soldier with rifle american civil warTHEN AND NOW

Harrison, The Scout


Henry Thomas Harrison was born on April 23, 1832, in Nashville, Tenneessee. His father, Henry Horace Harrison, was born in Maryland, in 1804, and died in Nashville in 1877. Henry Thomas's great grandfather, Thomas Harrison, was born in England in 1743 and died in Baltimore, in 1808. Thomas Harrison served in Washington's army as a private in the Sixth Independant Maryland Militia Company of Dorchester Co., Maryland, during the War For Independance.

Henry Thomas's father, H.H. Harrison, appears to have made money as a steamboat captain, builder, and packet-line owner, during the time his son, Henry, was growing up in Nashville. In 1874, he went with his wife on an extended trip to Europe. He died in Nashville at the age of seventy-four.

Captain Harrison Obitrary, December 14, 1877

Henry had two brothers, both born in Cincinnati. One brother, George W. Harrison, was employed in his adult life as a real estate broker, in Nashville,and also appears to have made money. He died in 1886. The other brother, Sam, worked, like his father, as a steamboat captain. Of these four men, it appears that Henry Thomas was the only one to participate as a soldier in the Civil War.

It appears that, when the war broke out, Henry was operating a steamboat on the Yazoo River. On April 23, 1861, Henry, representing the citizens of Yazoo City and County, wrote a letter addressed to Confederate Secretary of War Walker, asking for a commission as a captain of a company to be raised as "Independant Rangers" without expense to the government. The function of the "Rangers" was to act in the capacity of "spies and scouts." In terms of chain of command, Henry's letter sets forth the qualification that, when on active duty, they are not to take orders from any army officer other than the "general-in-chief." Henry also requested a letter of marque that he could use to capture enemy vessels operating on the Yazoo River.

Apparently, the Confederate Government did not reply to Henry's letter, or, if it did, the reccord has not yet be found. What is known, is that, on May 12, 1861, Henry enlisted in Company I, Sartartia Rifles, of the 12th Mississippi Infantry Regiment of Volunteers, at Corinth, Mississippi. The companies of the regiment were drawn from the counties of the Mississippi Delta, the Sartartia Rifles being from Yazoo County. The regiment was mustered into state service in April 1861 at Yazzo City, and, then, in May 1861, moved as a body to Corinth where Harrison joined it. The regiment moved to Virginia, in June 1861 and arrived at Manassas Junction, on July 22, 1861, just after McDowell's army had been routed.


Confederate Veteran

The 12th Mississippi was assigned to the Second Brigade of the First Corps, on July 25, 1861, and remained with the brigade at Manassas Junction until October 1861. The brigade's original commander was Richard Ewell. On September 4, Ewell was replaced by Brigadier-General C. Clark, of Mississippi. (See, Supplement to the Official Records of the Rebellion: Part II, Record of Events, Volume 33, Serial No. 45: Record of events for Twelfth Mississippi Infantry, March 1861 - December 1864 edited by James B.Hewitt.)

Presumably, Harrison spent this time—July 1861 to October 1861—on scouting details between Manassas Junction, the Potomac, and the outskirts of Alexanderia. During this time, Harrison came in contact with Laura Broders. Laura Broders' father was John H. Broders. Her grandfather was Joseph Broders. Joseph was born in England, in 1754. He came to the colony of Virginia, in 1774, at the behest of George Washington, to build cabinery at Mount Vernon. By 1800, he was living in Fairfax County. He died in 1830. His son, John, by 1830, was the owner of a tract of land in Fairfax County which, as acrage were added to it, became known as Oak Grove. Laura grew up at Oak Grove with her brothers, John, Joseph, and Albert. Her brother John operated a wholesale grocery business in Alexandria and her brother Joseph a grain commission business there.

google earth map
Oak Grove [misstated as Oak Hill]

google king street
Alexandria's King Street

According to Confederate War Records, Harrison was discharged from his one year enlistment in the 12th Mississippi, in November 1861.

harrison discharge

The medical condition Harrison was suffering from, the name of which he "fogot," was "varicocelo;" i.e., swelling of viens in the testicles. How this condition disabled Harrison to the point that he would be medically discharged is difficult to fathom, but discharged he was.

It appears from these records that, if Laura received from Harrison a photograph showing an image of him in Confederate uniform, she most likely would have received it at about the time he was at camp Van Dorn. But there are aspects about such an image that make it unlikely this happened.

Harrison Leaves Virginia

Five months later, in April 1862, just after the Battle of Shiloh, Harrison appeared at Corinth and asked a military commander for a horse and saddle.

note at Corinth

Van dornHarrison's discharge refers to "Camp Van Dorn." Van Dorn arrived in Virginia, in April 1861 as colonel commanding Confederate cavalry in Virginia. In June 1861, he was appointed a brigadier-general and, in September 1861, a major-general commanding a infantry division. In January 1862, he was sent west and took command of Confederate forces operating in Arkansas. In March he attacked Union forces at Pea Ridge which resulted in his defeat. In April he was ordered to cross the Mississippi with his army and support the Army of Tennessee.

In March 1862 Van Dorn's army fought the second battle of Corinth and was again defeated. Between March 10, 1862 and December 1862, Van Dorn's army retreated through Mississippi, coming eventually to rest at Grenada, MS.

On December 20, 1862, Van Dorn attacked Grant's depot at Holly Springs, while Grant was marching his army southward, and this forced Grant to retreat and recover his base, effectually ending the Union's first effort to reach Vicksburg.

In January 1863, Van Dorn was given command of all cavalry forces in the Mississippi theater. It appears from the Confederate War Records that Harrison was functioning during this time—April 1862 to January 1863—as one of Van Dorn's "scouts." (a "2" can be faintly seen underneath what appears to be a "3.")

Harrison report

harrison repot

As Grant tells the story in his memoirs, on December 20, 1862, Van Dorn appeared at Holly springs, which Grant calls "his secondary base of supplies," captured the garrison of 1,500 men and destroyed all of Grant's munitions, food and forage. At the same time Bedford Forest got on Grant's line of railroad between Jackson, Tennessee, and Columbus, Kentucky, doing much damage to it. "This demonstrated the impossibility of maintaining so long a line of road over which to draw supplies for an army moving in an enemy's country." Grant decided, consequently, to abandon his campaign into the interior, with Columbus as the base, and returned to La Grange and Gand Junction, repairing the road to Memphis as he went, and making the Mississippi River the line over which to draw supplies. At the same time the Confederate general, Pemberton, retreated from the Tallahatchie toward Vicksburg while Sherman, at Grant's order, moved down the Mississippi, to attempt to capture Vicksburg by way of the Yazoo River.

Because of Van Dorn's operations, however, the two generals were out of communication with each other. Sherman, in attacking the Confederate defenses on the bluffs of the Yazoo, thought Grant was in the enemy's rear when, in fact, he was on his way to Holly Spring where he made his headquarters on December 23, 1862, remaining there until January 10, 1863, when he moved to Grand Junction and then to Memphis.

On the 13th, having been foiled in his attempt to gain possession of the Yazoo River bluffs, Sherman decided to cross the Mississippi and march 50 miles into Arkansas to capture a Confederate garrison at Arkansas Post. After this was accomplished, he gathered his forces at Milliken's Bend and Grant joined him there, to commence his effort to reach Vicksburg by way of the right bank of the Mississippi. At this point, active military operations in the interior of the State of Mississippi ceased.

