right bank, and, marching through Harper's Ferry, encamped near Halltown, 4 miles distant, about 8 o'clock on the 16th instant.
The troops that were engaged in the attack and capture of Maryland Heights are entitled to especial commendation, as they were laboriously employed for two days and one night along the summit of the Elk Ridge, constantly working their way, under fire, during the day, and at night resting in position, all this time without water, as none could be obtained but from the valley beneath, over a mile down the mountain, and at the close of the contest there was not a straggler from the two brigades. General Kershaw, who has special command of this force, acted in this instance (as he has in all others when under my command) with great skill, coolness, and daring, and is deserving of special praise. I refer you to his report for other particulars of the engagement and for the operations of the brigade of General Barksdale, which accompanied him and materially assisted in the capture of the place.
Seeing that the canal was full of water about Weverton, I directed General Pryor (if tools could be obtained) to cut the canal just above a culvert near the place, which he did, and thinks the canal was materially damaged. He also broke the canal lock.
The enemy having forced Crampton's Gap, thereby completely cutting off my route up the valley to join the forces with General Lee, as Solomon's Gap, the only road over Elk Ridge, was just in front of the one over the Blue Ridge occupied by the enemy, I had nothing to do but to defend my position. I could not retire under the bluffs along the river, with the enemy pressing my rear and the forces at Harper's Ferry operating in conjunction, unless under a combination of circumstances I could not rely on to happen at the exact time needed; could not pass over the mountain except in a scattered and disorganized condition, nor could have gone through the Weverton Pass into the open country beyond to cross a doubtful ford when the enemy was in force on the other side of the Blue Ridge and coming down in my rear. There was no outlet in any direction for anything but the troops, and that very doubtful. In no contingency could I have saved the trains and artillery. I therefore determined to defend myself in the valley, holding the two heights and the two lower passes in order to force a direct advance down the valley, to prevent co-operation from Harper's Ferry, and at the same time to carry out my orders in relation to the capture of that place. I received several communications from your headquarters in relation to my position, which were obeyed so far as circumstances permitted, and I acted, in departing from them, as I believed the commanding general would have ordered had he known the circumstances. The force in Harper's Ferry was nearly, if not quite, equal to my own, and that above was far superior. No attempt was made to co-operate from Harper's Ferry with the force above, and the force above did not press down upon me, because, General Lee offered battle of Sharpsburg. The early surrender of Harper's Ferry relieved me from the situation, and my command joined the main army at Sharpsburg on the morning of the 17th.
My special thanks are due to General Anderson, whose division was under my command, for his advice and assistance, and the cordial co-operation of all in generally performing their whole duties. The operations at Crampton's Gap I give in a separate paper.
To the members of my staff-Major McIntosh, assistant adjutant-genera; Majors Goggin, McLaws, and Edwards, acting commissaries of subsistence; chief surgeon of division, Surgeon Gilmore; Captain King, who accompanied General Kershaw during the whole of his operations