The Fight that Never Came; Weverton Pass during the Maryland Campaign

Weverton is an area that is seldom known for Civil War history. The South Mountain Pass of Weverton is a forgotten mountain pass or water gap depending on how you classify it, played an important role during the Siege of Harper’s Ferry. Today, Weverton is accessible via the Appalachian Trail and Weverton Heights has a wonderful view of the water gap as the Potomac River flows away from Harper’s Ferry. There are no interpretive signs at Weverton, but there is one itinerary marker at Crampton’s Gap that describes the Confederate movements in the southern portion of Pleasant Valley, with a small mention of Weverton.

In the 1820’s, Weverton was founded by Casper Wever, who was the Chief Construction Engineer for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He was also a specialist of masonry arch bridges, a topic that I covered in a previous blog posting. With the Potomac River that could power a mill and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal running along side of the Potomac River, Weverton had huge possibilities for profit. However, the community of Weverton was never incorporated due to collapsing land sales and being so close to the Potomac River, it was subject to flooding.

On July 15th, 1861, the Herald of Freedom & Torch Light ran a piece by Alfred Spencer about the citizens of Weverton celebrating the raising of the “Stars and Stripes” during a Union Pole Raising ceremony. Members of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment and the brass band of the 9th New York Infantry stationed at Sandy Hook came to Weverton and held a celebration to the Union. The small community and the Union soldiers celebrated the day with patriotic music and festivities. This would suggest that the community of Weverton was loyal to the Union. During the celebration, three cheers to the Union and the Constitution were given during the Start Spangle Banner.

During the American Civil War, Weverton was vital in the protection of Harper’s Ferry. The main road that led through Weverton would take you through Pleasant Valley or into Frederick, Maryland, and then on to Washington or Baltimore. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Weverton saw movements of the Army of the Potomac after July 15th as they prepared to cross into Virginia. During the summer and fall of 1864, Weverton was close to Camp Remount that was situated one mile south of Brownsville. However it was in September of 1862 during the Maryland Campaign, that Weverton saw the most action when it witnessed a portion of General Richard Anderson’s Division encamping in the area guarding the main route into Harper’s Ferry and preventing any escape from occurring with the besiege of the garrison.

On September 4th, 1862 the first wave of the Confederate Army had forded the Potomac River crossing into Maryland. Lee would continue to ford the Potomac River for the next three days. On September 7th, 1862, acting on a rumor that a large Confederate force was making its way toward Harper’s Ferry via Weverton, Colonel Dixon Miles and his staff was ordered to go to Sandy Hook and Weverton for reconnaissance. Colonel Miles was also ordered to dispatch the 8th New York Cavalry, with a small detachment of Cole’s Cavalry, to patrol the area. Upon returning they reported that they had a brush with the Confederate Army.

On September 10th, General McLaws, carrying out his orders as prescribed in Special Orders Number 191, was to take possession of Maryland Heights. As long as the garrison at Harper’s Ferry remained active, Lee’s invasion may be threatened and his supply line into the Shenandoah Valley might be cut off. General McLaws’ Division, along with General Richard Anderson’s Division proceeded toward Burkittsville. General Anderson’s Division would not act as one unit, but rather the brigades of his division would act more independently.

As September 11th, dawned the men found the day cloudy, and foggy with a light drizzle that fell upon them. After meeting with some friendly residents of Burkittsville, McLaws decided to march over South Mountain at Brownsville Pass and traveled to Pleasant Valley. Brownsville Pass is about one mile to the south of Crampton’s Gap. Pleasant Valley is about two or three miles wide between South Mountain and Elk Ridge, an extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Potomac River runs through the southern tip of Pleasant Valley and the Cumberland Valley lies to the north.

