Lee’s Divided Army on the Move Through Maryland!; Lincoln Wonders About the West

September 10, 1862 (Wednesday)

The Rebel Cavalry at a Halt

Stonewall Jackson wasn’t exactly lying. While his men rose and began their march, he casually asked several citizens of Frederick, Maryland the best way to get to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He asked for maps and inquired about towns far to the north in the Keystone State. The people of Frederick, by this time, probably believed that the entire Rebel army was about to cross the Mason-Dixon line. Used to Jackson’s secretive ways, however, his staff should have known by now that, though they could not tell where Stonewall was going, Chambersburg was most definitely not the place. Perhaps the General was simply curious.1

The Confederates headed west, along the same road British General Braddock British General Edward Braddock and Lt. Colonel George Washington trod during the French and Indian War in 1755. Jackson, who, according to Lee’s Special Orders No. 191, was to turn off at Middletown, led the column towards Boonsboro, through the South Mountain pass at Turner’s Gap.2

Originally, Jackson wanted to march through Sharpsburg and then through Shepherdstown, by-passing the town of Martinsburg to the north, which was believed to be abandoned by the Yankees. There, he could advance towards Harpers Ferry from the north.3

Old Quaker Lady of Maryland, anticipating the seizure of her House by Lee's Troops, puts out a Washing Stand as a desirable preliminary step thereto. The Rebel Scouts mistake the—to them—Strange Apparatus for an Infernal Machine, and Skedaddle.

Union General John Wool, commander over Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry (though in Baltimore) had ordered General Julius White to hold Martinsburg to the last extremity with his 2,500 – 3,000 men.4 By evening, White knew exactly where Jackson was, but wasn’t sure where he was going. Boonsboro rests at a crossroads that could take the traveler to Hagerstown, Williamsport (and thus Martinsburg) or Sharpsburg (and thus Harpers Ferry). Only time would tell which route Stonewall would take, though White suspected (and probably hoped) Hagerstown.5

While in Boonsboro, Jackson learned that his plans had to change. Word had come in from advance pickets that Martinsburg was occupied. If Jackson continued as planned, he would have an unknown Federal force in his rear. Now, he would have to add sixty miles to his route in order to deal with Martinsburg.6

To the south, Confederate Generals Lafayette McLaws and John Walker were on their way to hit Harpers Ferry from the south. McLaws was to move his 8,000 men to Maryland Heights, while Walker was to take his 3,400 to Loudoun Heights. Jackson had hoped that their movements towards the town would be enough to cause the surrender of Union forces. Now, with sixty miles added to his path, he must have wished it even more.7

Large and approximate, here is today's map!

Just as Jackson had received a report that changed his route, General Lee received word that changed everything. Apparently, a Union force of unknown strength was marching towards Hagerstown via Chambersburg. Lee’s entire plan hinged upon the Confederate control of Hagerstown. Originally, while Jackson, McLaws and Walker marched towards Harpers Ferry, General James Longstreet was to hold at Boonsboro. This could no longer happen.

Voluneers and troops arriving at the railroad depot in Harrisburg, PA

Having already divided his army into four columns, Lee divided it again, ordering Longstreet to march with his force to Hagerstown, leaving 5,000 men under D.H. Hill to guard the South Mountain passes. Longstreet, who never wanted to divide the army up to begin with, was incredibly unhappy about the new order. “General,” he reportedly said to Lee, “I wish we could stand still and let the damned Yankees come to us!”8


Lincoln: “Where is General Bragg?”

As Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began their separated slide towards Harpers Ferry and Hagerstown, President Abraham Lincoln continued to keep his eye on the other Confederate invasion of the North. In Kentucky and Tennessee, Rebels under Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith were looking towards Louisville and Cincinnati. The largest force opposing them was under Don Carlos Buell, commander of the Army of the Ohio, roughly 50,000-strong.

