Early in September of 1862, General Robert E. Lee carefully laid out his plans for the
Confederacy's first invasion of the North. Along with sparing Virginia the continued ravages of war,
Lee hoped to win a decisive victory and bring about foreign recognition for the South. However, on
September 13, Union Private Barton W. Mitchell of the 27th Indiana found a copy of General Lee's Special
Orders No. 191 in an envelop wrapped around 3 fine cigars. Realizing the importance of his find, he
reported the orders to his superior with the contents quickly making their way to Union Major General
George McClellan. The orders included plans
for the upcoming campaign including the splitting of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Stonewall Jackson's
Corps would proceed to Harpers Ferry and "take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad".
With assistance from a detachment from Longstreet's Corp, he would then "endeavor to capture the enemy
at Harpers Ferry and vicinity". With the Confederate Army divided, General McClellan, already with a
decided numbers advantage, now had the opportunity to defeat Lee's separate wings in detail. The Union
General is reported to have responded, "Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobby Lee I
will be willing to go home.
"Special Orders, No. 191
Hdqrs. Army of Northern Virginia
September 9, 1862
1. The citizens of Fredericktown being unwilling while overrun by members of this army, to open their stores,
in order to give them confidence, and to secure to officers and men purchasing supplies for benefit of this command, all officers and
men of this army are strictly prohibited from visiting Fredericktown except on business, in which cases they will bear evidence of this
in writing from division commanders. The provost-marshal in Fredericktown will see that his guard rigidly enforces this order.
2. Major Taylor will proceed to Leesburg, Virginia, and arrange for transportation of the sick and those unable to walk to Winchester,
securing the transportation of the country for this purpose. The route between this and Culpepper Court-House east of the mountains
being unsafe, will no longer be traveled. Those on the way to this army already across the river will move up promptly; all others
will proceed to Winchester collectively and under command of officers, at which point, being the general depot of this army,
its movements will be known and instructions given by commanding officer regulating further movements.
3. The army will resume its march tomorrow, taking the Hagerstown road. General Jackson's command will 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.
4. General Longstreet's command will pursue the same road as far as Boonsborough, where it will halt, with reserve, supply, and
baggage trains of the army.
5. General McLaws, with his own division and that of General R. H. Anderson, will follow General Longstreet. On reaching Middletown
will take the route to Harpers Ferry, and by Friday morning possess himself of the Maryland Heights and endeavor to capture the enemy
at Harpers Ferry and vicinity.
6. General Walker, with his division, after accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's
Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take possession of Loudoun Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning, Key's Ford on his
left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable, cooperate with General
McLaws and Jackson, and intercept retreat of the enemy.
7. General D. H. Hill's division will form the rear guard of the army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve
artillery, ordnance, and supply trains, &c., will precede General Hill.
8. General Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Generals Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and, with
the main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army, bringing up all stragglers that may have been left behind.
9. The commands of Generals Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will
join the main body of the army at Boonsborough or Hagerstown.
10. Each regiment on the march will habitually carry its axes in the regimental ordnance-wagons, for use of the men at their
encampments, to procure wood &c.
By command of General R. E. Lee
R. H. Chilton,
Assistant Adjutant General"