EVIDENCE OF HARRISON AS AN OLD MAN

 

 

 

 

The following article was published in the Cincinnati Times Star in June of 1933. Frank Grayson's reports about "Old Man Harrison" (he thinks his initials are "H. T.") is most interesting in that there is plenty of evidence that the "Old Man" is definitely Henry Thomas Harrison, former husband of Laura Broders. The time period of Grayson's reminiscences places Harrison in Cincinnati around the turn of the century. Harrison would have been in his sixties. Notice that Grayson's only mention of Harrison whereabouts prior to living in Cincinnati is as a scout for the Confederacy - no mention of a previous family, place of birth, or previous home. Harrison was a very private person. The source of this article is James O. Hall of Mclean , Va. Who has done a wonderful job in researching Harrison the spy. [Reference: Hall, James O.,"The Spy Harrison," Civil War Times, Feb. 1986 pp. 18-25.]


HISTORIC SPOTS IN GREATER CINCINNATI
by Frank Y. Grayson
Cincinnati Times Star
June 15, 1933


A man who changed the entire course of history on this continent was for several years a resident of Cincinnati. His name was Harrison. Around Police Court, about thirty-five years ago, which this man frequently visited in the capacity of prosecuting witness, the attaches of the tribunal referred to him as "Old Man Harrison".

He was a tall man, whose broad shoulders had begun to sag under the weight of accumulating years. He had bushy white hair, drooping mustache of the handlebar type, shaggy brows under which twinkled keen gray eyes that didn't dance to the right or left, but bored right through any one who tried to question him. His initials, if we recall correctly, were "H. T". We then were a cub reporter attending the daily sessions of that kindergarten of the reporter of that period - the Police Court.

We liked the way this courtly gentleman of the old South comported himself on the stand in his hundreds of prosecutions of policy addicts and operators. He bared his facts in a gentle, convincing voice, and they always "stuck."

***

He was the agent for the then Municipal Reform League, an organization which rendered valiant and enduring service in cleaning up the town which, indeed, was "messy" before the league began its crusading against gambling and forms of vice lower than that. Harrison and the Rev. Charles Felton were instrumental in breaking up and scattering to the winds a powerful policy ring that was squeezing dimes and quarters from a stratum of population that could ill afford to part with them.

Harrison also obtained the conviction of a man who was exhibiting a picture machine which reeked with lewdness. This person drew the largest fine ever assessed in Police Court, $2,000. Mr. Melville Ritchie, who lives in Wyoming, was one of the foremost spirits in the league, and vice-overlords were not permitted to heat their heels in Cincinnati for prolonged periods. Harrison was peculiarly adapted to this sort of service. He took to sleuthing like a duck takes to water. When he came to Cincinnati from his home below the Mason-Dixon line he had a romantic background. He had obtained his experience in the Civil War as chief of scouts for Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, commander of the fighting First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, led by Robert E. Lee.

In that capacity Harrison was the man who one summer night brought to Longstreet the news of the change of commanders of the Army of the Potomac from Hooker to Meade and also information as to the location of the various corps of the great Federal Army, the exact whereabouts of which were unknown to Lee and his staff.

* * *

That information entirely dislocated Lee's original plans for an invasion of the North and led directly to the epochal Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point in the great struggle. The South never was the same after that struggle. The great mass of its genius and chivalry had shed its blood on the rocky slopes of that immortal field.

After the Battle of Fredericksburg, a crushing defeat for Burnside and the Army of the Potomac, Longstreet had been detailed on a supply gathering expedition which took his headquarters to near Suffolk, VA. One night a couple of young men dressed as civilians, entered the general's tent and presented letters from Secretary of War Seddon which recommended them as trustworthy and efficient scouts. Longstreet, in his fascinating volume From Manassas to Appomatox, states that he sent them off through the swamps to find their way to Norfolk and southward to report on roads and routes for his corps in case he should want to make a detour for the capture of Suffolk. Wrote the great general, "One of them proved to be an active, intelligent and enterprising scout and was retained in service."

That one was the future Cincinnatian -- Harrison.

* * *

After the Battle of Chancellorsville, which witnessed the humiliation of Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker, commander of the buffeted Army of the Potomac, whose body now rests in beautiful Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Lee conceived the plan of an invasion of Pennsylvania with Harrisburg and possibly Philadelphia as the objective. The plan even embodied a thrust at New York.

Of this stage of the prospective campaign Longstreet wrote: "As soon as affairs took such shape as to assure me that the advance northward was inevitable, I sent a requisition down to Richmond for gold coin for my scout, Harrison. I gave him what I thought he would need to get along in Washington and sent him off with secret orders telling him that I did not care to see him till he could bring information of importance and that he should be the judge of that. He wanted to know where he could find us and was told that the headquarters of the First Corps were large enough for any intelligent man to find."

