Here is a belated look at events of the Civil War 150 years ago this week in September, 1862.
Military events: Antietam/Sharpsburg campaign. Having drawn Federal forces away from Washington by his occupation of Frederick, Maryland, General Lee now intends to transfer his army west of the mountains (“South Mountain [as the Blue Ridge range is called in Maryland]”), keeping the Federals far from their supply base and support. Lee’s communications with Richmond will be through the Shenandoah Valley; he had hoped that the Confederate presence in Maryland would have drawn Federal forces out of Harper’s Ferry and Martinsburg, leaving a good area of resupply open, as well as ensuring uninterrupted communication lines back to Richmond.
Indeed, General McClellan ordered the withdrawal of those forces, but General Halleck has overruled him, keeping Union garrisons in both places; Lee decides to try to capture them, since McClellan is moving slowly. McClellan is unsure “whether it was [Lee’s] intention to cross their whole force with a view to turn Washington by a flank movement down the north bank of the Potomac, to move on Baltimore, or to invade Pennsylvania. . . .”
Today Lee’s commanders start moving out, according to Special Order No. 191, one copy of which, unbeknownst to the Confederates, has been lost. General Jackson heads toward Martinsburg, to drive that Federal force out and toward Harper’s Ferry by the 12th. Others spread out to surround Harper’s Ferry, while part of Longstreet’s command and D. H. Hill’s division head to Boonesborough at the western base of South Mountain, with the plan that Longstreet will move on to Hagerstown to secure supplies and meet an advancing Union force, while Hill’s force supports General Stuart’s cavalry, which is remaining east of the mountains, as well as to close off that escape route from Harper’s Ferry. (11)
Miltary Events: Antietam/Sharpsburg campaign: Jackson crosses the Potomac and spreads his forces out to prevent any escapes from Martinsburg, but it’s unnecessary: the Federal forces there immediately evacuate the town and head for Harper’s Ferry. General Lafayette McLaws, with 10 brigades plus Anderson’s division crosses South Mountain over the Brownsville Gap. (11)
Confederate Heartland Offensive: The first advance elements of the US Army of the Ohio reach Bowling Green, Kentucky. Until General Buell’s arrival in 3 days, General Lovell Rousseau takes charge of the city’s defenses, rebuilding the former Confederate fortifications and supplementing the town’s stockpile of rations. Meanwhile, CS General Bragg’s forces start moving into Glasgow, Kentucky. Over the next couple of days both sides will be busy foraging for supplies and clean water; extreme drought has forced them to live on often putrid water and green corn during their respective marches. (2)
Military Events: Antietam/Sharpsburg Campaign: General McClellan continues to advance slowly, keeping the cities of Washington and Baltimore covered. Jackson occupies Martinsburg in the morning and moves out toward Harper’s Ferry that afternoon. McClaws is ready to occupy Harper’s Ferry. Learning that the Federals occupy Maryland Heights in force, McLaws sends General Joseph B. Kershaw to attack them, and deploys other forces in supportive and strategic positions while continuing on to seize Weverton by nightfall and hold the road from Sandy Hook. (11)
Confederate Heartland Offensive: General Buell ignores the frantic concerns over Nashville expressed by US Military Governor Andrew Johnson and orders General Thomas’s division to move to Bowling Green, leaving General James Negley in charge of Nashville. (2)
CS General Bragg orders General Sterling Price to bring his Army of the West forward to prevent US General Rosecrans from reinforcing Negley in Nashville. General Grant, worried that Price will unite with Bragg in Kentucky against Buell, sends his left wing commander General Edward Ord to advance on Iuka from the west, while General Rosecrans advanced on the town from the southwest. They are to arrive there on the 18th and attack Price on the 19th. (22) Meanwhile, US Colonel John T. Wilder and his 204-man force have established a strong defensive position at Munfordville. (2)
Other: The New York Times publishes General Lee’s September 8th proclamation, encouraged by President Davis, to the citizens of Maryland, assuring them that his army is there only to assist them in regaining their rights.