Harrison Returns to Virginia

The available Confederate War Record documents reveal that Henry Harrison reappeared in Virginia, in February 1863, though what exactly was his military status remains unclear. In 1862, the Confederate Congress had created a multi-layered organization devoted to intelligence gathering. The most visible aspect of this organization was the Signal Corps, established in the spring of 1862, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Army Adjutant General. It's mission was to provide Morse Code transmissions by wig-wag of flags that came from scouts operating beyond the picket lines of the competing armed forces. A second piece of legislation authorized the establishment of companies of "partisan rangers" who lived as civilians in various Virginia counties—most notably John Mosby's men in Faquier County, Elijah V. White's men in Loudoun County, in Northern Virginia; and, John Whitford's company in Northeastern North Carolina. Less transparent were the "spy" agencies of which there seems to have been two distinct threads: one reporting to President Davis and one reporting to the Secretary of War. These latter agencies appear to have operated in Washington D.C.

One famous example of the spy type is Frank Stringfellow. Stringfellow began his career, in May 1861, as a private in Company E of the 4th Virginia Cavalry. The story goes that, after the Battle of Bull Run, in July 1861, Stringfellow was assigned to JEB Stuart's personal escort. In September 1861, by whose order no one can say, Stringfellow appeared in Alexandria using the alias of a Baltimore dentist's apprentice named Delcher who worked with a dentist named Sykes. As "Delcher" Stringfellow's job was to receive newspapers and correspondence from local agents, cull from the materials what military information could be gleamed and past it on to couriers who would take it across the picket lines.

When April of 1862 came and McClellan's army began moving by steamers to the Peninsula, Stringfellow left Alexanderia and returned to Stuart's cavalry and participated in its operations into July. When McClellan's army began evacuating the Peninsula and Jackson began marching northward toward the Rappanhannock, Stringfellow, along with others, rode in advance of Jackson's command as scouts. Stringfellow remained with Lee's army as an ordinary cavalryman through the battle of Fredericksburg, in December 1862.

Then, in February 1863, about the same time Harrison reappeared in Virginia, Stringfellow was sent to Alexandria again. Apparently his mission was to organize a line of communication through Fairfax county, from the army's lines to Alexandria. Stringfellow, posing as a teamster, reached Alexandria and went to the house of James Sturrett and, while there posed as Sturrett's store clerk. On several occasions, using a doctored pass, Stringfellow crossed the Long Bridge and went into Washington where he made contact with several clerks working in the War Department. In March Stringfellow left Alexandria, carrying with him what information he had gained, passed back through the Union lines into Fairfax County and rejoined Stuart's cavalry on the Rappahannock. Probably, he learned nothing more than that the Union army would move on Richmond from Fredericksburg in the spring. What else was there of importance to learn?

By June 1863, Ewell's corps was on the move from Culpeper toward the Potomac, and Stringfellow, in a manuscript he left behind, claims he was sent by Stuart to scout the Potomac river fords ahead of Ewell's arrival. According to his story, he crossed the Rappanhannock, probably in the vicinity of Hinson's Mill, reached the Potomac about Knoxville, and went down the right bank to Leesburg where he found the Union corps were concentrating. He then returned to the Rappanhannock, found Stuart was gone and, in riding after him, was captured by Union troopers as he passed through New Baltimore.

At the same time, Elijah White's batallion, made up of men from Loudoun County, VA, and Montgromery County, MD, were moving along the line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad destroying bridges and tearing up tracks. Ewell crossed the Potomac at Williamsport on June 15, behind Jenkins, as White reached the vicinity of Point of Rocks at the foot of the Middletown Valley. Soon after, as Hooker's army corps began crossing the river at Edwards Ferry, on June 25, part, if not all, of White's battalion, rode north along the flanks of South Mountain and joined Early's division as it passed through Gettysburg on its way to York and Westminster. According to Howard's official report, when his corps entered the Middletown Valley the late afternoon of June 25, his cavalry skirmished with Confederate cavalry through the valley, and over the South Mountain into Boonesboro. What unit these Confederates were from, the record does not say.

That, contrary to the historians' myth, there were plenty of cavalry assets available to General Lee during the Gettysburg Campaign which he used as he thought best, an objective view of the record makes plain. In addition to small squads of cavalry scouts the mission of which is not precisely known, White's battalion, and Jenkins' brigade, Lee had available John Imboden's brigade which, in April 1863, had demonstrated an ability to cover large distances in enemy territory, destroying infastructure.

In June, instead of using Imboden to keep eyes on the Union army as it moved into Maryland, Lee had Imboden covering the left flank and rear of his army, by roaming in the space between Martinsburg, WV., and the Cumberland Gap. As the Battle of Gettysburg was being fought, Imboden was at Chambersburg, guarding the army trains.

Lee also had available, in addition to Stuart's two brigades which crossed the Potomac at Rowser's Ford and moved to Westminster, the brigade commanded by Beverly Robinson which was to guard the pontoon bridge at Williamsport and then follow the army to Gettysburg.

And then there was Henry Harrison. It appears from the Confederate War Records that, after he gave General Loring, commanding at Grenada, MS., his report dated January 6, 1863, Harrison came probably by train to Richmond and was continued in the employment of the government as a person who was paid to go behind enemy lines, observe enemy operations, count their numbers, and report to the army officer in the field commanding the territory in question.

The records show that however his employment was handled administratively within the departments of the government, Harrison appeared in the New Bern area as an ostensible civilian. John Whitford's Partisan Rangers, which included local civilians, was also in the area, "spying" in essentially the same manner as the record tends to show Harrison engaged in.

In January 1863, Union troops entered Pamlico Sound, went up the Neuse River and landed in the vicinity of New Bern which was held by Confederate forces. Another Union force went up the Tar River, landed and attempted to occupy Washington. Further up the coast, another Union force landed on the southern bank of the James and moved toward Suffolk; the idea of these movements being to gain possession of the triangle of territory with its apex at Goldsboro and thus block the Confederates from using the Wilmington-Petersburg Railroad.

As these enemy landings were occurring, General Lee had detached two of Longstreet's three divisions, Hood and McLaws, from the army's base at Fredericksburg, and sent them, with Longstreet, to the Suffolk area with a view toward their living off whatever supplies they could gather from the surrounding countryside extending south into the Department of North Carolina which was under the command of D.H. Hill.

cooper to longstreet

Given the sequence of events, it appears reasonable to conclude that, when Grant broke off operations in the Mississippi Delta and shifted his efforts to the right bank of the river, Harrison was sent back to the Virginia theater to assist John Whitford's Partisan Rangers in the collection of information from inside enemy lines, an activity for which the Government was paying him $150 per month. At the time Harrison arrived, it appears he came under the immediate command of Gen. D.H. Hill, whose headquarters were at Goldsboro and who was actively directing Whitford's operations. However, once Longstreet arrived at Petersburg with his divisions, and was given command of the Department of Southeastern Virginia, it appears Hill's department became part of Longstreet's and Harrison at this point formally became recognized as a scout belonging to Longstreet's headquarters. This scenario is evident from the pay vouchers shown below.

Harrison pay voucher


It appears from the Union Records that, on March 21, 1863, Harrison was arrested by Union cavalry patrol at the Neuse River, just outside New Bern. He was taken to New Bern and questioned by Union officers. He told them he had been a member of the 12th Mississippi, that he was discharged, and now living with his sister in the area. He was released on April 13, 1863, when Union forces pulled out of New Bern. It may be that, at or before the time of his arrest, he had been allowed to travel freely into and out of Union lines,.

