A Lee Letter on the “Lost Dispatch” and the Maryland Campaign of 1862
Hal Bridges


* Dr. Bridges is an associate professor of history at the University of Colorado. This article is a product of research conducted with the financial support of the Council on Research and Creative Work of the University of Colorado, and the American Philosophical Society.

1 Lee’s letterbook, November 29, 1866, to September 12, 1870, is Letterbook 4 in the Robert E. Lee Papers, Division of Manucripts, Library of Congress. For permission to examine these papers I wish to thank Mrs. William Hunter De Butts, Washington, D.C. For kind assistance in searching for the original of Lee’s letter and for any additional correspondence between Lee and Hill on the Maryland campaign (also not found), I am indebted to Professor Allen W. Moger, Dr. James W. Patton, and Mr. William J. Van Schreeven.

2 The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C., 1880–1901), Series I, Vol. XIX, Part II, pp. 603–604. Hereafter cited as Official Records.

3 Silas Colgrove, “The Finding of Lee’s Lost Order” in Robert U. Johnson and Clarence C. Buel, eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (New York, 1887), II, 603.

4 Official Records, Series I, Vol. XIX, Part I, pp. 45–46.

5 Crampton’s Gap, defended by troops under Lafayette Mclaws, was taken by Franklin’s men, but Franklin, becoming overcautious as night approached, failed to continue the attack. For full details of the defense of South Mountain, see Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command (New York, 1942–1944), II, Capters X and XI.

6 D. H. Hill, “The Lost Dispatch,” The Land We Love, IV (February 1868), 270–284. Hereafter cited as Hill, “Lost Dispatch.”

7 Hill, “Lost Dispatch,” IV, 273; Edward Albert Pollard, The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates (New York, 1867), p. 314.

8 Hill, “Lost Dispatch,” IV, 273.

9 Hill, “Lost Dispatch,” IV, 274.

10 Hill, “Lost Dispatch,” IV, 275–277. Lee modified his orginal plan to hold Longstreet at Boonsborough in order to investigate a rumor, which proved to be false, that Federal troops from Pennsylvania were about to attack Hagerstown. Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, II, 166.

11 Hill, “Lost Dispatch,” IV, 277–278. Hill’s assertion that Jackson violated Lee’s order was based solely on Special Orders 191, which in fact did not direct Jackson to go on to Harpers Ferry. But Lee points out in his letter to Hill that Jackson was “by verbal instructions” placed in command of the expedition against Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry. On February 5, 1868, Lee emphatically declared in two separate conversations with friends that he had given Jackson oral instructions to move on to Harpers Ferry. Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, II, Appendix I, pp. 715–723.

12 Hill, “Lost Dispatch,” IV, 277–278.

13 For Lee’s indigant reaction to Hill’s article, and his further comment on his strategy in Maryland and the loss of Special Orders 191, see Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, II, Appendix I.

14 The extracts from Jackson’s report quoted by Lee are in Official Records, Series I, Vol. XIX, Part I, pp.953, 955.

15 The Monocacy River, just east of Frederick, Maryland.

16 That is, to Turner’s and Crampton’s Gaps. Throughout his letter, Lee spells Rohrersville without the “r” after the “h.”

17 This sentence clearly establishes early morning of September 14 as the time when Lee learned from Stuart that McClellan possessed a copy of Special Orders No. 191. Freeman notes that sources used by him leave the time “in doubt,” and reasons that Lee received the news of the lost orders “the night of September 13–14,” possibly around 10 P.M. Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, II, 722–723.

18 Official Records, Series I, Vol. XIX, Part I, pp. 45–46.