turnpike to the vicinity of Middletown, which place it reached about 1 o'clock p.m. While here I was requested by the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac to ride to the front and examine the country in the neighborhood of where it was proposed to pass the army over South Mountain. The enemy taken possession of the turnpike and the crests of the mountain, prepared to dispute its passage. On my way I passed Cox's corps, withdrawing from the contest, * and still farther on I came up with some of our batteries, exchanging shots at long distance with some of the rebel batteries posted near the turnpike, and apparently about half way up the slope of the mountain. Still farther on was Reno's corps, moving into position to the south of the turnpike, over what appeared to be a trail, his troops stretching from the summit to the base of the mountain. The general direction of this ridge is perpendicular to the line of the road.
From a point near to where our batteries were placed, I was enabled to make an excellent reconnaissance of the eastern slope, extending far to the north and south of the pike. While here, about 2 o'clock, Meade's division of my corps was ordered to make a diversion in favor of Reno, to the right of the turnpike, and soon after I received instructions from the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac to hold my whole corps in readiness to support the First Division. Accordingly, they were all put en route, and marched to the base of the foot-hills, where the divisions were deployed for battle as rapidly as they arrived-Meade's division on the right, Hatch's on the left, that of Ricketts' being held in reserve.
The right of Meade's division rested nearly 1 1/2 miles from the turnpike. William's First Regiment Massachusetts Cavalry was dispatched higher up the valley, to observe the movements of the enemy, if any, in that direction.
In front of us was South Mountain, the crest of the spinal ridge of which was held by the enemy in considerable force. Its slopes are precipitous, rugged, and wooded, and difficult of ascent to an infantry force, even in absence of a foe in front. The National turnpike crosses the summit of this range of mountains through a gentle depression, and near this point a spur projects from the body of the ridge, and running nearly parallel with it about a mile, where it is abruptly cut by a rivulet from the main ridge, and rises again and extends far to the northward. At and to the north of the pike this spur is separated from the main ridge by a narrow valley, with cultivated fields, extending well up the gentle slope of the hill on each side. Here the enemy had a strong infantry force posted, and a few pieces of artillery. Through the break in the spur at the base of the principal ridge were other cleared fields, occupied by the enemy. Cooper's battery was brought into position on high ground, and opened on the enemy visible on this part of the field. While this battery was moving to its position, and while the infantry were deploying, the enemy threw a few shot from a battery on the side of the mountain, but at long range, producing little or no effect.
As soon as these dispositions were made, and, from my observation, anticipating no important sequence from the attack to the south of the turnpike, it was resolved to move to the assault at once, [which was] commenced with throwing forward a heavy body of skirmishers along my whole line, directions were given for Meade and Hatch to support them with their divisions. Meade moved forward with great vigor, and soon became engaged, driving everything before him. Every step
* See Burnside's report of January 20, 1863, p.422.