The Battle of Monterey Pass: The Quartermaster’s Nightmare

During the last two years, I have had some really good questions asked about the wagon train that traveled through Monterey Pass. Such questions have now prompted me to write a little piece about the Confederate wagon train that traveled through Monterey Pass. In my opinion, nowhere in Civil War history is there a retreat more important, or conducted as gallantly than that of the Confederate withdraw from Gettysburg. I have been intrigued by this story for more than ten years now.

Before we get to the quartermaster’s role during the retreat from Gettysburg, there are a few things that I want to discuss first. Many people often make the statement that many historians, due to time restraints when we give talks, fail to give a total picture of what the scene with these wagons may have looked like, how big they were, and was there more than one style of wagons that were used in the American Civil War, more so during the Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg. I want to quickly break down the role of the quartermaster and what that area of the army did. I also want to discuss the average wagon and ambulance that may have traveled through Monterey Pass as well as the driver, himself.

On February 26, 1861, the Confederate Quartermaster’s Department was organized by an act of the Confederate government as a key position. Among the other key positions was that of the Commissary General of Subsistence. The Quartermaster’s Department was responsible for clothing the regular army. The volunteers of the Confederate army were part of the commutation system, which meant that the volunteers and state governments were to provide their own uniforms and the Confederate government would reimburse those soldiers. Due to issuance problems, the commutation system ended in December of 1862 when the Confederate Government’s Quartermaster Department took over. This is also known as the Depot System. In some cases it was until mid 1863 when the commutation system was officially phased out.

So who was the Quartermaster and what were their duties? The quartermaster was responsible for the issuance of clothing, supplies, horses and means of transportation, whether it be on land or by water. Their wagons also carried the baggage of the men depending upon what the marching order called for. For example, during a forced or a light march, knapsacks and extra items would be hauled in the regimental wagon. In order to section out the many responsibilities of the quartermaster, his department was broken down into three categories: clothing, camp and garrison equipment, transportation, and supplies for the army.

The first category, clothing, camp and garrison equipment was in charge of the extra uniforms, personal items of the soldiers, and garrison equipment such as cooking items. During the wagon attack at Monterey Pass, you learn that many of the artillery kitchen items and camping gear were destroyed. Many of the extra uniforms and personal items of the soldiers were among the wreckage of those wagons burned by Union cavalry or contained in the wagons whose teamsters fell from the edge of the mountain road in the chaos of battle.

The second category was that of transportation. The transportation, whether it be on land or water, was important. In the case of the Confederate army when it invaded Pennsylvania, supplies were carried by means of a wagon train. The wagon train was under guard and hung back toward the end of the infantry. In the Union, one army could contain about three thousand wagons pulled by a four-mule to a six-mule team. Each regiment or gun of a battery was allowed one wagon. Each brigade was allowed ten wagons. Among this category, hay and feed for the animals were also carried. Headquarters for the brigade, divisional, corps, and the main army would most likely fall under this category as well.

The last category of the quartermaster department was the supplies for the army and the department. This area of the quartermaster issued out hospital supplies, fuel, equipment and other odds and ends. It was also responsible for the issuance of barracks and quarters, as well as providing necessary supplies such as building materials, glass, rope, and nails. Personnel would be clerks, laborers and cooks.

According to the article “Mule-Drawn Wagon Trains” by Dick Crews, the average size of a wagon body was about ten feet long, with a canvas top attached to the wagon. The wagon also had a toolbox located in the front and a feedbox, with a grease bucket and water bucket to the rear. In wagon parks repairs and maintenance were often conducted with skilled laborers of all trades making the repairs.

When it came to the grunt work of pulling the wagons, mules were often the best choice. Mules are a lot stronger than horses and could pull the wagons over muddy and rough surfaces. Mules could also take the hard treatment from the demand placed upon them moreso than horses. Once the mules were harnessed to the wagon they were paired into three teams. Toward the front were the lead pair; the pair in the center were known as the swing pair; the pair closest to the wagon was the pole pair. The driver himself was positioned on a saddle placed upon the left rear mule and were typically unarmed, as was the case during the Battle of Monterey Pass.

In addition to the wagon train itself, you had several other wagons that followed. Ambulances, artillery forage and battery wagons, and supply wagons. Ambulances, depending on their body style, could average from ten to thirteen feet long. Of the supply wagons you had the Commissary General of Subsistence who was responsible for the issuance of rations to the soldiers. The Ordinance Department also had wagons with supplies of ammunition. And following all of these wagons were extra horses and mules.

