The Summer of Retaliation and Ransom

During the summer of 1864, one of the most interesting Confederate campaigns (in my opinion) was launched in Virginia and Maryland. This campaign resulted in the Confederate army marching all the way from Petersburg, Virginia, down the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland, and to the gates of Washington. The Nation’s capital had not witnessed an enemy force at its gates since August 24, 1814. This was when British Major General Robert Ross occupied the capital, and then sat fire to all public buildings. Fifty years later, the Confederate army, led by Lieutenant General Jubal Early, would try to enter the city. But before Lt. Gen. Early could accomplish this, he would need to perform several maneuvers. The first was to clear the Shenandoah Valley of the Union forces under the command of Major General David Hunter.

Major General Hunter was sent into the Shenandoah Valley, and on June 5, 1864, he defeated a Confederate force under the command of Brigadier General William Jones at Piedmont, Virginia. The next day, Maj. Gen. Hunter would occupy Staunton, and from there disrupt daily activities in the valley. Major General Hunter would hit military targets, disrupting lines of communications, and supplies flowing through the valley. He also disrupted the agriculture economy and the railroads. By June 11, Maj. Gen. Hunter had burned the Virginia Military Institute, located at Lexington, as well as the home of former governor John Lecture. The burning of the V.M.I. was in response to the cadets fighting at New Market in May. The burning of John Lecture’s home was for encouraging the people of Virginia to wage a guerrilla type warfare.

In response to the actions of Maj. Gen. Hunter, and the growing pressure of Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s armies at Petersburg, General Robert E. Lee ordered out Lt. Gen. Early’s Corps. First, he was to protect Lynchburg and link up with Major General John C. Breckenridge’s Army of South Western Virginia. Secondly, he was to clear the Shenandoah Valley. If these operations were successful, he was then to launch the campaign in Maryland. The Confederate army defeated Maj. Gen. Hunter at Lynchburg, and then moved north, clearing all threats in the valley. As the Confederate army approached Martinsburg, West Virginia, stores were emptied of supplies. The Confederate cavalry was detached and operated along the B&O Railroad, where portions of the railroad were tore up or destroyed.

By July 5, Lt. Gen. Early’s army forded the Potomac River and concentrated itself at Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Confederate army was in need of supplies. The hard marching and campaigning had taken a toll on the men. Knowing that, Lt. Gen. Early issued orders to his men, as given to him by General Lee, that officers are the only personnel to make requisitions or assessments with the people of Maryland. However, this order was overlooked by many as they marched through Maryland. In retaliation of Maj. Gen. Hunter’s destruction in the Shenandoah Valley, a series of ransoms would be ordered in Maryland.

On July 6, Lt. Gen. Early ordered Brigadier General John McCausland and his brigade of cavalry to Hagerstown, Maryland. By 1:00 p.m., the Union pickets were driven into Hagerstown, along the Sharpsburg Pike. Street fighting erupted, but when the eighty to ninety Union troopers saw the large Confederate force in the distance, they quickly began to fall back. Several of these men were captured by the Confederate cavalry.

Once Hagerstown was secured by the Confederates, Brig. Gen. McCausland called upon the city council for a meeting, and the ransom of $20,000, plus the requisition of 1,500 suits of clothing was given. In reality, Brig. Gen. McCausland was to ransom Hagerstown for $200,000. Due to an unknown error a zero was mistakenly dropped. Whether, Brig. Gen. McCausland misread the order, or the order was written incorrectly is undetermined.

Brigadier General McCausland and a regiment of cavalry were positioned at the courthouse. The town had about three hours to raise the money or the town was to be torched.  The city officials pleaded with Brig. Gen. McCausland, but he did not listen to their pleas. However, McCausland would give the town two extra hours to levy the money.

Items of fabric and clothing were collected, and later taken to the courthouse. The $20,000 was raised and collected by town officials. $10,000 was given by the Hagerstown Bank, while the First National Bank, and the Williamsport Bank both contributed $5,000 each. But before one penny was turned over to Brig. Gen. McCausland, the city officials wanted a guarantee for the safety of Hagerstown. By 1:00 a.m. on the morning of July 7, Brig. Gen. McCausland rode away toward Boonsboro.

Many towns along the National Road such as Boonsboro, and Middletown were forced to give rations to the Confederate soldiers. General stores were depleted of their stock. As July 8, came the Confederate army had penetrated through South Mountain into the Middletown Valley, and Middletown itself would be ransomed.

Middletown was asked to levy $5,000. After some progress, Burgess William Irving promised he could secure $1,500, and could gather the rest from the nearby farms. Lieutenant General Early agreed to allow Middletown to pay $1,500, while the remainder of the balance would be raised from the election district. Middletown had until 7:00 a.m. the following morning to pay, while the district itself had until 6:00 a.m.

