South Mountain Part 3
Crampton's Gap - Whipp's Ravine
On the southern end of the battlefield, below the mountain at Crampton's Gap, the Confederates had set up a defensive line behind a stone wall. Since the Union troops had begun the day miles away, it was 3pm before they were able to attack Confederate lines. Many of the Union units bogged down, but Torbert's New Jersey regiments broke the enemy line and began pursuing the Confederates up the mountain. Howell Cobb's Legion arrived and came halfway down the mountain, but it too was routed after a vicious fight.
The Confederates fled up these two roads, which converge here at Crampton's Gap. The New Jersey brigade pursued up the Gapland Road on the right and in the woods off the picture to the right. Bartlett's brigade came up the Arnoldstown Road on the left and through Whipp's Ravine in the center.
This is a wider view of the gap, the previous picture being from the Correspondent's Arch in the center. Cobb tried to rally the fleeing Confederates in Padgett's Field on the far left, and some men did form a line behind a stone wall off the picture to the left. By now, it was after 6pm, and it was becoming dark. Two cannon of the Troup Artillery climbed the mountain on the road on the far right and unlimbered in the Y-intersection forward of the rallying infantry. The right gun fired canister at the New Jersey men coming around the bend and fired a few more rounds until the Yankees flanked the gun from the woods to the right of the road, convincing the rebels to limber up and head back down the mountain. The Yankees then advanced into the gap and pushed the remain defenders off the mountain.
By the end of the day, Lee decided to fall back from South Mountain. The next morning, September 15th, Franklin entered the Pleasant Valley below but did not press his advantage. For two days, he faced McLaws' division to the south, part of Jackson's command surrounding Harper's Ferry. The Harper's Ferry garrison surrendered that day after Jackson made the position untenable. So, had McClellan acted sooner, the surrender could have been prevented. But there was still enormous opportunity for the Yankees. With Jackson's command still distant and in three parts, McClellan could have pursued and attacked Longstreet vigorously, destroying roughly half of Lee's army. Typically, the opportunity was lost, and when McClellan did decide to attack at Antietam on September 17th, most of Lee's army was concentrated. Decisive victory for the Federals, however, was still possible.
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