“Movement is attended with much risk”
—Antietam Campaign 1862 —
After Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's smashing victory over Union Gen. John Pope at Second Battle of Manassas, Lee decided to invade Maryland to reap the fall harvest, gain Confederate recruits, earn foreign recognition of the Confederacy, and perhaps compel the Union to sue for peace. The Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River on September 4, 1862. Lee divided his force, detaching Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's corps to capture Harpers Ferry. At Antietam Creek on September 17, Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac fought Lee's men to a bloody draw. Lee retreated to Virginia September 18-19
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's 40,000-man Army of Northern Virginia arrived in Loudoun County early September 1862. Lee's cavalry skirmished on September 2 with the Union Loudoun Rangers near Leesburg courthouse and north of town at Mile Hill and New Valley Church.
Lee's main force marched into Leesburg Thursday, September 4. After conferring with key subordinates at Harrison Hall that night and the next morning, Lee ordered his army across the Potomac River into Maryland. He wrote Confederate President Jefferson Davis earlier, "I am aware that the movement is attended with much risk, yet I do not consider success impossible, and shall endeavor to guard
it from loss." As a tentative step, Lee had sent D.H. Hill across the river Thursday afternoon at three fords from here to Point of Rocks. At midday on September 5, Stonewall Jackson crossed his main force here at White's Ford. The property was owned by local Confederate cavalry Major E.V. White who served as Jackson's guide into Maryland.
Gen. James Longstreet's wing followed Jackson's and completed its crossing the next day. After feinting toward Washington, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry brought up the rear of the army in the afternoon. Maj. Heros von Borcke, a Prussian serving on Stuart's staff, observed, "The passage f the Potomac by the cavalry column occupied about two hours, and was attended with some difficulty to our artillery, as the water in many places rose quite up to the middle of the horse's bodies.
After crossing, Lee's army consolidated near Frederick, Maryland. The Maryland Campaign had begun.
Other Notable Wartime Activity Here:
Oct. 12, 1862- Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalrymen returned from Maryland after a raid to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Oct. 28, 1862- Union troops crossed at White's Ford as part of the long-delayed Federal advance after the Battle of Antietam
Dec. 15, 1862- Confederate Maj. Elijah V. White returns by way of White's Ford from a rain on Poolesville,
Aug. 27, 1863- White crosses here again while scouting Federal pickets along the Potomac River.