Given the remarks D. H. Hll made in his communications with Longstreet, it seems reasonable to conclude that Harrison's arrest and release made his future services in the New Bern region likely to be unproductive, so it makes sense that, when Longstreet returned to Lee's army, in May 1863, Harrison went with him.

Harrison's Role in the Gettysburg Campaign

As a consequence of his arrest by the Union officers, Harrison's value as a spy for D.H. Hill became worthless. This fact probably explains why the evidence shows Harrison thereafter going with Longstreet to Fredericksburg, in the spring of 1863. Given the Confederate War Records showing Harrison was paid for services as a scout behind enemy lines, through Longstreet's staff, there can be no question that Harrison did, in fact, appear at Longstreet's lines on June 28, 1863. What remains subject to substantial dispute is the question of how exactly it was that he got there.

If we must rely on Longstreet to reach an objective understanding of what probably Harrison's role as "scout" was in the campaign, and we must as Longstreet is the one who, he says, told Harrison what he was to do, then we must, if we are judges of the facts, base our decision solely upon the statement Longstreet made in his official report dated July 27, 1863. Here is what Longstreet committed himself to, in writing, within a month of Harrison's appearance at Chambersburg.

"On the night of the 28th, one of my scouts came in with information that the enemy had passed the Potomac, and was probably in pursuit of us. The scout was sent to general headquarters, with the suggestion that our army concentrate east of the mountains, and bear down on the enemy."

General Lee, in his official report dated July 31, 1863, confirms that a scout did bring information the night of June 28. Unlike Longstreet, however, who tells us that the scout reported only one fact—that "the enemy had passed the Potomac"—General Lee adds a detail which became the obvious basis for the decision he made shortly after the scout's report was received, to concentrate his army in the vicinity of Gettysburg.

"[O]n the night of the 28th, information was received from a scout that the Federal Army, having crossed the Potomac, was advancing northward, and that the head of the column had reached the South Mountain."

Somewhere between Longstreet's tent and Lee's tent, the expression of opinion Longstreet records in his report is transformed into the statement of two additional facts: Now, as Lee records it, Harrison has stated, not only has the enemy passed the Potomac but their corps are advancing northward, and the head of their columns have reached the South Mountain.

In possession now of these three facts—the enemy has passed the Potomac, they are advancing northward and their advance has reached the South Mountain—General Lee pulls the trigger. He, somehow, by someone, issues an order, directed to Ewell, telling him to march Rodes's division down the east side of the South Mountain toward Cashtown, and Ewell repeats this message by courier to Early, who is already poised to march west from York toward South Mountain; and he issues an order to A.P. Hill to move Heth's division to Cashtown, followed by Pender's and Anderson's. He issues these orders, he says in his official report, "to retain [the enemy] on the east side of the mountains. . . thus to leave open our communications with the Potomac through Hagerstown."

On the basis of the three facts, an objectively reasonable person in General Lee's shoes, possessed of the ordinary knowledge and experience of a soldier of Lee's credentials, would have no option but to either immediately retreat down the Cumberland Valley, to beat the enemy to Hagerstown, or show such force on the east side of the mountains that the enemy must react to it, in order to guard Washington from a Confederate advance southeastward. What governs, here, is the principle of concentration of force. As General Lee had explained in his letter to President Davis, sent on June 25 from Williamsport: "It should never be forgotten that our concentration at any point compels that of the enemy."

It is difficult, however, for the judges of facts in the courtroom, to not believe that other scouts had, on earlier days, come in with the information that the enemy had passed the Potomac. For example, the evidence shows that by the evening of June 25, with Lee now at Hagerstown, O.O. Howard, commanding the 11th Corps, is in camp at Jefferson, having marched there by way of the left bank of the Potomac to Point of Rocks which Elijah V. White's men had just left; that Reynolds was following behind; and that, by noon on June 26, Howard occupied the village of Middletown and reported to Reynolds at 5:00 p.m. that day: "Fifteen of my headquarters cavalry dashed into Boonsboro, and went about half a mile beyond, chasing out a squad of rebel cavalry." (O.R. Vol 29, Part III, p. 336.)

On Saturday morning, June 27, 1863, Joe Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, issued orders that his cavalry go to Emmitsburg and Gettysburg, looking for the enemy, that the remainder of his corps concentrate at Frederick, and then he left his headquarters at Poolesville, MD., and rode to Harper's Ferry. When he got there, he concluded that the division of 10,000 men holding the Ferry could be of better use elsewhere, and he sought General-in-Chief Halleck's permission to remove them. Permission denied, Hooker fired this telegram at Halleck—"My original instructions require me to cover Harper's Ferry and Washington. I am unable to comply. . . and request that I may at once be relieved from the position I occupy."

At the time Hooker sent Halleck the telegram, Lee, with Longstreet's corps, had arrived at Chambersburg and had gone into camp at the entrance to the Cashtown Gap at about Fayettesville. Camped further up the road in the gap was A.P. Hill's corps. Early's division, which had left Chambersburg on June 25, was now marching east toward York, going into camp that night at East Berlin. Rodes' and Johnson's divisions of Ewell's corps were in camp on the road between Shippensburg and Carlisle.

The Situation the Night of June 27

On Sunday, June 28, at about 3:00 a.m., George Meade was wakened from his sleep and handed a message from Halleck, informing him he was now in command of the army and that his mission was to "manuever and fight in such a manner as to cover the capital and Baltimore as far as circumstances will permit. Should General Lee move upon either of these places, it is expected that you will either anticipate him or arrive with him so as to give him battle."

Meade replied by telegraph, at about 7:00 a.m: "[I]t appears to me I must move toward the Susquehanna, keeping Washington and Baltimore well covered and if the enemy is checked. . . to give him battle."

When Meade took command of the army the situation as he knew it was this: Two regiments of Union cavalry had reached Gettysburg and had reported the passage of Early's division, along with Confederate cavalry units, through the place, the division moving east toward York. Other Union cavalry units, passing through the South Mountain gaps, had reported the movement northward through Hagerstown to Chambersburg of the rest of Lee's army, and reports had been received from Harrisburg of the Confederates' occupation of Carlisle.

By noon on the 28th, Meade was informed of Stuart's crossing of the Potomac near Rockville, with a brigade size force, and that he was moving northward. In response, Meade relieved Maj. Gen. Stahel of command of the cavalry corps and put Alfred Pleasonton in his place, ordering Pleasonton to send two of the corps' three divisions to the northeast, to find the Confederate infantry forces that were reported as moving eastward through Gettysburg.

In executing this order, Pleasonton ordered Copeland's brigade, which had entered Gettysburg on the 27th, to return to Frederick and join the divisions moving northeast. At this time the third division, composed of Merritt's and Buford's brigades, was in camp in the Middletown Valley. Meade also issued orders during the day, drawing the three corps in the Middletown Valley, to move east to the vicinity of Frederick. So that, by the afternoon of the 28th, a person traveling west from Frederick toward the Cumberland Valley would encounter columns of soldiers marching toward him on the roads.