On September 12th, General Joseph Kershaw and his South Carolina Brigade along with General William Barksdale and his Mississippians were to march to Soloman’s Gap on Elk Ridge, and from there take the road that led directly to Maryland Heights. Colonel William Parham, commanding General Mahone’s Brigade, was ordered to guard the rear of Kershaw’s Brigade. General Howell Cobb’s Brigade was ordered march across Pleasant Valley and keep in communication with General Kershaw, and if needed, give assistance to General Lewis Armistead’s Brigade and Featherston’s Brigade under the command of Colonel Carnot Posey. General Ambrose Wright’s Brigade and two pieces of artillery were ordered to take possession of a portion of Elk Ridge that overlooked Weverton, while General Roger Pryor’s Brigade took possession of Weverton. Colonel Alfred Cumming of Wilcox’s Brigade was to march down South Mountain and take possession of the cliffs overlooking Weverton. General Paul Semmes’ Brigade, as well as other units and artillery, were positioned at Brownsville. General Semmes’ was ordered to guard the rear of McLaws in case of any Federal threat coming to the relief of troops at Harper’s Ferry. Brownsville Pass was the direct route to Maryland Heights. General Semmes’ also ordered the 10th Georgia Infantry to set up pickets, guarding Crampton’s Gap, the Rohrersville Road and other hooks leading from Harper’s Ferry. By the end of the day, Generals Armistead and Cobb were ordered to move up the valley and form a line of battle across the valley guarding Sandy Hook. A few skirmishes and engagements were fought on Elk Ridge, but the Union troops moved back toward Harper’s Ferry.

By September 13th, General Cobb’s Brigade was ordered to take possession of Sandy Hook. General Kershaw had taken possession of Elk Ridge. General McLaws had not heard anything from Generals Jackson or Walker and could only wait. McLaws heard rumors of a Union force, but that proved only to be fictitious.

On September 14th, the situation was dire for those at Harper’s Ferry. During the night of the 13th, General John Walker’s Division took Loudoun Heights, and soon School House Ridge would be occupied by General Thomas Jackson. There was thought to be a road on Maryland Heights, but that road was nowhere to be found by the Confederates so the soldiers of Kershaw’s Brigade had to cut in a road for the artillery. By 2:00 p.m., four guns opened up and the siege of Harper’s Ferry had begun.

To their east, on South Mountain, the rumbles of a battle were heard. Since General Paul Semmes felt that Brownsville Pass would be where the Union troops would come to the aide of Harper’s Ferry, he had concentrated most of his artillery, along with his infantry at Brownsville. General Semmes was able to send out his own 10th Georgia Infantry from Soloman’s Gap to assist Colonel Munford and his cavalry. Colonel William Parham, commanding Mahone’s Brigade, was also ordered to Crampton’s Gap. Semmes was taking a big chance, still believing that Brownsville was the targeted area for Franklin’s Corps, his gamble would not pay off.

By evening, the Union 6th Corps under General William Franklin pressed Crampton’s Gap with orders to occupy Rohrersville, splitting McLaws from the rest of the Confederate army, and, if practical, try to relieve the garrison at Harper’s Ferry. Franklin’s Corps smashed through Crampton’s Gap, but upon seeing a portion of McLaws’ and Anderson’s divisions deployed, decided not to press on, fearing the surrender of Harper’s Ferry was imminent. Also assisting McLaws troops was soldiers from Hampton’s Legion. General Wade Hampton was ordered by General JEB Stuart to cover McLaws’ front at Weverton. While the fight at Crampton’s Gap was dying down, Generals Wright and Pryor were kept in position, guarding Weverton Pass.

The next day, McLaws was still in possession Maryland Heights and the southern portion of Pleasant Valley. Weverton was under Confederate occupation until two in the morning. McLaws, seeing that the C&O Canal was full of water, ordered General Pryor at Weverton to cut the canal just above a culvert. Just above Lock 31 at Israel’s Creek, General Pryor cut the canal, draining all the water out. Pryor also broke the canal lock, temporarily disabling the canal.

As the day went on, Lee, fearing that McLaws might be cut off from the main army, ordered McLaws to abandon Weverton and cross the Potomac River into Virginia. But McLaws was doubtful that the river crossing was a good idea since Franklin’s Corps lay to the north and he was fearful that other Union troops lay to the east of South Mountain. McLaws prepared to do battle and drew up a defensive line.

