Letters to the editor 11/24

November 25, 2002

No question, Crampton's Gap a key Civil War battle

To the editor:

As interest in area Civil War sites soared at the 140th anniversary, so too does misinformation. Chuck Wierer, my interpretive colleague at South Mountain State Battlefield, recently attended a gathering of the Frederick Historic Sites Consortium.

He informs me that, while in the midst of making his presentation on the pivotal significance of the Crampton's Gap battlefield, Bill Wilson of the Central Maryland Heritage League found the effrontery to interrupt him with the all too familiar words, "That's just one man's interpretation."

In a sense he is quite correct, that man being Gen. Robert E. Lee, as well others, to wit:

"I have now full information as to movements and intentions of the enemy .... My general idea (at Crampton's Gap) is to cut the enemy in two and beat him in detail. I ask of you, at this important moment, all your intellect and the utmost activity that a general can exercise." - Gen. G.B. McClellan to Gen. Franklin, Sept. 13, 1862 (Official Records, 19/1:45-46)


"Learning later in the evening that Crampton's Gap (on the direct road from Fredericktown to Sharpsburg) had been forced, and McLaws' rear thus threatened, and believing from a report from General Jackson that Harpers Ferry would fall next morning, determined to withdraw Longstreet and D. H. Hill from their positions and retire to the vicinity of Sharpsburg where the army could be more easily united." - Gen. Robert E. Lee to Pres. Jefferson Davis, Sept. 16, 1862 (Official Records, 19/1:140).

"Information was also received that another large body of Federal troops had during the afternoon forced their way through Crampton's Gap, only five miles in rear of McLaws. Under these circumstances, it was determined to retire to Sharpsburg, where we would be upon the flank and rear of the enemy should he move against McLaws, and where we could more readily unite with the rest of the army." - Gen. Robert E. Lee to Confederate Adj. Gen., Aug. 19, 1863 (Official Records, 19/1:147).

"That night (Sept. 14) Lee found out that Cobb had been pressed back from Crampton's Gap, and this made it necessary to retire from Boonsboro (Turner's) Gap, which was done next morning and position at Sharpsburg taken." - As told to William Allen by Robert E. Lee at Washington College, Lexington, Va., 15 February, 1868.

"Crampton's Gap, where McClellan should have gone in person, as that position was the key point of the whole situation." -Edward Porter Alexander (Lee's Chief of Ordnance), Military Memoirs of a Confederate (1907).

After digesting this banquet for thought, any intelligent person would be compelled to acknowledge that Crampton's Gap was, to Lee and McClellan, the pivotal battle of a pivotal campaign. When I made this point in a 1996 slide lecture, given in Frederick before the National Civil War Round Table Association, Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus for the U.S. National Park Service, declared to me, "Tim, I've been trying to get that point across for 30 years."

If Wilson refuses to believe the above citations, Wierer or myself being local messengers, perhaps he might believe someone of Bearss' widely respected stature, rather than attempting to "kill" the messenger.

Timothy J. Reese

Historical Interpreter

South Mountain

State Battlefield

Burkittsville, Md.

Renters have privacy rights

To the editor:

Bob Maginnis' recent column supporting the rental registration ordinance ('Rental Plan a must-have for Hagerstown') blows off the tenant privacy aspect of the ordinance as a mere inconvenience. Apparently Maginnis does not realize that as a renter I have the same right to privacy in my home that a homeowner does.

The government cannot enter our homes without probable cause, whether it is the police, the FBI, the local tax assessor or the local dogcatcher. Maginnis believes that the government can waive the right of tenants by merely giving them advance notice.

If the Hagerstown city government, or any other governmental unit in this country, were to pass a law allowing government agents to enter owner-occupied houses merely by giving advance notice of such entry, there would be a revolt in this country. The same is true for renters.

I choose to rent, Mr. Maginnis. My apartment, just like your house, is my home and my castle. No government agent will enter my castle without the presentation of a writ citing probable cause approved by a judicial officer.

There are many owner-occupied houses within the city of Hagerstown that have the same problems cited in Maginnis' column. Why hasn't the city passed an ordinance that gives government agents the right to violate the homeowner's privacy rights? Is it because the mayor and city council and Maginnis are homeowners who do not want unwarranted entry into their homes by government agents?

Robert J. Miles


Hats off to Manny Shaool

To the editor:

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