Henry Thomas Harrison
During the early morning hours of June 28, 1863, Union General George Gordon Meade was appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac while at his headquarters near Frederick, Md.
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Henry Thomas Harrison, son of Henry Hargrove Harrison and Rebecca Pearson Harrison, was born near Nashville in April of 1832.
Henry Thomas Harrison was identified by historian James O. Hall as the long elusive scout for CSA General James Longstreet during the Civil War.
H. T. Harrison married Laura Broders on 9/28/1863 in Washington, D.C. They had two daughters, Elizabeth (Bessie), born 11/6/1864 who married Benjamin Franklin Kagay Jr., and Mary Irene, born 7/27/1866, who married John H. Riggs on 11/25/1886 and, following Riggs' death on 3/29/1892, married James Robert Beattie on 8/1/1893. H. T. Harrison died on October 28, 1923 at Covington, KY.
Henry Thomas Harrison, a Confederate spy, supplied Generals Longstreet and Lee with details about the advancing Union army. Based solely on that information, Lee ordered his dispersed army to move immediately towards a small crossroads town in south-central Pennsylvania. Thus was the beginning of the historic three-day battle known as Gettysburg.
We can only imagine what might have happened if Harrison had failed in his mission but it is a fact that he did change the course of history.
The identity of General James Longstreet's famous scout, known only as "Harrison" remained a mystery for more than a century. However, in 1986 historian James O. Hall identified this elusive man. Researching the Civil War records at the National Archives, Hall found conclusive evidence that Longstreet's scout was Secret Agent H. T. Harrison.
Harrison had joined the Mississippi State Militia in the spring of 1861 as a private. But in November of 1861 he was discharged and eventually became a spy for CSA Secretary of War James Seddon. Harrison's service for Longstreet at Gettysburg has long been established history and Hall's research has identified him but there is more to the story. The purpose of this website is to publish additional facts as they are uncovered.
Colonel G. Moxley Sorrel, Longstreet's Chief of Staff, wrote in his book, Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer, that Harrison provided valuable information regarding the whereabouts and intentions of Union forces under their new commander, General George Gordon Meade, prior to the battle of Gettysburg.
Harrison appeared at Longstreet's headquarters near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on the night of June 28, 1863 with news that Federal forces centered around Frederick, Maryland and were on there way north. At that moment Lee's army was dispersed over a wide area of south central Pennsylvania. Based solely on the information from a spy, Lee directed his army to converge near Gettysburg. Harrison's news saved Lee from a potential disaster and thus altered the course of history.
Sorrel knew nothing about Harrison's identity and no one on Longstreet's staff even knew his first name. Longstreet must have known because he obtained a photograph of Harrison for his published memoirs, From Manassas to Appomattox. But Longstreet continued to maintain his secrecy in this matter.
There are no extant letters of correspondence between Longstreet and Harrison in Longstreet's manuscript collections. What we do have is Longstreet's recollections published in Century Magazine, the Philadelphia Times, and finally, in his book, From Manassas to Appomattox. As a tribute to Harrison's espionage, Longstreet wrote in an 1887 article for Century Magazine that Harrison provided him "with information more accurate than a force of cavalry could have secured."
The following is a high-level summary of known facts about Henry Thomas Harrison. Cites are in brackets following each entry.
1832 - Henry Thomas Harrison born near Nashville, TN. [BFH]
1861, May - Harrison is mustered-in to the 12th Mississippi Infantry at Corinth, MS. [NA]
1861, September - Harrison scouts for Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn near Manassas, VA. [NA]
1862, April 30, Corinth, Mississippi - Harrison reports to Gen. Jordan. He request equipment so that he can enter service there. [ NA]
1863, January 6 - Harrison sends a report to Maj. Gen. Loring from Holly Springs, MS, with details about Grant's forces moving north through that area. [NA]
1863, February 20 - Harrison reports to Confederate Secretary of War, James A. Seddon in Richmond, VA. [NA]
1863, March 7 - Assigned to General Longstreet, he is dispatched to spy for General D. H. Hill in Goldsboro, NC. [NA]
1863, March - April - Union soldiers arrest Harrison near New Berne, NC. After being held prisoner for nearly a month, Harrison convinces his captors that he is an innocent civilian avoiding conscription. [NA]
1863, April - Harrison reports to General Longstreet at Franklin, VA. [Longstreet]
1863, early June - Harrison is sent to Washington to track General Hooker's Army of the Potomac. [Longstreet]
1863, June 28 - Harrison reports to Longstreet near Chambersburg, PA.