During the Maryland Campaign of 1862, many of the Confederate wagons were parked near Beaver Creek, and some down near Pleasant Valley. During the night of September 14, many mounted troops that escaped the surrender of Harper’s Ferry came upon Longstreet’s supply wagons and captured about sixty of them and took them to Chambersburg. During the Pennsylvania invasion of 1863, you hear about foraging wagons, ambulances, and supply wagons of all sorts being used, and in the case of the Battle of Monterey Pass, being captured or destroyed. Even during Confederate General Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington, there are supply wagons as well. But you usually don’t hear about those wagons unless they were captured by General JEB Stuart or they were attacked at Monterey Pass.

After reviewing the three main areas of the quartermaster, the ordinance and commissary supplies, I will try to reconstruct the wagon train of General Richard Ewell’s Corps as it traveled through Monterey Pass during the afternoon and evening of July 4th into the morning hours of July 5th, 1863. From what history shows, General John Imboden was tasked with leading the wagon train of wounded and the wagons of Hill’s and Longstreet’s Corps through Cashtown Gap.

General William Jones was ordered to lead Ewell’s wagon train out of Pennsylvania as well as to protect the roads. Ewell’s wagon train was roughly seventeen to twenty miles long and contained much needed supplies that were gathered during their travel toward Carlisle, before the first shots of Gettysburg were fired. Among the wagon train was about 3,000 head of livestock, produce from Pennsylvania farms, and a sizeable amount of freed blacks that were to be sent back to Virginia as contraband. Ewell’s wagon train traveled from Black Horse Tavern with Johnson’s divisional wagons in the lead, followed by Early’s divisional wagons, and ending with Rodes’ divisional wagons. The wagons were to travel to Williamsport, where they would cross the Potomac River and seek safety on Virginia soil, a distance of more than forty-five miles.

Escorting the wagon train was the 6th Virginia Cavalry, four companies of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, two companies of the 11th Virginia Cavalry, and the 4th and 5th North Carolina regiments of cavalry. Among the artillery was the First Rockbridge Artillery, a section of Mooreman’s Battery, and Chew’s Battery. The First Rockbridge positioned itself at the crossroads and the heights of Monterey Pass, but was eventually withdrawn and ordered to position itself at Burn’s Hill located in Waynesboro. The 1st North Carolina Battalion of Sharpshooters and two companies of an Alabama unit escorted and served as provost to the wagons, and several Confederate deserters. Captain William Tanner, by a stroke of luck, came up the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike and saw no artillery support east of Monterey Pass. Tanner ordered one cannon to deploy, sending the other four pieces of his battery to Waynesboro.

The wagon train had to cross over the rugged South Mountain range through two main gaps. The first was Fairfield Gap and from there, about a mile and a half away, was Monterey Pass. Looking at South Mountain, there is no other mountain gap or pass situated like that of Monterey Pass. Monterey Pass was a very important transportation route. Five major roads intersected there, making it an essential crossroads. A toll house connected these roads which were at the time: the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turn Pike, with the Waynesboro side of the turnpike macadamized; the Fairfield Road or Maria Furnace Road, as it is known today, leading from Monterey Pass to Fairfield Gap; Mentzer Gap Road that took you to Quincy, located near Waynesboro, and eventually leading to Chambersburg; Pennersville Road that took you to Maryland, about one mile away. Near the intersection of Pennersville Road and the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike, was another fork that followed parallel to the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike leading to Buena Vista Gap.

If Monterey Pass would come under attack by Union troopers, and it was held by such a force, it could force the Confederate army to redirect its line of march, taking longer to get out of Pennsylvania. It could possibly force Lee to take another route in unfamiliar territory, something that Lee could not afford to do. Everything for the Confederate army and its withdraw depended upon their success or failure at Monterey Pass.

To make matters worse, during the afternoon of July 4th, it began to rain in torrents. Heavy downpours and heavy wagons turned dirt roads into a muddy nightmare. The rain and road conditions were bad enough for the troops but to add to that the road that they took from Fairfield, winding up South Mountain, leading up to Fairfield Gap was a rugged narrow road. Even though the map shows that this was the shortest and most direct route to Williamsport, this road would be considered by many Confederate soldiers as “Mount Misery” or “Quagmire.”

