I figured we had about two miles to go over treacherous ground. There was no path or trail along this part of the South Mountain ridgeline. I had to pick the way to keep horses from falling due to the various steep sides of the ridge and to bypass thickets of brambles.
It was a slow process, and I was increasingly worried about Mosby. We kept hearing our two cannon boom in the distance, which had to signify Mosby was trying to hold Crampton’s Gap. Periodically we could also hear gunfire.
I finally threw caution to the winds and nudged Stonewall to a trot. He seemed to sense where to go on the landscape to avoid any obstacle. I was amazed. It was as if he had some bloodhound DNA. I finally just gave him his head and let him go.
We broke out of the narrow confines of the narrow ridge and hit a broadened part of the ridge with a trail wide enough for two riders abreast. I let Stonewall continue for about 50 yards on this trail and then reined him to a halt. We turned back, and as the men came out of the confines of the narrow ridgeline, I put them in a column of twos. It took a while for all of them to catch up due to the inevitable accordion effect that plagues all military formations.
Once we had reformed, I proceeded to the head of the column and yelled, “Forward at the gallop, march!”
Stonewall was weary, but wasn’t going to give up on me. He set a steady pace and we ate up the ground. In no time we heard another round of gunfire.
We broke out of the trail into a small clearing that bordered the southern edge of Crampton’s Gap. Yankee Cavalry had reached the western edge of the Gap. They had dismounted and were moving forward in a battle line. On the eastern side of the Gap was a line of our cavalry protecting two cannon.
I hoped that the cannon crews saw us and didn’t fire their guns as I screamed, “Draw pistols. Left Rank fire by file.”
It was a crazy command, (I didn’t know if it really existed) but the men got the gist of it. They began to shoot at the Yanks as they came into the clearing.
Our appearance completely unhinged the Yanks. They immediately began to pull back. Once our contingent had completely entered the clearing, I shouted, “Left turn into line, march.”
The men turned to their left and faced the Yanks. I yelled, “Fire at will.”
Our troopers fired pistols with great precision. The Yanks began to fold as our firepower began to take effect.
I shouted, “Forward march.”
We walked our mounts forward to the eastern edge of the Gap and saw the Yankee cavalry running to their horses. I was immediately dismayed. We also saw Union Infantry marching up the road toward the Gap.