Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 12, 1863 (Friday): Winchester Imperiled

Star Fort Winchester (http://www.shenandoah.stonesentinels.com)

Baltimore, MD., June 12, 1863-1 a. m.
Major General R. H. Milroy:
    Lieutenant-Colonel Piatt, as I learn by copy of dispatch sent me, which he forwarded to you from Harper's Ferry, misunderstood me, and somewhat exceeded his instructions. You will make all the required preparations for withdrawing, but hold your position in the meantime . Be ready for movement, but await further orders . I doubt the propriety of calling in McReynolds' brigade at once. If you should fall back to Harper's Ferry, he will be in part on the way and covering your flank; but use your discretion as to any order to him. Below I give you a copy of the telegram of the General-in Chief. Nothing heard since. Give me constant information.

     Robt. C. Schenck,
     Major-General, Commanding.
[Copy of General Halleck's telegram.]

[Washington, June 11, 1863-12 p. m.]
    Harper's Ferry is the important place. Winchester is of no importance other than as a lookout . The Winchester troops, excepting enough to serve as an outpost, should be withdrawn to Harper's Ferry. [The troops at Martinsburg should also be ready to fall back on Harper's Ferry.] No large amount of supplies should be left in any exposed position.]

     H. W. Halleck.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 27, Part 2, Page 50.

Lee got his army across the mountains and began moving down the Valley (north).  Ewell crossed at Chester Gap and headed for Winchester on the 12th.  Longstreet's Corp was protecting Ashby's and Snicker's Gap.  A.P. Hill was still in Fredericksburg, waiting for Hooker to make a move.  Halleck had been telling Schenck, Milroy's superior, since May to pull back from Winchester.  Schenck, however, believed Halleck was making only a suggestion and left Milroy in his exposed position.  It was a recipe for disaster, with Milroy's three brigades standing between Ewell's Corp and its path north.

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