The Story of Harrison

From Longstreet's various public accounts, it is reasonably clear that Harrison probably appeared at Longstreet's picket line about ten o'clock on the evening of June 28. Ignoring how and when, if at all, Harrison passed Frederick, from that place it is approximately a 65 mile journey to the vicinity of Chambersburg. Modern day rules of endurance riding for sport, allow 12 hours to complete a 50 mile ride. The ride includes time on the trail and time spent at rest. Such a ride requires the horseman to have a thorough knowledge of pace and level of fitness of his horse. The challenge to complete the 50 mile ride in 12 hours is greater, of course, if the trail is through a mountain range.

Given the undisputed facts regarding what Meade ordered his corps to do on June 28, if the fact-finder focuses squarely and solely on the statement Longstreet made in his official report of July 27, 1863, that his scout said nothing more or less than that "the enemy had passed the Potomac and was probably in pursuit," the conclusion must reasonably follow that, if Harrison passed through Frederick and the Middletown Valley, he did so before Howard, Reynolds, Sickles began moving their corps toward Frederick, and before it became generally known among the troops that Meade had replaced Hooker. Which necessarily must mean Harrison was ahead of the Union army corps all the way.

This conclusion is confirmed if we take into account the statement Lee made in his official report that, according to the scout, the "head" of the Union army "had reached the South Mountain." This can only mean June 26th-27th, when Howard, followed by Reynolds and Sickles entered the Middletown Valley and advanced to occupy the South Mountain gaps. So, with this in mind, assuming a trail ride of 50 miles taking ten hours, the latest Harrison could have begun his ride was about 10:00 a.m. on June 28, the only question being, where exactly was he on the landscape when he began the ride.

Moreover, the fact-finder cannot ignore the objective documented reality that both Union and Confederate cavalry units, some regiment size, most company size, were going along the flanks of the South Mountain, over the crown of it, through the gaps, and back again, during the days and nights of June 25, 26, 27, and 28. There were skirmishes between opposing groups of horsemen at Boonesboro, at Monterey Gap, and at Fountaindale, just south of Fairfield during those days. And, in addition to Howard's corps, with cavalry, holding Crampton's and Turner's gap by the night of June 25, there were certainly Union picket lines as a barrier to the movement of individual horsemen passing into or out of the Union controlled sectors of the ground.

It is absurd, therefore, for the historians and civil war writers to tell their audiences that General Lee's sole source of knowledge of the Union army's presence north of the Potomac, is Harrison's report the night of June 28. For, with all the resources, of cavalry, scouts, and spies, available to General Lee, no objectively reasonable person in his circumstances would rely on the chance Henry T. Harrison might appear in time to give him the news the Union army was conforming to his moves.

General Lee, as generals do, Lied.

LeeGeneral Lee obtained his government's permission to move the Confederate Army across the Potomac, in March 1863. It appears from the record that, to gain the permission, General Lee promised the government the operation would be conducted along "offensive-defensive lines;" i.e., the army would only maneuver with the initative, with the objective of going over to the defensive when the armies engaged. Certainly this is Longstreet's contention. But, in the initial phase of the army's maneuvering, as he envisioned it unfolding, Lee plainly intended to induce the enemy to move to meet him in the vicinity of Gettysburg and to attack the advance as they arrived. Then, and only then, assuming the attack opened the Emmitsburg Road to his army, and it reached Frederick, did General Lee mean to assume the defensive behind the Monocacy.

The Situation Lee Hoped For

The problem for General Lee was the fact—which he understood without question—that the enemy army commander would naturally and reasonably assume that the Confederate army's crossing of the Potomac at Williamsport and Shepherdstown meant that Lee would march east across the South Mountain and through the Middletown Valley and make Frederick his base of operations against Washington. Since it had the interior line, once it learned Confederate infantry were, in fact, crossing the Potomac, which began to occur on June 18, the Union army could get to Frederick first and stand there on the defensive. If Lee were to attack the Union army in a concentrated position at Frederick, he knew it would probably be a losing effort, because the numerical strength of the Union army was greater than his. But, if Lee could maneuver the enemy out of assuming a concentrated position at Frederick and, instead, allow Lee's army to occupy Frederick, it would probably prove to be a winning effort for Lee if the Union army were to attack his. This was the calculus General Lee must have made as he planned the happening of the Battle of Gettysburg, and he would in the planning made it sure he would know when the enemy had occupied the place.

General Lee simply used Harrison as his excuse for why it was necessary that he move toward Gettysburg on June 29 from three directions: Early coming from the east, Rodes from the north, and Hill from the west: three divisions, supported by three more, converging on the Union infantry advance just as it was arriving and taking position at McPherson's Ridge. He told his government after the fact that he was forced to move there by circumstances beyond his control and certainly not because he planned to.

The lie is plainly seen, when the fact-finder recognizes an objectively reasonable person standing in General Lee's shoes, planning the campaign in March 1863, would have known it was impossible for his army corps, or any part of them, to cross the Susquehanna River in June 1863, which was supposed to be his objective and which is supposed to explain why he moved Ewell's corps as he did. Whether the attempt was to be made in front of Harrisburg, or in front of Columbia at Wrightsville, the river was too deep and too wide, and the bottom too uncertain for masses of infantry to cross. General Lee used the "capture of Harrisburg" as his excuse for why it was Rodes' and Johnson's divisions were at Carlisle and Early's was at York, when, in fact, they were positioned where they were, not as a stage for their crossing the Susquehanna but as a stage for their convergence on the Union army's advance toward Cashtown.

Not Possible to Wade the Susquehanna in June

Water level records make plain that, in late June yearly, the depth of the river in front of Harrisburg is three to four feet. The river is three quarters of a mile wide. If a line or column of infantry were to attempt wading the river, they would be blasted by artillery firing from the bluffs on the left bank, and by volleys of rifle fire from men firing at them from pits along the bank itself. As they waded against the current through the water and the fire, they would stumble over boulders and fall into holes in the river bottom. It is hardly likely ten percent of those who entered the water would reach the left bank, and when they did what then?

Here are excerpts from the official reports of Lee, Hill, Ewell and Early which contradict each other and make Lee's lie too obvious for the McPhersons to any longer ignore.

General Lee

"In order to retain the enemy on the east side of the mountains, Ewell had been instructed to send a division east of the mountains and Early was detached for this purpose, and proceeded as far as York. . . . Preparations were now made to advance upon Harrisburg; but, on the night of the 28th, information was received from a scout. . ."

Richard Ewell

"From Carlisle I sent forward my engineer. . . to reconnoitre the defenses of Harrisburg, and was starting on the 29th for that place when ordered by [Lee] to join the main body of the army at Cashtown, near Gettysburg."

Jubal Early

"[On the 25th] I visited Ewell and received from him instructions to cross the South Mountain to Gettysburg, and then proceed to York [and] destroy the bridge across the Susquehanna at Wrightsville and Columbia [and] rejoin him at Carlisle by the way of Dillsburg. (After the war, in a letter to H.B. McClellan, Early said the understanding was to rejoin Ewell by way of Shippensburg.)

"I regretted vrey much the failure to secure the bridge, as, finding the defenseless condition of the country generally, I had determined to. . . cross my division over the Susquehanna, and march upon Lancaster. . . and then attack Harrisburg in the rear while it should be attacked in front by the rest of the corps."

A.P. Hill

"On the morning of the 29th, I was directed to move on the road in the direction of York, and to cross the Susquehanna, menacing the communications of Harrisburg with Philadelphia, and to cooperate with General Ewell, acting as circumstances might require. Accordingly, on the 29th I moved Heth's division to Cashtown, some eight miles from Gettysburg, following on the morning of the 30th with Pender's division, and directing Anderson to move in the same direction on the morning of July 1."

