The Union Soldier during the 1862 Maryland Campaign

At South Mountain State Battlefield during our interpretive programs, I always receive questions regarding the uniformity and hardships of the average Union soldier. Just as the Confederate soldier posting, this post may not answer all of your questions as it is only meant to be a teaser for those interested in the subject to explore the topic more on their own.

To me, Civil War uniforms are a topic that often gets overlooked including the uniforms of the Union army, unless you’re a living historian. Many times, the soldiers of the Union army went through shortages just as their Confederate counterparts did. During the hard campaigning season, one may find it interesting that the Union soldiers’ uniforms would be as tattered as that of a Confederate soldier. Take into consideration the long marches along dusty roads one day, and possibly a muddy mess the next, the uniform of a Union soldier will take on a different appearance. You hear more about this topic in 1863, during the Union soldiers’ forced march from around Fredericksburg, Virginia to Gettysburg and back to Virginia. But I want to briefly cover the Maryland Campaign with this posting.

After a crushing blow to the Union army during the Battle of Second Manassas in August of 1862, General John Pope had no choice but to retire back to the defenses of Washington D.C. As the soldiers from Pope’s army entered the defenses of Washington they were dirty and ragged. As a result, many of Pope’s men had not changed their clothing or bathed in almost a month, and it would be a few days later before the men were given that opportunity. One Union soldier wrote: “We looked very bad being lousey, dutry and almost naked.”

Many of McClellan’s own troops were able to pull new uniforms from their hard campaigning down along the Peninsula after arriving in Washington. However, General Pope’s Army of Virginia was a different story. In his memoirs “Military Reminiscences of the Civil War” General Jacob Cox noted that “About four o’clock McClellan rode forward, and I accompanied him. We halted at the brow of the hill looking down the Fairfax road. The head of the column was in sight, and rising dust showed its position far beyond. Pope and McDowell, with the staff, rode at the head. Their uniform and that of all the party was covered with dust, their beards were powdered with it; they looked worn and serious, but alert and self-possessed.” As a result of the disaster of Manassas, General John Pope was relieved of command of the Army of Virginia. General George McClellan, who, at that time, was in charge of the defenses of Washington, was given command and quickly reorganized the army.

McClellan took the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Virginia, the Kanawha Division, and Burnside’s force, combined them into a single fighting force, and managed to get them moving. Moral was very low for the Union soldier and most of them would rather not go after Lee’s army, who was concentrating at Frederick. However, General McClellan wasted no time leaving Washington trailing after General Robert E. Lee’s invading Confederate army. The soldier’s individual stories are very similiar and according to George Stevens of the 77th New York, packing up for the new campaign was effortless considering that the soldiers had little more than themselves and a few personal belongings. As for those units already stationed at Washington, many of them received new clothing and knapsacks. For many others that arrived in Washington, they had to move out no sooner than they had arrived. But the forced march would prove tiresome on the footman of the Union army.

Many first hand accounts told of the havoc caused by the extreme humid weather during the day and the coolness that the night provided. By nightfall, a combination of the march itself, weather conditions, and the weight from the knapsack on the soldier’s back caused many soldiers to collapse, sleeping where they fell. Some accounts from soldiers serving in the First, Second and Sixth Corps stated that their generals never issued light marching orders.

Private Uberto A. Burnham of the 76th New York recalled receiving marching orders on September 6th. “We commenced marching about 7p.m. and about 2a.m. reached the river and crossed at Long Bridge. We then marched through the city of Washington and along Pennsylvania Avenue. When morning came we thought we would halt and rest, but we did not. The day was very hot and the dust four inches deep. The word was always “Forward! Forward!” During the whole day we did not stop long enough to take a real meal or make a cup of coffee. It seemed necessary to put as many troops as possible between Lee and Washington in as short a time as possible. We did not halt until 7p.m., having marched 24 hours. When the marching columns halted, not half the men were in line. Many had fallen, exhausted, but by morning most of them were again with their comrades at the front. The next day we resumed our march, but moved more deliberately.”

