisoners and public property are disposed of. You will use expedition."

"I am not, then, sir, to relinquish the command to General Branch?"

"You are not, sir. Battle will follow battle, and you will lead the Light Division. Be more careful hereafter of my orders."

"I will try, sir."

"Good! good!-What is it, colonel?"

"A courier, sir, from General Lee."

The courier entered, saluted, and gave the dispatch. Jackson read it, then read it aloud, figure, mien, and voice as quiet as if he were repeating some every-day communication.

On the march, September 14th.

General,-I regret to say that McClellan has, in some unaccountable fashion, discovered the division of the army as well as its objectives. We have had hard fighting to-day on South Mountain, D. H. Hill and Longstreet both suffering heavily. The troops fought with great determination and held the passes until dusk. We are now falling back on Sharpsburg. Use all possible speed in joining me there.


Stonewall Jackson rose. "General Hill, arrange your matters as rapidly as possible. Sharpsburg on the Antietam. Seventeen miles."

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