Got it? Lee's purpose in having Early march, on June 25, fifty-six miles to the east of Cashtown was to induce the Union army to remain on the east side of the mountains. But, when it appeared that the enemy might not remain on the east side, Lee moved his entire army to the east side. Ewell was about to move two divisions up to the Susquehanna in front of Harrisburg, when an order came from Lee to move instead toward Cashtown and, at the same time, Hill received an order from Lee directing him to cross the Susquehanna with his corps at Wrightsville and cooperate with Ewell, in the capture of Harrisburg, who was now moving in the opposite direction toward Cashtown. And so, though an infantry division might easily march 20 miles in a day—and by that measure Hill had three days of marching ahead of him—he sent Heth into camp at Cashtown the afternoon of the 29th, eight miles shie of Gettysburg. Who's kidding who here?

Now throw in Charles Venable's "sketch from memory" which is the only written evidence produced by General Lee's staff of what orders Lee gave Ewell, on or after June 27, 1863. The sketch appears in a letterbook Lee's staff took away with them when they burned their headquarters wagons the night of the Surrender.

"June 28, 1863 at 7:30 a.m.

I wrote you last night, stating that Hooker was reported to have crossed the Potomac and is advancing by way of Middletown, the head of his column being at that point (i.e., as of the night of the 25th). I directed you in that letter to move your forces to [Chambersburg]. If you have not already progressed on the road. . . , I desire you to move in the direction of Gettysburg via Heidlersburg. . . and join your other divisons to Early's."

Because both Longstreet and Lee, in their reports, refer to Harrison's arrival as the "night of the 28th," the historians and civil war writers adopt the assumption that Charles Venable, when he got around to writing down his "sketch from memory," whenever that occurred, had been confused as to the correct date of Harrison's arrival. But Venable was not a dim-witted man. He was a professor of mathematics before the war, becoming chairman of the department of mathematics at the University of Virginia after the war. Not only must Venable have gotten the date wrong, as to Lee's sending Ewell the first "letter," but also he must have gotten wrong the time Lee's second letter was sent; that is, if, in fact, Harrison came into Longstreet's line the night of June 28. In such circumstance, Venable should have written the date of Lee's second letter as June 29 at 7:30 a.m., so that the sending of the first letter conforms to Harrison's arrival the night of June 28. But, then, here is Ewell telling us that, until he received Lee's order to move to Cashtown, which came in the second letter, the only direction he meant to march toward, was toward Harrisburg.

It's thirty-four miles from Chambersburg to Carlisle. A horseman might cover the distance, say, in five hours? Which means it was about noon on the 29th that Ewell was "starting" for Harrisburg without any order, when Lee's second—but for Ewell, his first—letter arrived.

Yet it does seem that, though he does not acknowledge receiving it in his report, Ewell did receive Lee's first letter, as Venable sketched it, because Early, in his memoirs, speaks of two couriers from Ewellreaching him on his return march from York.

Given the objective circumstances, there can be only one reasonable explanation for Lee sending Ewell an order, on the night of June 28, to march to Chambersburg and that is, he intended to concentrate at Chambersburg and march south to defend his communications with Virginia through Hagerstown, thinking Hooker had not taken the bait Early's presence at York implied and was marching to block Lee from crossing the Potomac at Williamsport. But, reflecting on the matter through the night of the 28th, by 7:30 a.m. on the 29th he had regained his courage and changed his mind. He must have spent the hours with Venable, calculating and recalculating the numbers.

The image of a great American, gone:They don't want you to remember him.

Meade's Decision on the 28th

During the day of June 28th, as Henry Harrison was somehow making his way to Longstreet's lines at Chambersburg, George Meade was deciding which way to move the Union army on the morrow. By noon he had received the report of JEB Stuart's appearance at Rockville; with a cavalry force of 8,000 troopers, Stuart had captured a Union supply train of 150 wagons, and was moving northward toward the line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. And from a Union cavalry force that had occupied Gettysburg came the report that two columns of Confederate infantry, with artillery and cavalry, had passed Gettysburg on the 26th, headed for York and Hanover Junction. Finally, from Pennsylvania Governor Curtin came the report that masses of Confederate infantry were approaching Harrisburg.

Like R.E. Lee, George Meade was a graduate of West Point. Both men were educated to the same standard of military science, taught by the same professors on the basis of the same textbooks. Adhering to the lessons West Point taught, as General Lee expected he would, there was only one thing in his mind Meade thought to do: counter the threat posed by the movement of the enemy's infantry to York, by moving his army on a broad front toward York, anticipating that place to be Lee's intended concentration point.

At some point during the 28th, having made up his mind what to do, Meade issued a detailed movement order which put the Union army's seven corps in motion at dawn on Monday, the 29th, just hours before General Lee issued orders to Ewell and Hill to move their corps in the direction of Gettysburg. While Meade was going right, Lee was going left. (Howard, Reynolds, and Sickles began moving east from the Middletown Valley on the 28th)

At the same time Meade issued orders which reorganized the army's cavarly corps: Major-General Alfred Pleasonton replaced Maj.Gen. Stahel as corps commander; Copeland's brigade at Gettysburg was ordered to join Gregg's Second Division which was, in turn, ordered to move the morning of the 29th toward Manchester on the far right of the Expanding Union front, looking for Stuart, while Judson Kilpatrick, commanding the Third Division, was ordered to proceed the movement of the several infantry corps that would be marching toward York. Brigadier-General John Buford was put in command of the First Division and ordered to move, with his brigade, to Gettysburg,leaving Merritt's at Mechanicsville.

The heavyweight in the ring, who throws a right cross and is carried by his momentum in one direction, can recover his balance in a second and reset himself to meet the counterpunch. Not so with an army. Once in motion in one direction, dispersed in columns separated by miles of landscape, to stop and turn and move in another direction takes days. The Union army's first contact with the enemy happened at 10:00 a.m., on June 30, when Stuart attacked Kilpatrick's cavalry brigade as it was passing through Hanover, on its way toward York. While the two cavalry forces battled for hours during the day, Early's Confederate division undetected was marching west from York toward Heidlersburg.

As Jubal Early told it, in a manscript his son published, in 1912, sixteen years after his death:

"Late on the afternoon of the 29th, Captain Elliot Johnson, aide to General Ewell, came to me [at York] with a copy of a note from General Lee (Venable's?) to Ewell stating the enemy's army was moving north and directing a concentration of the corps on the west side of the South Mountain; and also verbal instructions from General Ewell to move back so as to rejoin the rest of the corps, and information of his purpose to move back to unite with Johnson's division.

In accordance with these instructions, I put my whole command in motion at daylight on the morning of the 30th, taking the route by way of Weiglestown and East Berlin towards Heidlersburg, so as to be able to move from that point to Shippensburg by way of Arendstville, as circumstances might require. At East Berlin, a [second] courier with a dispatch from General Ewell, informing me that he was moving with Rodes' division by way of Petersburg to Heidlersburg, and directing me to march to the same place. I marched to within three miles of Heidlersburg, camped my command, and then rode to see General Ewell at Heidlersburg. I found him with Rodes' division. I was informed by him that the object was to concentrate the corps at or near Cashtown, and I was directed to move to that point the next day by way of Mummasburg while Rodes moved there by way of Middletown." (italics added.)

