Battle of South Mountain

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Battle of South Mountain
Part of: American Civil War
Fox's Gap in the Battle of South Mountain
Fox's Gap in the Battle of South Mountain
date September 14, 1862
place Frederick County and Washington County , Maryland, USA
output Union victory
Parties to the conflict

United States 34United States United States

States of America Confederate 1861-4Confederate States of America Confederate States of America

George B. McClellan
Robert E. Lee
Troop strength
438 fell
1,821 wounded
87 missing
500 killed
2,343 wounded
1,500 missing

The Battle of South Mountain , also called the Battle of Boonsboro Gap , took place on September 14, 1862 in the course of the Maryland campaign on three passes over the South Mountain ( 39 ° 24 ′  N , 77 ° 39 ′  W ) eight kilometers east of Harpers Ferry , West Virginia during the American Civil War . It faced three corps of the Potomac Army under Major General George B. McClellan and two divisions of the Northern Virginia Army of the Confederation under Robert E. Lee .


South Mountain is the name of the ridge east of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of the border of the US state Maryland , which extends into southern Pennsylvania . The ridge forms a natural barrier and separates the Antietam , also known as the Cumberland Valley, and Monocacy in eastern Maryland.

On September 12, 1862, General Lee had ordered Major General 'Stonewall' Jackson to eliminate the threat to the Northern Virginia Army from the Harpers Ferry garrison - approximately 12,000 men - with six divisions . To secure the actions against Harpers Ferry, Lee had left two divisions on the three passes - Cramptons Gap, Fox's Gap, and Turner's Gap - across South Mountain. On the same day, General McClellan learned of Lee's intention and ordered his army to hasten the discharge of the Harpers Ferry garrison.

On September 14, 1862, Major General Jesse L. Renos IX attacked. Corps under the command of Major General Burnsides joined the Confederates at Fox's Gap. By noon, the Union soldiers had reached the top of the pass, but made no further progress against the fierce resistance of the Confederates under Major General DH Hill . Burnside therefore deployed Major General Joseph Hooker's I. Corps to the Turner's Gap north of it in the afternoon . Against newly arrived reinforcements from Brigadier General John Bell Hood's division , the attacking Union regiments only succeeded in occupying the heights after sunset. Among the many fallen on both sides was the commanding general of the IX. Corps and Confederate Brigade Commander Brigadier General Samuel Garland, Jr.

The southern pass over the South Mountain - Cramptons Gap - was defended by two brigades from Major General Lafayette McLaw's division reinforced by cavalry against the VI. US Corps. He was also only able to take the top of the pass at sunset after heavy fighting. In the dark, the large Confederate forces that had fought at the northern crossings moved as planned to the Sharpsville, Maryland area, those who had fought at Crampton's Gap to Harpers Ferry.

With this victory, General McClellan had achieved two of his three campaign objectives:

The capital was safe from attack by the Northern Virginia Army and
a Confederate incursion into Pennsylvania had been prevented.

Only "to drive the rebels out of Maryland" remained open.

He denied that it would have been possible for him to save the crew of Harpers Ferry - after all, the garrison had not been placed under his command until September 12, and by then none of his couriers had gotten away with his orders.

The South, for its part, reported the Battle of South Mountain as a great success. In his report, Maj. Gen. DH Hill complained that Hoods' division was not subordinate to him and that he was therefore not successful. He wrote about the two high-profile losses:

“… Cost us the life of that pure, gallant, and accomplished Christian soldier, General Garland, who had no superiors and few equals in the service. The Yankees on their side lost General Reno, a renegade Virginian, who was killed by a happy shot… ” “… cost us the life of the immaculate, brave and cultured Christian soldier, General Garland, who was surpassed by no one in the exercise of his service and to which only a few came close. The Yankees lost General Reno , a renegade Virginian who was hit by a lucky bullet. "

General McClellan's hesitant pursuit of the Confederate and the surrender of the Union garrison of Harpers Ferry allowed General Lee to reassemble his army in the Sharpsburg area. Here he faced the Union in almost full strength in the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.

Participation of later presidents

Two future US Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley fought at Fox's Gap during the Battle for the Union. Hayes was the commander of the 23rd Ohio Infantry Regiment and McKinley was the regiment's supply sergeant. Hayes became president in 1876 and McKinley in 1896.


  • United States. War Dept .: The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies , Govt. Print. Off., Washington 1880-1901
  • James M. McPherson : Battle Cry of Freedom . Oxford University Press, New York 1988, ISBN 0-19-503863-0 .
  • James M. McPherson (Editor): The Atlas of the Civil War . Philadelphia 2005, ISBN 0-7624-2356-0 .

Web links

Commons : Battle of South Mountain  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XIX, Part I, p. 204: Losses of the Union
  2. Confederate losses
  3. ^ The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XIX, Part I, p. 26: Problems with Harpers Ferry
  4. ^ The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XIX, Part I, p. 1021: A greater victory would have been possible
  5. ^ The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XIX, Part I, p. 1020: Assessment of Two Generals
  6. ^ Rutherford B. Hayes. Life Before the Presidency . Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  7. ^ William McKinley later President . Steve A. Hawks. 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2019.