Civil War Transcendence, part 380


I decided to ride behind the buildings on top of the ridge and directed Stonewall in that direction. We trotted at a brisk pace for about seventy-five yards when I said, “Whoa.”

Stonewall stopped on a dime.

Looking out at the vista to the west, I had a clear view of the road to Halltown. If I rode to the front of the buildings on the ridge, I could see the beginnings of the River Road to the northeast. To the east in the distance, I could make out the road at the base of Maryland Heights that led to Sharpsburg. I had purloined the outpost’s binoculars to be able to make a close inspection of all three roads that ultimately led to Shepherdstown.

One thing I believed was that the sniper had to be in a location where he could quickly get to his chosen ambush point on the road we chose to take. We hadn’t yet made a deciding move to the road we would be utilizing.

So, where was his vantage point at the present time?

The road that would cause him the most consternation had to be the road that ran in front of Maryland Heights. It was totally isolated on the other side of the Potomac River from the other two roads. That was why I had ridden to the bridge and looked up at Maryland Heights this morning. I was trying to bait the sniper into believing we would be traveling on that road.

It had taken us a long time to get to the top of Bolivar Heights. I was hoping that I had left enough confirmation in the sniper’s mind that we weren’t using the road across the Potomac, but would be using either the River Road or the road to Halltown instead. In fact, I was betting on it.

Major Mosby had stationed four sentinels in civilian dress on the road that ran in front of Maryland Heights at various locations from the base of the bridge on the Maryland side north toward Sharpsburg. He also had men positioned in civilian dress at various places in town close to the end of the bridge across the Potomac on the Virginia shore.

If I had played my cards right, the sniper was on the Maryland side of the river and waiting.

When we started up to Bolivar Heights, I was hoping it threw a monkey wrench in his plans.  Now he would have to cross back to Harpers Ferry and wait for us to take one of the roads on the Virginia side.

Of course, he could always wait and try his luck later, which was the smart thing to do. I was hoping his mission was to get rid of us before we made it to Shepherdstown.

I turned Stonewall toward a gap between two buildings, which created an alleyway, and used it to slyly slip toward the front of the buildings on Bolivar Heights. Staying back well enough to view the countryside to the north and east without being seen, I swept my binoculars over the landscape between the town and the Potomac Bridge, then the bridge and the beginning of the road on the Maryland side in what is called Sandy Hook, and lastly the road leading north from Sandy Hook until it ran out of sight.

I didn’t see anyone in Harpers Ferry or anybody moving on the roads that looked suspicious. Focusing on Maryland Heights, I surveyed the bluff from its base to its apex, but I didn’t see anyone that fit the description of our sniper.

I lowered my field glasses and, pulling my pocket watch, looked at the time. It was 1:00pm. I draped the binoculars by its strap over the portion of the saddle that acted as a saddle horn.  I closed my eyes to get in the mood for thinking through what had transpired in our plan.

One; to utilize baseball jargon, we had hopefully thrown the sniper a curve by feinting to cross the Potomac bridge at Harpers Ferry, but had instead gone to the top of Bolivar Heights. This normally would indicate we could take either the Halltown Road to the west or the River Road to the northeast.

If the sniper was on the Maryland side of the river, which is what I was betting on, he would have to cross back over the Potomac Bridge into Harpers Ferry to get to his ambush site on either the Halltown Road or the River Road.  Since there wasn’t another bridge that crossed the Potomac for fifteen miles, he would have to use the Harpers Ferry Bridge.

Two; the sniper must be very good at camouflage, because I couldn’t see hide nor hair of him with the binoculars. I was betting that he had our contingent in view at the Confederate outpost, but was smart enough to wait and see which of the two roads we decided to take before he crossed back over the Potomac.

I had just leaned forward to pat Stonewall on the neck when I saw a brief flash of light from a point on Maryland Heights. It was about a quarter of the way up the bluff and just off the beaten foot path that led to the crest. The flash had to be from sunlight reflecting off either binoculars or some sort of spyglasses.

Without taking my gaze off the point on Maryland Heights, I reached for the binoculars and fumbled them off the saddle horn. Bringing them up to my eyes I looked through the lens and after a few moments of intense scrutiny I saw a figure move in some underbrush. I couldn’t make out any distinct characteristics, but in jubilation I uttered, “Gotcha.”

About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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