Was Lee’s “Lost Order” a Turning Point? (part three)

TurningPoints-logo(part three of three)

What exactly the Lost Order told McClellan has been the subject of much heated debate and controversy almost from the moment he glanced its contents.

From an intelligence standpoint, the Lost Order was important to McClellan, but not as much as has often been portrayed. As stated in the previous installment of this series, the most perplexing part about the campaign thus far to McClellan had been what Lee’s movements, heading in two different directions, meant. Now, the Lost Order simply solidified in McClellan’s mind exactly what Lee’s odd movements were all about. “I obtained reliable information of the movements and intentions of the enemy, which made it clear that it was necessary to force the passage of the South Mountain range and gain possession of Boonsborough and Rohrersville before any relief could be afforded to Harper’s Ferry.”[1]

Despite the clarification, the Lost Order was four days old when McClellan read it, and the wording called for the various parts of Lee’s plan to be achieved by Friday, September 12—the day before Union soldiers found the order. 

Naturally, the first thing to be done was to get his cavalry chief Pleasonton to verify the days old order. At 3:00 pm, Chief of Staff Randolph B. Marcy updated Pleasonton’s mission.[2] While time faded away as Pleasonton’s horsemen went about their business determining the veracity of the order, McClellan, now very aware of the possibility that Lee’s army may be divided in his front, pushed more of his army in that direction almost instantaneously.[3]

While setting the van of his army in motion, McClellan continued to browse through the order. It did seem that the discovery was a great find, but for as much as it told McClellan of Lee’s thus far undetermined intentions, the fog of war did not dissipate away like an early morning’s blanket of haze.

First, the order—which had been addressed to Gen. D.H. Hill, dropped by someone in the Confederate army, and then scooped up by three Indiana soldiers—began with Paragraph III. Either the Confederate high command proved unable to perform a simple arithmetic function (a highly unlikely proposition) or there was more to the order than what McClellan held in his hands. What did the first two paragraphs say further about Lee’s intentions?

A simple glance in the Official Records reveals that Paragraphs I and II state nothing about Confederate plans in Maryland. For McClellan to have known that was an utter impossibility. Certainly, the unanswerable question hung over his head throughout all of this: what was missing from the Lost Order?[4]

The wayward copy of Special Orders No. 191 also did McClellan no favors in the numbers department, already not one of the general’s best attributes. Earlier reports flooding into headquarters told McClellan of an enemy force numbering as high as 200,000 strong.[5] By the end of September 13, McClellan lowered this estimate not quite by half, concluding the enemy in his front “amounts to 120,000 men or more.”[6] The Lost Order does not mention anything of troop strength, but clearly designates five separate enemy columns before dropping in two vague references to the main body. Was the main body another column or one of the columns already mentioned, just by a different name? In addition, the very essence of Lee’s plan outlined in Special Orders No. 191 suggested a large number of Confederate soldiers in Maryland. Would the enemy divide itself into such disparate columns in a foreign land if it was such a small force? The Lost Order could not answer that question either.

Despite all of this, McClellan did plan an attack for September 14, armed with the solid information he did glean from Lee’s campaign plan. He began moving his forces into position on September 13 to carry the next series of ridges cutting north-south across the landscape of western Maryland.[7] So if the Lost Order did not provide McClellan with all of the information that he might have sought from such a fortuitous find, what then did it do?

As September 12 ended, the Army of the Potomac’s goals were to push west from Frederick and gain possession of Catoctin Mountain, a natural defensive barrier buttressed even more by the Confederate cavalry guarding the mountain passes. McClellan hoped that by carrying this mountain, Pleasonton’s cavalry could be in position the next day to go up and over the next barrier facing him—South Mountain.

The battle of South Mountain occurred on Sunday, September 14, and probably would have happened anyway, though perhaps on a smaller scale, as a natural extension of the Federals’ westward movement from Frederick whether the Lost Order was discovered or not. In McClellan’s first written report of the campaign, dated October 15, 1862, he also rightly recalled that the first place he received “reliable information that the enemy’s object was to move upon Harper’s Ferry and the Cumberland Valley, and not upon Baltimore, Washington, or Gettysburg” was while in Urbana on September 12.[8]

This is not to pronounce that the Lost Order had no significance whatsoever. Until that document came into McClellan’s hands, he was peering through the smoke screen attempting to derive the intentions of his opponent mostly unsuccessfully. Where the Lost Order proved crucial to McClellan’s intelligence reports was in its clear indication of what Confederate movements towards Harpers Ferry and the Maryland-Pennsylvania line meant. There were many other questions Special Orders No. 191 presented to the commanding Union general, but Lee’s intention no longer remained one of them.