At Brownsville, the turnpike forked. The right fork went to Soloman’s Gap and the left fork went to Weverton. At Garrett’s Mill the road again divides one mile north of Weverton. The right fork took you directly to Sandy Hook and the left fork continued to Weverton. With Anderson on the right at Weverton, and the balance of McLaws division on the left, they were ready to meet the Union threat. Without direct orders, Union General William Smith and his division moved forward toward the Confederate line in Pleasant Valley. A portion of General Winfield Hancock’s Brigade of Smith’s Division came down the Brownsville Pass skirmishing with remnants of Munford’s Cavalry.

There at Brownsville, Smith’s Division with General Winfield Hancock and General William Iverson’s Brigades came down Brownsville Road. Smith’s Division at Garrett’s Mill took the right fork, and marched upon the road that led directly to Sandy Hook. Realizing that he had advanced so far from Franklin’s main line, General Smith halted his division and marched back, giving up any ground he had gained. With the surrender of Harper’s Ferry, the threat to defend the lower passes on South Mountain via Brownsville or Weverton and those situated on Elk Ridge were eliminated.

During the morning of the 16th, as fog hovered the area, McLaws moved his wagons and troops into Harper’s Ferry. The fog masked the sounds of moving vehicles. Franklin’s Corps sat idle until the next morning, when they were ordered toward Sharpsburg. Retracing Smith’s movements down the valley, General Darius Couch’s Division moved forward to Sandy Hook. Once at Garrett’s Mill, General Albion P. Howe was ordered to Weverton while the brigades of General John Cochrane and General Charles Jr. Devens continued to Sandy Hook. After arriving, General Couch was ordered to Antietam. The soldiers moved back to Rohrersville, arriving at Antietam on the 18th of September.

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The Antietam Woolen Mill of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

The South Mountain range along the Mason and Dixon Line during the years leading up to the American Civil War was full of industry, from iron ore to grist mills, cobblers (shoe repairers), and cordwainers (shoemakers). One industry that played an important role in making garments was the textile and wool mills that sold fabrics to the small towns such as Emmitsburg and Waynesboro. These mills helped to make small towns be independent from outsides sources, unlike today’s world where the towns are now dependent on stores like Wal-Mart to supply goods to major cities and countries around the globe. As a living historian, I find it important to know how garments were made, and to interpret that information to the public such as explaining what went into dyeing, weaving and constructing the material that made up a uniform. Waynesboro has a wonderful history of industry. One such industry was the Antietam Woolen Mill.

The Antietam Woolen Mill has its roots established before 1800, when a group of German settlers established a place called Roadside. This was an area that was first settled in 1768, called the Homestead by John Horner. This area is located two and a half miles northeast of Waynesboro, in Washington Township along the West Branch of the Antietam Creek. In 1830, Gabriel Baer purchased twenty-two acres from John Keagey and converted the small grist mill into a woolen mill. Gabriel Baer was a cabinet maker by trade, but he soon had a profitable business of making coverlets, blankets, fabrics and carpets. Eventually the property featured five buildings powered by an 18 foot water wheel turning in the Antietam Creek. Machinery that was used in the mill was top of the line and ready for business.

In 1854, Gabriel sold the business to his son Henry Baer. By 1857, the woolen mill had a head weaver and manger by the name of John Schaller. John Schaller immigrated to America in 1854 from Bavaria and lived on a farm at the foot of Burns Hill. Gabriel, the original owner died in 1859, and in 1864, Henry sold the mill to his brother Ephraim Baer.

The Antietam Woolen Mill made several fabrics from jeans-cloth to cassimere and satinet. Jeans-cloth is a woven material made of either a cotton and wool blend, or completely made of cotton. Jeans-cloth was the working man’s cloth. Satinet is a cotton warped, woolen filled fabric, woven and finished to resemble an all wool fabric on the face. Cassimere was a smooth woolen cloth. All three types of material made at Antietam Woolen Mill and other mills throughout the United States was common material used to make uniforms during the Civil War for both the North and South.