What are we to make of this? Jubal Early was a lawyer before and after the war, practicing in Lynchburg, Virginia. And he was a great soldier, a very valuable asset to General Lee down to the Surrender. We can accept the fact that, between 1865 and 1894, when he died, Early wrote down the quoted words in a manuscript which remained among his private papers until it was published in 1912, one of the last, if not the last, memoir of the percipient witnesses to what happened in the run-up to the Battle of Gettysburg. If we accept Early's statement as the probable truth of the events it describes, we seem now in a position to accept Charles Venable's sketch from memory as an accurate statement of the substance of General Lee's orders: First, General Lee did order Ewell to move the three divisions of his corps to Chambersburg, else Captain Elliot would not have carried to Early an order to move, via Arendstville, to Shippensburg. Second, General Lee did countermand this order, replacing it with the order to Ewell to move east of the South Mountain to Cashtown which came to Early, while he was on the march from York, by a second courier from Ewell. The first of the two orders being issued by Lee the night of the 28th, and the second being issued the morning of the 29th.

Given the text of General Lee's official report, we can not know when, in relation to Harrison's appearance at Longstreet's lines, the first order was issued by Lee; was it issued before or after Harrison appeared at Longstreet's lines? The text is, "on the night of the 28th information was received from a scout that the Federal Army, having crossed the Potomac, was advancing northward. . . as our communications were thus menaced. . . Longstreet and Hill were directed to proceed from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, to which point Ewell was also instructed to march from Carlisle." Taking the text alone, we might conclude the first order to Ewell was sent before Lee received Harrison's report, but just as easily we might conclude the first and second orders were sent after the report was received, the difference between them simply reflecting Lee's labile state of mind.

What we do know for certain, is that the text of Harrison's report, as Longstreet described it, describes the tactical situation with the Union army as it existed before Meade issued orders on the 28th, bringing Copeland's cavalry brigade away from Gettysburg and drawing back his advanced infantry corps from the Middletown Valley to Frederick. Therefore, Harrison must have reported what Longstreet, in his report, said Harrison reported; i.e., merely that the Union army had "passed the Potomac" and was "probably" advancing. It may be that Harrison reported more than this, specifically that the Union army's leading corps were inside the Middletown Valley at the time he left it, approaching the South Mountain. What is the kicker in the syntax of Lee's report is the word "northward." Did this word come from the lips of Harrison, or from another scout? What Lee really needed to know, was that the Union army's advanced corps were being drawn back from the Middletown Valley as this action on the part of the Union commander can only mean that he is reacting to Stuart's presence in his rear and Early's presence at York. (The first true "northward" movement of Meade's army was the movement of Reynolds' corps toward Federick.)

However it may be so, Lee's report still does not match the objective facts entirely, for it is clear from Ewell's report, corroborated by Early's manuscript statement, that Lee's direction to Ewell, to move "to Gettysburg," came to Ewell as an order transmitted through Hill on the morning of July 1, as Heth's division was approaching Gettysburg. So, as a matter of objective fact, there were three stages to the process of Confederate concentration: First, concentrate on the west side of the mountain at Chambersburg; Second, concentrate on the east side of the mountain at Cashtown; Three, concentrate eight miles farther east toward Gettysburg.

Meade's Decision on the 30th

At his headquarters, at Taneytown, Meade spent the day of the 30th, reading the reports that came in from his cavalry commanders—Buford at Gettysburg, Kilpatrick at Hanover—and from his corps commanders, Reynolds at Emmitsburg and Sykes at Littlestown, trying to gleam from them as the hours of the day wore on, what point on the line—Chambersburg to York—was the enemy going to concentrate. Once he divined it, Meade meant to rush to it, if he had time. If not, he would have to wait to be attacked at the Pipe Creek Line.

Headquarters, Army of the Potomac
June 30, 1863 at 11:30 a.m.

General Reynolds [at Moritz Tavern]:
The enemy undoubtedly occupy the Cumberland Valley, from Chambersburg in force; whether the holding of the Cashtown Gap is to prevent our entrance, or is their advance against us remains to be seen. With Buford at Gettysburg, you ought to be advised in time of their approach. In case of an advance in force against you, you must fall back to Emmitsburg and I will reinforce you with Sickles at Taneytown and Slocum at Littlestown.

You are advised of the general position of the army. We are as concentrated as my present information of the position of the enemy justifies. I have pushed out cavalry in all directions to feel for them, and so soon as I can make up any positive opinion as to their position, I will move again. In the meantime, if they advance against me, I must concentrate at that point where they show the strongest force.


Headquarters Army of the Potomac, June 30, 1863

Circular: The commanding general has received information that the enemy are advancing, probably in strong force, on Gettysburg. It is the intention to hold this army pretty nearly in the position it now occupies, until the plans of the enemy shall have been more fully developed.

By command of Major General Meade


All day of June 30 Reynolds waited at Mortiz Tavern for the Confederate Army to materialize in his front, at which point his orders were to fall back to the Pipe Creek Line where Meade meant to receive Lee's attack. That night the Mighty Buford sent Reynolds his views:

Gettysburg, June 30—10:30 p.m.
I am satisfied that A.P. Hill's corps is massed just back of Cashtown about 9 miles from this place. The enemy's infantry and artillery pickets are within 4 miles of this place, on the Cashtown road. The road from Cashtown to Oxford is terribly infested with prowling cavalry parties. Ewell's corps is crossing the mountains from Carlisle, Rodes' division being at Petersburg in advance. Longstreet is behind Hill. I have rumors the enemy is advancing on me from York. Should I fall back, advise me by what route.
John Buford

At dawn the next morning, July 1, Reynolds received further communications from Meade which directed him, to advance to Gettysburg; Meade followed this with an order to fall back, if the enemy advanced, to the Pipe Creek Line.

The advance was ordered because Meade was thinking Lee was concentrating at Carlise to move against Harrisburg, and the withdrawal was ordered because Meade received word from Washington that Harrisburg was reporting the enemy had fallen back the previous day. In the event, as the early morning passed with Buford reporting nothing of substance appearing in his front, Reynolds put his corps in motion and ordered Howard at Emmitsburg to follow him.


Headquarters Army of the Potomac, Taneytown, July 1, 1863
Circular: It is no longer the commanding general's intention to assume the offensive until the enemy's movements or position should render such an operation certain of success.

If the enemy assume the offensive, and attack, it is General Meade's intention to withdraw the army from its present position, and form line of battle with the left resting on Middleburg and the right at Manchester, the general direction being that of Pipe Creek For this purpose, General Reynolds, in command of the left, will withdraw the force at present at Gettysburg, two corps by the road to Taneytown and after crossing Pipe Creek, deploy toward Middleburg. The corps at Emmitsburg will be withdrawn to Middleburg. The time for falling back can only be developed by circumstances. This order is communicated, that a general plan, perfectly understood by all, may be had for receiving attack.

Major General Reynolds, commanding, &c., Gettysburg, July 1

General: The commanding general cannot decide whether it is his best policy to move to attack until he learns something more definite of the point at which the enemy is concentrating. This he hopes to do during the day. He wishes your views: If the enemy is concentrating to our right at Gettysburg, that point would not at first glance seem to be a proper strategic point of concentration for this army. If the enemy is concentrating in front of Gettysburg or to the left of it, the general is not sufficiently informed of the nature of the country to judge of its character for either an offensive or defensive position. He feels you know more of the condition of the troops in your vicinity and the country than he does. The movement of your corps to Gettysburg was ordered before the postive knowledge of the enemy's withdrawal from Harrisburg and concentration was received.