The discovery of the Lost Order truly is an incredible story. Who could not indulge in a story like it? Its mysterious loss, the seemingly impossible find by three soldiers in a field, and its path up the chain of command right into George B. McClellan’s grasp accord the story a legendary status that few novelists could have framed better. Unfortunately, its import to the outcome of the campaign—and the war, say some—has been whisked into the legend of the Civil War.

Again, to say that the Lost Order’s odyssey is insignificant misses the point. To say that everything that subsequently happened in the Maryland Campaign hinged on this amazing story likewise does not stick to the track of the historical record. It is a story worthy of the ink spilled over its discovery, but does not accord it with the title of a major turning point of the Civil War.

[1] Report of George B. McClellan, OR, vol. 19, pt. 1, 26.

[2] Randolph B. Marcy to Alfred Pleasonton, September 13, 1862, 3:00 pm, OR, vol. 51, pt. 1, 829.

[3] Randolph B. Marcy to Jacob D. Cox, September 13, 1862, 3:35 pm, ibid., 827; Edward M. Neill to Orlando B. Willcox, September 13, 1862, ibid., 827-28.

[4] The full text of Special Orders No. 191 is found in OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 603. The text of the Lost Order can be found in McClellan’s Report, OR, vol. 19, pt. 1, 42-43. The Lost Order reproduced in McClellan’s report omits the paragraph numbers, but the original copy of the Lost Order found in McClellan’s papers in the Library of Congress show the oddly numbered order, GBM Papers, LOC, reel 31.

[5] Andrew G. Curtin to George B. McClellan, September 10, 1862, 10:00 am, OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 248.

[6] McClellan to Halleck, September 13, 1862, 11:00 pm, ibid., 281.

[7] In addition to the references previously cited in this work, George B. McClellan to William B. Franklin, September 13, 1862, 6:20 pm, OR, vol. 19, pt. 1, 45-46, also provides information about the Army of the Potomac moving into positions to strike at South Mountain and relieve Harpers Ferry on September 13.

[8] McClellan’s Report, ibid., 26-27.

Was Lee’s “Lost Order” a Turning Point? (part two)

TurningPoints-logo(part two of three)

On September 10, 1862, as he advanced deeper into Maryland, Robert E. Lee began splintering his forces, as outlined in Special Orders No. 191. That day, all of his forces, mustered into five separate columns, started their movements to carry out the investment of the Federal garrisons in the Shenandoah Valley. Three of Lee’s columns marched towards Harpers Ferry (“Stonewall” Jackson’s column headed in that direction via a roundabout march through Williamsport, Maryland, and Martinsburg, Virginia). The two other columns—under James Longstreet and D.H. Hill—followed in Jackson’s footsteps, taking the National Road out of Frederick in the direction of Hagerstown.

However, contrary to what is written in Special Orders No. 191, only Hill stopped at the two columns’ appointed destination—Boonsboro.[1] Rumors of Federals approaching Hagerstown from Pennsylvania compelled Lee to further divide his forces by continuing Longstreet’s march until they reached Hagerstown near the Mason-Dixon Line.[2] 

Concurrent with Lee vacating Frederick, more information made its way into McClellan’s hands. The Army of the Potomac’s Chief of Staff Randolph B. Marcy repeated twice on the night of September 11 that he (and McClellan) received reports of the enemy leaving Frederick on the road to Hagerstown, two days before the Lost Orders came into the Federals’ possession. Confident enough in these reports, Marcy ordered Ambrose Burnside’s command to occupy Frederick the next day.[3]

Despite the certainties in the enemy movement out of Frederick, the fog of war still existed over the enemy’s movements as a new fold entered the intelligence sphere arriving at army headquarters. At 10:00 am the next morning, September 12, McClellan reiterated to Halleck his belief in the enemy’s abandonment of Frederick. This time, though, McClellan revealed that the route of the enemy’s movement stretched in two very different directions—one on the road running practically north towards Hagerstown and the other headed south in the direction of Harpers Ferry.[4]