On September 7th, the colonel of the 96th Pennsylvania recognized that conditions of a forced march in the overwhelming weather, was not a good combination and he sent orders to his regiment to get rid of the excess baggage. Many of the soldiers just packed away their new uniforms and greatcoats. Then a riot nearly started when the quartermaster tried to gather their knapsacks as well. When General McClellan was near Rockville, a by standard noted that their uniforms didn’t fit and that their blouses and caps were torn and faded. Edwin Marvin a member of the 5th Connecticut recalled while bivouacked near Rockville for the night that the quartermaster wagon containing their knapsacks had arrived. They were wearing the same clothing for the last four weeks and this was the first time since then that they were able to change their clothes.

By September 11th, 1862, the hot, dusty roads, and the dust that covered the soldiers’ uniform would change with a much needed rain. After arriving in Washington many soldiers from the 155th Pennsylvania Regiment volunteered to head out with General Humphreys’ Division, who was ordered out to protect the roads leading into Pennsylvania. Soon after problems for the weary soldiers began. After being equipped with knapsacks and carrying everything upon their backs, fatigue quickly sat in.

They packed their knapsacks and were marching along the road quickly trying to join McClellan’s army who was two days away. After bivouacing at Rockville, orders again were issued and another forced march commenced. For several days, the men began pitching their knapsacks along the side of the road, as well as their newly issued blankets and overcoats. Wagoneers who lagged behind often picked up the items that were thrown away. As fatigue set in, many men broke down from exhaustion or from footsore. Others just fell further behind in the columns. The next morning, those who had knapsacks would again pack and begin marching.
By the time 155th Pennsylvania arrived at Monocacy, they could hear the cannon in the distance that was engaged at South Mountain. While at Monocacy, many men managed to quickly get in a bath, cleaning themselves for the first time since arriving in Washington. Again the daily task was picked up where it had left off and now they would be marching to Antietam.

During the Battle of South Mountain, many of the Union soldiers were wearing a combination of state issued jackets from New York or Ohio, while many others were wearing their fatigue blouses, or what most people call a sack coat today. However, there are two units at South Mountain that wore a complete dress uniform. The first group was the 17th Michigan Infantry. They had been in service for only a few weeks. When they fought at South Mountain at Fox’s Gap, they were wearing their frock coats with shoulder scales, their dress hats and white gloves. This was their first engagement. The second unit was that of the Iron Brigade. They too, were wearing dress uniforms similar to that of the 17th Michigan Infantry.

To the north of Turner’s Gap, many New Yorkers of Hatch’s Division would have been wearing their state jackets. Some of the men were ordered to drop their knapsacks before moving up the spur of the mountain. Others like the 76th New York marched up the mountain wearing their knapsacks, and upon reaching the summit, wear ordered to drop their knapsack and engage the enemy. After the battle, some of the men who had left their knapsacks near the base of the mountain were allowed to get them, providing that their brigade or regiment was ordered to fall back and allow the reserves to take position.

In the book entitled “Three Years in the Army, the official history of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers” by Charles E. Davis wrote about the shape his unit was in during the Maryland Campaign. On September 14th he wrote: “The unexpected often happens in the army. When we retreated from Manassas, the afternoon of August 30, we gave up all hope of seeing our knapsacks again, as the grove where they were deposited had been taken possession of by the enemy. During our advance up the mountain to-day, the dead body of a rebel belonging to a Georgia regiment was seen lying on the ground near the road, where he was killed. One of our boys, regretting the loss of his knapsack, and noticing the Reb had one, concluded to make good his loss by transferring it to his own back. Now the most astonishing thing about this was the discovery, upon removing the knapsack, that it was his own property, which had been toted from Manassas to South Mountain by a rebel soldier. He was still more amazed on opening it to find the contents had been undisturbed.”

After the Battle of South Mountain, many Union troops went to sleep that night under arms upon the battlefield. The next day, the Union army was put into motion marching toward Sharpsburg. Small details were left behind on the South Mountain battlefield to collect and pile accouterments and arms that were scattered, and to bury the dead.

