Cashtown Gap: The Forgotten Mountain Gap upon South Mountain

The northern most gap or pass on South Mountain that was vital to the Confederate Army was that of Cashtown Gap. Cashtown Gap is located along the Chambersburg Pike and can be accessed by Old Route 30, which passes by the Cashtown Inn. Cashtown Gap was the main mountain gap used by the Confederate Army marching toward Gettysburg, with the exception of those infantry commands that were with General Richard Ewell’s Corps as they marched northward toward Carlisle and Harrisburg.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, Cashtown Gap was again used by the Confederate Army. The bulk of the Confederates marched through Monterey Pass to the south, but many wagons containing the wounded and its escorts of cavalry, infantry and artillery marched through Cashtown in order to get safely into the Cumberland Valley, and from there taking the direct route to Williamsport. Although there was no major battle fought at Cashtown Gap, it did see a few minor skirmishes. However, 1863 was not the first time that a body of Confederate soldiers marched through Cashtown Gap.

About one month after the Maryland Campaign concluded with the Battles of South Mountain, Antietam and Shepherdstown in September of 1862, Confederate General JEB Stuart was tasked with moving his cavalry into the north in what is known as the First Chambersburg Raid. General JEB Stuart with 1,800 troopers and Major Pelgram’s Battery of two to four guns made their way to the Potomac River and on October 9th, crossed at a ford near Clear Spring, Maryland.

General Stuart received orders from General Lee not to harm or seize any property in Maryland, instead he was to capture equipment that the Confederates needed, to disrupt communication lines, destroy parts of the C&O Canal, and also take out parts of the B&O Railroad near Chambersburg. This was also a diversion, keeping the Federals from being re-enforced in the Kanawha Valley (West) Virginia in order for the Confederate Army of South Eastern Virginia to take possession of the valuable salt mines in that area.

By October 10th, General Stuart was in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and had captured a Federal arsenal. Items in the aresenal included clothing such as great coats, socks, and drawers, along with supplies that the Confederate Army so desperately needed such as rifles, pistols, and swords. General Stuart ordered the arsenals to be burned destroying excess items that they could not carry. General Stuart was worried about crossing the Potomac River, since torrential downpours may have caused the Potomac River to swell and fording the river could be a problem. Another cause for Stuart’s concern was that the bridge they had been sent to destroy was made of iron, making it impossible for the Confederates to demolish.

The next day, on October 11th, orders were given to mount up, and the Confederate cavalry left Chambersburg. General Stuart realized that the Federal cavalry may be pursuing them, as retaliation against burning the Federal arsenals at Chambersburg. Needing an escape route, General Stuart detoured, traveling in an eastern direction toward South Mountain. That afternoon, General Stuart made his way into Cashtown passing by the Cashtown Inn. At this time General Stuart was about seven miles away from Gettysburg. Stuart and the five-mile long column then turned southeast, taking the old Fairfield Road and then traveled to the Mason Dixon Line.

During June of 1863, the Confederate Army invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania. This campaign is known as the Pennsylvania Campaign. While portions of the Union Army took to the South Mountain passes in Maryland, the Confederate Army took to the northern passes near Cashtown.

By dawn on June 23rd, members of the 14th Virginia Cavalry captured several horses in the Cashtown area. By 2:00 pm in the afternoon, this detachment of the 14th Virginia Cavalry headed to Caledonia Iron Works. They were pursuing a small detachment of Union troops. Roughly two miles past Caledonia, the detachment of Confederate cavalry saw that the Federal troops had blockaded the road.

Lieutenant Herman Schuricht of Company D noted that he was ordered by Major Bryan to approach the barricade with nine men. Lieutenant Schuricht directed four men to approach the barricade to the right of the road, while Lieutenant Schuricht and the rest of the men took to the left of the road. About 25 Federals were waiting in ambush and disappeared as Lt. Schuricht drew nearer. The barricade was quickly removed while Captain Moorman charged, with 25 men in pursuit of the Yankees. Lieutenant Schuricht soon followed in the chase.

The Federal detail took refuge behind a company of Union cavalry that was positioned in the woods. The Federal cavalry turned their horses heads as the 14th Virginia Cavalry came upon them. Shots rang out striking Private Eli Amick. Soon afterwards, Major Bryan called off the pursuit and returned to Caledonia Iron Works. The 14th Virginia Cavalry traveled back to Greenwood where their rear guard was located.

General Early entered Pennsylvania on June 23rd, marching toward Waynesboro. Once at Waynesboro, General Early marched north on Black Gap Road (modern day Rt 997). He traveled past the little towns of Quincy, Mont Alto, and arrived at Black Gap around the 25th of June, near the present day intersection of Route 30. General Early and his division changed directions, and began heading east on the Chambersburg Pike. On June 26th, east of Black Gap, General Early’s troops burned the ironworks at Caledonia. Theses ironworks belonged to Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, whose radical antislavery views were widely known.

As his division traveled through the South Mountain pass of Cashtown on June 26th, local citizens shot a Confederate soldier. General Early became outraged by this act and ordered the bushwhackers to be hunted down. He even threatened to burn the town of Cashtown in order to bring justice for the shooting of one of his men. The guilty party was never found and Cashtown was not burned.

