The Impossible Autumn (Pt. 3) – 1862, Jefferson County, Va. by Jim Surkamp

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The Impossible Autumn – Jefferson County, Va. 1862 Pt. 3 by Jim Surkamp. Click Here. TRT: 15:50

Images at Flickr:
1. Click Here for Battle of Shepherdstown segment. 55 Images.
2. Click Here for segment on The Bower. 61 Images.

Jefferson.County.wvgeohistory.org

This is an Almanac of War for 1862 in Jefferson County, Va. This continues a a brief chronological fly-over of war in Jefferson County in the late summer and autumn of 1862 . . . the Impossible Autumn.

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September 19th – Weather: Fine day.

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Federals cross the Potomac below Shepherdstown and capture some Confederate artillery, causing panic and overestimation by the commander. Author Thomas A. McGrath explains what happened on September 19th at Boteler’s Ford and environs: On the morning of September 19th, the Union lines woke up to find the Confederate lines abandoned. Cavalry pickets were sent towards the river where they found the last of the Confederates retreating. Cannon opened up

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from the opposite bluffs. The Union artillery quickly unlimbered and replied. This artillery exchange marked the beginning of the two-day battle of Shepherdstown. The Confederate rearguard was commanded by Confederate General William Nelson Pendleton. He had at his disposal two, small brigades of infantry and forty-four guns of the artillery reserve.

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Thirty-three of those guns were placed on the heights overlooking the Shepherdstown Ford. Throughout the morning and the afternoon of the nineteenth, Union troops from the Fifth Corps under General Fitz John Porter took position along the Maryland heights and in the dry bed of the C&O canal. From here they kept a concentrated artillery and infantry barrage against the enemy position, driving many rebel gunners from their pieces. Towards late afternoon, Porter sensed an opportunity and he ordered an assault against the Confederate position. Two Union infantry regiments – the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters and the 4th Michigan – charged through the river under fire.

When they reached the Virginia bank, they scaled the bluff, scattering what remained of the Confederate defenders and captured four pieces of cannon along with several prisoners. After dark of the 19th, all Union troops were withdrawn back to Maryland and the fighting of the day was over. But this

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day’s actions would have tremendous consequences, ultimately altering Lee’s plans for his campaign. That night after midnight, he received word that the Yankees had crossed the river. He also received the false report that all forty-four guns of the artillery reserve had been taken. The march to Williamsport was arrested. Three Confederate divisions would be sent back to Shepherdstown.

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September 20th – Weather: Pleasant day. Major fight below Shepherdstown, signalling the end of Robert E. Lee’s Maryland campaign. Author Thomas A. McGrath explains the Battle of Shepherdstown on September 20th, that concluded Lee’s invasion of Maryland:With the success of the Union Army’s Fifth Corps on September 19th, General McClellan ordered a reconnaissance in force for the morning of the 20th. At 7 AM, Major Charles Lovell’s brigade – just over a thousand regulars – crossed the Shepherdstown Ford and moved up Trough Road. This reconnaissance was supposed to have been preceded by a screen of cavalry who had yet to arrive. So as a result, Lovell was marching into the country-side blind. Confederate General A. P. Hill’s division had just arrived on the field and were now deploying on the line of battle. Lovell halted his men and now deployed them into line in column, by battalion.

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Outnumbered by 4-1 by the brigades of Pender, Gregg, and Thomas, Lovell and Warren followed orders to retreat while the Union brigade of Barnes sought a position on the Union right. The appearance of the Confederate pickets on the main field prompted intense and highly accurate Federal shelling from the bluffs across the river that would continue for hours.

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South Carolinian J.F.J. Caldwell wrote of the Federal artillery shelling on September 20th: The roar of the pieces, and the howl and explosion of shells was awful. Sometimes a shell burst right in the ranks, tearing and mangling all around it. In Pender’s brigade I saw a man lifted clear into the air. But all in vain. The men closed in at once, and the advance was continued without a falter. – Caldwell, p. 51.

