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9th Vermont Infantry

Harper's Ferry

Memories of the Ninth Vermont at the
Tragedy of Harper's Ferry, Sept. 15, 1862.


Martinsburg, and Harper's Ferry, with its siege, while McClellan, according to the evidence, had dragged on northward from Washington, at an average of six miles per day. Not a moment was given up by the enemy to the enjoyment of their triumph. Before the ink was dry on our official surrender all was intense activity. Walker abandoned his eyrie on Loudon; Anderson and McLaws swooped won like hawks from Maryland Heights, and started to rescue Lee from his perilous isolation behind South Mountain. Franklin, with the 6th Corps, was in the way of Anderson's and McLaws's direct route; so they had to go by the longer way of Harper's Ferry, Halltown and Shepherdstown Ford. Now would have been the time to show how Miles's folly could have proved wisdom. If he had only destroyed the pontoons on Ford's retreat from Maryland Heights, or if before showing the white flag he had sent his engineers to cut them, Anderson and McLaws would have been isolated with Franklin's corps between them and Lee.

That night I lay beside the Charles Town Pike and watched until morning the grimy columns come pouring down from the pontoons. It was a weird, uncanny sight, and drove sleep from my eyes. It was something demon-like, a scene from an Inferno. They were silent as ghosts; ruthless and rushing in their speed; ragged, earth-colored, disheveled, and devilish, as though they were keen o the scent of the hot blood, that was already steaming up from the opening struggle at Antietam, and thirsting for it; their sliding dog-trot was as though on snow-shoes. The shuffle of their badly shod feet on the hard surface of the Pike was so rapid as to be continuous like the hiss of a great serpent, broken only by the roar of the batteries, as they came rushing by on the trot, or the jingling of the sabres of the cavalry. The spectral, ghostly picture will never be effaced from my memory.

The next day we took up our unhappy march for Annapolis, our hearts comforted only by the though that it was into our own lines, and not to Belle Island or Salisbury. We did not march five miles into Maryland before we fell in with the stragglers from Franklin's and other corps, showing

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