By: Jubal Early
On the 2nd of September our army rested, while the movements of the enemy were being ascertained. Provisions were now very scarce, as the supply in the wagons, with which we had started, was exhausted. The rations obtained by Jackson's command from the enemy's stores, at Manassas, which were confined to what could be brought off in haversacks, were also exhausted, and on this day boiled fresh beef, without salt or bread, was issued to my brigade, which with an ear or two of green corn roasted by a fire, constituted also my own supply of food, at this time. Longstreet's wing of the army was in a worse condition than Jackson's, as it had not participate in the supply found at Manassas.
On the morning of the 3rd, Jackson's wing commenced the march towards the Potomac, and moved to the left over some country roads, crossing the Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad at a station, above Vienna, until we reached the turnpike from Georgetown to Leesburg in Loudoun, and then along this road through Drainesville, until we passed Leesburg on the afternoon of the 4th, and bivouacked near Big Springs, two or three miles from the latter place, at night.
On the 5th we resumed the march and crossed the Potomac at White's Ford, about seven miles above Lees-burg, into Maryland. This ford was an obscure one on the road through the farm of Captain Elijah White, and the banks of the river had to be dug down so that our wagons and artillery might cross. On the Maryland side of the river the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal runs along the bank, and the canal had to be bridged over a lock to enable our wagons to pass, as they could not get through the culvert where the road ran. That night we bivouacked near Three Springs in Maryland on the road leading towards Frederick City, and after my brigade had lain down I received a message from General Jackson to let my men get green corn for two days, but, I told the staff officer bringing it, that they had already drawn their rations in that article, which was all they had now to eat. I will here say that green Indian corn and boiled beef without salt are better than no food at all by a good deal, but they constitute a very weakening diet for troops on a long march, as they produce diarrhea.
On the 6th we resumed the march and in the afternoon occupied Frederick City and the Monocacy Junction on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Jackson's division took position near the city, and Hill's and Ewell's near the Junction, which is about three miles from the city in the direction of Washington. Ewell 's division covered the railroad and the approaches from the direction of Baltimore, and Hill's those from the direction of Washington. We were now able to get some flour and salt, and our whole army was in a day or two concentrated near the same points.
We remained in position until the 10th, and on that day General Jackson's command moved through Frederick westward, for the purpose of capturing Harper's Ferry and Maryland Heights, where there was a considerable force of the enemy. At the same time, McLaws, with his own and Anderson's divisions, including three brigades of Longstreet's attached to Anderson's division, moved towards Maryland Heights, and Brigadier General Walker with his two brigades moved towards Loudoun Heights on the south of the Potomac, for the purpose of surrounding Harper's Ferry and co-operating with General Jackson in its capture.
On the night of the 10th, Ewell 's division bivouacked between Middletown and South Mountain. On the 11th, we moved across the mountain at Boonsboro Gap, and through Boonshoro to Williamsport, where we crossed the Potomac; Hill's division moving from that place directly for Martinsburg on the pike, and Ewell 's and Jackson's divisions for North Mountain depot on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, some miles west of Martins-burg, near which they bivouacked. On the morning of the 12th we moved for Martinsburg, and found that a force of the enemy at that place under General White had retired in the direction of Harper's Ferry on the approach of Hill's division. We passed through the town in the direction of Harper's Ferry and Ewell's division bivouacked on the banks of the Opequon.
On the morning of the 13th we resumed the march, and reached the turnpike from Charlestown to Harper's Ferry, one mile above Halltown, and bivouacked in sight of the enemy's work on Bolivar Heights, covering the town at the ferry, to wait until McLaws and Walker should get in position on Maryland Heights and London Heights respectively, both of which overlooked and commanded the enemy's position.
On the afternoon of the 14th, McLaws and Walker having previously gotten in position and opened fire with their artillery, General Jackson's force moved forward to invest the enemy's works, Hill's division moving on the right along the Shenandoah, Ewell's division along the turnpike, and one brigade of Jackson's division along the Potomac on the left, the rest of the division moving in support. Ewell's division moved along and on each side of the pike in three columns until it passed Halltown, when it was formed in treble line of battle with Trimble 's and Hays' brigades on the front line, and Lawton 's and my brigade in their rear, Law-ton's forming the second line, and mine the third. In this order we moved forward through some fields on the right of the road until we reached a woods on a hill called School House Hill, confronting the main works on Bolivar Heights, and in easy range for artillery.
This was done without opposition, and Hays' brigade was then moved to the left of the road and mine posted in its rear, the right being occupied by Trimble 's and Lawton 's brigades in the same order. It was now dark and the artillery firing from Maryland and Loudon Heights, as well as that from the enemy's works, had ceased. General Hill had bad some skirmishing with the enemy on our right, and had pushed some brigades close to the enemy's left flank to favorable positions for assaulting his works, and taking them on the flank and rear, but night also closed his operations.
Early on the morning of the 15th, preparations were made for the assault, and the batteries from Maryland Heights, London Heights, from a position across the Shenandoah to which the guns belonging to Ewell's division had been moved during the night, from Hill's position, from each side of the pike in front of Ewell's division, and from the left on the Potomac, opened on the enemy. In front of the position occupied by Ewell 's division was a deep valley between School House Hill and Bolivar Heights, the whole of which was cleared. On the opposite side the ascent to the enemy's works was steep and over thick brush that had been felled so as to make a formidable abattis. It was over this ground we would have had to move to the assault, and the prospect was by no means comforting.
Very early in the morning, Lawton 's brigade had been moved to the right and then by flank to the upper part of the valley in front of us, for the purpose of supporting an attack to be made by Hill's division, and the latter was moving to the assault, when the white flag was hoisted on Bolivar Heights. This indication of the enemy's surrender was received with very hearty and sincere cheers all along the line, as we were thus saved the necessity of an assault, which if stubbornly resisted would have resulted in the loss of many lives to us. Under the directions of General Jackson, General A. P. Hill received the surrender of the enemy, then under the command of Brigadier General White, Colonel Miles, the commander of the forces at Harper's Ferry, having been mortally wounded. About 11,000 prisoners were surrendered and paroled, and we secured about 12,000 small arms, 70 pieces of artillery, and a very large amount of stores, provisions, wagons and horses.
The victory was really a bloodless one so far as General Jackson's command was concerned, the only loss being a very few killed and wounded in Hill's division, but General McLaws had had heavy work in taking Maryland Heights, and had been engaged severely with the enemy coming up in his rear.