After the Battle of Gettysburg: The Movements of the Third Corps

At daylight on July 4th, after the dust had settled at Gettysburg, the horrible task facing the soldiers that remained were burying the dead and collecting arms scattered over the battlefield. The rain set in and high winds swept across the battlefield making the bivouac of soldiers miserable. With the morning of July 5th dawning, the soldiers of the Third Corps would continue caring for the wounded. While his soldiers at Gettysburg carried out the monotonous tasks that had to be done after battle, the wounded Third Corps commander General Daniel Sickles, made his way to Washington where he rested and was visited by the President.

By July 5th, General George Meade issued orders to his corps commanders for a withdraw from Gettysburg. All reports that came to General Meade stated that the Confederate army had already retreated from Gettysburg and was on the road heading in the direction of South Mountain. General David B. Birney assumed temporary command of the Third Corps, and seeing to it that General Meade’s orders were carried out, his new command pursued the Confederate army.

The following morning, the Third Corps was put into motion but halted a short way from Gettysburg, on their way to Emmitsburg. Some reports state that the Third Corps returned to their original position. The roads that carried the Third Corps to Gettysburg were blocked by the Eleventh Corps, the First Corps and the Fifth Corps. The Sixth Corps were also ordered to march from Fairfield to Emmitsburg. Emmitsburg would see two-thirds of the Army of the Potomac marching through during the night of July 6th and into the morning of July 7th.

By three o’clock in the morning on July 7th, the Third Corps began its march to Emmitsburg. Arriving at Emmitsburg, several of the brigades took pleasure in resting in the fields surrounding the town. Unfortunately for the men, the rest was a miserable one, as they had no protection from the elements of the weather, nor found any comfort in resting on the muddy ground. Shortly after 1:00 p.m. the Third Corps began its march on the Emmitsburg Road to Mechanicstown, known as Thurmont today, bivouacking there for the night at around sunset.

At six o’clock in the morning on July 8th, the Third Corps resumed their line of march toward Frederick. As the Third Corps neared Lewistown, the soldiers began marching toward Hamburg Pass, where they found the road badly tore up. The route was promptly changed, and they marched to Frederick City. The 141st Pennsylvania brought up the rear of the Corps and noted that the country side was a vast “sea of mud.” The march was a hard one, as the soldiers carried their guns with the muzzles pointed toward the ground, their blanket rolls were soaking wet and because of that, made heavier, and those who chose to carry their knapsacks found it be bulky. The march halted at 10:00 p.m. that night with the Third Corps resting on the road to Middletown, just outside of Frederick.

At 4:00 a.m. on July 9th, the Third Corps began marching toward Middletown, bringing up the rear of the Army of the Potomac. Upon reaching Middletown, the Third Corps were issued rations and continued to march to South Mountain, where they were to march over to Fox’s Gap at approximately 10:00 a.m. The men rested upon the mountainside until about 6:00 p.m. when they were ordered to resume their march. At 7:00 p.m. orders were given for the Third Corps to encamp west of Fox’s Gap, while the rear of the Corps encamped on the South Mountain Battlefield at Fox’s Gap.

The next morning, at six o’clock, the march toward the Antietam Creek began. The soldiers passed through Keedysville, and halted near General Meade’s headquarters near the Devil’s Backbone. The march was again harsh and the soldiers were thankful when they were ordered to bivouac at 9:30 that night. Unfortunately for the men, again, orders were issued, and the march was resumed. Finally, at 2:00 a.m. orders were again given to bivouac for the night, this time near Poolesville.

At 6:00 a.m. on July 11th, the Third Corps began to go into position in support of the Fifth Corps. At four o’clock that evening more alignments were made and the soldiers of the Third Corps bivouacked for the night. The following morning, the Third Corps remained in the same position until about noon when portions of the Third Corps marched about one mile, went into bivouac, and massed in a woods about 1½ miles to the rear of Marsh Creek. During the day, on July 13th, not much was recorded, and it is presumed that the Third Corps was still encamped in the same area.

At dawn on July 14th, the Third Corps was ordered to support the Twelfth Corps, marching about one mile before encamping for the night. The Confederate army had already crossed the Potomac River during the night of July 13th. General Meade issued orders for a withdraw from Williamsport, and to cross the Potomac River at, or near, Sandy Point.

