Today in History:

129 Series I Volume LI-II Serial 108 - Supplements Part II


Troops en route from southward might stop at Dublin. Arms and ammunition for 1,000 men should be sent there instantly.*



NORFOLK, June 4, 1861.

General R. E. LEE:

DEAR SIR: You have no doubt disciplined your mind and temper to listen with some patience and composure to many suggestions of "admirable plans to defeat the enemy end the campaign gloriously." I am reluctant to suggest anything which has in all probability passed through your mind already, but I am so fully impressed with the conviction that the attack on Hagerstown will be successful (even if the Pennsylvanias are there to the number of 6,000) that I venture to present it to you. I think Hagerstown is a better point to defend Virginia than Harper's Ferry, which must in time be turned unless the enemy is repelled. As a junior officer I apologize for the liberty I take. As a citizen, looking with horror at the awful gulf which yawns to receive the liberties and prosperity of our country, I know you will pardon this departure from the observance of a more strict military etiquette. May I beg to remind you of my earnest wish to accompany the first force sent into Maryland.

Respectfully and truly, yours,



General Johnston has, say, 8,000 men at Harper's Ferry, probably 6,000 effective, including all arms. Has not the force of 3,000 men sent from Chambersburg to occupy Hagerstown been moved there without proper support in the rear? I understand they are raw troops and not ably commanded. Is it not important and easy to drive them back and disperse them altogether by a sudden movement from Harper's Ferry, and is it not very desirable that this should be done before the Ohio forces unite with those from Pennsylvania? Hagerstown is about twenty-eight miles from Harper's Ferry. The march can be made in a day with 2,500 men and two days' provisions, as follows: Cross the Potomac at Harper's Ferry and take the railroad east for a mile or so: there leave the Potomac and take a road which leads into the turnpike between Frederick City and Hagerstown (see map); striking the turnpike, march by it to Hagerstown, and with the U. S. flag flying and other indications of the force being one from Frederick sent out from Baltimore, in order to make the surprise more complete at Hagerstown. The force could leave Harper's Ferry at 2 p. M., march all night, and reach Hagerstown by daylight or before, making the attack at the proper point, as indicated by the best information which could be obtained. The attack being successful, theobject would be to capture all the arms, wagons, and horses, camp equipage, &c., and pursuing the fugitives by cavalry into Pennsylvania, making the panic as complete as possible; the Southern forces to establish a camp at or near Hagerstown, and from that point defend approaches to the Potomac and repel advances from Pennsylvania, where a continual panic could be kept up by sham marches occasionally toward Chambersburg, a communication to be kept open between Hagerstown and Williamsport and thence into Virginia. The importance of Hagerstown can be seen to be of much


*For reply, see Walker to Floyd, VOL. II, p. 906.