Military Operations of Lewistown

Originally published in the Catoctin Banner News

Lewistown is one of a those little towns that has an interesting Civil War history very seldom covered when it comes to the Civil War History of Frederick County. Just as Emmitsburg and Mechanicstown, Lewistown witness troop movements during the Maryland Campaign of 1862, the Pennsylvania Campaign of 1863, and also during the Early’s Maryland Campaign of 1864.

At 11:30 P.M. on September 12, 1862, Union General Alfred Pleasonton whose headquarters was at Frederick, received an ordered to send a cavalry force to scout the Lewistown and Mechanicstown (Thurmont) area and report any Confederate activity. None was reported and five days later the signal bloodiest battle of the Civil War occurred at Sharpsburg.

The following year, on June 29th 1863, Union General John Reynolds issued orders to his division commanders of the 1st Corps. At 4 a.m. the 1st Corps marched from Frederick, Maryland to the small town of Emmitsburg. The 1st Corps marched in the following order: “The Second Division, the Third Division, the First Division, by Lewistown and Mechanicstown to Emmitsburg, keeping to the left of the road from Frederick to Lewistown between J. P. Kramer’s and where the road branches to Utica and Creagerstown open, to enable the Eleventh Corps to march parallel to it.” Before the battle of Gettysburg, thousands of Union troops marched through Lewistown heading toward Emmitsburg.

On Tuesday July 7, four days after the battle of Gettysburg, the 1st Corps marched from Marsh Creek in Pennsylvania to Emmitsburg stopping briefly to rest. Orders were then given to march to Franklinville, Mechanicstown, and Catoctin Furnace and onto Lewistown. At Lewistown members of the 13th Massachusetts received a warm welcoming by a group of local ladies who were dressed in red, white and blue. The ladies all sang “The Battle Cry of Freedom as the Massachusetts boys march through Lewistown. The 1st Corps was then redirected to march over the Catoctin Mountain by way of Hamburg Pass to Bellsville. From this point the 1st Corps would cross into the Middletown Valley.

On the night of July 7th, Union General Birney who was commanding the 3rd Corps was informed that he could not send his Corps over the Catoctin Mountain and was ordered to camp that night in the Lewistown area. He was to resume his line of march early the next morning.

During the summer of 1864, General Lee had sent a Corps under the command of General Jubal Early to cross the Potomac River and threaten Washington and if time allowed, free the Confederate prisoners at Point Lookout, Maryland. General Early divided his force and sent cavalry to Hagerstown and also toward Baltimore. The balk of General Bradley Johnson’s Cavalry force was traveling on the Baltimore Turnpike. General Bradley had sent out detachments of his cavalry to scout the areas north and west while he continued down the Baltimore Turnpike.

On July 9th, the Chairman of Executive Committee David Willis sent word to Union General Darius N. Counch commander of the Department of Susquehanna that parts of General Bradley Johnson’s Confederate Cavalry had entered Creagerstown. Willis stated that his scouts were pursued by the Confederate scouting party and was forced out of Creagerstown.

On July 10th, Union Major J. B. Burt stated a force Confederate troopers were in the Lewistown and Creagerstown area stealing horses. Confederates troopers were also reported looting the stores in the Woodsboro area. One or Two companies of Confederate Cavalry with a organized company of bushwhackers were observed. In the Sabillasville and Monterey area, 40 Confederate soldiers under General Imboden’s command were also spotted. Two scouts were sent from General David Hunter’s Cavalry force to investigate the Confederate Scouting parties and none were found as they had traveled back to Frederick and rejoined their main command.


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