Lieutenant General Early left a brigade of troops behind to make sure the ransom was collected. Mayor Braithwaite paid the ransom. This left Middletown in shambles with regard to their economy. For two days the Confederates had taken food, clothing, livestock and horses. Many communities in West Virginia and Maryland suffered similar experiences.

By the evening of July 8, Union Major General Lew Wallace left Frederick in order to prepare his defenses along the Monocacy River. This area of the river provided the best ground to make a stand for the protection of Washington. During this time, Frederick had about 8,000 residents, and also contained five large warehouses of military goods. With time running out, and a lack of wagons, Maj. Gen. Wallace was forced to leave these items behind.

Early in the morning, Confederate Major General Stephen D. Ramseur’s division was the first to enter Frederick. By eight o’clock in the morning, Lt. Gen. Early and his staff entered the home Doctor Richard Hammand, a practicing physician. Doctor Hammand and his family were both slave holders and southern sympathizers. There, in the Hammand home, Lt. Gen. Early wrote out the ransom of Frederick.

The city was to be levied for $200,000, or $50,000 each for commissary goods, medical goods, quartermaster goods, and ordnance. The ransom was signed by Colonel William T. Allen, Chief Ordnance, Major John A. Harman, Chief Quartermaster, Major J. Will Hawks, Chief Commissary, and Doctor Hunter McGuire, Surgeon and Medical Director. A separate demand was made by Major Hawks for commissary goods of 500 barrels of flour, 6,000 pounds of sugar, 3,000 pounds of coffee, 20,000 pounds of bacon, and 3,000 pounds of salt.

As the battle along the banks of the Monocacy was unfolding, Lt. Gen. Early moved his headquarters to the front, leaving behind Colonel Allen and other officers to complete the transaction. Mayor William G. Cole negotiated with the Confederate officers and city council. Mayor Cole tried explaining that the city population of 8,000 equaled out to tax revenue of $8,000. They even cited that Hagerstown had paid far less in ransom. The Confederate officers demanded the $200,000 or the city would be torched.

As the day went on, Mayor Cole procrastinated with the fundraising, in order to see who would be victorious on the battlefield. Once it became clear in the early afternoon that the Confederates held the upper hand in the battle, Mayor Cole had no choice but to solicit the $200,000. Five banking institutions put up the money. The Frederick Savings Institution put up $64,000, the Central Bank $44,000, Frederick County Bank $33,000, Franklin Savings $31,000, and Farmers & Mechanics contributed $28,000. The money was brought in by wicker baskets, and the $200,000 was handed over to Major J. R. Braithwaite. Major Braithwaite was the only bond quartermaster officer who received the payment. The Confederates had no idea about the stores of Federal supplies in Frederick.

The city of Frederick now owed the banks the money that was turned over to the Confederates. The last payment made by Frederick city to the banking industry was in 1951. Since 1864, a total of more than $600,000 in interest that accrued, was finally paid, clearing its public debt. Before his death in 2010, Republican U.S. Senator Charles McC. Mathias Jr. tried to have the Federal Government repay the city of Frederick from damages suffered, due to the ransoming by the Confederate army in 1864; he never won his fight.

After the Confederate army withdrew from the gates of Washington, D.C., they marched to the Shenandoah Valley, via White’s Ford. By July 30, Brig. Gen. McCausland, under orders from his commander, would launch a raid that entered into Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where yet another ransom was delivered. The Confederates demanded $100,000 in gold, or $500,000 in greenbacks to compensate those in the Shenandoah Valley for the loss of their homes during Maj. Gen. Hunter’s path of destruction. The demand was not met, and the town of Chambersburg was torched, causing more than 1.2 million dollars in damages. Over five hundred buildings were destroyed, encompassing over eleven city blocks. If Hagerstown, Middletown, or Frederick would have refused, they may have shared the same fate.

Collins, Joseph V. Battle of West Frederick, Self published 2011. 185-188, 269-276
Judge, Joseph. Season of Fire, The Confederate Strike on Washington, Rockbridge Publishing Company, Berryville, Virginia, 1994. 166, 173, 179-180
Cooling, Benjamin Franklin, Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL, 1989. 50-52
Leepson, Marc, Desperate Engagement, St. Martun;s Press, New York, 2007. 99-100
Rasmussen, Frederick N., Frederick redeemed, but not repaid, Baltimore Sun, February 07, 2010
Schilt, John W. Drums along the Monocacy, Antietam Publications, 1991. 57-62
Spaulding, Brett W. Last Chance of Victory, Jubal Early’s 1864 Maryland Campaign, Self published, 2010. 79-82
Vandiver, Frank E. Jubal’s Raid, General Early’s Famous Attack on Washington in 1864, University of Nebraska, 1988. 107
Wenger, Warren D., Monocacy, the Defeat that Saved Washington, Eugene Printing, Bridgeton, N.J., 1996
Worthington, Glenn H. Fighting for Time, The Battle of Monocacy, White Mane Publishing, Shippensburg, PA. 1994. 104-105
Official Records Series 1, vol 37, Part 1 (Monocacy)
Official Records Series 1, vol 37, Part 2 (Monocacy)