An article found in the Waynesboro Library, author and date unknown, provides a great insight on how material was made, how it was dyed, and then sold on the market to make clothing. “A cooperative method of operation was set up by Mr. Baer. The farm wife grew the flax, “hackled” or combed it, and spun it into thread. She also raised the sheep, sheared them, picked, washed, carded and spun the wool. Then she carried her yarn to the woolen mill where it was put through the fulling process, dyed, and woven into the blankets, coverlets, or carpets.”

“Home-woven woolen cloth was uneven in texture and in some parts quite thin. The fulling process, by pounding the cloth with a large oaken mallet while it was kept thoroughly wet in a vat of warm soapy water, shrunk the fibers of the woolen cloth together so that, after drying, much better and more durable cloth was made.”

“The dyes used at the mill were made there from barks, roots and flowers. [Logwood and sumac were popular for dyes.] Only the indigo for the blues was purchased. This was brought to the mill by peddlers who got it at the indigo plantations in South Carolina. Blue was such a favorite color with the women that the “blue-pot” was kept simmering most of the time. These home-made colors were wonderfully lasting. The material of coverlets and blankets colored with them have worn out before the colors faded. Iris and goldenrod made beautiful colors, as did red oak and hickory bark.”

The Antietam Mill was most famous for its carpets and coverlets. These coverlets were decorative with influences from the Scotch-Irish women whom bought them in the area. The colors and designs were romantic while the patterns of squares, octagons, chariot wheels and quaint heraldic decorated the coverlet. Many Civil War living historians carry these at some point or another when demonstrating the average Civil War soldier, especially during an early war scenario.

“Tree and leaf forms were frequent motifs and flowers were still more common. Purely geometric patterns were built up of tiny angles because the hand loom could produce only straight lines. A woolen fringe was put on only three sides of the coverlet as the economic women did not waste fringe on the end which was to be tucked in at the foot of the bed.”

Many of the coverlets were woven on a narrow loom. While coverlets, blankets and carpets were commonly known from the Antietam Mill, fabric was also important in making garments. The most important aspect of the woolen textiles was the dyeing and finishing of the woven product. It is unknown to date, but most likely the Antietam Mill stored their wool in the form of a bale. A wool bale was compressed by a machine made from wood boards and had a wire winch mechanism.

Since the Antietam Mill is documented as making material for men’s clothing, it can be assumed it was in the textile business. The weaving process uses a loom. The lengthway threads are known as the warp, and the cross way threads are known as the weft. Based on the time Baer purchased the mill, and since it was documented as having top of the line machinery, it is assumed that it had a Jacquard loom which is a mechanical loom. The Jacquard was invented in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard. This machine simplified the process of manufacturing textiles.

It is no doubt that the Antietam Mill supplied Waynesboro with top of the line products, materials which would then be sold to a general store or a tailor. In addition, since Union army officers from Waynesboro, for the most part, had to purchase their uniforms, it is no doubt that some of their uniforms featured fabric manufactured by the Antietam Mill. By the dawn of the Civil War, technological advances in the mills, and in the tailor shops, constructing garments by machine was becoming a likely occurrence.

In 1905, the Antietam Mill closed its doors. Some of its workers such as John Schaller, built a small shop by his home and began to sell the famous coverlets until his death in 1912. Today, as a living historian myself, and having a wife to make a lot of my uniforms, I can fully understand and appreciate the value of what went into making fabrics, and the steps of finishing those fabrics to make a garment.

The Famed Louisiana Tigers at Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Campaign began for General Jubal Early’s Division on June 4th, 1863, as they marched from Hamilton’s Crossing, Virginia to Spotsylvania Court-House, Virginia. Early’s Division continued its line of march toward Winchester, Virginia. By June 13th, Early’s Division, part of General Richard Ewell’s Corps began their assault and flanking movements of what would become known as the Second Battle of Winchester. On June 15th, the Union soldiers under General Robert Milroy managed to escape but not before Ewell had captured 23 pieces of artillery (nearly all rifled), 4,000 prisoners, 300 loaded wagons, more than 300 horses, and quite a large amount of commissary and quartermaster’s stores.