Harrison has details about locations of Union troops around Frederick, MD. In addition, Harrison reported that within the past 24 hours General Meade has been made commander of The Army of the Potomac. [Longstreet, Sorrel, Fairfax]
This alarming information prompts General Robert E. Lee to regroup his divided army near the Cashtown/Gettysburg area and thus avoids a potential disaster. [Longstreet, Sorrel, Marshall]
1863, September - Harrison is released by Longstreet and ordered to report back to Secretary of War, Seddon. [Sorrel]
1863, September - Harrison marries Laura Broders in, of all places, Washington, DC.
The happy couple immediately travel to New York on their honeymoon. Harrison continues his espionage activities in Washington and New York for the remainder of the war. [BFH]
1865, Harrison takes his wife and daughter to Mexico. [BFH]
1866, Facing marital difficulties, Harrison leaves home to prospect for gold near Helena, MT. [BFH]
1867 through 1892 - Harrison's whereabouts remain unknown. His wife assumes he is dead and remarries. [BFH]
1893-1899 - Harrison is resident of Cincinnati, OH. [WCD]
1900, November - Harrison returns to Fairfax, Virginia in an attempt to visit his daughter. His overture is rebuffed by his daughter's family. He then proceeds to Dunfries, VA to visit Col. Fairfax, a former member of Longstreet's staff. [BFH]
1901-1911 - Harrison is employed in Cincinnati as a detective for the Municipal Reform League. [WCD]
1912, June 13 - Harrison becomes resident of Covington, KY and applies for a Confederate pension. [WCD, KCL and KSA]
1913-1923 - Harrison is resident of Covington. [WCD and KCL]
1923, October 28 - Harrison at age 91, dies in Covington, KY.. He is buried at Highland Cemetery, Fort Mitchell, KY. [KCL and KSA]
The author of this website is the great-grandson of Henry Thomas Harrison and has been researching H. T. Harrison for many years. After the Civil War Harrison became estranged from his family and maintained his privacy for the rest of his life. He made no attempt to exploit his colorful career as a secret agent for the Confederacy. In his application for pension he only claimed to be a Confederate Veteran without mention of being a spy or scout for Longstreet.
Years of research uncovered when and where he died. A tip from Ms. Cindy Buck-Thompson led to the discovery that Harrison was living in Covington, Kentucky after leaving Cincinnati in 1912. Further research revealed that he was buried at Highland Cemetery, Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. The Office of Veterans Affairs has provided a CSA headstone and it is now in place.
A Shadowy Figure
Lee had lost contact with his cavalry, the army's eyes and ears, during the invasion of Pennsylvannia and had no information on the Union army's countermoves to his raid. Harrison's timely information changed the course of the war: He reported the Union army had crossed the Potomac River and was marching north. Lee reacted to the news immediately and ordered his army to concentrate at Gettysburg.
Not until recent years has the identity of the shadowy figure known as The Spy Harrison been unraveled. Longstreet recorded he was a "slender, wiry fellow about five feet eight, with hazel eyes, dark hair and complexion, and brown bear. He wore a citizen's suit of dark material, and except for his stooping shoulders was well formed and evidently a man of great activity."
Research by James O. Hall indicates that the man was most likely Henry Thomas Harrison, whom archive records identify as "one of the original Mississippi Scouts that served on the Potomac..." He was a 2nd lieutenant assigned to intelligence duties in Mississippi before being called to Virginia to work under Secretary of War James Seddon. A member of Longstreet's staff said Harrison "used to travel as regularly between Washington and our headquarters as..mail."
Archive records make no mention of Harrison after September 19, 1863. In fact, Longstreet needed Harrison's services later that year, but he could not be located.
After the war, Harrison took his wife and daughter to Mexico. But in 1866, facing marital difficulties, Harrison left Mexico to prospect for gold near in Montana. From 1867 through 1892, Harrison's whereabouts remained unknown. Laura Broders assumed that he was dead and later remarried. In 1893, Harrison moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1901, Harrison got a job in Cincinnati as a detective for the Municipal Reform League. In 1912, he moved to Covington, Kentucky and applied for a Confederate pension. On October 28, 1923, Harrison died in Covington at the age of 91. He is buried at Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.
