The Battle for Turner’s Gap

On September 14, 1862, several battles erupted on South Mountain. The Union army, commanded by Major General George McClellan had caught up with the rear of the Confederate army, commanded by General Robert E. Lee. Much of the fighting during the morning of September 14, was concentrated around Fox’s Gap, one mile to the south of Turner’s Gap and the National Road. By the afternoon, reinforcements from both armies began making their way toward South Mountain. By evening, the battles of Brownsville Gap, Crampton’s Gap, Fox’s Gap, Turner’s Gap and Frostown Gap would erupt.

Alfred Colquitt in Uniform
Confederate Colonel Alfred Colquitt, shown here as a major general.

Guarding the eastern approach to Turner’s Gap, situated along the National Road, was a brigade of Confederate infantry commanded by. His brigade consisted of 13th Alabama Infantry, 6th Georgia Infantry, 23rd Georgia Infantry, 27th Georgia Infantry, and the 28th Georgia Infantry. They had been posted east of Turner’s Gap, since the evening prior the Battles of Catoctin Mountain came to an end. Supporting Col. Colquitt was Captain John Lane’s Battery of Lieutenant Colonel A. S. Cutt’s Battalion, who positioned his guns at Turner’s Gap overlooking the National Road.

While Col. Colquitt remained in his position, several miles east at Frederick, Maryland, the Union I Corps, under the command of Major General Joseph Hooker, left their camp along the banks of the Monocacy River at 6:00 a.m. By 1:00 p.m., Maj. Gen. Hooker’s corps had reached Middletown, Maryland. There, he was ordered to attack Turner’s Gap. Marching his men to the small town of Bolivar, Maj. Gen. Hooker moved his corps to the right, along Mt. Tabor Road, and came near the small area called Frostown. Here, Maj. Gen. Hooker would attack the Confederate left flank holding the mountain ridge north of Turner’s Gap.

Union Brigadier General John Gibbon

While Maj. Gen. Hooker’s corps was deploying, Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Fourth Brigade of Brigadier General John P. Hatch’s First Division was ordered back to the National Road and attack Turner’s Gap. Brigadier General Gibbon’s brigade consisted of the 19th Indiana Infantry, commanded by Colonel Solomon Meredith. Commanding the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry was Colonel Lucius Fairchild, and the 6th Wisconsin Infantry was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Edward S. Bragg. The 7th Wisconsin Infantry was commanded by Captain John B. Callis. Brigadier General Gibbon’s brigade would hold the extreme left flank of the I Corps. The last of fresh troops, part of Major General Jesse Reno’s IX Corps was located a mile to the south, ready to attack Fox’s Gap.

By 3:00 p.m., Gibbon’s Brigade were positioning themselves into a battle line just east of Bolivar. Supporting Gibbon’s Brigade was a section of artillery from Battery B, Fourth U.S. Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant James Stewart. Brigadier General Gibbon deployed his brigade on both sides to the National Road. In front, the 19th Indiana Infantry was on the left of the National Road, and were in battle line formation. Supporting them was the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, who were deployed in columns. The 7th Wisconsin Infantry was located on the right side of the National Road and deployed in a battle line, while the 6th Wisconsin Infantry was in support, deployed in columns.

Map showing the positions of Gibbon’s Brigade and Colquitt’s Brigade.

Colonel Colquitt had his brigade deployed along the National Road, at the base of South Mountain leading into Turner’s Gap. His left flank was held by the 28th Georgia Infantry, commanded by Major Tully Graybill. To their right and left of the National Road was the 23rd Georgia Infantry, commanded by Colonel W. P. Barclay. Located on the right side of the National Road was Lieutenant Colonel J. M. Newton’s 6th Georgia Infantry. Positioned next to them was the 13th Alabama Infantry, commanded by Colonel Birkett D. Fry. Holding the right the flank was the 27th Georgia Infantry, commanded by Colonel Levi B. Smith. Four companies of skirmishers from  the 28th Georgia Infantry, commanded by Captain W. M. Arnold, were positioned just east of Fox’s Gap that joined the National Road.

