After the Battle of Gettysburg on July 4th, Colonel Andrew L Harris, acting commander of Second Brigade, First Division of the Eleventh Corps, was ordered to throw his brigade forward into Gettysburg. Upon reaching the town, he found out that very few Confederates were in charge of the town, and they were quickly captured. Colonel Harris and Second Brigade were among the first to reenter Gettysburg since the Union withdraw from the town. While in Gettysburg, Colonel Noble assumed command of the brigade and Colonel Harris returned to his regiment, the 75th Ohio Volunteers.
The next day, General George Meade issued orders to his army. The Eleventh Corps was to take up march from Rock Creek to Emmitsburg, where it was ordered to bivouac. Major Fredrick C. Winkler recalled “Our corps remained until Sunday night, when we started on a horribly muddy road, marched till twelve o’clock at night, when we found ourselves five or six miles from Cemetery Hill; that was a beautiful cemetery when we entered it, but it has been terribly disfigured.”
When the Eleventh Corps left Gettysburg they, along with the Fifth Corps, took a portion of the Taneytown Road. Lieutenant Colonel Adolphus Dobke, commanding the 45th Regiment New York Volunteers also recalls the road conditions. He wrote: “After the battle (Gettysburg), the regiment remained on the battlefield on Cemetery Hill until 6:00 p.m. July 5, when it marched off toward Emmitsburg. At midnight the march was stopped, owing to the complete darkness and the horrible condition of the roads, which were nearly impassable from the heavy rain of the last two days.”
At 8:30 in the morning on the 6th, General Oliver O. Howard received an order from General Meade about the layout of the Union army as it withdrew from Gettysburg. It stated “I should like to have one of your corps at Emmitsburg, and the other in position on a road leading to Fairfield, from whence it could be thrown either to Fairfield or Emmitsburg. Not knowing General Sykes’ position, I must leave to you the selection of the corps to occupy Emmitsburg.” General Howard was also commanding the Fifth Corps which was under the command of General George Sykes. While preparations were still being made, General Meade also sent a message at around 9:00 a.m. to General John Sedgwick, commander of the Sixth Corps. This message stated that “I have also directed General Howard (who commands the Fifth and Eleventh Corps) to post one of his corps at Emmitsburg, and the other on the same road leading to Fairfield, from whence it can be thrown up there.”
During the afternoon Lieutenant Colonel Dobke noted that his unit arrived at Emmitsburg at 4:00 p.m. The men bivouacked at Emmitsburg and mingled with members of the Sisters of Charity. At 3:30 a.m. on July 7th, the Eleventh Corps would press ahead of the Union army. Their destination was the town of Middletown. Marching for several hours from Emmitsburg, the Eleventh Corps marched down Old Frederick Road to Creagerstown and then to Utica, where they would turn westward and march to the Catoctin Mountain, crossing over at High Knob Pass. High Knob was a steep, rocky and narrow road which the artillery and wagons found it difficult to move upon. The horses as well as the men were completely exhausted. The advance of General Carl Schurz’s Third Division reached Middletown at around 8:00 p.m. that evening.
Lieutenant Colonel Dobke was among Schurz’s Division and recalled: “The heaviest march of the campaign was executed, marching 32 miles from Emmitsburg, and arrived at 10 p. m. at Middletown, a distance of 34 miles, through the open fields, taking a narrow pass road over the mountains in a circuit. Toward night the rain descended in torrents, amid which men and beasts sank down, tired to death, most of the soldiers without any shoes, barefooted, or shoes so ragged or torn that they did not deserve the name.”
The roads were so badly tore up from the heavy rains, that the Second and First Divisions were forced to take Old Frederick Road almost to Frederick and march westward, passing through Shookstown Pass on the Catoctin Mountain. As midnight passed, the First and Second Divisions would take the National Road from the Catoctin Mountain and continue their march to Middletown. The Eleventh Corps covered more ground than any other army corps in the Army of the Potomac. The rear of the Eleventh Corps arrived at Middletown before 11:00 a.m. on the 8th of July. Upon entering Middletown, General Howard received a dispatch ordering him to move his corps to Boonsboro where Generals John Buford and Judson Kilpatrick were engaging Confederate cavalry under the command of JEB Stuart.
General Howard, put his army corps in motion once again and began to march quickly to Turner’s Gap. At about 5:00 p.m., General Schurz’s Third Division had executed this march. While positioned at Turner’s Gap, General Schurz received a request for additional support from infantry to march to Boonsboro. General Schurz was sent forward to aid Buford. The Eleventh Corps was positioned upon the western slope of South Mountain at Turner’s Gap. The First and Second Divisions and artillery were placed in position to the left of the National Road, while the First Corps was located on the right side of the National Road. At 7:00 p.m. Schurz’s Third Division took position on the National Road northwest of Boosnboro. Seeing Union infantry in Boonsboro and on South Mountain, Stuart’s cavalry withdrew from Boonsboro.
On July 9th, the Eleventh Corps remained fairly stationary, not marching except for a few miles from Turner’s Gap to Boonsboro. General Schurz’s Division, who had advanced through Boonsboro was relieved. Many of the men foraged for food. The next day, the members of the Eleventh Corps would see the First and Six Corps march past them as they moved to Beaver Creek. At Boonsboro, Howard had addressed his men and thanked them for their dedication, the overwhelming march they had made, and the fight they endured at Gettysburg.
Shortly afterwards, General John Sedgwick, commander of the Sixth Corps and also a wing commander, ordered General Howard to press toward Beaver Creek. Arriving at Beaver Creek at around 4:30 p.m., Howard moved the Eleventh Corps into position, coming up along the right of the Sixth Corps. A portion of the Sixth Corps would move out and attack the Confederate forces at Funkstown. The Eleventh Corps would not go into battle that day and would remain, for the most part, in the same position as they were in on the 10th.
The Eleventh Corps moved from Beaver Creek, passed in front of the First Corps, and forced their way over the Antietam Creek at Funkstown. By days’ end, the Union army was officially over the Antietam Creek. During a council of war it was to be decided if a reconnaissance of Lee’s entrenched army at Williamsport was feasible. Meade’s corps commanders declined such an opportunity, except for two men, Generals James Wadsworth and Oliver O. Howard. But the opportunity for this to happen never came.
On July 13th, at 11:30 a.m., seeing the Confederates that were left in the area busy constructing their entrenchments, Howard ordered General Schimmelfennig and his brigade of infantry to further reconnoiter at Hagerstown. A few shots rang out, but nothing more happened that day to Howard’s Corps. During the night, the Confederate army had crossed the Potomac River, cutting the ropes that were holding the temporary pontoon bridges. By the morning of the 14th, the trenches were empty and Meade then issued orders to his corps commanders to route out the roads where they would cross the Potomac River. The Eleventh Corps moved from Williamsport and marched toward Funkstown.
On the 15th, the Eleventh Corps was ordered to move to Funkstown, cross Turner’s Gap, and march to Middletown where they would encamp. From there they were to march to Jefferson and then onto Berlin, Maryland encamping there on July 16th. The Eleventh Corps crossed the Potomac River into Virginia on July 19th.