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Centennial Times - June 27 1862 - Harpers Ferry safe

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


June 27, 1862

Harper’s Ferry Safe Once More

Harper’s Ferry is safe once more from Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

His demonstration against the Federal outpost there proved to be a feint — a successful one that diverted thousands of Union troops from the struggle in front of Richmond.

Maj. Gen. Jackson’s men defeated the army of Nathaniel Banks at Front Royal, Va., last month, and pursued the fleeing Federal soldiers as far as Halltown and Charles Town.

As the Federal troops fled across the Potomac, Jackson sent his crack Stonewall Brigade to demonstrate against Harper’s Ferry.

As Confederate and Union pickets exchanged shots in the dark in front of Harper’s Ferry on May 30, Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton, Union commander there, wired for help. McDowell’s force, which was to have been sent to reinforce General McClellan’s men at Richmond, were diverted toward Harper’s Ferry.

But, as all this was going on, Jackson and his main force were back in Winchester.

Union losses at Harper’s Ferry were one killed, six wounded, eight captured, and — perhaps — a battle at Richmond.

Brig. Gen. James Shields and Brig. John C. Fremont, commanding separate armies, tried to get south of Jackson and cut off his retreat. They failed.

On June 6, Jackson eluded pursuit in a skirmish at Harrisonburg, losing in a rearguard skirmish, his cavalry leader, Turner Ashby.

Riding to the front, where the opposing lines were already at close range, Ashby called upon his infantry to charge. As he gave the order, his horse fell to the ground. Leaping to his feet, he again ordered his men to charge. The regiments, inspired by Ashby’s example, swept forward. As the Confederates charged, Ashby, leading on foot, was shot through the heart and killed.

In his official report on Ashby’s death, Jackson said... the close relation which Gen. Ashby bore to my command for most of the previous twelve months will justify me in saying that as a partisan officer I knew never his superior; his daring was almost proverbial; his powers of endurance almost incredible; his tone of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes and movements of the enemy.”

Jackson defeated Shields and Fremont by attacking them separately. He defeated Fremont at Cross Keys on June 8; then defeated Shields at Port Republic on June 9.

Total Federal casualties in all these battles were 4609. Total Confederate casualties were 1878.

There were 25,000 Federal troops in the field, many of whom might have been with McClellan at Richmond.

Federal troops set up a defensive line at Winchester and prepared to fight Jackson’s men again. But they had left the Shenandoah Valley and joined General Lee at Richmond.

Some more changes have been made in the high command in this area.

Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, commander of the U. S. Mountain Department, resigned in protest against the promotion of Maj. Gen. John Pope as commander of the Army of Virginia, comprising departments commanded by Fremont, Banks and McDowell. Fremont said this amounted to a demotion of himself. Brig. Gen. Rufus King replaces Fremont.

Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel arrived at Harper’s Ferry on June 4 with a large federal force, and relieved Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton. Saxton has been commended for his conduct when Jackson seemed to be attacking Harper's Ferry.


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Used with permission of the Herald-Mail


Collection Location:
Hagerstown, Maryland

Original Size:
59 x 33 cms

Washington County (Md.), history; Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862; Sharpsburg, Battle of, Md., 1862; Centennial celebrations, etc:

Washington County (Md.), 1860-1862

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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