Over the last several months, Stonewall Jackson's men had traveled on foot hundreds of miles. Through May
and June of 1862, they marched about 400 miles up and down the Shenandoah Valley confounding the best efforts of several Union
commanders. In mid-June, they moved south to the arena outside Richmond to help defeat Major General George McClellan whose huge army
threatened the Southern Capital. After the Federal defeats throughout the Seven Days Battles, Jackson's men stormed northward and
marched around General Pope's troops, then fought fiercely for 3 days at the end of August during the Battle of Second Manassas.
After a subsequent contest at Chantilly during a violent thunderstorm, they moved northwest on yet another campaign. As mentioned
in General Robert E. Lee's Special Orders 191, the Confederate commander states clearly the newest orders for General Thomas J.
"Stonewall" Jackson and his now famous "foot cavalry". General Lee ordered Jackson's command to "form the
advance, and, after passing Middletown, with such portion as he may select, take the route toward Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac at
the most convenient point, and by Friday morning take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of them as may be
at Martinsburg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from Harpers Ferry." General Jackson would restate his objectives
while describing the movement of his forces about 1 week prior to the Battle of Antietam. "In obedience to instructions from
the commanding general, and for the purpose of capturing the Federal forces and stores then at Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry, my
command left the vicinity of Frederick City on the 10th, and, passing rapidly through Middletown, Boons-borough, and Williamsport,
recrossed the Potomac into Virginia, at Light's Ford, on the 11th."
Success with these goals would permit smoother functioning supply lines for the southern army's movements north.
Union forces at Martinsburg, notified of Jackson's approach,
withdrew to Harpers Ferry adding
to the number of men stationed there. On the 13th, the Southerners came into view of the bluecoats guarding the weaponry stores
and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. As their operations progressed, Jackson would report, "The commanding general having
directed Major-General McLaws to move, with his own and General R. H. Anderson's divisions, to take possession of the Maryland Heights,
overlooking Harper's Ferry, and Brig. Gen. J. G. Walker, pursuing a different route, to cross the Potomac and move up that river on
the Virginia side and occupy the Loudoun Heights, both for the purpose of co-operating with me, it became necessary, before making
the attack, to ascertain whether they were in position. Failing to learn the fact by signals, a courier was dispatched to each of
those points for the required information. During the night the courier to the Loudoun Heights returned with a message from General
Walker that he was in position. In the mean time General McLaws had attacked the Federal force posted to defend the Maryland Heights;
had routed it and taken possession of that commanding position."
General Jackson would continue,
"At dawn, September 15, General Lawton advanced his division to the front of the woods. Lawton's
brigade, Colonel Douglass commanding, moved by flank to the bottom between School-House Hill and Bolivar Heights, to support
the advance of Major-General Hill. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker opened a rapid enfilade fire from all his batteries at about 1,000
yards range. The batteries on School-House Hill attacked the enemy's lines in front. In a short time the guns of Captains Brown.
[A. W.] (Garber, Latimer, and Dement, under the direction of Colonel Crutch-field, opened from the rear. The batteries of Poague and
Carpenter opened fire upon the enemy's right. The artillery upon the Loudoun Heights, of Brigadier-General [John G.] Walker's command,
under Captain [Thomas B.] French, which had silenced the enemy's artillery near the superintendent's house on the preceding afternoon,
again opened upon Harper's Ferry, and also some guns of Major-General McLaws from the Maryland Heights. In an hour the enemy's fire
seemed to be silenced, and the batteries of General Hill were ordered to cease their fire, which was the signal for storming the
works. General Pender had commenced his advance, when, the enemy again opening, Pegram and Crenshaw moved forward their batteries and
poured a rapid fire into the enemy. The white flag was now displayed, and shortly afterward Brigadier-General White (the commanding
officer, Col. D. S. Miles, having been mortally wounded), with a garrison of about 11,000 men, surrendered as prisoners of war. Under
this capitulation we took possession of 73 pieces of artillery, some 13,000 small-arms, and other stores. Liberal terms were granted
to General White and the officers under his command in the surrender, which, I regret to say, do not seem, from subsequent events, to
have been properly appreciated by their Government. Leaving General Hill to receive the surrender of the Federal troops and take the
requisite steps for securing the captured stores, I moved, in obedience to orders from the commanding general, to rejoin him
in Maryland with the remaining divisions of my command. By a severe night's march we reached the vicinity of Sharpsburg on the morning
of the 16th."
Only a few short years earlier, in October of 1859,
abolitionist John Brown lead his failed raid into Harpers Ferry. Hoping to band together rallying escaped slaves in a revolt against
slavery, John Brown instead found himself held up in this old engine house trying to fend off United States forces lead by the
then US Colonel Robert Edward Lee. Lee, along with promising young officer JEB Stuart and other United States soldiers, captured
Brown who would be charged for treason. Just before executing the court's sentence, Brown handed his guard a note. It read,
"I, John Brown, am now quite certain that
the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away
but with Blood."
John Brown was hanged Friday, December 2, 1859.