An enemy army in foreign territory moving two separate ways surely must have puzzled George B. McClellan. Ambrose Burnside, in the van of the Army of the Potomac, echoed this: “I can hardly understand how they can be moving on these two latter roads at the same time,” he wondered. “If they are going into Pennsylvania they would hardly be moving upon the Harper’s Ferry road, and if they are going to recross [the Potomac into Virginia], how could they be moving upon Gettysburg?”[5] Regardless of the confusion, the head of Burnside’s column and portions of Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry command occupied Frederick by the evening of September 12.

The picture of Confederate dispositions percolating in McClellan’s mind did become clearer to the commanding general on September 12. His afternoon dispatches show him favoring the idea that Lee’s main column was marching towards Williamsport, Maryland, to return to Virginia.[6] Even in a nighttime note, McClellan told President Lincoln, “The main body of my cavalry & horse artillery are ordered after the enemy’s main column,” using the National Road out of Frederick.[7]

However, hunches or estimations could not be solely relied upon in a campaign fraught with so many consequences should the United States Army fail. Thus, McClellan ultimately had to admit, “My movements to-morrow will be dependent upon information to be received during the night” but told Burnside to bring his command to Frederick, prepared “to move in any direction that may be required.”[8] The bloodhound caught the scent, but did not yet know which path to follow. Above all of this, the question still hovered: what were the enemy’s intentions by moving on two roads in opposite directions?

By September 12, the momentum of the campaign began to shift away from Lee towards McClellan. Now in a position of relative strength with the Army of the Potomac beginning to mass around Frederick, no longer was the talk in McClellan’s dispatches of garnering reliable information. Rather, indications of striking at the enemy’s main column and having his commands ready to move at a moment’s notice dominate the correspondence of September 12. George McClellan was prepared to leap at the enemy, if only he could decipher exactly what that enemy was up to.

Saturday, September 13 began with Pleasonton’s cavalrymen saddling their horses and organizing for action. By daybreak, the blue horsemen trotted out of their Frederick camps in all directions ready for another day’s hard work. The weight of Pleasonton’s command pushed west on the road to Williamsport and Hagerstown.[9] Alfred Pleasonton set a lofty bar for his command to meet that Saturday—“If possible I shall go to Hagerstown tomorrow,” he reported on September 12.[10] Surely, the Confederate cavalry would have something to say about that.

Only a few miles west of Frederick, the Union horsemen stumbled into Jeb Stuart’s next line of defense atop Catoctin Mountain. A battle ensued there for much of the morning and, with the help of Burnside’s infantry, did not conclude until the early afternoon.[11] “A rapid pursuit was made,” recounted Pleasonton and, following several other skirmishes around Middletown, the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry ended the day at “the foot of [South] mountain.”[12] In the time Pleasonton’s soldiers further developed the enemy and its whereabouts all day on September 13, developments behind them carried the Maryland Campaign into its next stage.

The Confederate roadblock at Turner’s Gap in South Mountain proved “to be too strong a position to be carried by my force,” Pleasonton admitted, but help was on the way.[13] Sometime after noon on September 13, a lost copy of Lee’s Special Orders No. 191 came into McClellan’s hands.[14]

(to be concluded)

[1] The full text of Special Orders No. 191, not the Lost Order, is found in OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 603.

[2] Report of Robert E. Lee, OR, vol. 19, pt. 1, 145.

[3] Randolph B. Marcy to Edwin Sumner, September 11, 1862, 7:00 pm, OR, vol. 51, pt. 1, 815; Randolph B. Marcy to Ambrose Burnside, September 11, 1862, 10:00 pm, ibid., 818.

[4] George B. McClellan to Henry Halleck, September 12, 1862, 10:00 am, GBM Papers, 448.

[5] Ambrose Burnside to Henry Halleck and George B. McClellan, September 12, 1862, 5:30 am, OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 272-73.

[6] See George B. McClellan to Mary Ellen McClellan, September 12, 1862, 3:00 pm, GBM Papers, 449.

[7] George B. McClellan to Abraham Lincoln, September 12, 1862, 9:00 pm, GBM Papers, 452; Randolph B. Marcy to Ambrose Burnside, September 12, 1862, 11:00 pm, OR, vol. 51, pt. 1, 823.