Birth: Apr. 23, 1832
TennesseeDeath: Oct. 28, 1923
KentuckyBuried: Highland Cemetery
James Longstreet (January 8, 1821 – January 2, 1904) was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War, the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in the Eastern Theater, but also with Gen. Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee in the Western Theater. Biographer and historian Jeffry D. Wert wrote that "Longstreet ... was the finest corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia; in fact, he was arguably the best corps commander in the conflict on either side."
Longstreet's talents as a general made significant contributions to the Confederate victories at Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chickamauga, in both offensive and defensive roles. He also performed strongly during the Seven Days Battles, the Battle of Antietam, and until he was seriously wounded, at the Battle of the Wilderness. His performance in semiautonomous command at Knoxville, Tennessee resulted in an embarrassing Confederate defeat. His most controversial service was at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he disagreed with General Lee on the tactics to be employed, and reluctantly supervised the disastrous infantry assault known as Pickett's Charge.
He enjoyed a successful post-war career working for the U.S. Government as a diplomat, civil servant, and administrator. However, his conversion to the Republican Party and his cooperation with his old friend, President Ulysses S. Grant, as well as critical comments he wrote in his memoirs about General Lee's wartime performance, made him anathema to many of his former Confederate colleagues. Authors of the Lost Cause movement focused on Longstreet's actions at Gettysburg as a primary reason for the Confederacy's loss of the war. His reputation in the South was damaged for over a century and has only recently begun a slow reassessment.
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 %u2013 July 3, 1863), fought in, and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign, was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War and is frequently cited as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meades Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee's invasion of the North.
Following his success at Chancellorsville in May 1863, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley for his second invasion of the North, hoping to reach as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even Philadelphia, and to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war. Prodded by President Abraham Lincoln, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker moved his army in pursuit but was relieved almost on the eve of battle and replaced by Meade.
The two armies began to collide at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there. Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended initially by a Union cavalry division, which was soon reinforced with two corps of Union infantry. However, two large Confederate corps assaulted them from the northwest and north, collapsing the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating through the streets of town to the hills just to the south.
On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled. The Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling a fishhook. Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil's Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. Across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.
On the third day of battle, July 3, fighting resumed on Culp's Hill, and cavalry battles raged to the east and south, but the main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Pickett's Charge was repulsed by Union rifle and artillery fire at great losses to the Confederate army. Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia. Between 46,000 and 51,000 Americans were casualties in the three-day battle. That November, President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery to honor the dead, both Union and Confederate, and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.
Impact on the Confederacy
The Confederates had lost politically as well as militarily. During the final hours of the battle, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens was approaching the Union lines at Norfolk, Virginia, under a flag of truce. Although his formal instructions from Confederate President Jefferson Davis had limited his powers to negotiations on prisoner exchanges and other procedural matters, historian James M. McPherson speculates that he had informal goals of presenting peace overtures. Davis had hoped that Stephens would reach Washington from the south while Lee's victorious army was marching toward it from the north. President Lincoln, upon hearing of the Gettysburg results, refused Stephens's request to pass through the lines. Furthermore, when the news reached London, any lingering hopes of European recognition of the Confederacy were finally abandoned. Henry Adams wrote, "The disasters of the rebels are unredeemed by even any hope of success. It is now conceded that all idea of intervention is at an end."
The armies would move on, but Gettysburg had much cleaning up to do. The two armies had suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties. Union casualties were 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, 5,369 captured or missing).Confederate casualties are difficult to estimate. Many authors cite 28,000 overall casualties, but Busey and Martin's definitive 2005 work, Regimental Strengths and Losses, documents 23,231 (4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, 5,830 captured or missing). The casualties for both sides during the entire campaign were 57,225. There was one documented civilian death during the battle: Ginnie Wade, 20 years old, was shot by a stray bullet that passed through her kitchen in town while she was making bread.
Nearly 8,000 soldiers had been killed outright; these bodies, lying in the hot summer sun, needed to be buried quickly. Over 3,000 horse carcasses were burned in a series of piles south of town; townsfolk became violently ill from the stench. Pennsylvania and New York state militia patrolled the Gettysburg battlefield and secured as much of the remaining military property as possible, often arresting souvenir hunters and forcing them to assist in the disposal of the dead horses. The ravages of war would still be evident in Gettysburg more than four months later when, on November 19, the Soldiers' National Cemetery was dedicated. During this ceremony, President Abraham Lincoln with his Gettysburg Address re-dedicated the Union to the war effort.
Today, the Gettysburg National Cemetery and Gettysburg National Military Park are maintained by the U.S. National Park Service as two of the nation's most revered historical landmarks.