One problem presented itself immediately upon entering Fairfield Gap, and that was the fact that horses and mules had an exhausting trek up the mountain. Many horses simply dropped to the ground unable to carry the load, or even worse, the horse or mule dropped dead in the middle of the narrow road creating what is known as a traffic jam in modern terms. The narrow road would force teamsters to remove the carcass and move on the best they could and as quickly as they could. In some instances, axles would be cracked as was the case with many of the artillery carriages. As long as the wagons were moving, the quicker they would clear South Mountain.

As night fell, the teamsters riding on the wagons found it increasingly difficult to navigate in the darkness along the rugged mountain leading from Monterey Pass to Waynesboro. As lightning flashed, it would temporarily blind the horses, causing even more chaos. At the base of South Mountain is a little community called Waterloo. Many wagons were parked there while other wagons traveled through Waterloo to Rinngold, Maryland. The wagons then entered Leitersburg and headed to Hagerstown.

During the day as the wagons were moving along, General Judson Kilpatrick was ordered to harass and get ahead of the wagon train, reaping as much destruction to those wagons as possible. As the Battle of Monterey Pass began around nine o’clock in the evening of July 4th, Union cavalry of General Kilpatrick’s Third Cavalry Division attacked the Confederate forces east of Monterey Pass. More than six hours of fighting raged in the middle of the night during a severe thunderstorm. After the first initial contact, Captain George Emack, commanding Company B of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, rode to the road that the wagons were traveling upon and ordered the northeast portion of the wagon train to stop, while ordering the westbound portion of the wagon train to hurry down the mountain. General Jones countermanded Emack’s order sending the wagons onward. Jones’ informed Emack that the wagons must remain moving in the direction of Waynesboro. He would have to hold the Union cavalry as long as he could in order to protect the wagon train.

During the battle, Kilpatrick divided his command, sending a small force one mile to Fairfield Gap by way of modern day Furnace Road. This was done in an attempt to sever the Confederate wagon train, charge down from there, destroying all that was in the road, and then hit the right of the Confederate force at Monterey Pass. However, the 1st Michigan, who were tasked with this job were pushed back, never completing their mission. Kilpatrick also sent the 1st Vermont Cavalry from Monterey Pass to Raven Rock Pass, a few miles to the south, in order to attack the head of the wagon train that may have been in Smithsburg. Upon seeing no wagons there, they trotted to Leitersburg where they intersected three miles worth of wagons there, and setting fire to many.

As Kilpatrick divided his command, he sent Custer’s brigade to the front to dislodge the Confederate force that held Monterey Pass. During the final hour of the fight, Kilpatrick managed to get a section of Pennington’s Battery in place to bombard the intersection that the wagons were traveling into. Once the 1st West Virginia Cavalry broke through the Confederate battle line and tumbled the cannon down the embankment, they turned their foremost attention to the prized wagons that massed over the road. Following behind the West Virginians was that of Custer’s brigade.

Union horsemen swung in and out of the Rodes’ portion of the wagon train. Between the lightning and the firing of guns, some of the drivers lost control of their wagons, forcing them to overturn down the steep mountain cliffs. Many Union cavalrymen shot the lead horse in order to get the wagons to come to a halt. Many of these wagons contained ordinances that were used for the artillery and they were set on fire. The fires extended from atop South Mountain at Monterey Pass to the foot of the mountain. As Confederate cavalry reinforcements tried to organize, they could not form a line fast enough before the union cavalry broke through again.

The citizens of Waynesboro knew exactly where the Union cavalry was located by the explosions they saw extending down the mountainside. The town’s residents witnessed such a Fourth of July spectacle, unlike any they would ever witness again. The fires of the wagons in the direction of Leitersburg and Monterey Pass must have been an amazing picture. Just after dawn the smoke rising from Ringgold could be seen.

At the toll house, Pennington’s guns, and from some reports, Elder’s Battery as well, raked fire upon the oncoming wagons that were trying to get to the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike. As Confederate reinforcements arrived at the gap, Kilpatrick ordered his reserves down the mountain collecting their bounty until dawn.

The 1st Vermont at Leitersburg would divide their forces, sending some toward Hagerstown, then to Williamsport, and on to Boonsboro. The other half of the 1st Vermont would meet back up with Kilpatrick at Ringgold. The wagons that were taken by Kilpatrick were ordered to halt at Ringgold, where Kilpatrick ordered his men to take inventory of the merchandise. Anything that could be of use to Kilpatrick or the Union army would be separated out. The remaining, unnecessary wagons were to be burned in the fields surrounding Ringgold.