Lovell retreated on the Federal left. The newly arrived units of Barnes’ brigade threatened Pender’s left. Amid terrible artillery fire, Archer, Lane, and Brockenbrough advanced.

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One Confederate sharpshooter, J. B. Moore, wrote later of the slaughter of the Corn Exchange Regiment: I remember seeing the river full of men while our men lay on top of the bluff and poured volley after volley into the enemy, every man who was shot going down to his death in the river either by the shot or by drowning. It was one of the horrible sights of the war. – McGrath, p. 162; Moore, J.B. “Richmond Times.”

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Professional gunsmith Eric Johnson expains why the guns of the 118th Pennsylvania Regiment failed to fire on September 20th: The 118th Pennsylvania Corn Exchange Regiment had been issued Enfield rifled muskets, Model 53, that were contract pieces that had been brought over from England and hadn’t really been inspected.

Soldiers recorded that, when they pulled the trigger, the hammer would fall down and crush the cone. This gun has a piece that is called a “main spring.” The main spring is the piece that throws the hammer backwards and the one that you cock to get it forward. When making a spring in a forge, first you shape the piece and then that spring has to have enough hardness so that it will open-and-close, open-and-close. Typically, you temper a spring, that is, you just soften it enough, so that when you pull the trigger, it does what it needs to do – it advances the hammer and it either pops the cap or strikes the flint. If the spring is not tempered – it is too hard – it will crack. Or worse, if it is overheated, and it is too soft or mushy, it won’t fire at all. From the accounts of the 118th Pennsylvania in 1862, the springs were overly hardened and not tempered.

cc by-nc-nd Bruno Monginoux www.photo-paysage.com & www.landscape-photo.netMcClellan.Lincoln2Lee.Stuart.Crossings
After the Maryland campaign ended September 20th, Federals rested north of the Potomac for a month, despite urgings by President Lincoln to pursue and destroy Lee’s army, encamped throughout Jefferson and Berkeley Counties for a month, south of the Potomac. While most of Lee’s army crossed on September 18th and 19th into Virginia below Shepherdstown, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry crossed near Shepherd’s Island on Terrapin Neck north of Shepherdstown and also at Williamsport. Jackson and the main army rested near Bunker Hill in Berkeley County for much of October, 1862.

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Many of the local men in Confederate units would go home. A massive religious revival harvested souls in those autumn days of healing in the fields around Bunker Hill, listened to and heeded by those who had seen such unspeakable horrors of deep battle. It seems that the men who continued to face

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such loss and horror on the battlefield turned to more spiritual and religious support as the war continued, while, simultaneously on the home front, by contrast, the women of their households became fiercer in their hatred of Federal incursions, perhaps because their homes and lifeways were on the line in a very ultimate and final way. This was the case in Jefferson County as it was elsewhere, and very understandable by the calculus of human nature.

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When I arose from my grassy couch at sunrise on the 29th, I found, indeed, that the half had not been told me of ” The Bower.” – Von Borcke, p. 268.

The fabled, myth-dressed home called the Bower of Adam and Serena Dandridge overlooking the Opequon from the Jefferson County side was where Stuart’s 150-person staff encamped for almost a month and mixed skirmishing with some hefty and recurring doses of pleasure, romance, turkey hunting, party pranks and hi-jinks reminiscent to those of frat house brothers in a 21st century fraternity.

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When Federals recrossed into Virginia finally on October 16-17th, forcing Lee and Stuart to start their southward movement, it is possible that the Dandridges then realized that their farm would now be vulnerable to the ire and reprisals by federal forces for harboring Stuart’s staff, especially because Stuart departed from the Bower – and returned to the Bower – when he humiliated Federal Gen. McClellan by leading his cavalry entirely around the Federal army in the north country.

The firmly hoped-for notion that Stuart’s fighters would somehow be a form of insurance and protection for the Dandridges and their farm against any Federal abuses was uncertain. In fact, the Bower did much more for the war-weary than the war-weary in the fall of 1862 did for the Bower, given the fluid, expeditious nature of war.

