South Mountain

150 YEARS AGO TODAY part of the Army of Northern Virginia took up positions on South Mountain, an extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of the Potomac between Frederick and Hagerstown, Maryland. Their job was to delay the advance of the Army of the Potomac until the rest of Lee”s split army could assemble for battle.

That Sunday, Federals advanced up the slope toward the Confederates. Heavy fighting raged at three gaps, Crampton’s, Turner’s, and Fox’s, from mid-morning until failing daylight and mounting casualties forced Gen. Lee to withdraw toward Sharpsburg.

The men of the Fourteenth Connecticut were spectators along with the rest of the Second Corp. They spent that hot afternoon marching up the National Road toward the mountain ridge that was wreathed in battle-smoke. They crested the mountain at Turner’s Gap well after dark, and worn and weary from the hot, dusty march, they were forced to lay out their rubber blankets and bed down for the night among the corpses from the day’s fighting.

The next morning they marched down the western slope of South Mountain to Boonsboro, where they turned southward toward the town of Sharpsburg and a creek called the Antietam.

Fiction Connection: The first scene in my novel An Eye for Glory is when the men of the 14th CT arrive atop South Mountain late at night and are confronted by the grim realities of a Civil War battlefield.

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