First Maryland CamiJaign, 107
attacked and pressed back with unusual vi_8^or. Everything on the evening of September 13th gave indications of a change in the mode of movement of the Federal army. Some one who had' been a witness of the scene at McClellan's headquarters when the lost dispatch was brought to him came through the lines and informed Stuart, who then understood the cause of the Federal activity. Stuart sent in turn, the information to General Lee at Hagerstown. Lee received it some time during the night of the 13th, and at once ordered Longstreet back to Boonesboro' to support Hill. General Longstreet says that he urged Lee not to make a stand at Boones- boro', but to bring D. H. Hill back to Sharpsburg. General Long- street leaves us in doubt as to his opinion of the eifect of this move- ment on the Harper's Ferry enterprise, but as such a movement would have uncovered McLaws's rear, there is no doubt that it would have cost the failure of the plan for the reduction of Harper's Ferry. General Lee was not prepared to yield so much to his enemy. Nor is it certain that the line of the Antietam presented any better opportunity for opposing McClellan than did South Mountain, where greatly inferior forces could, if well handled, keep back, for a time at least, the Federal army.
It is not our purpose to discuss the battle of South Mountain, about which much might be said. General D. H. Hill, aided later in the day by General Longstreet, was able to hold the mountain passes at Turner's Gap all day of September 14th. Their com- mands suffered heavily, however, and such positions were won by the Federal army as to insure their possession of the mountain next day. Meantime the Federals had gained possession of Crampton's Gap, but not until too late to press McLaws on the 14th. Hence Lee withdrew towards Sharpsburg next morning. While this move- ment was in progress he learned of the fall of Harper's Ferry, and ordered the concentration of his whole army behind the Antietam.
Let us turn now to operations about Harper's Ferry. According to General Lee's captured order McLaws was to possess himself of Maryland Heights by Friday morning, September r2th; Walker, at the same time, was, if practicable, to be in possession of Loudoun Heights; Jackson, by Friday night, September 12th, was expected to be in possession of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and "of such of the enemy as may be at Martinsburg. " Jackson had by far the longest march to make to reach Harper's Ferry; it amounted to about fifty miles. He was at Martinsburg, according to orders, on the night of the 12th, and had driven the Federal troops from that place towards Harper's Ferry.