Just prior to the Pennsylvania Campaign, General Early noted that his division of more than 7,200 soldiers was lacking in supplies. More than a third of his men were without bayonets, some were barefooted, while many others were indifferently shod. Their uniforms, blankets and equipment were very limited, so the captured supplies at Winchester were a welcome necessity to Early’s men. At Winchester, the artillerists of the Charlottesville Artillery looked around the Union garrison that was captured for supplies that hopefully was not taken by the Louisiana soldiers of Hays’ Brigade. They only thing they found was a surplus of artillery sabers, in which all non-commissioned officers of the artillery were to be issued.

John Kerr of the 6th North Carolina Infantry, part of Colonel Isaac Avery’s (Hoke’s) Brigade, recalled “I have plenty of clothes we all got just anything that we wanted when we took Winchester.” Hays’ and Avery’s Brigades took clothing articles such as drawers, shoes, shirts, socks and sky-blue trousers. It was noted that General John Gordon’s men of Early’s Division were dirty and ragged, but some of their equipment consisted of Federal pattern double bag knapsacks that they had captured at Winchester from the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry.

There seems to be a misconception of the Louisiana Tigers and the topic of wearing captured Union goods pulled off of the dead, in addition to wearing their original early war Zouave uniforms. Even during the 1960’s in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania information was passed along from Stoner’s book on the history of the area that stated the Tigers were wearing blue trousers stripped off of the dead bodies of Union troops. Today, a few historians continue to make the same assumptions. If there was any documentation of blue trousers being worn by the Tigers or any other regiment in General Early’s Division, it was because of the goods captured at Winchester, not from the dead lying on the battlefield. In history, there are a few accounts of soldiers looking for clothing on the battlefield, but they also state the condition they found the trousers in. Finding a pair that were not soiled by the body was hard to come by and because of this, many soldiers left those trousers on their fallen occupant.

References to the Tigers wearing their Zouave uniforms in Waynesboro by this point of the Civil War are absolutely incorrect. As the war progressed in 1862, the Bureau of Clothing in Richmond (Richmond Depot) was already consolidating and issuing Richmond patterned clothing to the men of the Army of North Virginia. The commutation system of clothing was already prohibited by this point and the issuances of clothing to the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia consisted of a Richmond Depot made shell jacket, trousers, headgear and other various clothing and equipment. Although several states that clothed its soldiers such as North Carolina or South Carolina were prominent, there is no evidence suggesting the Tigers were wearing flashy uniforms. This can be attested to by the citizens of Waynesboro itself, in that the residents could not tell the Tigers apart from other units of Early’s Division.

In 1862, most of the Louisiana troops received clothing from the Richmond Depot. The Tigers were among those men to receive clothing. Some of the soldiers decided to consolidate the new look, while keeping portions of their sun bleached uniforms. Taking into consideration the clothing issuances after the Maryland Campaign of 1862, the Tigers lost the Zouave appearance and looked no different than that of the average soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia.

By late morning of June 15th, the first portions of General Ewell’s Corps, under the command of General Albert Jenkins, and his cavalry brigade advanced into Maryland, marching down the Shenandoah Valley Turnpike. General Ewell had sent word to General Robert Rodes’ about General Milroy escaping into Harper’s Ferry, but there were no Confederates in that direction. General Early was sent by way of Harper’s Ferry to threaten the garrison there that had already been evacuated.

On the 22nd, with no threat of Union troops at Harper’s Ferry, General Early’s Division crossed the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, moving through the town of Sharpsburg, and passed by portions of the Antietam Battlefield to Boonsboro. Early’s soldiers encamped along the National Road, about three miles north of Boonsboro.

On the 23rd, General Early moved his division through Cavetown, Smithsburg, and Ringgold (Ridgeville) while General John Gordon moved his brigade from Smithsburg to Leitersburg. Many Maryland civilians either fled for their lives via Monterey Pass or they lined the streets and hailed the Confederate soldiers. General Early crossed the Mason Dixon Line into Pennsylvania, following along the western base of South Mountain, and occupied the town of Waynesboro. Later that evening, General Gordon would enter Waynesboro by way of Leitersburg. As word spread about the Confederate invasion with Early’s men crossing the Mason Dixon Line, the citizens of Waynesboro became panick-stricken. John Philips, who was a cashier at the First National Bank, made his escape taking with him documents and money from the bank, fleeing to Fairfield.