The plan of campaign was for the Second Corps, Ewell commanding as the successor of "Stonewall" Jackson, to march through the Shenandoah Valley, drive off any Federals and continue the march to Pennsylvania until further orders, meanwhile collecting supplies for the advance and for those who were to follow.

* * *

The First Corps and the main body of cavalry were to march along the east base of the Blue Ridge. Stuart's cavalry was to observe between the First Corps and the Union Army. The Third Corps, under A. P. Hill, was to pass behind the First, whereupon the latter and the cavalry were to withdraw and follow the general march after threatening the rear of the Union Army.

Jeb Stuart and his hard riders were to cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown. Beauregard was to be called up from the South and thrown forward, with two brigades of Pickett's division and other troops along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in threatening attitude towards Washington, then forward Pickett's men through the valley after which he could either proceed onward or go back to his base in the South. On Wednesday, June 3, 1863, the march was begun. Hooker observed the thinning of the Confederate camps and realized that the North was imperiled. He set his huge army in motion on a route parallel to that taken by the invaders.

The Federal army, however, did not withdraw from Stafford Heights, Va., until June 13. The legions of Lee had a good start. Then Stuart disregarded Longstreet's orders for the crossing of the Potomac and went on a ride that was to take him far away from the army.

It proved to be a fatal disobedience as the Confederate army was thus deprived of its eyes. Of the incident Longstreet wrote: "So our plans adopted after deep study were suddenly given over to gratify the youthful cavalryman's wish for a nomadic ride." Meanwhile the whereabouts of the Army of the Potomac was a deep mystery to the Confederate commanders. They could only guess where its component parts were. On June 28, Lee issued orders for the march on Harrisburg.

* * *

The remainder can best be told in Longstreet's own ringing words, "The eve of the great battle was crowded with events. Movements for the concentration of the two vast armies went on in mighty force, but with a silence in strong contrast to the swift coming commotion of their shock in conflict.

"It was the quiet of the gathering storm whose bursting was to shake the continent and suddenly command the attention of the world. After due preparations for our march of the 29th, all hands turned in early for a good night's rest. My mind was hardly turned away from the care and labors of the day when I was aroused by some one beating on the pole of my tent.

"It proved to be Assistant Inspector General Fairfax. A young man had been arrested by our outlying pickets under suspicious circumstances. He was looking for General Longstreet's headquarters, but his comfortable apparel and well-to-do, though travel-stained appearance caused doubt in the minds of the guards of his being a genuine Confederate who could be trusted at headquarters.

* * *

"So he was sent up under a file of men to be identified. He proved to be Harrison, the valued scout. He had walked through the Union lines during the nights of June 27 and 28. He brought information of the location of two corps of Federals at night, June 27, and the approximate position of others. He reported that Hooker had crossed the Potomac on the 25th and 26th of June. He had posted two corps at Frederick, Md., and Harrison reported another near them and two others near South Mountain.

"Harrison was sent under care of Fairfax to make report of his information at general headquarters. Gen. Lee declined to see him though he asked Fairfax as to the information Harrison brought, but on hearing it he expressed want of faith in the reports of scouts in which Fairfax generally agreed, but suggested that in this case the information was so near Gen. Longstreet's ideas of the probable movements of the enemy that he gave credit to it.

"I also sent up a note suggesting a change of directions of the head of our column east. This I thought to be the first and necessary step towards bringing the two armies in such concentration as would enable us to find a way to draw the enemy into battle in keeping with the general plan of campaign, and, at the same time, draw him off from the travel of our trains. Hooker had been suggested by Meade on the night of June 27.

"By the report of the scout we found that the march of Ewell's east wing had failed of execution and of the effect designed, and that heavy columns of the enemy were hovering along the east base of the mountains.

"To remove this pressure towards our rear, Lee concluded to make a more serious demonstration and force the enemy to look eastward. With this view he changed direction of the proposed march by counter orders on the night of the 28th, calling for concentration east of the mountains at Cashtown, Pa., and his troops began their march under the last orders of the 29th.

"The change of orders made Gettysburg prominent as the point of impact!"

Harrison - from Longstreet's book, From Manassas to Appomattox.

 
 

 

 


Edited by:
Bernie Becker
H. T. Harrison's Great Grandson
Monrovia, Maryland
Phone: (301) 685-3292
Email: BernieB@aol.com

Harrison Web Site: http://home.comcast.net/~site002/Harrison/index.htm