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HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
Sept. 20, 1862.
SIR: Since my last letter to you of the 18th, finding the enemy indisposed to make an attack on that day, and our position being a bad one to hold with the river in the rear, I determined to cross the army to the Virginia side. This was done at night successfully, nothing being left behind, unless it may have been some disabled guns or broken-down wagons, and the morning of the 19th found us satisfactorily over on the south bank of the Potomac, near Shepherdstown, when the army was immediately put in motion toward Williamsport. Before crossing the river, in order to threaten the enemy on his right and rear and make him apprehensive for his communications, sent the cavalry forward to Williamsport, which they successfully occupied. At night the infantry sharpshooters left in conjunction with General Pendleton's artillery, to hold the ford below Shepherdstown, gave back, and the enemy's cavalry took possession of that town, and, from General Pendleton's report after midnight, I fear much of his reserve artillery has been captured. I am now obliged to return to Shepherdstown with the intention of driving the enemy back, if not in position with his whole army; but if in full force, I think an attack would be inadvisable, and I shall make other dispositions. I am, with high respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS, Richmond, Va.
On the 8th of October Brig.-Gen. Nelson Taylor took command of Hartsuff's brigade, and he produced a favorable impression. His assignment was dated September 18th.
General Hartsuff was dangerously wounded at the battle of Antietam, and before his recovery was promoted to major-general of volunteers for gallant and meritorious conduct.
We were sorry to part with General Hartsuff, to whom we had become warmly attached. He was a graduate from West Point in the Class of 1852. When he took command of our brigade he was in the thirty-second year of his age, tall and commanding in appearance, with a fine soldierly presence. He soon learned that we needed training, and the cords were at once tightened, and no excuse for breach of discipline was accepted. Little by little the men realized that while he required prompt obedience, he was watchful of the comfort and health of his men, and before a month had elapsed we began to feel a pride in the new order of things. As week followed week our attachment strengthened, until he became the idol of
his brigade. He succeeded in establishing so high a degree of discipline that the brigade received the enthusiastic praise of General Hooker. On the night of the battle of Cedar Mountain, on a knoll exposed to the enemy's fire, he was a conspicuous figure in the moonlight, in plain sight of his brigade, an example to every man of the bravery that becomes a soldier. By his coolness on that night he inspired in his men a self-reliance that was of great service to them in the scenes that followed. There was no general officer under whom we served that excited in us so deep an affection as that which we felt for Gen. Geo. L. Hartsuff.
We were in camp near Sharpsburg, where opportunity was afforded us of renewing an acquaintance with the people of that town, whom we met in August, 1861. Visits were made to the battlefield and to the Dunkards' church, in the vicinity of which had occurred such terrible fighting. The ludicrous instincts of the army were excited by the suggestiveness of the name, and it was christened by some wag "Drunkards' church;" and it became so fastened upon the Society, which was very little known to the world, that it was deemed necessary to correct the error by an article published in one of the magazines some years after the war, protesting against a continuance of the outrage.
The denomination of Dunkers, or Dunkards as it was originally called, is of German origin. They came to this country in 1719, and settled in Pennsylvania. In the beginning they were a simple peasant people, exclusive in thought and habits of life, interpreting the Bible literally, endeavoring to find in it directions for every act. Though the rule of their church was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a horse for a horse, the Society of the Dunkards was noted for the honesty and integrity of its members. All the fashions and follies of the world were deliberately shut out from their lives, while they erected every possible barrier against its influences and the advancing spirit of the age. In spite of all their efforts to the contrary, they began almost insensibly to relax their discipline by the modification of some of their practices. They found that innovations had come among them in the form of day-schools, Sunday-schools, the use of musical instruments, and a gradual departure from the severe plainness of dress which they formerly considered essential, and in the mode of wearing the hair and beard. This tendency naturally met with opposition by the older members, resulting some years ago in a division of the Society.