Private Edward King Wightman of the 9th New York Volunteer Infantry wrote about the march toward South Mountain on September 15th. Near Frederick, Maryland he wrote: “In the small hours of the morning our rascally recruits had stolen a suckling pig from a secessionist and roasted him. Our boys are, like most privates in the army, disgustingly unprincipled and profane… They eat pies and drink cider ad lib and walk off with them in their stummuts without a thought of paying… The officers just look the other way, to obtain the reputation of being good fellows.” He continued: “They took rations of crackers and salt pork and started marching toward Frederick. They overtook an ammunition train and put their haversacks in the donkey bins strapped behind the wagon, continued our journey with relieved backs and lighter spirits.”

Arriving at Middletown, Maryland, Private Wightman rode in the regimental ambulance and spent the night at Middletown. He recalled seeing the old South Mountain battlefield as it laid in ruin. “It was obvious that an army had been there fences torn down, old ladies bewailing the ruin of their cabbage plants, the scarcity of food at hotels and in private houses… and the sight of wounded men, bullet holes in walls and trees, fences shattered by shells, dead horses, etc.”

The Second US Sharpshooters during the Maryland Campaign were documented as wearing their famous green uniform. In the book “Berdan’s United States sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865” by Charles Augustus Stevens, he wrote about a conversation that took place in Sharpsburg after the Battle of Antietam. He wrote “As Surgeon Reynolds and myself were riding along the Sharpsburg pike, arriving at the very place where the adjutant fell, we raet a carriage containing a lady. She spoke to us and wanted to be directed to the Second U. S. Sharpshooters, and recognizing our green uniforms, said: “Perhaps you belong to that regiment,” to which we replied affirmatively.”

After the Battle of Antietam and Confederate General JEB Stuart’s Chambersburg Raid, the Union army still laid in waiting. On October 3rd, Private Robert Cruikshank of the 123rd New York Infantry wrote from Pleasant Valley: ““I am very well but have hard fare now. The rations are very bad and we have cold nights and do not have clothing enough as our knapsacks were left at Washington with nearly all our clothing. We hope to get them soon.”

Stephen Minot Weld, Jr. wrote about the condition of the Union soldier on October 16th, “We have been waiting for clothing, shoes, etc., for the men, many of whom are in a very destitute condition” He then wrote on the 31st of October from Sandy Hook “The men are now all provided with shoes and clothing, which they were very much in need of after the battle Antietam.”

On October 17th, while encamped at Pleasant Valley, Private Wightman noted the lack of provisions that his unit had. Their knapsacks had been stored in a warehouse while at Frederick on September 15 and a month later the knapsacks were delivered to the soldier’s in Pleasant Valley. The men were looking forward to receiving blankets, overcoats as well as new socks, clean shirt and a toothbrush.

Private Henry Ropes of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry wrote on October 28th from Bolivar Heights near Harper’s Ferry: “We have had a very heavy rain and I find that my rubber tent let in water in the seams which fasten the canvas to the top of the tent.” He continued: “Last night we had ½ inch of ice. Rather tough for shelter tents and an insufficient supply of blankets. It is awfully cold and I have suffered very much for want of warm clothing for the night.”

Private Ropes sent a letter home to Massachusettes asking his family for vairous items that he needed. On October 30th, he wrote to his family stating that he recieved a trunk that contained buffalo, two blue blankets, knapsack, India rubber blanket, two bottles of wine, gingerbread, coffee, tea, sugar, lanteran, cup saucer, plate and hatchet. By November 1st, Private Ropes wrote home again thanking his family for the knapsack because the army was on the march.

Not only did the infantry suffer during the Maryland Campaign, but so did the cavalry. Listed on a company muster roll for Company F, of the 6th New York Cavalry, it states; “The men were compelled to throw away some of their clothing away in order to lighten their horses and consequently have largely overdrawn their accounts.”

The artillery seemed to fair better than the other branches in the Army of the Potomac. According to the history of 5th Massachusetts Battery written in 1902, a portion of Chase’s Dairy for September 12th states that their knapsacks were fully stocked with clean clothing since stripped to light marching orders on August 10th. The History of Battery E, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery by George Lewis states upon arriving in Washington, they received much needed clothing.

There are many photographs of Union soldiers in the LOC collection. If you are a reenactor, I would highly suggest that you study these photographs to develop you impression. For the Civil War buff, I would also urge you to do the same. Photographs have a large amount of detail in them that is not always written about by an author unless they are uniform experts. I have been honored to work with, and to be associated with some of the early researchers of Civil War uniforms. Their work is the foundation of what many living historians base their impressions on, and what many park historians interpret to the public, showing Civil War enthusiasts an example of the common Civil War soldier.

