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Henry Thomas Harrison
A Shadowy Figure

On the night of June 28, 1863, a lone horseman in civilian clothes rode through the Pennsylvania countryside near Chambersburg. Encountering pickets of the Confederate army camped there, he demanded to be taken to see General James Longstreet at once. Longstreet recognized the man as his "scout" Harrison, a trusted spy; he gave credence to the information Harrison delivered and immediately sent him to General Robert E. Lee's nearby tent.

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.