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

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