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THE roll of great events was now exhausted, but another bloody encounter was to take place near the spot where Ashby had long before drawn rein, and sat on his white horse unmoved amid the Federal bullets. General McClellan had no sooner received intelligence of the retreat of his adversary, than he pushed a strong column toward the Potomac in pursuit of him. Heavy batteries were promptly disposed along the high ground on the north bank of the river opposite Shepherdstown, and a determined fire was opened on the Confederate troops drawn up upon the southern shore. To this fire, General Pendleton, chief of artillery of the army, replied with vigor, and the Stuart Horse Artillery, under Major John Pelham, was especially active in engaging the enemy's batteries. In the evening the fire of the Federal artillery was redoubled, and under the protection of the guns, General McClellan commenced crossing a column, driving off General Pendleton and Lawton's brigades, which acted as a support to the guns. By the morning of the 20th a considerable body had crossed to the southern bank, and Generals A. P. Hill and Early, who had moved with the rest of Jackson's corps toward Martinsburg, were directed to return and drive the enemy back. These orders were promptly obeyed, and the troops were soon at the point of danger. General Hill, who commanded, drew up his force in two lines—the first composed of Pender's, Gregg’s, and Thomas’ brigades, under command of General Gregg; the second, of Lane's, Archer's, and Brockenbrough's brigades, under General Archer. General Early, with his own brigade and those of Trimble and Hays, took position in the woods on the right and left of the road leading to the ford.
The Federal infantry was drawn up on the high banks of the southern shore, and every point upon the Maryland side of the river was crowned with their batteries, ready to open upon the Confederate line as soon as it advanced. As General Hill moved forward to the attack, the Federal artillery commenced a rapid fire of shot and shell upon his advancing column, but no notice of this was taken by the troops. They pressed forward, and Pender found himself in front of the main Federal force which was massed to attack him. As he charged, they poured a volley into his line, and then rapidly extended with the view of turning his left. Archer promptly threw his brigade in that direction, and formed on Pender's left, when, advancing his whole line, Hill made an impetuous charge, and drove the Federal line before him, from the hill, down the bank, and into the river, where many were drowned in attempting to cross. “With no stop or hesitation,” says an eye-witness, “using no artillery, sending his men in steadily, General A. P. Hill drove the enemy into and across the river, taking 300 prisoners, and making the river blue with the dead.” Two hundred prisoners were taken in this affair, which seems to have discouraged the Federal commander from any further attempts to cross the river. The position on the bank was held by Hill throughout the day until relieved by Fitz Lee's cavalry, General Stuart having gone with the rest of his command to make an important demonstration above, in the vicinity of Williamsport, where he met and repulsed the enemy in a brief but spirited engagement. On the same evening Jackson moved from Shepherdstown, and encamped on the Opequon, from which point, on the 27th, he moved back to Bunker's Hill, on the Martinsburg and Winchester turnpike, where, in July, 1861, he had in the same manner awaited the approach of General Patterson. At Harper's Ferry, Sharpsburg, and Shepherdstown, he had lost 38 officers killed and 171 wounded, 313 non-commissioned officers and privates killed, 1,859 wounded, and 57 missing; making a total loss of 2,438 killed, wounded, and missing.
“For these great and signal victories,” he says in terminating his report, “our sincere and humble thanks are due unto Almighty God. Upon all appropriate occasions we should acknowledge the hand of Him who reigns in Heaven, and rules among the powers of the earth. In view of the arduous labors, and great privations which the troops were called on to endure and the isolated and perilous position which the command occupied while engaged with the greatly superior force of the enemy, we feel the encouraging consolation that God was with us and gave to us the victory, and unto His holy name be all gratitude and praise.”
THE campaign of 1862 had virtually ended, and General Lee's army was again upon the soil of Virginia.
From James River to the Potomac, the path of the Southerners had been strewed all over with battles. Defeating the Federal forces in the bloody conflicts of the Chickahominy, they had achieved an important success over the army of General Pope at Cedar Run; and then advancing without pause, had driven that commander from Culpepper, flanked him beyond the Rappahannock, and after destroying his enormous depot of stores, engaged him on the old battle field of Manassas, and in an obstinate and bloody battle completely defeated him. At Oxhill, the rout of the Federal forces on the soil of Virginia became final, and the army had pushed on without resting, and invaded Maryland. Here it had been engaged in bloody encounters at Boonsboro’ and Crampton's Gap ; had captured Harper's Ferry, with 11,000 prisoners and 73 pieces of artillery, and had sustained at Sharpsburg the assault of 87,000 troops under a commander of acknowledged ability, offering him battle on the succeeding day, and only crossing back into Virginia for want of food and ammunition. When the enemy pursued, they had been completely defeated in a brief but bloody engagement, and, drawn up on the southern bank of the Potomac, the army still bade defiance to its adversaries. Of the men who performed these arduous labors, and were successful upon so many fields against odds so great, it has been truthfully said that “one-fifth of them were barefooted, one-half of them in rags, and the whole of them half famished.” We have seen that even their adversaries regarded them with mingled admiration and pity, characterizing them as “those ragged wretches, sick, hungry, and in all way miserable,” and wondering how they could “prove such heroes.” From Federal sources came the acknowledgment that “men never fought better,” and it was evidently a subject of great astonishment with the enemy how troops so badly clothed and fed, with such gaunt frames and bleeding feet, could have the heart to contend against superior numbers, thoroughly equipped, with a courage so unfaultering and admirable. A Southern writer, once an humble unit of this historic army, may be pardoned this reference to its superb efficiency and those laurels which “time cannot wither.” It did not win those laurels without sweating blood in the effort, nor triumph over “slaves and cowards.” The Northern troops fought at the second Manassas, and at Sharpsburg, with a gallantry which extorted the admiration of their adversaries, and they were led by generals of the coolest courage and the highest ability. They were not a foe to be despised, nor did either side despise the other in that hard struggle. When General Lee surrendered, it was the preachers and other non-combatants, not the northern troops, who wanted every Southern soldier hanged or shot for treason. The toils, hardships, and glories of the army of Northern Virginia must be left to the historian of the future. But there is a tribunal which is almost as impartial as the aftertime. It has been said with truth that the voice of the stranger is like that of posterity, and a paragraph upon this army is here inserted from the leading journal of England. “The people of the Confederate States,” says the “London Times,” “ have made themselves famous. If the renown of brilliant courage, stern devotion to a cause, and military achievements almost without a parallel, can compensate men for the toil and privations of the hour, then the countrymen of Lee and Jackson may be consoled amid their sufferings. From all parts of Europe, from their enemies as well as their friends, from those who condemn their acts as well as those who sympathize with them, comes the tribute of admiration. When the history of this war is written, the admiration will doubtless become deeper and stronger, for the veil which has covered the South will be drawn away and disclose a picture of patriotism, of unanimous selfsacrifice, of wise and firm administration, which we can now only see indistinctly. The details of extraordinary national effort which has led to the repulse and almost to the destruction of an invading force of more than half a million of men, will then become known to the world; and, whatever may be the fate of the new nationality, or its subsequent claims to the respect of mankind, it will assuredly begin its career with a reputation for genius and valor which the most famous nations may envy.”
THE Maryland campaign had ended in one of those retreats which ruin an opponent. General Lee had entered the Federal territory, and at one blow captured 11,000 prisoners, 13,000 small-arms, and 73 pieces of artillery; had repulsed a force about three times greater than his own, under the ablest of their Generals, in a pitched battle of incredible fury; and then, determining of his own motion to retire, had done so, after offering