The Second Battle of Braddock’s Gap, July 7, 1864

Picture 008In the midst of the Confederate invasion of Maryland, Union Major General Lew Wallace had heard and read the reports of Lt. Gen. Early’s movements in the Shenandoah Valley and Maryland. He asked Lieutenant Colonel David Clendenin to move westward, across the Catoctin Mountain, and locate the Confederate army. From his headquarters near Monocacy Junction, Maj. Gen. Wallace tried to formulate his plan of defense, but found that he needed to size up the situation.

At dawn on July 7, Lt Col. David Clendenin, with 250 troopers of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, moved out of Frederick and marched to the Catoctin Mountain to observe the Confederate activity. Lt. Col. Clendenin was supported by a section of cannon from Captain Frederick Alexander’s Baltimore Battery, under the command of Lieutenant Peter Leary. While the 8th Illinois Cavalry was making their way to the Catoctin Mountain, several miles to the west on South Mountain, the Confederate cavalry was moving along the National Road. They were ordered to scout the area for the preparation of the Confederate army crossing over South Mountain. Confederate Major General Robert Ransom ordered Brigadier General Bradley Johnson to advance cautiously, ensuring that he did not move out of support distance of the main infantry body.

Leading the advance of Brig. Gen. Johnson’s cavalry was Major Harry Gilmor and his battalion of the 2nd Maryland Cavalry. At 10:00 a.m., Major Gilmor made his way through Middletown trotting along the same streets, where in September of 1862, Major General J. E. B. Stuart had fought. Two miles east of Middletown, along the National Road, Major Gilmor was surprised by the sound of cannon fire from Lt. Leary’s command, and a shell hitting seconds later near him, wounding his brother Robert, in the leg.

After taking cover, Major Gilmor began deploying his battalion in the fields. He quickly ordered his men to dismount and prepare for a Union cavalry attack. When no attack was made, Major Gilmor ordered two squadrons forward, but the Confederate troopers stalled as they approached Hollow Creek. Both sides simultaneously fired into each other and the skirmish quickly heated up. Hollow Creek presented a natural barrier, and provided Lt. Col. Clendenin with some much needed protection. Although a small creek flowed under the bridge, the creek bed itself was deep and steep.

Lt. Col. Clendenin ordered his command across the bridge, and quickly deployed his skirmishers. The Union troopers began pushing Major Gilmor’s troops back toward Middletown. Upon seeing Brig. Gen. Johnson’s larger Confederate cavalry, comprised of one thousand men, making its way to the scene of the engagement, the Union cavalrymen halted on the outskirts of the town.  Lieutenant Leary saw the Confederate force and fired his two cannon into them. As one of the Union shells hit, the explosion knocked nine 8th Virginia Cavalry troopers off of their horses, killing five of them.

Brigadier General Johnson ordered the 8th Virginia Cavalry forward to support Major Gilmor’s Marylanders. The two units began pushing Lt. Col. Clendenin’s command back, regaining the ground they had lost all the way to Hollow Creek. By 11:00 a.m., the Union troopers were pushed back toward Braddock’s Gap, where Lt. Col. Clendenin quickly reestablished his defensive line covering Braddock’s Gap, supported by Lieutenant Leary’s two cannon.

frederick_overlookLt. Col. Clendenin quickly sent a courier to Maj. Gen. Wallace’s headquarters near Frederick. Major General Wallace had heard the sounds of artillery in the distance. Arriving at his headquarters, the courier handed the dispatch over, which read “Catoctin Pass [Braddock’s Gap], Jul 7 1864.” This short and simple dispatch meant only one thing, that the Confederate army had been located.

As Lt. Col. Clendenin prepared for a counter attack, Major Gilmor’s forces had halted. They were waiting for additional reinforcements from Brig. Gen. Johnson to come up, with artillery support from Griffin’s (three gun) Battery. As Major Gilmor advanced, Brig. Gen. Johnson’s brigade fired upon Leary’s guns that were situated in Braddock’s Gap. As Major Gilmor made his way past Hollow Creek, he quickly halted and waited for support.

