Near Middletown in Washington County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Maryland Campaign of 1862 / The Lost Orders
On September 4, 1862, General Robert E. Lee, hoping to shorten the war by winning a decisive victory on Northern soil, crossed the Potomac River into Maryland. Lee planned to draw the Army of the Potomac through South Mountain into Pennsylvania and fight on ground of his choosing. His plan depended on securing his supply line down the Shenandoah Valley past Harpers Ferry—then garrisoned by nearly 13,000 Federal troops. When the Federals did not withdraw, Lee decided to attack them. From his camp near Frederick, Maryland, he divided his army into five parts. Lee gambled he could take Harpers Ferry and regroup before the Federals realized what he had done. He sent three units under the command of General T. J. "Stonewall" Jackson from Frederick to Harpers Ferry. A fourth marched into Hagerstown to guard against a rumored movement of Union troops from Pennsylvania. A fifth unit formed the rear guard at Boonesboro.
General George B. McClellan organized the Army of the Potomac into three wings and marched out of Washington along a twenty-five mile front. Learning that Lee's army was divided and marching in opposite directions well
In response to Lee’s orders, Jackson marched via Williamsport and closed on Harper's Ferry from the north and west. McLaws moved via Brownsville Pass to occupy Maryland Heights, at the Southern end of Elk Ridge. Walker moved south and west to occupy Loudoun Heights. Lee moved with Longstreet to Hagerstown and D. H. Hill was ordered to cover the supply trains near Boonsboro.
Donated to the people of the United States by James W. Graham and Susan E. Kuecker of Iowa honor of the soldiers who fought and died at South Mountain.
No other document of the Civil War has generated so much controversy as Lee's Special Orders No. 191. These “Lost Orders” detailed the movements of Lee's army for the operation against Harpers Ferry. On September 9 Lee sent copies of the
McClellan's good fortune permitted him to move with a certainty he had never before displayed. Lee was puzzled by McClellan's uncharacteristic speed and took actions to protect his army until it could be concentrated. Later McClellan was criticized for not destroying Lee's army. Whatever criticism was due, it is unfair to argue that McClellan lost an opportunity presented to him by S. O. No. 191. By the time the Federals found the orders, they were already dated. Jackson was safely on the Confederate side of the Potomac and General James Longstreet could easily have crossed the Potomac at Williamsport. Had Lee chosen to seek safety across the Potomac, the Union troops in the Catoctin Valley could not have prevented him from doing so. On September 12 even before learning of S. O. No. 191, McClellan issued orders that would lead to the Battle of South Mountain.
If the Lost Orders had never been found, the battles of South Mountain and Antietam still would have occurred and Lee's gamble in Maryland still would have failed. Lee's chance for success was lost, not because his orders were found, but because his army remained divided too long and McClellan moved faster than Lee expected.
Donated to the people of the United States by Kenneth and Vickie Johnson of Virginia.
This is your heritage. To learn about battlefield preservation and interpretation, ask your park rangers.
Erected by Blue and Gray Education Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. A significant historical month for this entry is September 1841.
Location. 39° 29.09′ N, 77° 37.22′ W. Marker is near Middletown, Maryland, in Washington County. Marker is on Old National Pike (Alternate U.S. 40) near Washington Monument Road, on the right when traveling west. Located at a pull off from the Washington Monument Road, along side the Old National Road. Across the highway from the Old South Mountain Inn. Very close to the Frederick and Washington Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6132 Old National Pike, Middletown MD 21769, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John Collins (a few steps from this marker); 1862 Antietam Campaign (within shouting distance of this marker); Battle at South Mountain (within shouting distance of this marker); 19th Century Backpacker (within shouting distance of this marker); Turner's Pass Tablet T. P. 1 (within shouting distance of this marker); Turner's Pass Tablet T. P. 2 (within shouting distance of this marker); Turner's Pass Tablet T. P. 3 (within shouting distance of this marker); Turner's Pass Tablet T. P. 4 (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Middletown.
More about this marker. This marker is an exact duplicate of a marker posted at Fox’s Gap (Numbers 451 and 453). The only significant difference are the monument donation attributions.
The markers feature a battle map and pictures of Gens Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan, on the left side. A copy of the lost orders is recreated on the right side.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Lost Special Orders 191 markers
Also see . . .
1. Battle of South Mountain. Wikipedia entry (Submitted on July 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
2. Blue and Gray Education Society. Society website homepage (Submitted on July 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
Credits. This page was last revised on March 30, 2022. It was originally submitted on July 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 2,161 times since then and 7 times this year. Last updated on August 11, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 3. submitted on October 12, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 4, 5, 6. submitted on July 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.