The July 5th, 1863 Emmitsburg Skirmish Site

During the morning hours of July 4th, General Robert E. Lee’s mangled army began its withdrawal from Gettysburg. The main portion of the Confederate Army would march to Fairfield where it would cross over the mountain at Monterey Pass traveling toward Waynesboro and then onto Hagerstown and Williamsport. There it would meet up with General Imboden who was to lead a wagon train of wounded men through Cashtown.

Being detached from Jenkins’ Cavalry Brigade, the 36th Virginia Cavalry would go through Monterey Pass and guard General Ewell’s wagon trains near Waterloo, Pennsylvania. The rest of the Jenkins’ Brigade would patrol around the wagon train that was in Fairfield or ride with General Stuart’s Division, as the 14th Virginia Cavalry followed General Imboden’s column of wounded. Sometime during the morning a portion of Jenkins’ Cavalry came into Emmitsburg. While watering their horses, Emmitsburg residents, who were curious about the outcome of the battle of Gettysburg asked the troopers who won, their reply was that the Confederates had won.

On the morning of July 5th, General JEB Stuart made his way from the fields of Gettysburg to Emmitsburg. General Stuart came to the town of Emmitsburg during the dawn hours with the 34th Virginia Cavalry under Lt. Colonel Vincent Witcher leading the advance into Emmitsburg. There was a sharp skirmish fought near the town’s square as seventy Union men and their captain were taken prisoner.

Among the prisoners was a photographer from Mathew Brady’s Photography Firm. Three photographers named, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, and James Gibson all were traveling to Gettysburg when they came to Emmitsburg on the night of July 4th. Gardner himself stayed at the Hoffman Inn (Emmit House). Which one of the three photographers that Stuart captured is not known however, evidence may suggest it could have been Gardner himself. Gardner’s fifteen year old son Lawrence was attending a boarding school just outside of Emmitsburg and his father may have been assuring his son’s safety while he was held in captivity. Once the photographer was released the three men headed on to Gettysburg.

On July 7th, Gardner and his crew came back into Emmitsburg on their way to Washington. While in Emmitsburg, the photography crew produced seven negatives of different scenes in Emmitsburg. One is a picture of the Hoffman Inn taken sometime in the afternoon on July 7th. Their works on the Gettysburg battlefield and also those taken in Emmitsburg would become some of the most famous photographs that future generations would marvel upon.

At Samuel McNair’s funeral, Major Oliver Horner recalled this story about his comrade, McNair and their time in Cole’s Cavalry. “After rendering General Buford valuable service during the battle, McNair and some of his companions on Saturday night, July 4th found their way back into Emmitsburg. Stuart’s cavalry dashing into the place on Sunday morning captured them with others at Hoffman’s hotel. McNair and Gwinn were taken over the mountain but during the first night, when about Boonsboro, they made their escape and came back to Emmitsburg finding their horses had been saved to them by Harry Hoffman.”

Emmitsburg became a landmark for those in blue since other roads in poor condition could not handle the huge army. Poor conditions and detours caused the armies to split up their columns in pursuit of General Lee. A drummer boy named Bardeen purchased a fair amount of green peas at a price of ten cents at Emmitsburg’s General Store that was located across the street from the Hoffman Inn.

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