In all, nine miles worth of wagons, ambulances, blacksmith (forge) and battery wagons, around 200 to 250 vehicles total were captured and destroyed during the Battle of Monterey Pass and the affair at Leitersburg. Among the wreckages of the wagons were roughly 900 drivers, teamsters and regimental quartermasters that were wounded or taken prisoner.

Realizing that he was in a dangerous situation, Kilpatrick ordered his cavalry to Smithsburg, a few miles to the south, where he would fight Stuart later in the afternoon and evening. From there Kilpatrick withdrew from the field and arrived near Turner’s Gap just after midnight of July 6th, where he would turn over his spoils to be escorted to Frederick, Maryland. Kilpatrick would again try to intercept the wagons on July 6th with a coordinated effort between himself and General John Buford, but they would be forced to retire in the streets of Hagerstown and at Williamsport.

Images: LOC


The Confederate Army Withdraws from the Battlefield at Gettysburg

I did this article for fun as if I was a Civil War Correspondent reporting the news that took place in Emmitsburg. This article was origingally Published in the Emmitsburg News-Journal

After Longstreet’s assault had failed on July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was forced to retire from the battlefield at Gettysburg. At around 11 o’clock that night, General Lee issued the orders for a withdraw from the battlefield. The majority of the Confederate Army marched through a mountain pass located on South Mountain called Monterey, about seven miles west of here. General John Imboden was charged with the wagon train of wounded and crossed South Mountain at Cashtown Gap. General JEB Stuart was given the task of screening the area toward Emmitsburg and Mechanicstown and then reporting to Leitersburg.

Union Cavalry Occupies Emmitsburg

While the Confederate Army was in the initial phases of their withdraw, Union Colonel Pennock Huey received orders to move to Emmitsburg for the purpose of taking possession and holding the town on July 4th. Colonel Huey is commanding the Second Brigade Cavalry of General Gregg’s Division along with the 2nd U.S. Battery M of the Horse Artillery.

Union General Judson Kilpatrick’s Cavalry Division consisting of General George Custer’s and Colonel Nathaniel Richmond’s Brigades arrived here with orders to destroy a Confederate wagon train moving through Monterey Pass. Meeting up with Colonel Pennock Huey, Kilpatrick orders his cavalry westward toward South Mountain.

Midnight Battle Erupts Upon South Mountain

On the evening of July 4th, 1863, during the retreat from Gettysburg, one of the most confusing battles of the Civil War occurs at Monterey Pass. Captain George Emack had a small detail of the Confederate 1st Maryland Cavalry guarding the approach to Monterey Pass. He was re-enforced by one cannon from Captain William Tanner’s Battery. At around 9:00 pm Union cavalry under the command of General Judson Kilpatrick came in contact with this portion of the Confederate Maryland Cavalry under Captain Emack and it was here that the battle began.

Darkness set in during a blinding rainstorm. The Confederate artillerists, wearing gum blankets to protect them from the elements of the weather, had managed to disguise their identity from Kilpatrick’s men. Realizing that their identity was withheld, they open fired on the head of Kilpatrick’s advance. As the confusion subsides, the Confederate cavalrymen charge, pushing Kilpatrick back until they reach the Federal artillery that is positioned near Fountain Dale.

For several hours, during the blinding thunderstorm in the middle of the night, the battle is carried out in between lightning strikes and muzzle flashes. After six hours of heavy fighting that had spilled over to Fairfield Gap and Leitersburg, General Kilpatrick gained the South Mountain summit of Monterey Pass. At Fairfield Gap, a portion of the 1st Michigan Cavalry is beaten back by Confederate cavalry while at the Monterey House; two guns of Pennington’s battery began shelling the Confederate wagons.

By 3:30 am on July 5th, Kilpatrick successfully reaches the turnpike where Ewell’s wagon train was located, capturing and destroying 9 miles worth of wagons, taking 1,360 prisoners and a large number of horses and mules as they moved on toward Ringgold, Maryland.

Our Town Briefly Occupied by Rebel Cavalry

On the morning of July 5th, 1863, General JEB Stuart makes his way from the horrors of the fields of Gettysburg to our beloved town. General Stuart marches a brigade and a half of cavalry to Emmitsburg during the dawn hours with the 34th Virginia Cavalry under Lt. Colonel Vincent Witcher leading the advance into town. Near the old Hoffman’s Inn there is a sharp skirmish fought. Seventy Union men were taken prisoner in addition to numerous supplies such as medical items that would be used for the wounded Confederate soldiers who fought at Gettysburg.

