An Escape-Company C eludes Jackson
BY 2nd Lieutenant
William A. McIlhenny
Submitted by: Mark Dudrow
was glad to be safely back with
Company C but nobody at Harper's Perry
felt safe those days in September of
1862 for we were almost completely
surrounded by rebel forces. All of our
troops had been withdrawn right into
the town of of Harper's Ferry.
During my absence from Company C there
had been heavy fighting on Maryland
Heights Bollivar Heights and now the
rebels were shelling us from Louden
Heights. General Miles called a
Council of War and after deliberating
decided to surrender the next morning.
Cole and the Colonels of the 12th
Illinois Cavalry and the 8th New York
Cavalry did not relish this decision,
and neither did their men.
Consequently they went to General
Miles and requested that he allow them
to try cut their way through the rebel
army before the surrender. General
Miles reluctantly consented.
Everyman who had a good horse was
ordered to prepare for the ordeal.
First we threw our overcoats and
blankets away in order to lighten our
horses loads. We waited until it was
dark and then we reported to General
Miles Headquarters. General Miles
ordered our Battalion in the advance;
the 12th Illinois came next, the 8th
New York Cavalry followed them; a part
of a Rhode Island Company which had
decided to join us was ordered to line
up behind the New York Cavalry and a
Company of the 1st Maryland Cavalry
brought up the rear.
nine o'clock on September 11th,
1862 we started across the Pontoon
Bridge from Harper's Ferry to the
Maryland side of the River. We took
the road to Sharpsburg and preceding
slowly up over the mountain until we
came to the rebel picket post. A fire
was burning here, but there were no
pickets! Noone challenged us to halt
as our large company wound our way as
quietly as possible on to Sharpsburg.
We were now in the middle of the rebel
we ran into a rebel cavalry patrol, a
few shots were fired but the darkness
protected us for the rebels must have
thought we were some of their own
soldiers. At Sharpeburg we left the
public road; we had a good guide and
it was a dark night so we kept to the
fields and woods, not striking any
road again until we struck the Pike
running from Hagerstown to
Williamsport; then daylight was just
beginning to break.
our advance struck the Pike we ran
against the advance of a large wagon
moving north from Hagerstown. It was
loaded with ammunition. We captured
about 65 wagon loads. Our Company C
took the captured wagon train to
Chambersburg, Pa. that same day. Here
the people rushed out to greet us.
There was a lot of flag waving. But
better than that banquets were
prepared and our company feasted on
home-made vittals. The day after we
left Harper's Ferry General Miles
surrendered to General Jackson.
Historical note- It is said that
the capture of this wagon train had a
great deal to do with Lee's defeat at
Antietam. Wills company was ordered
back to Frederick and on the way
passed by the devastation of the
Battle of Antietam.