[8] George B. McClellan to Henry Halleck, September 12, 1862, 5:30 pm, OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 271; Randolph B. Marcy to Ambrose Burnside, September 12, 1862, 6:15 pm, OR, vol. 51, pt. 1, 823; Randolph B. Marcy to Ambrose Burnside, September 12, 1862, 8:30 pm, ibid.

[9] Report of Alfred Pleasonton, OR, vol. 19, pt. 1, 209.

[10] Alfred Pleasonton to Randolph B. Marcy, September 12, 1862, 9:15 pm, George B. McClellan Papers, Library of Congress (hereafter cited as GBM Papers, LOC) reel 31.

[11] Alfred Pleasonton to Randolph B. Marcy, September 13, 1862, 1:00 pm, ibid.

[12] Report of Alfred Pleasonton, OR, vol. 19, pt. 1, 209.

[13] Ibid.

[14] The timing of this being in the “evening” as compared to sometime before noon is clearly established in George B. McClellan to Henry W. Halleck, September 13, 1862, 11:00 pm, OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 281.

Was Lee’s “Lost Order” a Turning Point? (part one)

TurningPoints-logo(part one of three)

Civil War campaigns could often turn on a dime in favor of one army or the other. A sudden change in initiative marked the turning points of the war that scholars love to toss around the table. Described varyingly as “the all-time military jackpot,” a great intelligence coup handed out “on a silver platter,” and more, the idea that a lost copy of Robert E. Lee’s operational plans in Maryland mysteriously coming into the hands of Federal commander George B. McClellan turned the tide of the campaign—and maybe the war—has been passed down from one historical sage to the next, making the event one of the war’s memorable stories.[1]

At least, that is the story told with the gift of hindsight lighting our eyes. Indeed, the words of previous historians have been taken at face value, passed down as accepted truth, that Lee’s “Lost Order” gave McClellan every bit of information he—or any commander throughout all of history—could have ever hoped to find. Past historians have been quick to point out the importance of the discovery in a field outside Frederick, Maryland, but just as quickly dismiss its significance by passing off McClellan’s failure to capitalize on this stroke of luck.

Covering, and attempting to answer, all of the uncertainties still surrounding the lost copy of Special Orders No. 191 goes beyond the scope of this piece. More than enough ink—well more than what is contained on the Lost Order—has been spilled to attempt to solve all of the uncertainties. Instead, what this will aim to do is strip away the veneer painted over the Lost Orders in the last 155 years, forego the art of repeating historian after historian, and strictly go back to the written record of September 1862 to answer the perplexing question: how much of a turning point was the discovery of the Lost Order?

Early September 1862 produced rumors at epidemic proportions in Washington City and amongst the Federal high command. “Rumors of all kinds, defeats, victories,” jotted one Union soldier into his diary.[2] News of Confederate forces crossing into Maryland a few days into the month drifted downstream, into the city, further enhancing the wild nature of reports. One piece of gossip began floating around on September 7 that Braxton Bragg and his army were marching to reinforce the Confederates in Maryland, though Bragg in reality sat hundreds of miles away with no intent to enter the Old-Line State. However, the rumor could not be suppressed—and the truth discovered—for three whole days.

As the Army of the Potomac began its advance northwest from Washington, it might as well have marched with a blindfold over one eye. Information from multiple sources flooded McClellan’s mind, much of it coming from “unreliable sources & is vague & conflicting.”[3] McClellan’s own superior, Henry Halleck, remained in a state of near mental instability throughout the campaign, though mostly not of his own doing. The situation did not provide any clarity whatsoever for the commander in the field.

Beaten down from the rigors of running the war effort, Halleck snapped by early September 1862. While working in Washington, his wife lay ill in New York. Halleck’s brother in law clung to life, fighting the effects of his battlefield wounds. Four straight nights of no sleep did his mind no favors. As if all of this was not bad enough, a “very severe” case of hemorrhoids plagued the general, making him a bed-ridden general-in-chief likely taking opium to cure the ailment.[4] Halleck’s plagued and fuzzy mind unfortunately brought more confusion into the picture.