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Autumn, 1867 – John Esten Cooke re-visited The Bower once more and saw fonder scenes. He wrote: In the autumn of 1867, I revisited the old hall where those summer days of 1862 had passed in mirth and enjoyment; and then I wandered away to the grassy knoll where ‘Stuart’s oak’ still stands. The sight of the great tree brought back a whole world of memories. Seated on one of its huge roots, beneath the dome of foliage just touched by the finger of autumn, I seemed to see all the past rise up again and move before me, with its gallant figures, its bright scenes, and brighter eyes. Alas! Those days were dust, and Stuart sang and laughed no more. The grass was green again and the birds were singing; but no martial forms moved there, no battle-flag rippled, no voice was heard. Stuart was dead; his sword rusting under the dry leaves of Hollywood, and his battle-flag was furled forever.

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That hour under the old oak, in the autumn of 1867, was one of the saddest that I have ever spent. The hall was there as before; the clouds floated, the stream murmured, the wind sighed in the great tree, as when Stuart’s tent shone under it. But the splendor had vanished, the laughter was hushed — it was a company of ghosts that gathered around me, and their faint voices sounded from another world! Lastly the Bower dream would settle back to earth and exist in memory, in the mind. – Cooke, pp. 99-103.

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References:

Caldwell, J. F. J. (1866). “The history of a brigade of South Carolinians, known first as ‘Gregg’s’ and subsequently as ‘McGowan’s brigade.” Philadelphia, PA.: King & Baird, printers. Print.

Caldwell, J. F. J. (1866). “The history of a brigade of South Carolinians, known first as ‘Gregg’s’ and subsequently as ‘McGowan’s brigade.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 18 July 2012.

Cooke, John E. (1868). “Mohun; or, The last days of Lee and his paladins.” New York, NY: F. J. Huntington and Co. Print.

Cooke, John E. (1868). “Mohun; or, The last days of Lee and his paladins.” Internet Archives. 26 January 1997 Web. 8 September 2013.
The Bower pp. 99-103.

McGrath, Thomas A. (2007). “Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign, September 19-20, 1862.” Lynchburg, VA: Schroeder Publications. Print.

Moore, J. B. “Sharpsburg. [from the Richmond, Va., Times, May 28, 1899.] graphic description of the battle and its results.” Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 27. Reverend J. William Jones, Ed. p. 216).

Von Boercke, Heros. (1866). “Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence.” Edinburgh and London, UK: William Blackwood & Sons. Print.

Von Boercke, Heros. (1866). “Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence.” Google Books. 19 July 2008. Web. 24 Dec. 2010.

Image Credits/Flickr Sets:

1853 Enfield Percussion Rifle Musket
NRAmuseum.org 26 December 2009 Web. 20 September 2013.

Drawing of Enfield’s main spring (1853 model). from “The Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle” by Peter Smithurst.
Drawing from the book. Google Books. 19 July 2008. Web. 24 Dec. 2010.
At Osprey Publishing.

John_Esten_Cooke
wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 20 September 2013.

David H. Strother drawing of front gate, p. 162.
Strother, David H., “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 12, Issue: 68, (Jan., 1856). Print.

Strother, David H., "Virginia Illustrated." Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.
7 May 2008. Web. 29 May 2011.
p. 162.

Drawing of an encampment with a man and women, p. 169.
Strother, David H., "Virginia Illustrated." Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 12, Issue: 68, (Jan., 1856). pp. 158-179. Print.

Strother, David H., "Virginia Illustrated." Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.
7 May 2008. Web. 29 May 2011.
p. 169.

Drawing of bottles, cards, p. 156.
Crayon, Porte. “The Mountains–IX.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Volume 49 Issue 290 (July, 1874). pp. 156-168. Print.

Crayon, Porte. (July, 1874). “The Mountains–IX.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. p. 156.

Stuart’s Oak
FriendsoftheBower.com 7 February 2011 Web. 22 September 2013

Davis, Theodore R. “Laying Waste the Shenandoah Valley.” bierstadt.org 23 December 2004 Web. 5 September 2013.

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