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VIDEO: Jefferson & Berkeley Counties – September 18-September 22, 1862 Click Here. TRT: 17:39.
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A day after the dreadful Battle of Antietam and Sharpsburg had abated, Confederate forces surreptitiously re-crossed the Potomac River into Virginia at different points, most crossing at Boteler’s Ford below Shepherdstown. Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Gen. Stuart’s cavalry upriver on the Virginia side to opposite from Williamsport to re-cross back into Maryland, and then vex the Federals and divert their attention and resources away from the main retreating Confederate Army at Shepherdstown. That done, Stuart’s men, like all of Lee’s army, re-crossed into Virginia, found their way to fields and farms in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties along the Opequon Creek to rest, protected by pickets along the river provided by Stuart’s cavalry.
This series of short videos, first, describes the perilous time for Stuart and his men at a seldom used river crossing, then focusses on the relief and anything-but-military pleasures of Stuart’s men on “R&R” at Stephen Dandridge’s well-stocked farm at The Bower. The military actions that punctuated and interrupted their fun-makings are chronicled in greater detail elsewhere at civilwarscholars.com
During this respite at the Bower, Lee’s army increased in size, adding more than 20,000 new, straggling and/or returning men. They rested well, because, even while they busied themselves destroying the Winchester-Potomac Railroad from Harper’s Ferry to Winchester and portions of the Baltimore & Ohio west of Harper’s Ferry, Federal commander Gen. George McClellan was fending off entreaties from President Lincoln and Gen. Halleck to pursue Lee, conceding the need to secure Harper’s Ferry, and ordering the occasional, limited reconnaissance operations but all the while complaining he needed more men, more shoes, more clothes and more horses.
Gen. McClellan’s historic failure is his not using these forty days to pursue Lee’s weakened army and probably defeating it, with much superior numbers. Lincoln thus fired him in early November. Those days in that unforgettable fall of 1862 blessed weary, bodacious Confederate cavalrymen with an infinitely good time at The Bower.
With Hampton’s brigade, William Blackford finds the place to re-cross the Potomac River and get back into Virginia.
Towards evening, General Stuart came back to where he had left his staff, to go to an interview with General Lee, to which he had been summoned, and he told me he wished to proceed at once and examine the Potomac River in our rear above the regular ford near Shepherdstown, and find, if possible, a ford by which cavalry could cross, and that I must do this without asking inquiries among citizens; that if such a crossing be found, to place some men at it and station a line of men at intervals of a couple of hundred yards along the route leading to the place so that I could guide a column of cavalry to it in the dark and without fail, and that I must report to him by sundown. . . .
At last, however, I found a crossing just below a fish trap where a shallow dam had been built of loose stones over which the water poured. For a distance of ten or fifteen yards below this dam the water was shallow enough for fording and then it became deeper and deeper until it was clear past the saddle. The place was very rough and the water swift, but it was the best that could be had; so after crossing several times to learn the position of some dangerous places, I stationed a picket at the bank with orders to answer my call if I came in the dark, and returned to General Stuart, noticing carefully the unmarked route and leaving men along the intervals from one to the other.
As soon as it was dark, fires were lighted all along our lines as usual, but the movement to the rear soon showed that my surmise was correct and that the army was going to cross back into Virginia. First the wagon trains, then the artillery, and then the infantry took up the line of march to and across the river. I was sent to guide Hampton’s brigade to the ford that I had found, and reached it without trouble, thanks to the precautions taken, for it was very dark and a heavy fog arose from the river, wrapping everything in an impenetrable veil of mist.
The head of the column by my guidance, keeping close to the fish dam, crossed safely, but then there occurred one of those mishaps which will occur in war even after every conceivable precaution apparently has been taken. As before stated, the ford was a narrow one, along just below the fish dam; below this the water was deep and swift, and the distance across the river at this place was considerable.
The fog was so thick that only a few horses’ lengths in front could be seen, and in the column each horseman followed the one before him. Each horse was pressed to a certain extent downstream, and not having been told they must keep close to the fish dam, they followed their leaders all the time, losing ground by the current as they advanced. The result was that the rear of the column found itself in swimming water and had great difficulty in saving itself. Some men, I believe, were drowned and several horses were lost. The right thing would have been to post men along the ford on the lower side, but this no one thought of until too late.
- (William Blackford, pp. 152-153 – See “References”).