Brigadier General Johnson and his cavalry crossed Hollow Creek and deployed. Johnson quickly ordered out two hundred and fifty men to occupy Lt. Col. Clendenin’s front, while he sent two squadrons to the Union flanks. There were very few Union troops to prevent this attack, and the Confederates were going to simply roll them up.

Near noon, Lt. Col. Clendenin, seeing the Confederate movements, fell back to a stronger position off the Catoctin Mountain, a few miles west of Frederick city. He sent a dispatch to Maj. Gen. Wallace notifying him of his situation. The Union cavalry quickly redeployed where the National Road and Harper’s Ferry Road come together. As Johnson’s advance reached the gap, they saw the valley floor below, and Frederick city in the foreground, as well as troops moving to the scene.

Major General Wallace had ordered reinforcements to the battlefield. The 3rd Potomac Home Brigade, the 159th Ohio mounted infantry, the other gun from Alexander’s Baltimore Battery, and a detachment of the Loudoun Rangers were sent to Clendenin’s position. As the Union reinforcements arrived, Lt. Col. Clendenin handed command over to the senior officer, Colonel Charles Gilpin. Colonel Gilpin established his defensive lines across the National Road. The 3rd Potomac Home Brigade was ordered to a hill, a half of a mile west of Frederick. The three guns of Captain Alexander’s Baltimore Battery deployed at different points in Zimmerman’s field. The 159th Ohio was ordered to support Alexander’s guns, while the 8th Illinois Cavalry held the left flank of the Union line.

Brigadier General Johnson had two tasks ahead of him. The first was to inform Lt. Gen. Early of the enemy in his front, and the second was to determine what they were up against. The only way he would get the answers was to form a plan of attack. Brig. Gen. Johnson knew the city of Frederick and the surrounding area well and this may give him the upper hand.

By 4:00 p.m., the artillery on both sides began to fire, and Confederate skirmishers were sent forward to feel the Federal force in their front. Brig. Gen. Johnson deployed the 8th Virginia Cavalry, and the 36th Virginia Cavalry to the right of the National Road, while the rest of the brigade remained on the road. Brigadier General Johnson studied the situation, and came to the quick realization that he was no longer facing just cavalry, but artillery and infantry as well. The artillery hit the Confederates with great accuracy.

By 5:00 p.m., the 8th Illinois Cavalry dismounted once more for the fight. They were very low on ammunition. An hour later, after keeping the Union front busy, Confederate troopers began shifting their line. Brigadier General Johnson was going to hit the Union left flank, but he needed to shift some of his troops farther to the south in order to do so. As he pressed the Union front even harder, the Confederates took Rizer’s barn, however, they gave it back to the Union forces after some struggle.  Soon the Union line began to shift toward its left as support. However, the shooting from the Confederates began to decrease slowly as they ran low on ammunition.

By 8:00 p.m., the engagement had not produced any results, and became a stalemate. As Brig. Gen. Johnson encircled the Union force and prepared to make an attempt to take Frederick, his divisional commander Maj. Gen. Ransom called off the attack. Brigadier General Johnson and Major Gilmor both are furious at their commander’s decision. Maj. Gen. Ransom felt that they were too far ahead of Lt. Gen. Early’s army if support was needed. Brigadier General Johnson was forced to pull his brigade back to the Hagan Tavern, where he made his headquarters for the night.

The next day, the Confederate army would enter the Middletown Valley, by way of South Mountain. Maj. Gen. Wallace took command, and began establishing defenses that stretched six miles along the banks of the Monocacy River. Around midnight on July 9, Major General James Ricketts’ division of the VI Corps began to arrive at Monocacy Junction. They were sent from Petersburg during the Confederate invasion. These men were the only troops that would stand between Lt. Gen. Early’s Confederate army and Washington.

Wild, Frederick W. Memoirs and History of Capt. F. W. Alexander’s Baltimore Battery of Light Artillery, Press of the Maryland School For Boys, Loch Raven, MD 1912. 119-121
Vandiver, Frank E. Jubal’s Raid, General Early’s Famous Attack on Washington in 1864, University of Nebraska, 1988. 94-97
Spaulding, Brett W. Last Chance of Victory, Jubal Early’s 1864 Maryland Campaign, Self published, 2010. 68-74
Collins, Joseph V. Battle of West Frederick, Self published 2011. 166-205
Judge, Joseph. Season of Fire, The Confederate Strike on Washington, Rockbridge Publishing Company, Berryville, Virginia, 1994. 156-161
Wenger, Warren D., Monocacy, the Defeat that Saved Washington, Eugene Printing, Bridgeton, N.J., 1996
Worthington, Glenn H. Fighting for Time, The Battle of Monocacy, White Mane Publishing, Shippensburg, PA. 1994. 69-72