Photographs: LOC Collection

The Confederate Soldier during the 1862 Maryland Campaign

I originally did this posting for the Monterey Pass Battlefield Institute, a living history organization for early war uniform research, but decided to share this with the War Returns to South Mountain blogger viewers. At South Mountain State Battlefield during our interpretive programs, I always receive questions regarding the uniformity of the Confederate soldier. Since my research is endless on the uniforms of the Confederate soldier during the Invasion of Maryland, this post may not answer all of those questions. I do encourage those interested in the subject to explore the topic on their own. I wish their was a single book out there that deals with Union and Confederate Uniforms during the 1862 Maryland Campaign that I could recommend, but there is none that I am aware of at this time.

During the 1862 Maryland Campaign, many eyewitness accounts about the Confederate soldier were recorded by the citizens of Frederick, Maryland. The only known photograph of Confederate soldiers was taken while the Confederates occupied of the city of Frederick. The photograph contains many great details, and provides some much needed insight on the average Confederate soldier during the Maryland Campaign. There are others taken on the Antietam Battlefield of dead Confederates, where close shots of the dead bare witness to their uniforms and equipment. One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of the Confederate army fought hard during the summer of 1862. However, there were several newer brigades of soldiers that did not see action at Manassas. General Thomas Drayton’s brigade of South Carolina and Georgia soldiers were still wearing the uniforms that were issued to them in June, while in Charleston, South Carolina. They had not seen any combat with the Army of Northern Virginia since their arrival to Richmond. This would soon change.

During this period of the war, the Confederate soldier was receiving clothing from three main sources. The Commutation System, where the soldier was reimbursed for his uniform, the Clothing Bureau, known as the Depot System, based out of Richmond, and you also had states such as North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia issuing clothing to their own troops. With no standard regulations across all three of these sources, this caused the Confederate soldier to lack an appearance of uniformity. In addition to these sources manufacturing garments other factors in the variance of uniforms were that some were made as frock coats and others, shell jackets. All were made of various materials such as jeans-cloth, cassimere and satinette, and in addition to that different patterns were used in the manufacture of the garments. What unit the soldier was with and where he was at the time determined the type of garment that the soldier received. For the most part, the Confederate soldier was well armed and equipped. These soldiers bare scars from a season of hard campaigning, and if you carefully study the photographs from the Library of Congress, in some you will see where the sleeves are shredded to pieces from wear.

After their stunning victory at 2nd Manassas in Virginia, Lee turned his attention northward, and plans for the Maryland Campaign began. As the Confederate army forded the Potomac River on September 4th-7th, they began marching toward Frederick, Maryland. William Judkins of the 22nd Georgia described the march from the Potomac River to Frederick, Maryland: “We marched through several towns in Maryland and through fine farms and stopped at Frederick City, Md., on the Monocacy river, remained there one day and washed our clothes in the river and put them on wet. We were trying to drown some of the lice of which we had plenty. We had not washed our clothes in about a month, and the bugs were getting unbearable.”

Confederate soldier David E. Johnston wrote about his uniform during the Maryland Campaign. “A musket, cartridge box with forty rounds of cartridges, cloth haversack, blanket and canteen made up the Confederate soldier’s equipment. No man was allowed a change of clothing, nor could he have carried it. A gray cap, jacket, trousers and colored shirt – calico mostly – made up a private’s wardrobe. When a clean shirt became necessary, we took off the soiled one, went to the water, usually without soap, gave it a little rubbing, and if the sun was shining, hung the shirt on a bush to dry, while the wearer sought the shade to give the shirt a chance. The method of carrying our few assets was to roll them in a blanket, tying each end of the roll, which was then swung over the shoulder. At night this blanket was unrolled and wrapped around its owner, who found a place on the ground with his cartridge box for a pillow. We cooked but little, having usually little to cook. The frying pan was in use, if we had one.”