By 5:00 p.m., as part of a coordinated assault on Frostown Gap and Fox’s Gap, Brig. Gen. Gibbon ordered his men forward. Captain W. W. Dudley’s company of the 19th Indiana Infantry moved to the left and deployed as flankers. They would hold the extreme left flank of Gibbon’s brigade. Company B, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry deployed skirmishers in front of the 19th Indiana Infantry, while Company K, 6th Wisconsin Infantry deployed in front of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry.  

Upon seeing Gibbon’s brigade moving forward, Col. Colquitt sent a dispatch to Major General Daniel H. Hill asking for reinforcements. Major General Hill responded, saying that he had none and that Col. Colquitt would need to defend Turner’s Gap with the forces he had on hand. This was due to Maj. Gen. Hooker’s assault on Frostown Gap to the north of Col. Colquitt’s position, and Major General Jesse Reno’s IX Corps attacking Fox’s Gap to his south.  Additional Confederate reinforcements were needed in those areas in order to keep the Union army from breaking through South Mountain.

Captain Lane’s artillery opened on Gibbon’s brigade as they began moving forward. As Gibbon’s brigade moved forward, Lt. Stewart’s two gun section followed behind until their rifled cannon were in range of the Confederate guns. The skirmishers of Captain Arnold concealed themselves within the wood line. They opened on the advancing skirmishers of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry and 19th Indiana Infantry. Many of the Confederate skirmishers took up in the whitewashed house that was located at the intersection of the National Road and Fox’s Gap Road.

Lieutenant Stewart’s guns quickly silenced the Georgians, but they fell back and took up position just west of the intersection, using stone fences to reform their skirmish line. As the Georgian skirmishers quickly went back to work, they managed to hold back the 19th Indiana Infantry. Company G, of the 19th Indiana Infantry managed to quickly wheel left and begin gaining ground. Captain Clark, the company commander, managed to dislodge Arnold’s skirmishers, capturing 14 Confederates.

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The Iron Brigade Field, South Mountain State Battlefield. This is where the 6th and 7th WI Infantry moved as the right flank. A series of boulders in this field also provided protection to those Union men while many leaped frogged through the field.

While Brig. Gen. Gibbon’s left flank engaged, his right flank moved forward. They entered a cornfield that covered about half of a mile. The 7th Wisconsin Infantry followed behind the 6th Wisconsin Infantry skirmishers, who were in their front, 100 yards ahead. Once they moved out of the cornfield, they came to an open field. There, the 23rd Georgia Infantry and the 28th Georgia Infantry opened fire. These two Georgia regiments were well concealed behind a stone fence that was at the bottom of a ravine, which made a perfect breastwork.

The 7th Wisconsin Infantry quickly formed their battle line, with their left situated on the National Road, and their right stretched across the field, where their right flank rested near the woods. The Georgians kept up their fire.

While Col. Colquitt’s left flank was situated behind a natural breastwork, his right flank was still coming under fire. The 19th Indiana Infantry, along with the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry slowly began to dislodge the Confederates. At the same time, Brig. Gen. Gibbon’s right flank was starting to get bogged down. To complicate matters, Brig. Gen. Gibbon was losing daylight.

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The Iron Brigade Field, looking east toward Bolivar.

As the 19th Indiana Infantry and the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry continue to hit Col. Colquitt’s right flank, it began to give way. That part of Col. Colquitt’s brigade was in a more exposed position, and they were slowly being driven back. Finally, the 19th Indiana Infantry managed to break Col. Colquitt’s right flank. The 27th Georgia Infantry, followed by the 13th Alabama Infantry, and the 6th Georgia Infantry were forced to retreat further up South Mountain. As Col. Colquitt’s right flank was giving up ground, this allowed Brig. Gen. Gibbon’s left flank to support the two Wisconsin regiments that formed the right flank. The 23rd Georgia Infantry began receiving fire from it’s right. But, still using the stone fence as a breastwork, the Union fire wasn’t enough to break Colquitt’s left flank.