10 PM Thursday, September 18: Heros Von Borcke describes the same scene.
Wrote Heros Von Borck, who was with Stuart and Blackford:
General Stuart started with his staff about ten o’clock at night, and I can safely say that the ride to the Potomac was one of the most disagreeable of my life. A fine rain, which had been falling all the evening, had rendered the roads so deep with mud and so slippery that it was difficult to make any progress at all, and I fell with my horse not less than five times. The way was everywhere obstructed by wagon and artillery trains, and marching columns; and the darkness was so great that one knew not where to direct his doubtful steps. General Stuart made a narrow escape from being crushed to death. His horse fell with him directly under the wheels of a heavy army wagon, which must inevitably have gone over him had I not fortunately been able to arrest its motion.
The General was in great haste, and was calling out continually to those in front of him in somewhat angry tones, which was often answered, to my great amusement, in a sufficiently rough manner by the soldiers and wagon-drivers, who did not recognize his voice. At last we reached the Potomac, crossed it in safety, and after moving about for some time in the darkness on the opposing bank, and being compelled to lead our horses over the rocky precipitous ground near Shepherdstown, came shortly before daylight to a halt, and sought on a wet but hard place in the open an hour’s rest preparatory to starting upon a new enterprise unlooked-for finale to the autumn campaign in Maryland. – (Von Borcke, p. 166).
General Stuart had received orders from General Lee to march at once, and with two of his brigades (Hampton’s and Robertson’s), two regiments of infantry, and his horse-artillery, to the little town of Williamsport, about fifteen miles higher up the Potomac. He was to then cross again into Maryland, and by a vigorous demonstration induce the enemy to believe that a large portion of our army was maneuvering against them at that point. Accordingly, we had scarcely fallen asleep when the order was given to mount, and we commenced our rapid march through the chill fog of the morning, cold, hungry, and wet to the skin. But a few hours of hard riding, the genial warmth of the sun breaking through the watery sky, and more than all else, a luxurious breakfast, which was quickly prepared for us at a hospitable house on the roadside, the first regular meal that we had enjoyed for many days, revived and refreshed us. – (Von Borcke, p. 167).
Noon, Sept. 19 – Stuart crosses at Williamsport to fight.
Wrote William Blackford:
Having accomplished the object of the expedition and having drawn a considerable force of the enemy to the spot, we re-crossed on the night of the 20th of September. During the stay we had numerous skirmishes with the enemy but could never get their cavalry to meet us away from strong infantry support. (NOTE: During that day, Federals and Confederate forces were fighting at the Boteler’s Ford and on nearby higher lands east of Shepherdstown). General Lee now posted his army between Winchester and Martinsburg, the cavalry occupying the line of the Potomac from Williamsport to Harper’s Ferry with the cavalry headquarters at Hainesville for a few days; but on the 28th they were established at The Bower. – (Blackford, p. 154).
Sept. 20 – Stuart’s last-minute re-crossing from Maryland into Virginia.
We reached the banks of the Potomac, and as I was well acquainted with the somewhat difficult ford, I piloted the brigade across the broad stream, and having satisfactorily accomplished this, returned to General Stuart, who had in the mean time been pressed hard by the enemy, and was just directing his troops towards the river. Our battery on the Virginia side, joined by the other pieces as they were successively brought over, now opened a spirited fire in the direction where the enemy was supposed to be advancing, which was answered vigorously by
the Federal artillery. This passage of the Potomac by night was one of those magnificent spectacles which are seen only in war. The whole landscape was lighted up with a lurid glare from the burning houses of Williamsport, which had been ignited by the enemy’s shells. High over the heads of the crossing column and the dark waters of the river, the blazing bombs passed each other in parabolas of flame through the air, and the spectral trees showed their every limb and leaf against the red sky. About 11 P.M. the crossing had been safely effected, and we all felt thankful to regain the soil of Virginia, after a loss in killed and wounded comparatively trifling when considered with the dangers to which we had been exposed. The pursuit was not continued by the enemy across the river, and we marched quietly about six miles
further in the direction of Martinsburg, and bivouacked for the remainder of the night near the large plantation of Mr C., whose abundant supplies of corn and hay gave sufficient food for the fatigued and hungry horses of our whole command. – (Von Borcke, p. 176).
Noon, Sunday, Sept. 21 – Arrive at Martinsburg, VA. Weather: pleasant.
- (Von Borcke, p. 177); (Hotchkiss, p. 84).
Evening, Sept. 21:
Pelham and Von Borcke dine at a Martinsburg home. – (Von Borcke, p. 177).
Monday, Sept. 22 – Washington:
The Emancipation Proclamation.
Monday, Sept. 22 – Confederate encampments are set up.
Weather: cooler. – (Hotchkiss, p. 84).