Seth Williams, AAG

The Fight Begins: Lee has the numbers but Reynolds the ground.

Was the report Henry Harrison brought to General Lee the trigger that began the concentration of General Lee's army at Gettysburg? The connection is for every one to decide. What we do know for a fact, if Longstreet's aide, John Fairfax, is to be believed, General Lee did not meet Mr. Harrison.

Fairfax letter

Colonel John Fairfax, Longstreet's Aide

Henry Harrison continued as one of Longstreet's scouts during the time the army moved back into Virginia and took position behind the Rapidan, waiting for the enemy's next move against Richmond. But, in September 1863, Longstreet went to Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his corps and left Harrison behind.



Harrison's Personal Life

To trial lawyers in their practice, words spoken by a percipient witness as close to the event he is witnessing carry with them into court a rebuttable presumption that what the witness first says happened is ordinarly closer to the objective truth of the matter than what he says a year later, ten years later, forty years later; and such words carry even more strength of credibility when they are written in the witness's own hand, compared to written by a ghost-writer, helping the witness write a newspaper article or a book for publication. Now, though there is no confusion that the "scout" Longstreet was referring to, is Henry T. Harrison, the private who enlisted in the 18th Mississippi, was discharged, and then returned "to service," there is confusion as to the circumstances which explain how it was that Harrison came to Longstreet's lines the night of June 28: Did Harrison, as Longstreet's ghostwriters say, go from Fredericksburg to Washington, with Longstreet's gold; and from there go west up the National Road to Frederick, as the seven corps were passing the Potomac and coming to that place, pass through the corps and the place and go on across the South Mountain to Longstreet's lines?

Given the available evidence it is likely that we will never know. But the evidence does tend to show that, had Harrison wanted to, he could have done so—by taking advantage of his relationship with the Broders family, to go from Fredericksburg, not directly to Washington but to the Broders farm, and from there, with the help of Joseph and John Broders, get through the Union picket lines into Alexandria and get to Washington from there; either by using one of the Broders' steamboat connections or forging a pass to cross the Long Bridge.

Of course, to get from Washington to Frederick, Harrison would have to pass through the Union picket lines at the line of forts in front of Washington and then pass through the Union corps at Frederick. Given the scenario, though it is possile he did this, it is unlikely he did this.

broders advertisement

Henry Thomas Harrison was born in Nashville, Tennessee, April 23, 1832. His father was Henry Horace Harrison and his mother's name was Rebecca. When Henry came to the Bull Run area, with the 12th Mississippi, he met Lorina (Laura) Broders, whose father, John H. Broders, owned a 1,000 acre farm called Oak Grove. The farm was located in Fairfax County in what is now the unincoporated township of Springfield, about ten miles west of the outskirts of Alexandria. John Broders had several children and, in addition to Laura, one of these, Joseph Broders, owned a mercantile store in Alexandria and operated a grain commission business which involved the import and export of grains and other things. John H Broders died in February 1860 It appears that, before his death, he had given each of his children, Laura presumably included, sections of the 1,000 acre farm.

marriage certificate

After Longstreet left Virginia with his corps, in September 1863, Harrison remained in Virginia. Given that the evidence shows he married Laura Broders on or about September 28, 1863, and that a daughter named Elizabeth was born from the marriage in November 1864, it is reasonable to assume Harrison was on the East Coast during this period.

The Broders belonged to the Primitive (Old School) Baptist Church. The "church" was a group of congregations of small size, scattered around the Virginia countryside and in the towns. Each group was led by an "Elder" or pastor, and their meetings occurred in various places: sometimes in a building they owned, or in one they borrowed. In Laura and Henry's case, the Elder who certified their marriage was one William J. Purington. The records show that there did exist a small dwelling on Virginia Ave, in Washington D.C., in 1863, in which the "Shiloh Baptist Church" met in prayer. The fact the bride and groom are described as residents of "Alexandria" may reflect their temporary living arrangement at the time, or it may be Oak Grove was considered as within the limits of Alexandria. In any event, the certificate is evidence that, at least after September 1863, Harrison might freely move between Oak Grove, Alexandria and Washington.

Butler letter

In March 1864, Union general Benjamin Butler wrote Secretary of War Stanton, advising that a man named "Harrison" might be employed in the War Department and, if so, that he apparently poised a threat as a spy. Whether this Harrison was Henry, no one can reasonably say. Even if Butler were referring to Henry it does not mean that Henry was actually employed by the Union War Department. All that can be said is that, given the circumstances, it was possible.

In August 1865, Henry appeared before the Union Provost Marshall at New Orleans and swore the pledge of allegiance and was placed on parole. Where he went from there and with whom, no one can say. It may be that Henry came to New Orleans by steamer from the East Coast and had with him his wife, Laura and their six month old baby, Bessie; and that from New Orleans they made their way to Vera Cruz and took up residence at "Carlota."

Carlota was a town that was being built at the time by ex-Confederates who had gone to Mexico and had received a block grant of land from Maximillian III for the purpose. Each arrival at the town would be given 200 acres of land on the condition he develop it and live on it. According to the Broders family legend this did happen, but, because of the fact Laura not only had to care for a six month old baby but was pregnant with her second daughter, Irene (Rena) Harrison, Laura, after a short time, returned with Harrison to Virginia.

In April 1866, when Laura was seven months pregnant with Irene, Harrison abandoned her. As the family story goes, Harrison, either alone or in the company of friends, left the East Coast and traveled to Helena, Montana, to conduct mining operations in search of gold. Here is an extract from a letter he wrote Laura, passed down through Laura's daughter, Irene, to Irene's daughter, Marian, all of whom are now dead.

harrison letter

This is a strange situation, indeed. Here is a man, whose own family has money, unless it was all lost in the war which seems doubtful, whose wife's family has money and business operations, and whose wife appears to own land in her own right, and he is going off to the wild territory of Montana, to compete with thousands of adventurers in the search for gold. According to the family story, Horace and Rebecca Harrison did provide Laura with money, how much and how often the record does not say.

In August 1866, apparently from Montana, Harrison wrote Laura what was to be the last recorded communication that passed between husband and wife, though it may be that other letters were received and sent.

harrison letter

Thirty-four years passed—1866 to 1900—with Laura apparently hearing nothing from Henry. After the passage of ten years, Laura obtained a court decree that Harrison was legally dead, and she married a man named Ristin. Eight children were produced from this marriage. During this time, Harrison's two daughters grew up and married. Irene's marriage produced a daughter she named Marian. In 1881, it appears Harrison's mother, Rebecca, misidentified as his daughter, or his daugher, Irene (Rena) hired a detective to locate her son but the detective found no trace of him.

Helena Weekly Herald, 1881

In 1900, Harrison appeared out of the blue in Fairfax County. By this time his daughter, Bessie, had married and moved to Illinois. His daughter, Irene, had married James Robert Beattie, in 1893. James was a son of Fountain Beattie, a well known civil war "ranger" who had been a close side kick to John Mosby. A painter and photographer of the time, one Otto Beck, had become close friends with Mosby and Beattie, and he painted a portrait of them, called Mosby's Men.