Map showing the final assault by the Iron Brigade on Colquitt’s position just as nightfall was coming.

The 7th Wisconsin Infantry kept a heavy fire upon the 23rd Georgia Infantry. Receiving support from the their left flank, the 7th Wisconsin Infantry began another advance. They were quickly hit with musketry from the 28th Georgia Infantry. This drove the 7th Wisconsin Infantry back. They were getting fired upon by the Confederates from their front, flank, as well as their rear.

The 6th Wisconsin Infantry was brought into action, and they quickly formed up on the right flank of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry. As the 6th Wisconsin Infantry moved forward, they were hit by fire from the 28th Georgia Infantry. As daylight was fading, Col. Bragg ordered his 6th Wisconsin Infantry to advance by wings. The right wing of Col. Bragg’s regiment fired into the Confederates. While they reloaded, he then advanced his left wing, who quickly fired into the Confederates. He then advanced his right wing and continued this leapfrog movement. Col. Bragg gained a considerable amount of ground.

Now, with twilight upon the battlefield and darkness setting in, Brig. Gen. Gibbon ordered his brigade to cease fire. Gibbon’s brigade was withdrawn from the battlefield with the exception of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry, who would sleep under arms that night. Brigadier General Gibbon’s losses were 37 killed, 251 wounded, and 30 missing. Colonel Colquitt’s losses were 110 killed, wounded, or missing. Colonel Colquitt attended to his wounded and managed to evacuate many of them.

Although Gibbon’s brigade was unable to break through the Confederate battle line, they earned the nickname “The Iron Brigade.” At one point during the attack, Maj. Gen. McClellan, observing the battlefield, saw Gibbon’s brigade and complimented on how they stood their ground, saying that Gibbon’s men stood like iron. The Iron Brigade was also known as the “Black hats” as they proudly wore their dress Hardee hats, with their dress frock coats and white gaiters.

Gettysburg’s Cyclorama French Military Influence

Each year, thousands of people travel to Gettysburg National Military Park. Many will see the film and the Gettysburg Cyclorama before venturing out onto the battlefield. When most people see the Gettysburg Cyclorama, I often wonder if they see the same heavily influenced French military culture that I see? Even the most hardcore Civil War buff, I feel, fails to see that influence. Unless you’re a hardcore living historian who has spent years researching Civil War uniforms and equipment, like I have, you may not see the uniforms and equipment being worn by Union soldiers as that of the Second French Empire.

So let’s start at the beginning, what is a cyclorama? It’s a large painting that is displayed in the round. It often features a foreground that blends in with the scenery of the painting. It was considered as an exhibit, meant for entertainment, where a panoramic view totally surrounds the viewer, giving them a 360 degree view as if he or she was standing in the center inside the painting. This type of artwork has its roots dating back to 1787 when Robert Barker, an Irish painter, wanted to display a painting that captured a moment in time, giving the viewer the feeling that he or she was actually there. Robert Baker created a panoramic scene that eventually became known as a cyclorama. The cyclorama would gain major popularity in the mid to late 19th Century.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama is an oil painting done on canvas, and stands forty-two feet tall and three hundred, and seventy-seven feet in circumference. The Gettysburg Cyclorama that you see on display is number two out of four that the French artist Paul D. Philippoteaux and his team of special artists completed. The Boston painting, commissioned by Charles Willoughby of Chicago, IL for a sum of $50,000 was completed in just over eleven months in 1884. It was first displayed in Boston in late December. It made its way to Gettysburg in 1913 for the 50th reunion of Civil War veterans. Today, it is one of the largest oil paintings on display in North America and is the only one of four that Paul Philippoteaux completed between the years 1883-1886.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama captures the moment of the High Water Mark of Pickett’s Charge, the last major battle that was fought at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. The painting, as some visitors will say, is the closest to seeing the ground as it was in 1863. There are no monuments, no highway and no modern buildings. I’ve seen people tear up because of how the painting is displayed, and how they felt they were a part of it. I have also seen people who couldn’t care less about the painting because of what it portrays, war! Either way, the painting has stood the test of time.