It is reported to me that among the prisoners that were captured by the Confederates was a photographer from Mathew Brady’s Photography Firm. Three photographers, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, and James Gibson all were traveling to Gettysburg when they came here to Emmitsburg on the night of July 4th. Gardner, himself stayed at the Hoffman Inn. At the time of my dispatch, it is still unclear which one of the three photographers that Stuart has captured, however, evidence suggests that it could have been Gardner. Mr. Gardner’s fifteen year old son Lawrence is attending a boarding school just outside of Emmitsburg and it is believed that his father may have been assuring his son’s safety while he was held in captivity.

Stuart’s horsemen walked the streets, visiting the stores that were untouched by the fire on June 15th. These soldiers had no way of paying for the personal supplies that they received from our shopkeepers because Confederate money does not hold the value of green backs, and it is simply no good here in our northern region. Our poor store owners will be unable to recoup the money for what the Confederates took.

While the Confederates were watering their horses some of our residents struck up a conversation with them. Curious of the outcome of the battle of Gettysburg they asked Jenkins’ men who won the battle of Gettysburg. The soldiers quickly replied that they had won, of course. It did not take long before these same soldiers who claimed victory on the fields of Gettysburg became suspicious of some of our town’s people. On one occasion these trigger happy Rebels detected two gentlemen watching their every move, and suddenly the Rebels raised their pistols. They thought that these men were Union spies or were part of the Signal Corp. The two gentlemen quickly explained that they were villagers of our dear town and were curious as to what all the bedlam was about. Thankfully, the Rebels placed their guns back into their holsters, realizing that it was a false alarm.

Soon orders were given and Stuart’s Cavalry rode out of Emmitsburg during the mid morning hours. After leaving, Stuart’s Cavalry traveled toward Creagerstown on the direct road to Frederick or what is known as Old Frederick Road. At around noon, an hour and a half after departing Emmitsburg, Stuart came to an intersection. The roads of this intersection led to Rocky Ridge, Creagerstown and Graceham. Stuart sent a detachment to follow the road to Graceham, while Stuart and the main body went to Creagerstown passing through Loy’s Station. Later that day, Stuart’s cavalry travels to Smithsburg where it clashes with Kilpatrick’s cavalry that was resting after the hard midnight fight at Monterey Pass.

Rejoice for those in Blue

On July 6th, portions of the main Union Army marched through our beloved town. Battle hardened men who fought gallantly for three days at the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The men in blue were a site to see. Their uniforms wet from a rain that had begun to wash off the dirt and the smell of battle. One officer took a rest by a small stream and washed his feet and sunk his rank in the flowing water as if he was an enlisted man. Their spirits were high as they marched through town. The next day gave way to General George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac. Our citizens hailed him and thanked him for his dedication and service at Gettysburg.

South Mountain Peaks and Sea Level Feet: Notes on different South Mountain Peaks

Working at South Mountain State Battlefield and assisting in the daily operations of Gathland State Park and Washington Monument State Park, I have the opportunity to do something else that is included in my work plan. Last year I was asked to assist in checking several shelters located off of the Appalachian Trail. This means that during a set schedule I am required to go out and walk the A.T. at various points and hike to the shelter that is nearby. I record the shape of the site and then report that information back to my supervisors. I like doing this, because you get to know the mountain.

The best way to research is not only to read about it, but to go out and see it. This is also a great way to inadvertantly educate people you meet along the way. Most people are very surprised to learn that even in what may seem like the middle of no where, such as Black Rock for example, that there were Civil War soldiers positioned there after the Battle of Gettysburg. In speaking with hikers and park visitors, many are very inquisitive about the area . For example: “What is it like to hike the A.T. in Maryland,” “Is this spot worth seeing and if so, how high is it,” and “How long of a hike is it?” There is one question that I receive a lot, from hikers, tourists, and Civil War buffs alike is how high are we standing above sea level?

These are all very good questions, and as an interpreter these are common areas of public interest that should be researched in order to provide your park guests with correct answers. Another aspect that should be researched in anticipation of the public asking about them are roadways, and other mountain gaps and passes. When first hired a few years ago, the first thing I did was research the whole mountain range in Maryland, since it composes, and makes up the larger recreation area known as the South Mountain Recreation Area. The recreation area is about forty-one miles in length and is comprised of 16,600 acres.

