Day 11 -The road north and South Mountain

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September 19, 2019 by Lee

We woke this morning knowing that we had a two and half drive back north to Gettysburg. After checking Google maps over breakfast, we noticed that the routes back were on the interstate toll roads which skirted Washington. I said to Mel, “why don’t we drive back up through the Shenandoah and make a detour to South Mountain? “. “As we didn’t do it last week as we went to Harpers Ferry instead”.

So it was agreed a nice drive back through some spectacular countryside and communities. We set off and headed for South Mountain and the scenes on top of the mountain were breathtaking, I only wish I took more photos. The area on top of South Mountain is full of trails to walk as well as you being able to camp.

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But the trails and camping areas were not what we were searching for, where the hell are these battle sites. The sat nav in the car didn’t recognise them and it was only when we used good old Google maps that it found them straight away. The daft thing was we drove past one of the sites, ooops. A slight change of subject, but even in these mountains we had full 4G signal, something we struggle with in the UK. I mean, I get good signal at the front of our house and pants signal at the rear of the house.

Ok, so now we have the directions we set off again back down the mountain and not long we were at one of the locations. “So, why go to South Mountain” I hear you ask. Well it was the prelude to the Confederates first invasion of the north and it was where Gen. Robert E Lee marched the Confederate army from Virginia, through West Virginia and into Maryland where on September 17th both armies would clash at Antietam. Click here to see our vist to the battlefield.

Summary of the Battle at South Mountain September 14th 1862

When Gen. George B. McClellan was given a mislaid copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, the Union army commander knew that portion of Robert E. Lee’s divided army was vulnerable to attack and ordered his troops toward South Mountain.

A small Confederate force under D. H. Hill protected Turner’s and Fox’s gaps, two vital passes through the South Mountain range. An early assault by the Union Ninth Corps at Fox’s Gap was initially successful claimed the life of Confederate Gen. Samuel Garland, but lacked sufficient support to drive on to Turner’s Gap to the north. Reinforcements, however, were slow to arrive, giving James Longstreet’sConfederates time to strengthen Hill’s position.

At 4 p.m.—seven hours after the fighting began—Union divisions under generals George Meade and John P. Hatch made a relentless charge on the Confederates left flank. At the same time, Jesse L. Reno’s Ninth Corps made an effort to seize Turner’s Gap from the south. A bloody see-saw battle for control of the pass continued until dark.

After nightfall, Lee, Longstreet, and D. H. Hill agreed to abandon South Mountain before daylight on September 15. The bloody, day-long struggle, bought the Confederate army valuable time to consolidate its position—and ready itself for the coming battle along Antietam Creek. McClellan had lost his best chance of destroying Lee’s army in detail.

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Turner’s & Fox’s Gaps map

“Little Mac” sent the Sixth Corps under Gen. William B. Franklin south toward Crampton’s Gap with orders to pass over South Mountain and relieve the besieged garrison at Harpers Ferry, which was besieged by Stonewall Jackson.

Though only a patchwork force of roughly one thousand Confederates held Crampton’s Gap, the excessively cautious Franklin was convinced the Rebels were in strong enough force to delay the advance of his 12,000-man corps.

Gen. Henry W. Slocum, however, felt differently. At around 4 p.m., Slocum’s division of Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania troops charged headlong up the slope and into Crampton’s Gap, dislodging the outnumbered Confederates from the protection of a stone fence. Even the arrival of two Georgia regiments under Howell Cobb, did little to stem the Union tide.

Reinforced by a brigade of Vermonters, the Federals made a second attack and drove the remaining Confederates down the western slope of South Mountain, leaving the Sixth Corps in possession of Crampton’s Gap. But with daylight fading and Confederate reinforcements forming in the distance, Franklin halted his column for the night.

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Crampton’s Gap map

Fox’s Gap

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Turner’s Gap

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Crampton’s Gap

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George Alfred Townsend monument, known a his pen name as Gath. War correspondent during the Civil War

I’m glad we went back to visit South Mountain and the battles fought there as it finishes the campaign we have been following through the Shenandoah Valley.

we are now back in Gettysburg and the final part of the holiday, time now to relax, apart from the night bus tour of the battlefield we booked last week.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and if so please Like, Comment and Share until the next instalment of this adventure.

 

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