Revisited Subject: Hamburg Pass on South Mountain

Every year, while performing my duties at the South Mountain State Battlefield, I always get that one, particular question by an eager Civil War enthusiast. Where is Hamburg Pass located at? My reply is that it is on the Catoctin Mountain, near the town of Hamburg. Then, the park visitor elaborates with me because they were interested in the position of the 4th Georgia Infantry, which was noted as being on Hamburg Pass on South Mountain, three miles north of Turner’s Gap. It is with that in mind that I have decided to revisit the topic. Looking at several period maps, the location of Hamburg Pass on South Mountain is unknown. Looking at other maps that post date the American Civil War, it doesn’t appear there either. So, as Master Yoda would say, “A mystery, there is, we have.”

The only record of this Hamburg Pass located on South Mountain is written by General Roswell Ripley. In his report after the Battle of Antietam, General Ripley wrote: “On the evening of September 13, I received orders from Maj. General D. H. Hill to march with my brigade and take a position with it and a battery of artillery on the eminence immediately on the northeast of Boonsborough, and to send a regiment at daylight on the following morning to occupy the Hamburg Pass. This was accomplished, and on the following morning, at an early hour, Colonel [George] Doles, with the Fourth Georgia Regiment, was in position at the pass.” So where did the 4th Georgia Infantry perform this duty?

After studying the maps of the surrounding area, I discovered that there were several roads running through the area. The main route to it’s south was the National Pike, and to it’s north were some smaller roads that followed along modern day Baltimore Road. Connecting these main roads that ran east to west were several smaller roads, running from the north to the south. One of the major roads was Mount Tabor Road. It ran from Bolivar northward toward the Baltimore Pike, and connected just west of Myersville. Connecting to that road was the Frostown Road, which forked at Frostown. The left fork went to Turner’s Gap and the other fork led to Monument Knob or the Zittlestown Road.

Before connecting to the Zittlestown Road, the Frostown Road again forked to another back road that led east of South Mountain, connecting to the Mount Tabor Road. Several homesteads dating back to the late 1700’s early to mid 1800’s are located along this road. This is modern day Michael Road. This road on the eastern side of South Mountain opens wide and presents itself with a wonderful view shed of the Catoctin Mountain, and yes, in the distance one can see Hamburg Pass. As you travel a mile and a half through this very steep and narrow road it will take you to where Michael Road connects to Mount Tabor Road. About two miles north of Meade’s right flank.

This area is also three miles north of Turner’s Gap. Considering the two main roads running east to west, and the Union army breaking through the Catoctin Mountain during the evening of September 13th, it would present a perfect opportunity, if given the chance, to flank the Confederate rear guard. But as history is documented, General George Meade’s Pennsylvania Division formed up along the Mount Tabor Road two miles to the south of Michael Road.

So how did the 4th Georgia Infantry get to what General Ripley referred to as Hamburg Pass? This could have been done by way of Zittlestown Road, that connected to the National Road just west of Turner’s Gap. From there, a mile and a half march would put a soldier at the base of Monument Knob. This is where the intersection of Michael Road and Zittlestown Road is located. Considering that it was a regiment, more than likely the companies covered both of those roads picketing the direction of Myersville, Frostown, and Mount Tabor for any flanking attempt by Union cavalry or infantry.

I have not found any evidence to suggest that this area near Washington Monument State Park is that of Hamburg Pass as described by the account relating to the 4th Georgia Infantry’s whereabouts. But rather an unnamed mountain pass that led to Zittlestown, running along side of Monument Knob. It is my professional opinion and the opinion of others who have studied the subject, that what is being referred to as Hamburg Pass on South Mountain is located one mile along Michael Road along the eastern summit past the intersection of Michael and Frostown Roads.

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2 thoughts on “Revisited Subject: Hamburg Pass on South Mountain

  1. Jim Rosebrock January 30, 2012 / 2:22 pm

    John,Thanks for the more precise location of this pass. I sometimes get this question myself. Jim Rosebrock

  2. By John A. Miller January 30, 2012 / 3:49 pm

    Hi Jim, This is one of those mysteries. But after some debate and researching maps of the area, this is the only location that seems to fit the bill. Thank you, Jim for reading.

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