For Henry Halleck, Lee’s move into Maryland was nothing more than a ruse, a trick to draw much of the Union army away from Washington, thus draining the city’s defenses. Once Lee felt the Federal forces pursuing him were far enough away from the nation’s capital, he would turn his columns south, recross the Potomac River back into Virginia, and hit the weakened underbelly of Washington.[5] George B. McClellan did not—nor could he—dismiss these claims originally. “It is hard to get accurate news from the front,” he wrote on September 9.[6]

But by September 11, the enemy’s intentions became clearer to him. “At the time this army moved from Washington, it was not known what the intentions of the rebels were in placing their forces on this side of the Potomac,” McClellan wired Halleck. Was the force north of the Potomac meant, as Halleck feared, to weaken Washington’s fortifications in favor of a Confederate attack from the river’s south side? No, McClellan did not believe that anymore. “All the evidence that has been accumulated from various sources since we left Washington goes to prove most conclusively that almost the entire rebel army in Virginia, amounting to not less than 120,000 men, is in the vicinity of Frederick City.”[7]

By September 11, as evidenced by his telegram to Halleck, McClellan had cracked the first code of the Confederate invasion of Maryland. From numerous sources, he culled together the facts that the enemy meant to be—and stay—in Maryland, not move south and hit the nation’s capital. Even by that same night, more information began making its way to army headquarters.

(to be continued)


[1] James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 537; Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln’s Army (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954), 219.

[2] John S. Ellen Journal, September 2, 1862, Western Reserve Historical Society.

[3]George B. McClellan to Andrew G. Curtin, September 8, 1862, 9:00 pm, The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865 (hereafter cited as GBM Papers), ed. Stephen W. Sears (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1989), 439.

[4] John F. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of General Henry W. Halleck (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004), 146-48.

[5] Henry Halleck to George B. McClellan, September 13, 1862, 10:45 am, OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 280-81. This belief continued to control Halleck’s views of the campaign even after the Battle of Antietam concluded. See Henry Halleck to George B. McClellan, September 19, 1862, 12:30 pm, OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 330.

[6] George B. McClellan to Mary Ellen McClellan, September 9, 1862, 5:00 pm, GBM Papers, 442.

[7] George B. McClellan to Henry Halleck, September 11, 1862, OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 254.

Expeditions Bold and Admirable: Wade Hampton in the Winter of 1862

Introduction to a series

Wade Hampton

A couple weeks ago, I shared a piece on the actions of Wade Hampton at the Battle of Trevilian Station. Hampton’s direction and subsequent victory there catapulted him to command the cavalry corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Recently, in observance of the 155th Anniversary of Fredericksburg, I was reviewing its respective volume in the Official Reports when something jumped out to me. At the time of the campaign, Hampton, then a brigade commander, was extremely active through the months of November and December, 1862. His expeditions across the Rappahannock River and deep behind Union lines caught the eye of his immediate superiors, James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart and Robert E. Lee. Although relatively small in nature, collectively the operations at Hartwood Church, Dumfries and along the Occoquon River established Hampton’s reputation as a horse soldier.

By the late autumn of 1862, Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton had commanded cavalry for less than four months. At the beginning of the conflict, the wealthy Southerner had raised his own Legion and had served in the infantry. Wounded at First Manassas and Seven Pines, Hampton received his general’s star in May, 1862. In the reorganization of Robert E. Lee’s army following the Seven Days’ battles, Hampton transferred to the mounted arm in the newly created cavalry division led by Maj. Gen. Jeb Stuart. As the senior Brigadier, Hampton commanded one of Stuart’s brigades opposite Fitzhugh Lee.

While Lee moved north to confront Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Union army that summer, Hampton remained near Richmond to monitor enemy activity. Following Pope’s defeat at Second Manassas, Hampton rejoined the army to participate in Lee’s first Northern invasion. His brigade screened the foot soldiers as it moved into Maryland and skirmished heavily with Union forces as the armies moved toward and clashed at South Mountain. On September 17, they met again outside the village of Sharpsburg, however, Hampton’s brigade did not directly participate in the engagement.

