Momentum was now with Lee. His options were to stay in Northern Virginia, and await the next incursion by the Union Army, fall back to Richmond and surrender the Virginia land he had fought so hard to possess, or to take the war north into Union held territory. This latter option offered many benefits. War torn northern Virginia had few resources left to feed his Army, while the rich farmlands of Maryland could. Politically, there was the chance of offering Maryland the opportunity to join the Confederacy, thereby trapping Washington DC. Britain and France were still considering backing the Confederacy and a presence in northern territory could prove the legitimacy of the Southern cause. And lastly, and most importantly, taking the war to the North could cause the general population to reconsider the war effort entirely and sue for peace. The plan would be to draw the Union Army out of Washington DC, and meet it on Lee's terms. Battle orders were issued, and the Confederate Army was once again on the march. Unknown to Lee, one of these battle orders would mistakenly fall into the hands of General McClellan. McClellan, whom Lincoln had turned to after Pope's failure, was now back in command of the Union forces.

Within two days of the Ox Hill fight, the 35th and the rest of the Thomas' brigade was leading Lee's Army north. Two days later, the Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac and became for the first time, the invading Army. The advance north was made at Jackson's normal quick pace. Fifty minutes of marching followed by ten minutes of rest. During the march, Hill and Jackson got into an argument, and for much of the march, Hill, now under arrest, marched at the rear of his division. The bitterness over this incident would bring to head a long standing mistrust Hill held for Jackson, and would not end until Jackson's death months later. Upon arriving at Frederick, the division rested for five days. During this period Lee planned his next move. He was aware that McClellan was slowly moving his Army out of Washington DC and heading his way. But the Union garrison to his rear had not retreated as expected, and was known blocking his line of retreat back to Virginia. Jackson was ordered to take his troops and capture the town. Marching north, and departing on September 10th, Hills' Division would cover a 50 mile circular route, seize the commissary at Martinsburg and arrive near Harper's Ferry on the morning of the 13th. Hill put his men into formation on School House Ridge, just west of the main Federal line on Bolivar Heights. There they waited, periodically exchanging skirmish fire with the Union troops.

Jackson was in no hurry to take the town with his infantry. Towering over the town were large hills, that Jackson wanted his artillery on. Night fell, and the next morning the 35th and the other brigades woke up expecting to make an assault. Late that afternoon, the order came to attack. Hill's cannons roared into action, and cannons from the hills around Harper's Ferry began to rain down destruction on the little town. The bombardment lasted into the evening, as Hill's men advanced toward one section of high ground and seized it, meeting faint resistance. The next morning, a heavy fog encompassed the two opposing forces. As it burnt off Hill's men marveled from their commanding position as they looked down into the little town. The bombardment began again, and Jackson gave word to Hill to "give them the bayonet". Under artillery cover fire, Hill's long lines of troops advanced across the field. As Hill's forces approached within yards of the Federal line, about nine, a single rider with a white flag appeared. The Union forces at Harper's Ferry, outnumbered and surrounded, were surrendering. The siege of Harper's Ferry was over.

Starving and half naked Confederate soldiers entered Harper's Ferry and found 12, 000 Union soldiers, 13,000 rifles, 73 cannons, and most importantly, untold amounts of food and uniforms. For the Southern forces, it was truly Christmas in September. That evening Jackson left with most of his troops to rendezvous with Lee. The Hill Division was left in Harper's Ferry to secure the prisoners, and gather up the supplies to be moved back into Virginia. With over 200 wagons captured, there was much to be confiscated for the Confederacy. Hill's men were soon wearing new blue pants, good shoes, and clean shirts, while their stomach's ached from all the food they were "seizing". While Pender and Branch's brigades took charge of the Union captives, the other brigades began to load the wagons. For the first time in weeks, the men of the Hill Division were all smiles.

Harper's Ferry
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Harper's Ferry National Historical Park   

35th Georgia Index