The first portions of the Confederate army marched into Frederick on September 6th. Several pro-southern citizens of Frederick could not believe that the victorious Confederate army that they heard about was so poorly clad. Many of the stunned citizens just turned their backs on Johnny Reb. Because of the hard campaigning in Virginia, the veteran Confederate soldier of the Army of Northern Virginia had not had time to take care of himself with regards to hygiene, or be issued a new uniform. Many storekeepers could not bare the stench that came from these soldiers. An unnamed citizen of Frederick City noted: “I have never seen a mass of such filthy strong-smelling men. Three in a room would make it unbearable, and when marching in column along the street the smell from them was most offensive… The filth that pervades them is most remarkable… They have no uniforms, but are all well armed and equipped, and have become so inured to hardships that they care but little for any of the comforts of civilization… They are the roughest looking set of creatures I ever saw, their features, hair and clothing matted with dirt and filth, and the scratching they kept up gave warrant of vermin in abundance.” Another observer described the Confederates simply as “a lean and hungry set of wolves.”

Jacob Engelbrecht, a civilian wrote that “Many [Confederate soldiers] were barefooted and some had one shoe & one barefoot-they really looked “Ragged and tough.” The first 8 or 10 thousand got a tolerable good supply of clothing and shoes and boots but the stores and shops were soon sold out.” This forced many shops to close their doors. Many of the Confederate soldiers paid for these items using Confederate C-notes, which were worthless in Maryland.

D. Lewis Steiner, who was in Frederick during the Confederate occupation of the city noted: “At 4 o’clock this morning the Rebel army began to move from our town, Jackson’s force taking the advance. The movement continued until 8 o’clock p.m. occupying 16 hours. The most liberal calculation could not give them more than 64,000 men. Over 3,000 negroes must be included in the number… They had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc. They were supplied, in many instances, with knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, etc., and they were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederacy army. They were seen riding on horses and mules, driving wagons, riding on caissons, in ambulances, with the staff of generals and promiscuously mixed up with all the Rebel horde.”

The above statement may be referring to the soldiers of General John B. Hood’s Division, primarily the Texas Brigade. If you take into account the Spanish ethnic background of soldiers from Texas, plus add the dust of the long march to Frederick, and exposure to the elements of the sun, those factors may have given the writer an incorrect impression of those soldiers. In the distance a Texas soldier who has a dark complexion, and was dirty from the elements may be mistaken as being African-American. Keep in mind that many African-Americans in the Confederate army were drivers, cooks, and servants, and most likely unarmed. Several people of Frederick could not believe the condition of the Texans. One elderly individual looked upon a Texan soldier and simply said “Lord bless your dirty, ragged souls.”

By September 9th, General Robert E. Lee issued Special Orders Number 191 dividing the Confederate army into several sections. With this, almost two-thirds of the Confederate army would besiege Harper’s Ferry. By September 12th, the rear guard of the Confederate soldiers were skirmishing in the streets as they marched out of Frederick.

As the Confederate army marched out of Frederick, many of barefooted soldiers marched upon the National Pike. The macadamized road tore their feet up, forcing many to march along side of the road. Shotwell, a Confederate soldier in the 8th Virginia Infantry, was shoeless and could not keep up with Longstreet’s wing as it marched to Hagerstown. In Funkstown, a civilian offered his boots to the soldier but they were four sizes to big. The soldier gave them back realizing that the oversized boots would make his feet blister and bleed even more.

On September 14th, 1862, the Battle of South Mountain would erupt. During the battle George Fahm, a Georgia soldier who fought at Fox’s Gap, describes the condition of his uniform after the Maryland Campaign. Sergeant Fahm later wrote “the flag, flag-staff, clothing, cap and blanket of the color bearer (myself) showed thirty-two bullet holes, and yet most strangely to relate, I did not receive a scratch in that battle. Surely God was with me in that fearful struggle.” He was the sole survivor of Company E of the 50th Georgia that crossed the Potomac River with sixty-five men. Sixty of that number was wounded or killed within twenty minutes at Fox’s Gap and five others were killed at Antietam. He was later promoted to Lieutenant.

