June 28, 1861
FROM A HARPER’S FERRY SOLDIER
June 21, 1861
Editors: Our regiment (the 11th Mississippi) was thrown into ecstacies a few moments ago, on reception of several
numbers of your daily paper. Ten
thousand thanks for it.
have this morning returned to camp from the city,
whither we had gone to feel the public pulse as to our evacuation of Harper’s
Ferry. I went to the office of the
Republican, in the hope to get a leader that might, perchance, throw some light
upon the military strategy which prompted the movement, but learned that they
now issued only a “weekly.” Our idea was
that our General, who is here, might not have deemed it inconsistent with his
position and the public interest to have foreshadowed informally the reason for
so grave and important a step. This is
the more demanded because of the complexion of his army, and of the still more
important fact, that as common soldiers, our arms are loaded, and shall I not
say would be as unhesitatingly leveled against the breast of a commander who
would disgrace us, as against the foe himself, in the field. You understand us! Rather than disgrace our cause, our State,
our sacred homes and firesides by a dastardly retreat, or by a movement wearing
that aspect, we had rather die. But
there is no cause for any such unhappy allusions.
want something reliable from the seat of war.
On Thursday, the 13th, our tents at Harper’s Ferry were
struck, our baggage packed up, and all that could encumber us sent away. From that time till Saturday we lay upon our
cars, waiting the approach of our foe, whom we learned
were marching upon us 25,000 strong.
Lights upon the Maryland
heights and every other stratagem in common use were
resorted to, to provoke an attack. But all to no effect.
On Saturday, after the final destruction of all the public property, we
evacuated the place and marched four miles beyond Charlestown,
eleven miles distant, and there camped on the Winchester road.
morning, 16th, we received information that 13,000 of Gen.
Patterson’s command were at “Bunker Hill,” eighteen miles off, had crossed the
Potomac, and were marching upon Winchester,
etc., having left behind 13,000 of their forces. This information was from our own picket
guard, and thought to be reliable. It
would have caused your heart to leap to have heard the shout of approbation as
we turned from the regular road, and directed our march towards our foe. All day (Sunday) amidst a thousand thrilling
occurrences, we marched over the roughest and dryest
country on earth—every step quickened by fresh news of the number and position
of our enemy. On reaching the hill
overlooking the little town of “Bunker Hill,”
fifteen minutes rest was allowed us, and we were then marched over the bridge,
and to our camp, to the South of the road into a dense “rough” of rock and
forest, where a foe could have scarcely penetrated. We verily thought that this was to be our
first victorious battle field or our graves.
We rested for the night upon our arms as usual; the foe as we thought in
four miles of us.
the morning the order of battle was arranged.
The two Regiments (2d and 11th) from Mississippi,
a Regiment from Tennessee, and a battalion of
troops from Baltimore were formed into a Brigade
and assigned to Col. Faulkner of Mississippi. I am not posted as to the arrangement of
other forces. The Colonel made us a
speech promising us that, before the (then) morrow’s sun should set, if he
could have his way, not a foot of the foe should pollute the soil of Virginia. This sounded in our ears like war, and our
voices responded bravely. An hour
afterwards, while yet upon the field, information reached us that the enemy had
retreated and crossed the Potomac, and all
chance for a battle gone. We shall not
attempt to describe our bitter disappointment.
Our 8,000 troops could have cut through and
annihilated the entire army of the enemy had it been 20,000 strong. If, perchance, we had been overpowered, the
last man of this army would have died at his line rather than have grounded his
arms. The voice of no commander could
have been heeded to any other purpose.
the movement is at an end for the present.
We were marched and quartered here near Winchester to await the further development
of events. Last night some of our forces
left here, we know not where, or upon what object; as yet we have no
information from them.
[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]