On July 15th, the Third Corps marched from Williamsport to Sharpsburg. After passing through Sharpsburg, the Third Corps crossed over what had become Burnside’s Bridge, marching about a half of a mile and were bivouacked at 1:00 p.m. The next day, the Third Corps began their march into Pleasant Valley at six o’clock in the morning and marched to Brownsville, near Maryland Heights, where they encamped at 2:00 p.m. Late in the day on July 17th, the Third Corps marched to Harper’s Ferry, crossing the Potomac River on pontoons, and marched another five miles before encamping for the night.

At this point, the Pennsylvania Campaign ended for the Third Corps. They would continue their march to Hillsborough, Virginia, where the South Mountain range begins in a series of rolling hills known as Short Hill Mountain.


After the Battle of Gettysburg: The Movements of the Twelfth Corps

For the men of the Twelfth Corp, July Fourth was spent caring for the wounded, burying the dead, and reconnaissance of the Confederate army. General Ruger’s brigade of infantry was moved forward and found that the Confederate positions were abandoned. Details of men were sent out, collecting over 2,000 arms, and burying more than 600 Confederate dead. Dark clouds came in from the west and during the late afternoon, the heavens opened. It didn’t take long for the dust to turn into mud.

The next morning, the Twelfth Corps was still dealing with the horrible task of burying the dead and collecting arms. General George Meade issued orders to his Corps commanders. The Twelfth Corps was to take up a line of march to Littlestown, march to Frederick, cross South Mountain via Middletown, and travel to Crampton’s Gap.

On July 6th, the Twelfth Corps began its line of march toward Bruceville. The leading elements arrived near Littlestown and encamped for there the night. The rains had made the roads very muddy. Many of the rear regiments had a hard time keeping up with the main column. Upon encamping at Littlestown, the soldiers quickly realized that their reception from the citizens was a cold one. Many soldiers became upset to find that the citizens were selling food and supplies at such inflated prices. The men who had thought the townspeople were providing them with a feast, came to find out that they had to pay for the items after they had eaten them.

At 4:00 a.m. on July 7th, the tired, and wet soldiers began a long trek that would take them to the banks of the Monocacy River, roughly thirty miles away. Several of the soldiers were without a good pair of shoes. General Henry Slocum wrote “Although many of the men were destitute of shoes, and all greatly fatigued by the labor and anxiety of a severely contested battle, as well as by the heavy marches which had preceded it, still, a march of 29 miles was made this day.” The roads were very difficult to march upon and the open fields were not much better. By dusk, the head of the column had made it as far as Frederick, while the rear portions of the Twelfth Corps encamped near Walkersville.

The next day, July 8th, after a drenching storm had passed by, the first rays of sunlight shone brightly through the clouds. The Twelfth Corps marched through Frederick, and on toward Middletown via Braddock’s Gap on the Catoctin Mountain. Once arriving in Middletown, the Twelfth Corps marched due south toward Jefferson and Burkettsville. General A. S. Williams, commanding a division, sent a brigade of infantry to relieve a regiment of the Third Corps who had occupied Crampton’s Gap. His division would encamp near Crampton’s Gap for the night while the rear elements would encamp in the fields near Jefferson and Burkettsville.

The next day, the Twelfth Corps crossed over South Mountain at Crampton’s Gap and began its advance toward Rohrersville, where they would encamp for the night. At day break on July 10th, the Twelfth Corps marched from Rohrersville to Bakersville via Keedysville, following the same road they had used the day before the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862.

On the 11th of July, the march resumed, taking the Twelfth Corps to Fair Play and then onto Jones’ Crossroads, where they deployed in a line of battle to the left of the Second Corps. The Twelfth Corps became the left wing of the Army of the Potomac. The following day was spent repositioning, as a Confederate force was spotted near Saint James College. Colonel Archibald L. McDougall, commanding First Brigade, First Division, recalled the movements of his brigade near Saint James College “In connection with the other brigades of the division, we advanced our line of battle upon the left of the Williamsport and Hagerstown pike about a mile, and remained in this position for awhile, when we fell back about 400 yards, and commenced building breastworks.”

The Twelfth Corps would hold the same position throughout the day on July 13th. General Henry Slocum wrote “The 12th and 13th were spent in endeavoring to ascertain the position of the enemy in our front, which we found great difficulty in accomplishing. Marsh Run extended along the position held by the enemy in our front, and at this time it was passable only at the bridges, the heavy rains having raised the water much beyond its usual depth, and caused it to overrun the marsh land in our front. During the night of the 13th, the enemy recrossed the Potomac.”