The next day, further to the south at Harper’s Ferry, the guns fell silent and the siege was over. Jed Hotchkiss, Stonewall Jackson’s famous mapmaker recalled the condition of those Confederate soldiers. “Our soldiers are as dirty as the ground itself and nearly the same color. The enemy looked at them in amazement.” During the Confederate occupation of Harper’s Ferry, the stores containing weapons, cloth and equipment were taken. As orders came for the Confederate concentration of Sharpsburg, General A.P. Hill’s Division was left behind to parole the captured Union soldiers. They would arrive on the Antietam Battlefield late in the afternoon of September 17th, many of them wearing Union blue uniforms taken at Harper’s Ferry.

These are just some of the descriptions of how the Confederate soldier appeared. By no means is this a definitive history. As the Civil War progressed, the Confederate soldier would see a uniform that was well made. Some regiments were clothed far better than others. Civil War uniforms are a topic that interests many people when they come to a Civil War battlefield. It helps to complete the story of the soldiers’ experience.

If you go online to the Library of Congress’ web site, you can download several high quality resolution images of Confederate dead at Antietam. These images provide small details of their uniforms and equipment that is considered as a living historian’s most valuable research tool, to which he sets his authenticity standards to regarding the Maryland Campaign. If you study the photographs closely, you’ll notice that the summer campaigning has taken a toll on their uniforms, and in some photographs you will see sleeves that are shredded to pieces from wear. If you have a high speed Internet connection, download the bigger size and you’ll see that a photograph is definitely worth a thousand words.

Photograph Credits

The Confederate Soldiers in the Streets of Frederick, 1862 (NOT 1864) is from the Frederick County Historical Society

All other photographs LOC

Stone Arch Bridges: Spanning the Past and Still Standing Strong

In Washington County, the stone arch style bridge, like the one at Antietam National Battlefield is a work of fine craftsmanship. Many of the bridges date to the early 1800’s, primarily the 1820’s and 1830’s. The stone arch bridge seemed to be more popular than covered bridges. The total number of stone bridges that stand today in Washington County alone is twenty-eight. Seventeen of them span the Antietam Creek, two span Beaver Creek, two smaller bridges span Marsh Run and five span over the Conocoheague Creek. The last stone arch bridge spans a tributary of Antietam Creek known as Israel Creek.

The popularity of the stone bridge in Washington County was due to the problems that plank bridges posed when heavy traffic traveled through them. They found that with this traffic, the plank bridges were in need of repairs every couple of years. I found a quote on the Washington County Tourism web site that sums this up nicely. “Why build temporary wooden bridges when we have so much limestone, rugged granite, sandstone, slate, and even beautiful marble in our own quarries?” The result was the popular stone arch bridge.

Upon researching the Battle of Antietam, one will quickly find out that a portion of the battle was fought surrounding what is now known as Burnside Bridge. My goal in this blog posting is to summarize the major aspects of the Civil War and what transpired there. To be honest, I think that the Burnside Bridge at Antietam has been written about numerous times and one does not need to go into great detail here. But what about the other stone arch bridges that stand over the tributaries in Washington County? What Civil War history do they have?

Washington County has been considered by many to be the crossroads of the American Civil War. Many troops marched across the vast Cumberland Valley during the various campaigns and raids. If these bridges could talk, what stories would they tell? Unknown to the average Civil War buff, a lot of these bridges witnessed skirmishes, troop movements and encampments. Some of these stone bridges are located in view of South Mountain. Today, Washington County Tourism has even designed a brochure for those interested in seeing these bridges. I highly suggest downloading a copy of the tour. Judging by the Historical Marker Database, many of these stone bridges do include some sort of interpretive markers. This blog posting is to help promote tourism to these bridges by bringing Civil War enthusiasts off the highway and explore the back roads and experience the Civil War history that is often written about, but seldom explored.

The Antietam Creek begins in Pennsylvania where the East and West Branches come together to form the larger Antietam Creek that flows to the Potomac River. Marching off of South Mountain after the Battle of Gettysburg, several thousand Confederate troops, wagons, and some artillery marched through Waynesboro, Pennsylvania and crossed the Mason Dixon Line near Leitersburg. The Leitersburg Bridge was visible to Confederate troops as they sloshed through the muddy country side. The Leitersburg Bridge was first built in 1829 and spans the Antietam Creek. There is no definitive documentation that any Confederate soldiers crossed the Leitersburg Bridge.