Wrote Von Borcke:
During the forenoon of the following day (Sept. 22nd-JS) we received information that our wagons had been halted five miles from us in the direction of Williamsport, at the small village of Hainesville, where General Stuart subsequently decided to establish his headquarters. The main body of our army had gone in the mean time in the direction of Winchester, the right wing, under Longstreet, encamping near that
town . . . Jackson half-way near Martinsburg and Winchester, near the hamlet called Bunker Hill. The cavalry had to cover the line along the Potomac from Williamsport to Harper’s Ferry, Hampton’s brigade being stationed near Hainesville, Fitz Lee’s near Shepherdstown, and Robertson’s under Col. Munford near Charles Town opposite Harper’s Ferry. – (Von Borcke, pp. 177-178).
Monday, Sept. 22 – Stuart writes Flora Stuart for new clothes.
Wrote J.E.B. Stuart to his wife, Flora:
Hd Qrs Cavalry Division, Hainesville Sept 22, 1862 . . . My Darling One – I wrote you in a hurried note yesterday, and now enclose you $200 – You did not acknowledge the receipt of the last I sent you. I have ordered another jacket from Dougherty’s – 1 inch longer than this. Also 1 pr of grey pants re-enforced. If you should happen to go to Richmond it would be a good opportunity for you to attend to it for me. Col. Brien goes to Richmond for funds. Gen. A. P. Hill came up at Sharpsburg just in time to drive the enemy back with overwhelming loss, & that was the last fighting. – (STUART Letters, Sept. 22, 1862).
Evening Monday, Sept. 22 – Von Borcke revisits family.
Wrote Von Borcke:
In the evening I galloped over to Martinsburg, and paid a second visit to Captain A. and the agreeable ladies of his household, returning after midnight to my soft bed in the tent. – (Von Borcke, p. 179).
Blackford, William W. (1945). “War Years with Jeb Stuart.” New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Print.
Blackford, William W. (1945). “War Years with Jeb Stuart.” Google Books. 19 July 2008. Web. 24 Dec. 2010.
Hotchkiss, Jedediah. “Make Me a Map of the Valley, The Civil War Journal of Stonewall Jackson’s Topographer.” ed. Archie P. McDonald. Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press. Print.
6whitehorses.com 11 August 2003 Web December 3, 2012.
Von Borcke, Heros. (1866). “Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence.” New York, NY: P. Smith. Print. Print.
Von Borcke, Heros. (1866). “Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence. Vol. 1.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 1 October 2012.
Flickr Set/Image Credits:
horses in the river
World War I www.militaryphotos.net 30 January 2003 Web. 15 February 2013.
Antique Print of 1879 Afghan War Soldiers Cavalry Crossing …
www.old-print.com 14 October 2002 Web 15 February 2013.
“Negro Emancipation.” Richmond Enquirer. October 2, 1862. (Richmond, VA). Volume: XXXVI. Issue: 152 Page 1.
genealogybank.com 27 October 1997 Web. 10 February 2013.
“The Emancipation Policy.” New York Herald-Tribune. November 22, 1862. (New York, NY). Volume: XXII. Issue: 6751. Page 5.
genealogybank.com 27 October 1997 Web. 10 February 2013.
Civil War Map of Martinsburg
U.S. Army map of the town in 1861
nara.gov 6 June 1997 Web. 15 February 2013.
detail – Shepherdstown, Va. Williamsport, MD.
Blackford, William W. “Map of the route followed by the Cavalry Division through Maryland into Pennsylvania, October, 1862.” Plate No. 25, Map. No. 6. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
Blackford, William W. “Map of the route followed by the Cavalry Division through Maryland into Pennsylvania, October, 1862.” baylor.edu 9 May 1997 Web. 16 February 2013.
The Great Bloodless War in the East; Preparing for Blood in the West
Sunday, June 16, 1861. civilwardailygazette.com 11 November 2010 Web. 15 February 2013.
burning of Harper’s Ferry
Strother, David H., “Personal Recollections of the Civil War.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 33, Issue: 193, June, 1866. pp. 7-16. Print.
Strother, David H. (June, 1866). “Personal Recollections of the Civil War.” Harpers Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.
p. 13 Burning of the Harper’s Ferry armory.
Martinsburg,VA. downtown by A. Waud Harper’s Weekly, December 3, 1864.
Virginia 1st Cavalry by A. Waud, Harper’s Weekly, October, 1862.
Miller, Francis Trevelyan. (1912). “The photographic history of the civil war in ten volumes.” Vol. 4. New York, NY: The Review of Reviews Co. Print.
Miller, Francis Trevelyan. (1912). “The photographic history of the civil war in ten volumes.” Vol. 4. Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. Print.
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
Strother, David H., "Virginia Illustrated." Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 13, Issue: 75, (Aug., 1856). pp. 303-323. Print.
Strother, David H., "Virginia Illustrated." Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.
7 May 2008. Web. 29 May. 2011
“Gathering Autumn Leaves” by Jervis McEntee.
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