"...thenceforward and forever free..."
In 1862 the fate of the Union would would rise, fall, teeter in the balance and then irrevocably triumph. While three years of staggering war losses would follow, events of 1862 determined the ultimate course of the struggle. The United States would begin the year as a slave nation and end it with the declaration and dedication to end that horrible and tragic chapter in its history. In the midst of these events would be the invisible hand of Alpheus Williams.
Join us now on a virtual tour following the 1862 trail Alpheus Williams as it winds through Virginia and Maryland.
Jan 1 Frederick MD, Catoctin camp
Feb 26 Frederick MD visit
Mar 1 Exit Hancock MD
May 8 Battle of McDowell
Jun 3 Potomac River crossing
Aug 6 Culpeper
Sep 2 Fort Albany, Alexandria
In 1862, General Williams participated in two unsuccessful invasions of Virginia. He personally excelled in both expeditions, but was unfortunate to serve, on the first, under the mediocre Speaker of the House-turned-general Nathaniel Banks and, in the second, under the pompous John Pope. To make matters worse, his opponents, Stonewall Jackson and Robert Lee, were as talented as his commanders were incompetent.
Nonetheless, by September of 1862, as a dispirited Union Army of the Potomac groped for the invading armies of Lee and Jackson, Williams would have in his hands a piece of paper, Lee's famous Special Orders 191 detailing the location and destinations of his divided forces, that would lead to the war's most decisive battle and, ultimately, to final Union victory.
The bizarre circumstances of how this piece of paper was obtained forms the focal point of this first year of active combat for Williams.
Inspired by the fine written descriptions of Williams, I retraced much of the 1862 trail of Williams in April 1995, with side trips to some of his 1863 sites, most notably Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. This provided me with visual resources for this site as well as a feel for the area and its beautiful scenery. Consequently, this site is as much a current travelogue as well as a path of historical discovery.
The Trail begins in the bitter winter weather of January 1862 in Hancock, Maryland on the Upper Potomac where Williams has been ordered with his brigade just after the New Years Day... Grab your winter gear and join us on the march!
Sep 15 Boonsboro MD -- Corps Command ends
Sep 16 Antietam Creek Cross upper Stone Bridge Cross into bivouac
Sep 17 Battle of Antietam Corps Commander for 3rd time
Sep 20 Harpers Ferry
Sep 22 Sandy Hook/Maryland Heights
Sep 23 Emancipation Proclamation
Oct 22 Sandy Hook -- Corps Command ends
Nov 16 Antietam Battlefield visit with Rene
Dec 11 Exits Sandy
Hook MD crosses Potomac