Traveling from Cashtown, General Early came to a fork in the road. The road to the right was called the Cashtown Road (Chambersburg Pike), while the one on the left was called Hilltown Road. General Early took the road on the left, splitting his command into two columns. A local family Bible of tavern owner John Harding tells a unique story about General Early. According to Harding, as written in the Bible, General Early un-mounted from his horse, stepped onto a rock near the front porch, opened the front door and walked in side. There he saw several ladies drinking tea and started to talk to them. General Early noticed a map on the wall of Adams County, Pennsylvania. He took his knife, and cut the canvas map out and stuck it in his pocket. General Early said, “I need this more than you do.” General Early then remounted his horse and started to the head of his command.

As General Richard Ewell’s Corps continued its march northward and eastward, General A.P. Hill’s Corps was the next to come into Chambersburg. Following behind Hill’s Corps was Longstreet’s Corps. On June 28th, once Lee found out about Hooker’s resignation, the appointment of Meade, as well as the concentration of the Eleventh Corps and portions of the third Corps at South Mountain to the South, Lee felt that he needed to concentrate his army. He issued orders for Hill to move east from Chambersburg to Cashtown crossing South Mountain. He then ordered Ewell’s Corps to begin marching southward toward Gettysburg. Longstreet’s Corps was ordered to proceed into Chambersburg. Lee, feeling that Meade would attack him via the rear, felt that his army should concentrate at Gettysburg, and from there he could swing southward keeping South Mountain between his Confederate Army and the Union Army, threatening Baltimore or even Washington. However, Longstreet’s scout did not stay long enough near Turner’s Gap to see that Meade was not going to pursue Lee, but rather hit him head on and issued orders to those Union troops at South Mountain to move to Frederick, where they would begin their march northward on the 29th of June.

On July 1st, Hill’s Corps proceeded toward Gettysburg as ordered, allowing Longstreet’s Corps to cross South Mountain via Cashtown Gap. As Hill’s Corps approached Gettysburg, the famous Battle of Gettysburg would begin. The majority of Lee’s wagon train was parked near Cashtown with General George Pickett’s Division guarding them. During the day, General John Imboden received orders from General Lee, instructing him to relieve Pickett’s Division by July 2nd so that they could begin their march toward Gettysburg. General Imboden was ordered to guard the wagons, put soldiers on picket duty, and keep Cashtown Gap open for communications.

On July 2nd, Imboden’s cavalry began to occupy Cashtown Gap, and by midnight the majority of his cavalry was concentrated around Cashtown Gap. General William Jones and his cavalry marched from Greencastle to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where they encamped briefly that night. Hearing rumors about Imboden’s command being captured, Jones’ and Robertson agreed that they should go to Cashtown to observe the area and the situation.

Early in the morning on July 3rd, General Jones’ Brigade and General Beverly Robertson’s Brigade of North Carolina Cavalry entered Cashtown Gap, and were surprised to see they were greeted by Imboden’s pickets wearing civilian clothing. The majority of Imboden’s men were camped along the western slope of South Mountain, the entrance way to Cashtown Gap.

During the day, Lee had feared that Union cavalry would try to attack in that area. Around noon, Lee met with Imboden about the situation, and what his concerns were. General Jones received an order stating that there needed to be a force of cavalry to form a battle line near Fairfield. Complying with the orders, General Jones traveled the road leading from Cashtown to Fairfield. Following behind Jones was the brigade of cavalry under Robertson. As Jones approached Fairfield, his advance guard came in contact with Federal cavalry under the command of Major Samuel Star, who was leading the 6th United States Cavalry.

After the Battles of Gettysburg and Fairfield, Lee knew it was time to prepare for the withdraw of the Confederate Army. Just after midnight, General Imboden met with Lee to discuss the retreat from Gettysburg. Imboden was to lead a 17 mile long wagon train of livestock, wounded, supplies, and ordinances through Cashtown Gap to Greencastle, and from there to Williamsport, where the Confederate Army would cross the Potomac River. While Imboden led the wagons out of Cashtown, Jones volunteered to lead General Ewell’s wagon train over South Mountain at Monterey Pass. At approximately four o’clock in the afternoon, Imboden’s column of wagons were set forth in motion and began to ascend South Mountain. Jones had several pieces of artillery, Hampton’s Brigade of cavalry, and his own brigade to guard the trains. He also had infantry with him as well. That night’s march would ring loud in Imboden’s ears, for the cries of the wounded he would never forget. The rain fell in torrents, heavily intertwined with the flashes of lightning and the crack of thunder, and still those cries of the wounded could be heard. Imboden would safely clear Cashtown Gap by July 5th.

I would like to dedicate this article to a friend of mine who passed away a few years ago. Rick Emmick took me through Cashtown Gap and related stories about his ancestor who fought in the area. We traveled all through Cashtown Gap seeing traces of the old Chambesburg Pike from Route 30. From there we traveled back to Gettysburg where we toured the area where Gordon’s men hit Barlow. There he recited stories about another ancestor that fought with the 17th Virginia Cavalry. We then continued north a short distance to tour William Tanner’s Battery position. When I went to Cashtown to get a feel of the landscape while finishing up this blog posting, this was the first time since that day that I actually went back and took my time to study the area. I’ve been through there several times, but never took the time to enjoy the Cashtown area. While taking these photographs the ground you see was still green, a few minutes later by the time I got to McKnightstown, the ground was white.

I would highly recommend Steve Frech’s book on “Imboden’s Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign”

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