Military Events: Antietam/Sharpsburg Campaign: General McClellan’s forces reach Frederick, Maryland, unopposed. In the morning, a US corporal finds the lost copy of Lee’s Special Order No. 191 and it is delivered to General McClellan, who upon realizing its significance, tells a subordinate, “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.” He advances toward Lee. By 10 p.m., Lee is aware of great excitement in the Union lines. He doesn’t know why but warns McLaws and orders Longstreet to Boonesborough. (11, 21)
Meanwhile, Federal forces near Harper’s Ferry, drawn up on Bolivar Heights, spot Jackson’s approaching troops. Jackson camps near the village of Halltown, some 2 miles from Federal lines, waiting to learn if forces under McLaws and General John G. Walker, who are to cooperate with him from the Maryland and Loudoun heights, are in position yet. Walker has two regiments on Loudoun Heights and the rest of his force deployed along roads to prevent Federal escape. McLaws and his forces begin their assault and take Maryland Heights. (11)
Confederate Heartland Offensive: From Bowling Green, General Rousseau sends Buell a message outlining a plan to confront CS General Bragg. Meanwhile, CS Colonel John Scott and his cavalry, who General Kirby Smith has sent west to try to make contact with General Bragg, spot Federal defenses in Munfordville, and the relatively small number of men in the garrison. Scott decides to seize the garrison and telegraphs General Chalmers to come from Cave City, about 15 miles away. The Confederates, however, don’t cut the telegraph lines to the north, so US Colonel Wilder is able to request reinforcements from General Buell, who is only a little over 40 miles away in Bowling Green. (2)
West Virginia: CS General William W. Loring advances down the Kanawha Valley. (6)
Battles: Antietam/Sharpsburg campaign: Battle of South Mountain. “Once the Federal army had cleared the gaps and taken up a position on the same side of the mountain as the Confederates, Lee realized his campaign could not possibly continue. He relayed word to his generals to proceed on the most expedient routes to Sharpsburg, a very defendable position should the Federal army follow and attack. The army would then continue its withdrawal back into Virginia.”
Confederate Heartland Offensive: The battle and siege of Munfordville, Kentucky, also known as the battle of Green River or Green River Bridge begins. There is no word from Bowling Green. Some reinforcements under Colonel Cyrus Dunham arrive from Louisville, and loyalist citizens of Munfordville and Hart County help bring more ammunition into the garrison. (2, 6) Meanwhile, in the western theater, CS General Sterling Price’s Army of the West arrives in Iuka, Mississippi.
Battles: Antietam/Sharpsburg Campaign: Day 2, South Mountain: “The following day, after pulling his army back behind the Antietam Creek, Lee learned that the Union stronghold at Harper’s Ferry had fallen. With those units now available and able to partially reorganize, he decided to hold his ground.” McClellan crosses South Mountain to Boonesborough and Keedysville. (21)
Confederate Heartland Offensive: The battle and siege of Munfordville/Green River/Green River bridge continues. General Bragg is not pleased that Colonel Scott attacked the Federals but feels it would be bad for morale to pass it by and begins to surround the US position. At some point (the date is unclear), General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry are active on the Elizabethtown and Bardstown roads, intercepting the movement of Union forces. Late in the day, Colonel Wilder learns that no troops have left Bowling Green to reinforce him. (2, 4, 6)
Battles: Confederate Heartland Offensive: The battle and siege of Munfordville/Green River/Green River bridge continues. General Buell moves out of Bowling Green, but towards Glasgow to intercept Bragg and not to Wilder’s aid at Munfordville. (2, 6)
Antietam/Sharpsburg Campaign: Lee’s forces are concentrating around Sharpsburg. Two Union corps cross Antietam Creek and make contact with Lee’s left at around 6 p.m. (21)
(3) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor
(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders
(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.
(10) Civil War Home’s “The Eastern Theater: 2nd Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.”
(11) The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, by William Allan (1892)
(12) Conquest of the Lower Mississippi. BrownWaterNavy.org.
(15) A Year of Glory, August 1862, part 2.
(16) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).
(20) The Maryland Campaign.
(21) Antietam timeline.
(22) The Battle of Iuka.
Categories: American Civil War