Mosbys men
Mosby's Men

Fountain Beattie, circa 1862


It appears that Irene, or Joseph or both of them, was not happy to hear that Harrison was in Fairfax County looking for her. Harrison met some family member—who is not clear—and words passed between them that left Harrison with the understanding Irene did not want to see him; either because she did not believe he was who he said he was, or, using that as an excuse, just didn't want to see him. Harrison wrote two letters it seems, to Laura's brother: the first dealing with the fact he perceived he was not welcome, and the second dealing with the fact that he visited Colonel Fairfax who would vouch for him. Harrison then went to Richmond, expecting Irene would relent and that he would return and visit her, but it appears this did not happen.


Harrison surfaced next in 1901, in Cincinnati. There he wrote a letter to his daughter Irene which, as far as the family story goes, was the last she heard from him.

In 1905, Harrison appeared in Dayton, Ohio, married to Lucretia (Lulu) Harrison. At some point, thereafter, he left her in Dayton and returned to Cincinnati, where he became employed with some Christian ministers who operated a municipal reform league. Harrison's job was to go about the city on Sunday, observe businesses open in violation of "Sunday" laws and have warrants made for their arrest. In 1910, Lulu appeared in Cincinnati and filed for divorce on the ground of abandonment. The Hamilton County Court has no record of a divorce decree being entered on the docket and Harrison's death certificate reports the fact that Lulu was still with in, in 1923, when he died in Covington, Kentucky.

Cincinnati Enquireer, 1910

In 1912, the Kentucky Legislature passed a law that provided for the State to pay pensions to Confederate soldiers who were residing in the State, regardless of what Confederate state the soldier had fought for. The state of Mississippi had such a law already in place. In 1912, Harrison moved from Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky and made application for a pension under the Kentucky law. The application was processed and the pension was awarded. Upon Harrison's death, in 1923, Lulu continued to collect the pension until her death.

Transcript of Sworn Statement of Henry Harrison

Which Image is Harrison?


harrison 1


Laura Broders' daugher, Irene, wrote a note in her lifetime of ninety plus years, the record doesn't tell us when, that "I have a picture of my father in Confederate Uniform." Irene's daughter's son says that, during his childhood the picture on the left was displayed on the family mantle. He asked his mother, "Who is that?" and he says she said, "It is your great grandfather."

Laura Broders' granddaughter, Marian, wrote on the back of the middle image: "This is a photo of Henry Harrison on the day he married Laura Broders."There is no record, beyond this, which tells us when the photograph was made, or where, or why.

The third image is found in Longstreet's 1896 autoiography. All three images show a man of different age with light-colored eyes.

Harrison as groom

Assuming it is correct for the fact-finder to say that the color of the young soldier's eyes is probably a shade of light blue, we have three images that might be images of the same man, taken at different ages: the man shown in the first image is between the age of 20 and 30; the man in the second between the age of 40 and 50; the man in the third between the age of 50 and 60. The forehead, nose, mouth, and use of a mustache seem approximately the same taking into account the plain difference in age of the man in each image. However, if, in fact, the color of the eyes of the soldier is hazel-like then, plainly, he is not the same man shown in the latter two photographs. The judgment call is for the viewer to make.

If the soldier in the photograph is, in fact, Henry T. Harrison, there are certainly peculiar features of the photograph that make the identification difficult to believe. First, when compared to the several thousand tintype photographs of Civil War soldiers that can be viewed at the Library of Congress website, this photograph is clearly unique, a stand alone image without a parallel in the Library's database. It seems more like a professional portrait of a character than a picture of a young man gone to war wearing his uniform. Second, there are features of the uniform the man is wearing that seem odd and out of place. Third, there is the gimmick of the piece of paper with numbers written on it, as if in secret code. Fourth, there is the matter of the timing of the taking of the photograph, where and when and by whom.

In 1985, at the behest of Laura Broders' grandaugher, Marian Beattie, a man named James O. Hall conducted research at the National Archives and discovered a folder marked "Harrison-unfiled slips." Among the slips Hall found the pay vouchers that establish the fact that Harrison was paid by Longstreet's staff, to spy behind the enemy lines in June 1863. Having established this, Hall asked a fellow Lincoln scholar, a man named Edward J. Steers, to comment on the appearance of the image. Steers did so, by highlighting elements of the image in red ink.

The point being: is this a real image or a phony image. The first conflict between the known undisputed facts and the photograph, is that the photograph shows a man in the uniform of a Confederate infantry officer, a second Lieutenant, which Harrison was not. Harrison was a private for six months, then discharged. the second conflict is the matter of the dress of the uniform: the buttons as well as their placement seem odd; the presence of the great coat and the manner in which it is casually drapped over the man's shoulders. The third is the quality of the cloth of the uniform. It is expensive material and, given its condition, it has plainly not seen actual service. The fourth is the revolver. It does not have, as it should, a sight. Is it a prop in a photographer's studio, or is it a weapon the young man actually carried on his person in the field? Finally, there is the business about the paper and the numbers; is this a prop? Does it have a purpose? What is the message conveyed? Is it a child's message, or a man's?

Substituting letters for numbers, based on A being 1 and E being 5, the "secret" message to the viewer is, "My Love." My love what? The man has a revolver without a sight laying in his lap, with his index finger seemingly pointing to the message. It is his revolver that he loves? Is he telling his sweetheart, Laura, that he loves war more than her, so its goodby and so long? This is certainly not the message he seemed to convey in his letter to her, sent from Camp Van Dorn on November 5, 1861.

And why would Henry T. Harrison, the spy and scout who was discharged from Confederate Army service, in November 1861, and who spent the rest of the war in civilian clothes behind enemy lines, spend the money the uniform plainly cost? He knew when he bought it that he would never wear it. To suggest he bought the uniform and assigned himself the rank of an officer, to impress his sweetheart, seems silliness in the extreme. So, was Harrison a serious man or a silly man? Is it probable, then, that Laura, long after Harrison was gone, had received the photograph as a prop to show her daughters a romantic image of their father? A father neither of them had ever seen? Your guess is as good as mine.

Of course, if, in fact, the man in the first and second photographs is the same man, then Laura Broders' granddaughter, Marian, was an untrustworthy historian, or Laura's daughter, Irene, was. Because the man in the second photograph is plainly not the same age as the man in the first photograph—by a decade. So, if the two photographs are of the same man, then either Laura or her daughter received the second photograph after the war was over.

Which brings us to the photograph Longstreet produced in his autobiography in 1896. No record has been found among Longstreet's known paper depositories that tells us when and how Longstreet got his hands on the subject photograph. Longstreet's chief of staff, Moxley Sorrel, wrote a manuscript of memoirs that was published after his death. In it he adds to the Harrison lore, claiming that another aide of Longstreet's, Latrobe, had seen Harrison in Baltimore after the war, when exactly he does not say. Of course it is possible that somehow Longstreet made contact with Harrison, or Harrison with him, and out of the contact came the photograph. Though, like the rest, Longstreet is not a trustworthy narrator, would he be so bold as to intentionally lead his readers, and the historians, into the false belief the man in the photograph is Harrison?


I received much in contribution from the persons listed below, some of whom contributed a great deal of their time to search through obscure files for the records produced here. First among these, is Colleen Puterbaugh, Research Librarian of the Robert O. Hall Research Center at the Surratt House Museum, followed by Sue Levy of the Fairfax Historial Society and Jody Foley of the Montana Historical Society, Robert L. Webb, an historian for the Primitive Baptist Church, and Robert Kulesher, Laura Broders and Henry T. Harrison's great, grandson.

Joe Ryan