How did the cyclorama craze begin here in America? In 1879, Paul Philippoteaux was commissioned to do the Chicago painting of Pickett’s Charge. In 1882, he arrived in the United States and conducted a great deal of research and interviews. He visited Gettysburg and hired a local photographer, William Tipton to take a series of photographs of the landscape. The artist took all of his research back to Europe and began working on the concept. The Chicago version of the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting was unveiled and opened to the public in 1883. By December of 1884, the Boston painting opened. There would be two others that came after the Boston version debuted, the New York and Philadelphia paintings. Over time, the Boston version would be the sole survivor.

Let’s take a closer look at the French Military influence that we see in the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Let’s begin with the artillery you see in the Gettysburg Cyclorama.

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The First Rhode Island Artillery, Battery A (Arnold’s Battery) was equipped with 3-inch Ordinance Rifles and not Parrott rifles as seen in the painting. These men are also using some weird type of drill that looks similar to the reduced numbers drill.
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This Battery wagon (Battery A, 1st R. I.) should not be this close to the fighting. They were further back and ready to make repairs in the field as needed.
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I love how the lid on the limber chest opens the wrong way, towards the battery. They should open from behind with the top of the lid facing towards to the guns.
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Members of the 13th New York Artillery. Notice the kepi that are being worn instead of the Federal regulated forage cap. Also, notice the red should-straps, and red tape on the sleeves with three buttons. Some of the artillerymen have a solid red cuff on their sleeves rather than the tape you see in this photograph. These jackets are not of the Federal Government issue, but rather they are uniforms of the Second French Empire. I do like the mixture of slouch hats that the artist places into the painting.
Here is a better photograph of a NCO wearing the French tunic. He is also wearing some type of cartridge box suspended by a buff leather strap. The buff belt holds a LeMat revolver inside of a brown leather holster.
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Notice the red shoulder-strap and blue collar. This is what I would call a blooper.
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The New York State Militia Guidon. This is to represent the 13th New York Artillery coming to the front. This guidon is incorrect. The 13th New York Artillery was never part of the New York State Militia. In fact, in 1862, the New York State Militia was changed to the New York State National Guard.
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Again, notice the red tape located at the cuff and the white haversack on the guy located left. The white haversack is part of the French military issue to its army. Now look at the guy on the right who is wounded. Notice there is a lack of a cuff, but retains his red collar and shoulder-strap.
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I love the detail of this Union artillery officer. Notice his shoulder-strap signifying he has rank. He still retains the red collar for his branch of service, the artillery. The Union army used shoulder boards for the most part to signify rank. Also, notice the French style kepi which actually would be correct for an officer in the Union army if he choose to wear one.
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This is General Henry Hunt, Chief of Artillery. For the most part, he looks good. He has shoulder boards, red sash and saber belt. He even wears a kepi. But notice the French braid on his sleeves. The Union army officers very seldom had these on their jackets. Also, notice the collar. It appears to have some sort of insignia that could be used for his rank or branch of service.
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Notice the cartridge box marked with U.S. Also, this is a good closeup of the equipment used for the horses.
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This guy appears to be some sort of officer, judging by the red shoulder board. What I life about this guy, is you can see what the French uniform looked liked from the back of the soldier. Again, the cartridge box and saber belt are standard French issue accouterments.

Let’s take a look at the infantry.

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The Byrd Brothers. You can see the left brother is wearing a tunic that appears to be an eight button from. You can make out the blue collar and should-straps. The brother on the right, is wearing an officers jacket. You can see the French braid as well as some sort of shoulder board and blue collar.
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I like this picture because of the soldier on the left. He is very large compare to the normal size soldier.
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This is a great view of the hard pack knapsack and how the blanket was attached. You can also see the mess kits, cartridge box, scabbard and yes, the haversack. All standard French issue.
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Various blanket rolls and accouterments.
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This is a good close up of the infantry tunic. Notice the collar, shoulder straps and cuffs. The eight button front along with French blue trousers and white shirt. You can also see a close up of the canteen, cap pouch and belt with buckle.
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Another close up of the cap pouch and haversack and the tunic.
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Close up of the top of the tunic.
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The knapsack, blanket and mess tin.