On July 14th, The Twelfth Corps moved slowly and cautiously toward Williamsport. Colonel McDougall wrote about the movements of his brigade: “The brigade was moved to the front; formed a line of battle on the left of the pike; threw out the Third Maryland Regiment as skirmishers, who soon reported that the enemy had evacuated their position in front the night before, when we commenced our march in column down the pike toward Williamsport, and, after advancing about 2 miles, turned to the left toward Falling Waters, and, after proceeding about 2 miles farther, were halted, when our skirmishers, who had preceded us, brought in 6 commissioned officers and 235 enlisted men as prisoners, being a portion of the rear guard of the enemy. It was ascertained at this time that the enemy had crossed the river, and for the time had eluded our pursuit.”

General Alpheus S. Williams commanding the First Division of the Twelfth Corps wrote: “The division was ordered to make a reconnaissance along the Williamsport road, in connection with a division of the Second Corps. Marched out at 6:00 a.m. and sent forward a regiment from each brigade as skirmishers. Found the enemy’s works deserted, and advanced the skirmishers, followed by the brigades, excepting Lockwood’s, down the peninsula toward Falling Waters, until information was received from the commanding officer of cavalry that the enemy had wholly crossed, when the brigades were halted. Our skirmishers had a sharp engagement with the enemy’s rear guard, and sent in between 200 and 300 prisoners, a special report of which has been forwarded. At 4 o’clock recalled the skirmishers, and fell back and encamped in the vicinity of Williamsport.”

After a direct pursuit was called off, General Meade issued orders for his army to pull back to Sandy Point, and cross the Potomac River. The Twelfth Corps marched through Downsville, Bakersville, and Sharpsburg. Upon reaching the Antietam Iron Works the Twelfth Corps took River Road toward Harper’s Ferry, encamping on the high grounds in Pleasant Valley near Sandy Hook. Once near Harper’s Ferry, the soldiers were to receive clothing and other supplies. By July 19th, the Twelfth Corps began crossing the Potomac River into Virginia where they would pursue the Confederate army as far as Warrenton Junction, Virginia, where they arrive on July 26th.

Photographs of Pleasant Valley are from the 1890’s – South Mountain State Battlefield Archives

After the Battle of Gettysburg: The Movements of the Second Corps

At dawn on the Fourth of July, the Second Corps was still holding the same position as it did during Pickett’s Charge. General Winfield Hancock was wounded during the Confederate assault in addition to General John Gibbon. The responsibilities to lead the Second Corps during their pursuit of the retreating Confederate army fell upon General William Hays. For the soldiers of Second Corps, July 4th and a portion of July 5th was spent burying the dead, collecting arms and accouterments from the battlefield and caring for the wounded.

On July 5th, General George Meade issued orders for their withdraw from the Gettysburg battlefield to pursue the retreating Confederates. At about 3:00 p.m. the Second Corps began leaving their hastily made breastworks, and began marching in the direction of the Baltimore Pike. Fording Marsh Creek, the Second Corps marched to Two Taverns, where they bivouacked for the night. The day had been a wet one as they traveled along the muddy roads and the soldiers were thankful when they reached Two Taverns at 8:00 p.m. that night.

The 6th of July was spent bivouacked in the fields surrounding Two Taverns. The citizens of Two Taverns were not very hospitable and did not treat the soldiers very kindly. Already in a disagreeable mood due to the foul weather, the soldiers’ presence in their town made the inhabitants even more unpleasant. The citizens of Two Taverns opened their stores to the soldiers and began to charge dramatically inflated prices for goods that the soldiers wanted to purchase. Several soldiers were very upset with the townspeople and thought that the march elsewhere could not come fast enough.

At five o’clock in the morning on July 7th, the Second Corps began their march to Taneytown, where they would encamp near the road that would take them directly to Frederick. After marching across the Mason Dixon Line, the soldiers had a warmer reception in Maryland. The Second Corps arrived at Taneytown during the later part of the morning. Here, the Second Corps would bivouac and receive rations. Along the eight mile march in the rain, they received loads of milk and other goodies. Near Taneytown, the ladies made bread to give to the soldiers.

At five o’clock in the morning on July 8th, the Second Corps took up their line of march on the road that led directly to Frederick. Before sunrise, another major storm swept through the area, making it a total of four days of severe weather. Soon the rain subsided and the first rays of sunshine broke through the clouds. The roads that the Second Corps traveled through the little towns of New Midway, Woodsboro, and Walkersville were very tore up by the recent rains. Upon reaching the banks of the Monocacy River at 5:00 p.m., the Second Corps was ordered to bivouac. They had marched about twenty miles during the day.