As noon approached, the Confederate soldiers marched into Waynesboro. Many citizens noted their raggedness and the worn appearance of their gray uniforms. General Early made his headquarters in the town hall and relieved the local law enforcement of its duties, placing Waynesboro under martial law. According to Ms. Linda Welsh Bender, the Confederate Provost Marshall with General Early issued orders to her father, Jacob Welsh, who was the town Burgess, for the people not to taunt or offer the Confederate soldiers any insult. The Burgess was also told to have any liquor be “put out of reach.” General Early requested a list of names and addresses of the wealthy in the area and ordered the town ransomed for supplies such as shoes, leather, clothing and other items. George Frick had his shop emptied of all leather.

The Louisiana Tigers bivouacked along Church Street in the yard of the Union Church, which is now the Church of the Brethren. The Union Church dated back to 1830, when the Lutherans and the Presbyterians built the Union Church to practice their faith. In 1867 the Presbyterians built their own church and a year later the Lutherans also built their own church. In July of 1871, the church was sold to the Antietam Congregation of the German Baptist Brethren, now the Church of the Brethren. The church that stands today still has the original corner stone from the Union Church, but other than that no signs of the Civil War period church can be seen.

Although General Early had ordered all liquor stills shut down, some of the Tigers managed to get a hold of liquor and caused a minor scare for the townspeople of Waynesboro. Several of the Tigers went foraging for buttermilk, bread, and other rations, and valuables. Some of the men paid for their items in Confederate script while others just took what they wanted. Some of the Tigers took clothing from people by trading something in return, while there were a few cases of Waynesboro men being forced to handover items such as shoes and hats to the Tigers. One member of the 9th Louisiana Infantry was noted as wearing a white top hat he had gotten most likely in Pennsylvania. This top hat managed to get him shot during the Battle of Gettysburg, as it was a great target for a Union sharpshooter.

One Tiger of the 7th Louisiana Infantry walked toward a house and was invited into the private home for buttermilk and bread. The lady of the house asked what unit he was with, and when she received his reply she simply fainted. The soldier rushed to her, and the husband quickly entered the room and demanded to know what was going on. The soldier told the husband what had occured and her husband told the soldier that they had heard about the dreaded Tigers and the reputation they had. For the most part, the Tigers as well as others in Early’s command were very pleasant toward the Waynesboro people. This was due to Early’s orders not to molest the private property of the citizens of Waynesboro.

Early the next morning, on June 24th, the Tiger’s and the rest of General Early’s Division proceeded up Mechanic Street (North Church Street) where the sounds of war slowly disappeared. As they left, some of the local girls heckled and laughed in good fun with those in gray. General Early would again follow the western base of South Mountain, passing through Quincy, Mount Alto (Funkstown), and Greenwood where they would encamp. On the 26th, they marched east upon the Chambersburg Pike, through South Mountain at Cashtown Gap, and burning Stevens’ Caledonia Furnace. As Early’s forces marched away from Waynesboro the reputation of the Tigers remained as they received some negative press from Waynesboro during their stay.

The Tigers would return to Waynesboro following the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. The march over South Mountain at Monterey Pass was a difficult one. The heavy rains that began late in the afternoon on July 4th, made the roads leading through the mountain a quagmire. It is not known exactly where the Tigers encamped upon their return to Waynesboro, or if they did encamp at Waynesboro at all. Many accounts state that the farms and open ground to the east and south of Waynesboro was used by thousands of Confederate soldiers. Many state that the Confederate infantry marched passed many of the Dutch farms such as Renfrew before entering Waynesboro, coming off of South Mountain and resting briefly. There are also accounts stating that a portion of the Confederate army marched upon Third Street to the Antietam (Waynesboro) and Leitersburg Turnpike, side stepping the square. For fifteen days, Waynesboro was under the occupation of the Confederate army and the people of Waynesboro eventually came to realize that for the most part the Southern soldier was an honest and polite individual after all.