Covington, Kentucky - across the Ohio from Cincinnati

In fact, the past several days found President Lincoln wondering if Bragg hadn’t moved his 27,000 men east to aid Lee’s invasion of Maryland. “Where is General Bragg?” wired Lincoln to General Jeremiah Boyle in Louisville. To General Horatio Wright, head of the Department of the Ohio in Cincinnati, he wrote, “Do you know to any certainty where General Bragg is? May he not be in Virginia?”9

That was certainly an interesting idea – one the General Lee himself had discussed with President Jefferson Davis the week before.10 Asking further, Lincoln contacted Buell, asking: “What degree of certainty have you that Bragg with his command is not now in the valley of the Shenandoah, Virginia?”11

Map of troops - also large and approximate.

Buell, on this date, replied with some good news: “Bragg is certainly this side of the Cumberland Mountains with his whole force, except what is in Kentucky under Smith. His movements will probably depend on mine.” Along with some bad: “I expect that for the want of supplies I can neither follow him nor remain here. Think I must withdraw from Tennessee. I shall not abandon Tennessee while it is possible to hold on. Cut off effectually from supplies, it is impossible for me to operate in force where I am; but I shall endeavor to hold Nashville, and at the same time drive Smith out of Kentucky and hold my communications.”12

This was more than a little confusing, especially considering that Buell had already given orders for his force to leave Nashville and all of Tennessee for Bowling Green, Kentucky.13 Rather than asking about Bragg’s location, Lincoln might have been better off asking about Buell’s.

While Bragg was moving his army across the Cumberland River at Gainesboro, making time for Glasgow, Kentucky, Buell’s Army of the Ohio was on its way to Bowling Green.14 For at least a day, Bragg contemplated hitting Buell rather than racing him north through Kentucky. On this day, he ordered General Leonidas Polk to hold up at Glasgow, “where the army will be concentrated for the purpose of striking a blow at Bowling Green.” Polk was to gather as many provisions as he could while he waited.15

Bridge from Cincinnati to Covington.

The real action, however, was farther to the north, along the Ohio River. Confederates under Kirby Smith, 9,000-strong, had taken Lexington and were threatening Louisville and Cincinnati. Though Smith would not advance beyond his present location, he sent a force under General Henry Heth to Cynthiana. Heth was ordered not to attack until reinforcements came up. Smith was confident that there would be “nothing to oppose us but raw levees.”16

While true, there were a lot of raw levees, lovingly called “Squirrel Hunters,” pouring in from rural Ohio. Around this time, there were probably 20,000 or so drilling, waiting and digging trenches around Cincinnati.17 General Lew Wallace, was in command just across the river from Cincinnati, at Covington, Kentucky. Governor David Tod of Ohio, wrote General Wright that he was sending 8,000 men to Cincinnati immediately and promised that more “will pour in upon you by thousands.” To Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, he got more specific: “I shall send him to-day and to-morrow at least 50,000.”18

Of course, this was overkill on almost every level. Smith’s force consisted of around 9,000 with a few more thousand on the way. Generals Wright and Wallace, however, were receiving reports that the Rebels nearing Cincinnati numbered upwards of 30,000 and were poised to take the panic-stricken city.19

Map of Cincinnati's defences.

  1. I Rode with Stonewall by Henry Kyd Douglas, University of North Carolina Press, 1968. []
  2. Make Me a Map of the Valley by Jedediah Hotchkiss, Southern Methodist University, 1973. []
  3. Landscape Turned Red by Stephen W. Sears, Mariner Books, 1988. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 19, Part 1, p524. []
  5. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 19, Part 2, p249. []
  6. Landscape Turned Red by Stephen W. Sears, Mariner Books, 1988. []
  7. Six Years of Hell by Chester G. Hearn, Louisiana State University, 1996. []
  8. Lee’s Lieutenants: Cedar Mountain to Chancellorsville by Douglas Southall Freeman, Simon and Schuster, 1997. []
  9. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p495, 496. []
  10. Official Records, Series 1. Vol. 19, Part 2, p590. []
  11. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p497. []
  12. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p500. []
  13. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p800. []
  14. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p502. []
  15. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p806. []
  16. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p806-807. []
  17. History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio S. B. Nelson & Company, 1894. []
  18. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p504. []
  19. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, p503. []
Creative Commons License
Lee’s Divided Army on the Move Through Maryland!; Lincoln Wonders About the West by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International