Odds and ends.

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The usage of pack horses.
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The usage of horses and hospital saddles to remove wounded men. This also shows the usage of African Americans as contractors in the military.
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The usage of wagons moving with Pickett’s men during the charge. Wagons were parked well west and north, northeast of the battlefield. Read the Retreat from Gettysburg related articles that I have online. 

Monterey Pass: It Was A Night To Remember

During the evening of July 3, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his command staff met to determine how they would withdraw from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Studying maps, General Lee determined that his Confederate army would retreat using the road leading from Gettysburg, over South Mountain at Monterey Pass, to Williamsport, Maryland. General Lee’s plan called for Lieutenant General A. P. Hill’s infantry corps to lead the army, followed by Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s Corps. Bringing up the rear would be Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Corps. 1

But before the Confederate infantry could retreat from Gettysburg, General Lee had to allow his supply wagons to move out of Pennsylvania first. Parked near Gettysburg and Cashtown were the supply wagons of Lt. Gen. Hill and Longstreet’s Corps. Strung out in a line, these two wagon trains were about 40 miles in length. Also included were Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s Cavalry Division wagon train that was about 10 miles in length, and the wagon train of wounded soldiers that stretched out for about 17 miles in length. This created upwards of almost 70 miles worth of wagons that were parked near Cashtown and Gettysburg. General Lee ordered the supply wagons to be commanded by their respective quartermaster officers, who were to proceed to the Potomac River as soon as they could get moving. After midnight, General Lee met with Brigadier General John Imboden and ordered that his cavalry brigade escort and oversee the Cashtown operations of the retreat, especially the wagon train of wounded. 2

A Standard Quartermaster Train

Major John Harman, whose reserve wagon train was estimated to be about 20-22 miles in length, was located close to Cashtown. Major Harman was ordered to relocate the reserve wagon train to Fairfield, where the wagons of Lt. Gen. Ewell’s Corps were ordered to follow behind.  Lt. Gen. Ewell’s wagon train was estimated to be about 17-20 miles in length and were strung out to the north and northwest of Gettysburg. Escorting these two wagon trains, under the direction of Major Harman, were Brigadier Generals William Jones and Beverly Robertson, both being instructed to lead the wagons back into the safety of Virginia through Monterey Pass.  Infantry would be assigned to guard the wagon trains of Lt. Gen. Ewell’s Corps, while some of Hill’s wagons would also take this route to relieve some of the congestion at Cashtown. Intermixed with these wagons were several thousand head of livestock and several freed blacks that were being sent back to the south, all via Monterey Pass. 3

Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Why did General Lee choose Monterey Pass for the majority of the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg? The road that led through Monterey Pass was an established Pennsylvania highway that led directly to Williamsport, Maryland. During the mid 1700’s, this was one of two wagon roads that led to the south, into Appalachia. On a map, the Hagerstown Road, locally known as the Fairfield Road, was the shortest and most direct route to the safety of the Potomac River. At Monterey Pass, several roads converge, forming a hub, this hub was anchored by the tollgate house. No other South Mountain gap had this characteristic. Whoever controlled Monterey Pass controlled the flow of traffic whether it was to the north, east, south or west, and Gen. Lee desperately needed to control this area if he wished for his army to reach the safety of Virginia. 4

Around 9:00 a.m., Union signal corps reported the movements of wagons moving westward along Fairfield Road. The information was reported to the Union command. Major General Alfred Pleasonton, commanding the Army of the Potomac Cavalry Corps ordered out Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s Third Cavalry Division to locate and harass the retreating wagons. Leaving Gettysburg at around 10:00 a.m., Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick and the brigades of Brigadier General George A. Custer and Colonel Nathaniel Richmond moved south to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where they would be reinforced by Colonel Pennock Huey’s brigade of cavalry. 5