A few miles to the southeast of Leitersburg is the Old Forge Bridge. On July 6th, General Robert E. Lee ordered the destruction of Old Forge Bridge to slow down the advancing Union cavalry. Pressed against time, the Confederate army could not afford to use its resources for such a task. The Old Forge Bridge was just built in 1863 and spans over the Antietam Creek.

To the south of Hagerstown there are several stone bridges. Two of them span the Antietam Creek in Funkstown. Funkstown witnessed a battle that was fought on July 10th, 1863 as the Confederate army was concentrated in Hagerstown. Located on the National Pike is the Funkstown Turnpike Bridge that was built in 1823. The second bridge, which was built in 1833, is located on East Oak Ridge Road just east of the National Road.

Located to the south of Funkstown there are three more bridges that span over the Antietam Creek. Claggett’s Mill Bridge built in 1840, Claggett’s Mill Race Bridge built in 1841, and Rose’s Mill Bridge that was built 1839. Although there is no documentation of any major actions occurring near these stone bridges, it wouldn’t surprise me if Union cavalry or Confederate cavalry patrols made their way over these bridges following the Battle of Gettysburg.

Located near Boonsboro, Maryland are three other bridges that span over the Antietam Creek. The Devil’s Backbone Bridge, where Union General George Meade encamped at is only a few miles from the site of the Jones’ Crossroads skirmish site. Devil’s Backbone Bridge was built in 1824 and is a regional Washington County Park. Booth’s Mill Bridge was built in 1833, and is located near the Devil’s Backbone Bridge. Also located in this vicinity is Roxbury Mills Bridge that was built in 1824.

Keedysville, located south of Boonsboro, is home to three bridges that span the Antietam Creek and were used during the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Many of the grist mills and saw mills were used as make-shift hospitals after the Battle of Antietam. The Hitt Bridge, known as the upper bridge, was built in 1830, and is located just west of Keedysville. The Pry’s Mill Bridge was built in 1858, and the Felfoot Bridge was built in 1854, both are located in Keedysville.

Two bridges near Sharpsburg soon saw the wrath of the Civil War battle known as the bloodiest single day of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam. The Burnside Bridge as it is known today, was called the Rohersbach Bridge that was built in 1834. Outside of Sharpsburg on the Harper’s Ferry Road is Antietam Ironworks Bridge that was built in 1832. South of Antietam Iron Works is the Antietam Aqueduct that was built in 1834.

Located west of the Antietam Creek is Conococheague Creek. This creek comes down from Pennsylvania and enters Maryland where is flows under five stone bridges in Washington County Maryland. Just as those stone bridges where the Antietam Creek flows, these five bridges also bare witness to Civil War activity. Located on the Greencastle Turnpike near Cearfoss is the Price’s Ford, or Greencastle Bridge that was built in 1822. It was reported that Confederate soldiers marched across this bridge on July 5th with General John Imboden’s wagon train of wounded. However, this bridge is located a short distance from the turnpike that many Confederate soldiers marched upon as they were preparing to enter Pennsylvania.

Although too far from the line of the Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg, Broadfording Bridge built in 1829, and Wilson’s Bridge built in 1819 may have witnessed troops moving over them during other times of the Civil War. The last two bridges I want to briefly go over are located near Williamsport, Maryland.

The Conococheague Bridge built in 1829, was one of the most strategic bridges in Washington County during the Civil War. From here one can clearly see the city of Williamsport. From here the Potomac River is about one mile away. The Conococheague Aqueduct Bridge was built in 1834. This bridge has overcome many odds including a Confederate bombardment.

Sometimes to fully experience Civil War history, you need to leave the battlefield and see those sites and areas that so many soldiers vividly describe in their letters. Bridges do just that. Listen to the creek flow, enjoy the peace that the scenery has to offer, and imagine for one minute that there were several hundred troops marching across that same bridge.

Before these bridges were built, and fords were used, these areas also hold roots in the French and Indian War. The areas where the Devils Backbone Bridge and Hitt Bridge are located at were where General Edward Braddock and Colonel George Washington crossed the Antietam and the ford located near Felfoot Bridge was a staging area for supplies for Braddock’s Army.

Images courtesy of the LOC