At 6:00 a.m. on July 9th, the Second Corps began its march toward Crampton’s Gap, upon the South Mountain range. The weather was hot and the march was slow. The soldiers passed through a small horizon of the Catoctin Mountain, passing through the small town of Jefferson and Burkettsville. During the day many soldiers, unable to keep up with the long march, were forced out of line and fell along the side of the road waiting on the ambulances to come by and pick them up. While others too sick to move were taken in by the families who occupied the farms that dotted the landscape.

Upon marching through Burkettsville, Crampton’s Gap had to be crossed. Many of the soldiers reflected upon this area with a heavy heart, as it was the scene of the battle they had heard about that took place in September of 1862. This was the area where General William Franklin’s Sixth Corps fought portions of General Lafayette McLaw’s division in the days prior to the Battle of Antietam. Once marching over South Mountain, the Second Corps entered Pleasant Valley, and proceeded toward Rohrersville. The lead elements would encamp near Rohrersville while the rear portion of the Second Corps encamped just west of Crampton’s Gap. The Second Corps had marched roughly twenty-two miles that day.

The next day, on the 10th of July, the Second Corps began their march at around six in the morning. They marched through Rohrersville taking the road that led to Keedysville. Upon fording the Anitetam Creek at Keedysville, many soldiers recalled memories of the Battle of Antietam. The Antietam Creek was running high due to the recent rains. With this, many men undressed, placing their clothes under their rubber blankets in order to keep their clothes dry, and bathed while fording the creek.

The Second Corps continued its march toward Jones’ Crossroads. The lead elements made it as far as Smoketown and Tilghmanton, covering a total distance of twelve miles. The rear of the Second Corps managed to bivouac three miles north of Keedysville. Prior to receiving orders to encamp, the leading elements formed a line of battle near Jones’ Crossroads, paralleling the Hagerstown Pike. They would encamp there for the night, sending out pickets.

The next day at 4:00 a.m. reveille was sounded, and by 6:00 a.m. the Second Corps continued its march toward Hagerstown. Many of the men marched through the wheat fields near Saint James, where a halt was made near noon. There, the Second Corps formed a line of battle to the left of the Fifth Corps, with the wing resting on the Hagerstown Road.

The soldiers found a spring where cold water was flowing. There, many of the men who did not clean up at the Antietam Creek began to wash their uniforms when orders to fall in were given. The soldiers took their uniforms and tried to dry them the best that they could. Some of the men placed their fatigue blouse on their bayonet to let the air dry them. Skirmishers were sent out and engaged a few Confederate skirmishers but no major assault was made. The Union skirmishers managed to drive them in, and overtook their positions by nightfall. By 9:00 p.m. another change in the deployment of the Second Corps was made, ordering the soldiers to be parallel with the Hagerstown Pike. On this night the soldiers would sleep with rifles in hand.

On July 12th, the Second Corps moved about three-quarters of a mile to the spot where their skirmishers from the previous day had occupied. Their position was located upon a crest in the landscape with heavy timber located nearby. Some men were positioned along a rocky ledge. General Alexander Webb noted that his brigade took position facing northwest, and was in front of Saint James College. Skirmishers moved forward, and again began engaging the Confederate pickets. As the darkness of night neared, the soldiers began to dig in and build entrenchments. Dirt and rails were abundant in the area and those resources were perfect for breastworks. That night, another rainstorm blew in.

On July 13th, the right wing of the Second Corps moved forward about a half of a mile and took position facing the west, looking toward Williamsport. While the right wing moved to its new position, the rest of the men continued to work on their entrenchments. They were expecting a Confederate attack that never came. During the night, the Confederate army withdrew from Williamsport and retreated into Virginia.

The next day, at 6:00 a.m. in the morning, portions of the Second Corps were ordered to Williamsport, where it was discovered that the Confederate army had retreated. Several Confederate soldiers were captured. As General John Brooke’s brigade continued pressing the rear of the Confederate army toward Falling Waters, skirmishes broke out. Brooke’s brigade eventually encamped near Falling Waters. Colonel H. Boyd McKeen’s brigade, who held the advance of the pursuing Second Corps, captured fifty Confederate soldiers, and gave up the pursuit near Falling Waters.

On July 15th, the Second Corps was ordered toward Sandy Hook. Many of the men marched from Williamsport, passing through Downsville to Sharpsburg, and encamped near Harper’s Ferry that night along the C&O Canal. Early the next morning, the Second Corps marched toward Sandy Hook. Many of the soldiers in Pleasant Valley had received new uniforms and rations. Several of the men took the opportunity to bath in the Potomac River. They remained at Sandy Hook and Pleasant Valley until July 18th at 6:00 a.m. when they crossed the Potomac River into Virginia.