Quartermaster clerk William H. Hill described it as “very disagreeable marching” for 10 miles in a warm rain. It was Thursday, Sept. 11, 1862.
McLaws’s mission was to take control of the Union-held Maryland Heights so as to attack the enemy at Harpers Ferry down below, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers (above).
Spartan Band Private Albert Wymer Henley: “We marched through [a] beautiful romantic and fertile region over mountains, across valleys.”
“We crossed [South Mountain],” Hill continued, “and [on through Burkittsville] camped near the village of Brownsville, in Pleasant Valley, and in 6 miles of Harper’s Ferry. We fired into their cavalry in the mountain this evening…The people are mostly Union but we have some few friends here.”
McLaws directed Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw’s South Carolina Brigade and Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade to ascend the 1,400-foot Elk Ridge the next day and proceed south along its narrow top to take the Maryland Heights at its southern end.
Informed by his engineers there were no roads and, anyway, the terrain was impracticable for artillery, according to his report in the Official Records, McLaws ordered “using infantry alone as the character of the country forbade the use of any other arm.”