A few weeks after the Battle of Antietam, Hampton rode in the vanguard of a handpicked force that splashed across the Potomac. Lee had ordered Stuart to march north to obtain information on the enemy’s disposition, upset Union supply lines, capture horses and destroy the Cumberland Valley Railroad bridge outside Chambersburg. The Confederates reached the Pennsylvania town on the night of October 10. Although unable to complete the destruction of the bridge, Stuart’s troopers raided its military warehouses. On the return trip Hampton directed the rear guard. Stuart rode through Cashtown and then entered Maryland. Hampton skillfully handled his men on the ride back to Virginia and covered the column from Union pursuers as it moved over White’s Ford. The raid demonstrated to Hampton the vulnerability of the rear areas of the Army of the Potomac and that a small force could operate there for a short period with little hindrance. These lessons would not soon be lost on the South Carolinian.

Stuart’s cavalry opposed the Union army as it moved back into Virginia. On November 5, Hampton had a sharp fight with enemy cavalry at Barbee’s Crossroads. With the onset of winter, it appeared this action might be the last of the campaigning season. The Federal high command, however, had other ideas. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, the new commander of the Potomac army, was unwilling to concede to the weather and prepared for one more drive on the Confederate capital. After weighing his options, he elected to move south along the Richmond Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. It would not be long before Hampton and his troopers were back in the field again.

“If We Fail Now the North Has no Hope:” The Antietam Campaign of 1862

The Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium, August 3-5, 2018, will focus on Turning Points of the American Civil War. We were excited to announce that our Keynote Speaker will be retired Gettysburg National Military Park Supervisory Historian Scott Hartwig. Mr. Hartwig recently sent us a little more about his keynote to keep us in anticipation of the symposium. He will be speaking on the Maryland Campaign and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Scott writes:

“Although it lasted only two and half a weeks the Antietam Campaign of September 1862 looms large on the landscape of the American Civil War.  The stakes were immeasurably high.  Robert E. Lee sought not just military success in Maryland but a victory that demoralized the North and might sweep the Republicans from power in the fall elections.  Lincoln desperately needed a victory from George McClellan, a general he had lost faith in and who did not support the policy direction the President was prepared to lead the nation.  Emancipation hung in the balance.  The campaign took twists and turns that a novelist might craft and climaxed in the bloodiest single day of the war at Antietam.  This is the story of the key decisions and events that shaped the campaign’s military and political outcome.”

We look forward to hearing this powerful presentation about just one of the many turning points during war. Don’t forget to get your tickets for the 2018 ECW Symposium so you can explore the Maryland Campaign and the Emancipation, and many more turning points, with our full line-up of speakers!

Voices of the Maryland Campaign: September 20, 1862

A.P. Hill

A.P. Hill led his division back towards Shepherdstown to end the Union incursion in the Confederate rear.

The day began with Confederate soldiers, led by A.P. Hill’s Division, advancing back to Boteler’s Ford downstream from Shepherdstown, ordered there because of the alarm Pendleton created the previous night that crossing Federals captured all of his 44 guns (in reality, the Federals captured four). Hill’s Confederates ran into two Union brigades conducting a reconnaissance on the Virginia shore. Unsure of the threat in front of them, the Federals began to recross under cover of 55 friendly artillery pieces.

Many of the Unionists scrambled back across to Maryland under relative safety. Through a misunderstanding of orders, though, the green 118th Pennsylvania remained atop the Virginia bluffs, their backs to the cliffs and river, facing A.P. Hill’s entire division. Hill’s troops did not ensnare the whole lot of Keystone Staters, but 269 of the 737 men of the 118th Pennsylvania became casualties, and the regiments baptism by fire was truly harrowing.

Despite the Confederate victory at Shepherdstown, Federal troops sealed Lee’s intended reentry point into Maryland at Williamsport. Lee also began to realize that he exhausted his army beyond the point of it being effective anymore, and called his campaign to an end. The opposing armies of this 18-day long campaign settled down into camps on opposite sides of the Potomac, resting and refitting for the next struggle. The Maryland Campaign was over.

Shepherdstown battle

A contemporary drawing of the Shepherdstown battlefield.

One of A.P. Hill’s South Carolina soldiers described the intensity of the Federal artillery fire as they charged forward at the Battle of Shepherdstown.

Our advance was first through a thick cornfield of about two hundred yards breadth, and then across a smooth, open field, a little undulating. We were all the time under the guns of the enemy, although they did not open heavily upon us until we cleared the cornfield… 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 up at once, and the advance was continued without a falter.