The withdrawal begins

On Feb. 24, the long-anticipated Yankee movement to contact with the Rebs around Leesburg began.

The Twenty-Eighth Pennsylvania Infantry began crossing the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers Ferry into upper Loudoun County. Two days later Hill recorded the 13th’s reaction:

“Wednesday. Cloudy and mild. Our extra baggage and sick men were sent to Middleburg today. The enemy are reported to be advancing. A battle is expected. Col. Barksdale and [the Spartan Band’s] Capt. Worthington returned from Richmond.”

The Pennsylvanians had picked a poor time for crossing as the rivers were running higher than usual. Six men of Company P drowned when the skiffs of a rope ferry capsized.

Bigger flatboats solved the problem and by Feb. 27 the regiment, with six field pieces and a squadron of the First Michigan Cavalry had crossed successfully and marched southeast for Lovettsville, where Union sentiment was strong in divided Loudoun county.

Hill recorded on the 28th:

“Friday. Clear and cold and very windy. We sent all our baggage except blankets to Middleburg. The enemy are still moving on us.”

The fall of Fort Donelson, in West Tennessee two days after Valentine’s, had left the regiment gloomy. Col. Barksdale used that and the Yankee advance as reasons to draw the troops out in a column on Sunday, March 2, for a reenlistment speech. It was something he’d avoided until now, according to the Spartan Band’s Private Albert Wymer Henley:

“….now that he imagined he saw his way clear for re-election [in the anticipated spring reorganization], he changes his course and urges the propriety and necessity of re enlistment.”

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Albert Wymer Henley Diary, Gen. William Barksdale, The Spartan Band, William H. Hill Diary and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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