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The 1862 Maryland Campaign Part 2:
An Impossible Situation: Defending Harpers Ferry

November 29-December 1, 2018

A BGES Critical Civil War Campaign Studies Program

Harpers Ferry / Photo courtesy of

After his arrival in Maryland, Robert E. Lee quickly concluded that western Maryland was not receptive to his army of “Liberation” and that there was little purpose in remaining near Frederick. After deciding to enter Pennsylvania, he examined the logistics of such an operation and realized that a large Federal garrison stationed at Harpers Ferry would be astride his lines of supply through the Shenandoah Valley.

Plans were drawn up and distributed for an operation that would stage his forces to enter the Keystone State while eliminating the threat to his operations. Stonewall Jackson was assigned the lead role under a very strict timeline. It called for converging operations, with supporting forces under the command of General John Walker occupying Loudoun Heights overlooking the town of Harpers Ferry from Virginia and Georgians under the command of Lafayette McLaws clearing and occupying Maryland Heights while Jackson corked the bottle by maneuvering and occupying Bolivar Heights. Once established there would be no succor for the embattled Union garrison. A bombardment would reduce the town to rubble and the Federal garrison would be forced to evacuate or surrender. Once done, Lee’s forces would reunite near Hagerstown and enter Pennsylvania. Time was of the essence. This second program in the 1862 Maryland Campaign series is devoted to the objective that caused the battle at Antietam on September 17, 1862.


Tom Clemens has been studying the Maryland Campaign for nearly 30 years and has edited and annotated the 1,800-page manuscript of the campaign written by the official historian, Ezra Carman. That series has been published by Savas-Beatie Press. He earned his doctoral degree at George Mason University, where he studied and was advised by the legendary historian Joseph Harsh. Recently Clemens proved that McClellan’s headquarters was never at the Pry House. He is the longstanding President of the highly respected Save Historic Antietam Foundation.

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