Since I have had a few questions asked about the subject of peaks on South Mountain in Maryland as well as in Pennsylvania, I am going to give you, the reader, the approximate heights of some of the major ones using several topography maps that were drawn up in 1890, and updated during the early 1900’s. South Mountain begins as Short Hill, near Hillsboro, Virginia and it rises in Maryland, and extends into Pennsylvania where it ends at Dillsburg in a series of hills near the Susquehanna River. South Mountain is roughly 70 miles in length.

Starting at the southern point of South Mountain near the Potomac River, in Maryland you have Weverton. The Weverton area climbs to about 1,000 feet above sea level, and rises to about 1,033 feet once you get to Brownsville Pass. From that point to Crampton’s Gap the mountain range begins to descend to 930 feet above sea level. From Crampton’s Gap, the mountain climbs to about 1,772 feet above sea level to the peak of Lamb’s Knoll near Fox’s Gap. Fox’s Gap itself, just north of Lamb’s Knoll is about 1,064 feet above sea level.

North of Fox’s Gap is Turner’s Gap, which holds pretty steady at roughly around 1,100 feet above sea level. The heights surrounding Turner’s Gap can range upward to about 1,300 to 1,400 feet above sea level. Washington Monument stands on a knoll known as Monument Knob and is about 1,000 to 1,200 feet above sea level. The hill in front of the Washington Monument is about 825 feet above sea level.

Following the South Mountain ridge northward toward Greenbrier is an area called Bartman’s Hill, or what is believed to be Oiler’s Gap that is about 1,000 feet above sea level. Three miles north of Greenbrier is Black Rock. This is a mountain cliff, and the eastern side rises to about 1,800 feet above sea level. The Appalachian Trails passes below this point to the west. If the A.T. was located a little more toward the east this area, it would be the highest point of the A.T. Passing this area the mountain elevation drops where the old Black Rock Road once traveled over the mountain to about 1,600 feet above sea level.

As the mountain follows northward, from Wolfesville Pass to Warner Gap and Raven Rock Pass, it holds steady at an average of 1,300 to about 1,600 feet above sea level. From Raven Rock Pass, South Mountain climbs to about 2,145 feet above sea level at a peak known as Quirauk Mountain. It is in this area where the Catoctin Mountain and South Mountain come together. From that point, the ridge begins to descend to about 1,500 feet and crosses into Pennsylvania near Pen Mar Park.

In Pennsylvania, South Mountain ascends to about 1,600 feet above sea level at Mount Dunlap. Mount Dunlap connects to Clermont Crag, near Monterey Pass where Monterey Peak rises. Monterey Peak sits at about 1,600 feet above sea level. This area also has several peaks with individual names. Wildcats Rocks is about 1,500 feet above sea level, Virginia Rocks is about 1,700 feet above sea level, and to the east you have Pine Mountain, which is about 1,300 feet above sea level and Jack’s Mountain at about 1,500 feet above sea level.

From Fairfield to Cashtown, the South Mountain range appears to be even in heights when looking at it from it from the direction of Fairfield. However, from Waynesboro to Greenwood, near Cashtown Gap, you can see several peaks on the western side of South Mountain. Near the Mont Alto and Waynesboro areas these mountain peaks are the highest on South Mountain in Pennsylvania. Buzzard Peak is about 1,950 feet above sea level and Snowy Mountain climbs to about 2,090 feet. The highest South Mountain peak in Pennsylvania is called Big Pine Flat Ridge and it stands at 2,100 feet. Near that is the peak of Big Flat Ridge, which stands at 2,065 feet above sea level and East Big Flat Ridge rises to about 2,070 feet above sea level. As you work northward to Dillsburg, with all of the peaks, South Mountain averages about 1,100 to 1,500 feet until it ends as a series of little hills near the Susquehanna River.

I know that to the reader, these numbers are just that, numbers. But if you add in the layout of South Mountain, the roadways and the agriculture, South Mountain is very impressive. During any Civil War invasion of the north, whether it be in Maryland or Pennsylvania, to the invaders as well as to the defenders, South Mountain, in most cases, had to be dealt with. If you look at the much larger picture of South Mountain, every mountain gap or pass and every high ridge that covered from the Potomac River to Cashtown, had some type of Civil War activity, whether it was a battle or skirmish or used as an observation point.

This, to me, makes South Mountain a very important resource that is very much worth preserving. Thanks should go out to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as well as Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for preserving such a wonderful mountain range. There is so much Civil War history on South Mountain, from the Underground Rail Road, to Union soldiers deserting the army and hiding out in South Mountain, to the Confederate invasions and those battles that took place there.