Brig. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, commanding the Confederate column advancing on the Maryland side of the Potomac, encountered Ford's troops on the Heights near evening on the 12th, and halted for the night. Kershaw's South Carolina brigade attacked at 6:30 am on the 13th, 150 years ago today. The rebel plan was for Kershaw to attack directly at the Federal breastworks while Barksdale's Mississippi brigade worked around the Union right. At first Ford's green troops held their own. They met Kershaw's attacks from the front, but when the Mississippi troops were seen on their flank, they panicked and ran precipitously off the mountain and across the river, to the supposed safety of the town. With this small force driven back, Miles had lost one of the three keys to the defense of Harper's Ferry. But although his officers pleaded with him to launch a counterattack, he refused. Maryland Heights would remain in Confederate hands.
|Harper's Ferry with Maryland Heights on the left and Loudon Heights on the right|
|Harper's Ferry from Maryland Heights|
Miles continued to reject proposals to retake Maryland Heights. He put his troops in position opposite Jackson on Bolivar Heights, and told his subordinates, "I am ordered to hold this place and God ---- my soul to hell if I don't." He did, however, send out 10 cavalry troops which found McClellan and informed him of the situation at Harper's Ferry. McClellan had what he needed to out general Lee – Special Order 191, the Lost Order. He assured Miles,
"You may count on our making every effort to relieve you. You may rely upon my speedily accomplishing that object. Hold out to the last extremity. If it is possible, re-occupy the Maryland heights with your whole force."This order would never arrive, for before a courier could find a way in to beleaguered Harper's Ferry, the town would fall to the rebels.