Voices of the Maryland Campaign: September 6, 1862

Postwar photo of John Stevens

By the end of September 6, the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia waded across the Potomac River, marching towards Frederick. While the tail end of Lee’s army remained, for the moment, near the Potomac shore, its vanguard under “Stonewall” Jackson arrived on the outskirts of Frederick, pitched its tents, and settled in for a few days’ rest.

These early days of Lee’s invasion of Maryland left a vivid impression on the men who found themselves among the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia. Writing in 1902, John Stevens of the famed Texas Brigade recalled crossing the Potomac and the first march on Maryland soil:

Now, imagine a river (as I remember it) about 500 yards wide, from two to three feet deep, the water very swift. Now it is just as full of men as it can be for 600 or 700 yards, up and down, yelling and singing all sorts of war and jolly songs, and in this connection you must find room for eight or twelve regimental bands in the river all the time, the drums beating, the horns a tootin’ and the fifes a screaming, possibly every one of them on a different air, some “Dixie,” some “My Maryland, My Maryland,” some “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” some “Yankee Doodle.” All the men are apparently jolly. I, at least, did not feel very jolly, though I imagine some of them contemplated the serious side of the situation. While I was deeply interested in the movement, and believe it would ultimate in a great advantage to our cause, yet I could not for the life of me suppress a feeling of sadness as I beheld this vast concourse of humanity wading the river, so full of music and apparently never once thinking that their feet (many of them) would never press the soil on the south side of the Potomac again…  

TX Bde
A modern depiction of the Texas Brigade crossing the Potomac River on September 6, 1862

About noon, as I now remember the hour, it came the turn of the Texas brigade to cross over. In we bulged, our bands playing, and the boys yellin’, as jolly as any who had gone before or any who came after us… Now, remember this is about the 6th or 7th of September, and we have been out of Richmond a full month and we have on the same clothes: pants, jacket and shirt, nothing more, through the dust and mad marching, fighting and sleeping on the ground. Some times the dust is so dense you can’t see a hundred yards ahead of you. We also have some kind of head cover, either an old piece of a hat or an old cap and if we have not worn them out, we have some sort of footwear, in the shape of old army shoes, but many of us are bare-footed. 

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