|Robert E. Lee|
On the evening of September 9, 1862, staff officers and couriers emanated from Lee's headquarters outside of Frederick. The riders delivered multiple copies of Special Orders No. 191 to Lee's subordinates. The orders outlined the division of the Army of Northern Virginia into multiple pieces, three of which, led by Stonewall Jackson, Lafayette McLaws, and John Walker, would take different routes to intercept, destroy, or capture the enemy garrisons at Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry. When the orders went into effect the next day, Lee anticipated that these three wings would wrap up the operations in the Valley quickly--perhaps as early as September 12--before the army reunited and continued on its trek north.
Why did Lee believe his troops could achieve such a quick victory over the garrisons? No doubt, confidence in his army fueled that assumption, as did the belief that with their lines of communication cut to the east, the garrison commanders would have no other option than to vacate both towns once the Confederates approached. But Lee's intelligence enhanced his assumption. On September 7, Lee wrote one of his subordinates that Julius White's Winchester forces were "stated to have retired into Pennsylvania." In reality, White's forces withdrew to Harpers Ferry, where they remained until their capitulation. Lee still believed this intelligence on September 9 when he dictated the contents of Special Orders No. 191. In the section of the orders relating to Jackson's command, Lee ordered him to "capture such of them as may be at Martinsburg." There is hardly a belief of much enemy strength reflected in that phrase.