ON THIS DAY IN UNITED STATES HISTORY
September 12, 1862
The Battle of Harpers Ferry Begins
in the American Civil War
On this day in 1862, the Battle of Harpers Ferry began as Confederate General Robert E. Lee advanced on Maryland
Heights which was the high ground just North of the town of Harpers Ferry. It quickly became obvious to the
arriving Confederate armies that the Union General, Col. Dixon S. Miles, had decided to keep his troops near the
town rather than vigorously defend the surrounding high ground.
The first day consisted of minor skirmishes but the battle began in earnest the following day and continued until
September 15 when Miles decided the situation was hopeless and decided to raise the white flag. Minutes later a
shell exploded, tearing into Miles' left leg. He died the next day.
Although the casualties were far less than many of the other battles in the Civil War, it turned out to be the
largest surrender of Union forces during the war. giving up 12,419 men, 13,000 small arms, 200 wagons, and 73
artillery pieces as well as a large amount of food supplies upon which the Confederate forces feasted.