Union Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick

While Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick was on the move, Brig. Gen. Jones’ command began picketing the network of roads leading past Fairfield to Monterey Pass, to the western base of South Mountain, near modern day Rouzerville. His command consisted of Brig. Gen. Robertson’s Brigade of the 4th and 5th North Carolina Cavalry that picketed Fairfield Gap; the 36th Virginia Cavalry of Brigadier General Albert Jenkins Brigade picketed the western base of South Mountain at Waterloo. The 1st Maryland Cavalry, minus Company A, of Brigadier General Fitz Lee’s Brigade picketed several areas, leaving Company B at Monterey Pass under Captain George Emack. Brigadier General Jones had two regiments from his own command, the 6th and 11th Virginia Cavalry to use at his disposal. Chew’s Battery and Mooreman’s Battery were the artillery support, along with one cannon from Captain William Tanner’s Battery. 6

As Captain Emack’s company of the 1st Maryland Cavalry picketed Monterey Pass, they quickly gathered up area citizens and housed them at the Monterey Inn. The Monterey Inn was established as an inn in 1820. The male civilians were allowed to move about, but had to check in every fifteen minutes with the Confederate cavalry, to ensure no escapes would be made. 7

The Confederate wagon trains moved along Maria Furnace Road, onto the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike at the tollgate house, and then moved westward to Waterloo (modern day Rouzerville), crossing the Mason Dixon Line near Ringgold, MD.  The road continued until Confederate wagons moved onto the Leitersburg and Hagerstown Turnpike at the small town of Leitersburg, MD. From there, it was a straight road to Williamsport, MD. 8

Brigadier General Kilpatrick’s cavalry division entered Emmitsburg, MD at noon. There, Colonel Huey joined Kilpatrick’s command, bringing his division up to about 5,000 mounted soldiers and sixteen pieces of rifled artillery. By 3:00 p.m., Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick moved out of Emmitsburg, heading westward along the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike toward South Mountain. 9

During the late afternoon, dark clouds came in from the west and the peaceful landscape became a violent scene, as a severe thunderstorm swept through. The rain poured over the landscape, causing the mountain clay roads to become a muddy mess for the wagons and those animals pulling them. Many Confederate accounts state that the road leading to Monterey Pass quickly became a quagmire. 10

At Monterey Pass, a message was sent through the Confederate guards and made it’s way to Charles Buhrman, a local farmer whose farm was once located at the eastern base of South Mountain, along the turnpike. Once he received the message, he mounted his horse, dashed through a small Confederate picket line, and rode for help. Nearing Fountaindale, about five miles east of Monterey Pass, he came in contact with the advance of Brig. Gen. Custer’s brigade. The information containing the Confederate’s position was reported to Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick. 11

At Fountaindale, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick ordered Brig. Gen. Custer to send a detachment of the 5th Michigan Cavalry down Jacks Mountain Road to protect Kilpatrick’s right flank. Moving westward, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick found himself skirmishing with a few Confederate pickets near Buhrman’s farm, and knew it was only a matter of time until he came in contact with Confederate cavalry. 12

Arriving at the Buhrman Farm, Kilpatrick met seventeen year old Hetty Zeilinger, who informed him that at the top of the mountain the Confederates had a cannon, commanding the road. Brushing the warning off, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick continued to move up the narrow defile that led to Monterey Pass, finding himself surrounded by deep ravines on his left and a steep incline to his right. At about 9:00 p.m., with weather conditions worsening, Custer’s brigade led the advance to the top of the summit, when the Confederate cannon fired. 13

After the Confederate cannon fired, about two dozen Marylanders, under Captain Emack, charged the Union advance; Brigadier General Kilpatrick found what he was looking for. After a short skirmish, the Confederate cavalry fell back to the Monterey Inn, and waited for the Union cavalry to makes its next appearance. Brigadier General Kilpatrick will reorganize his force for the next attack, sending the majority of Custer’s brigade up the turnpike to hit the Confederate front and right flank. He will also order the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry to move along Furnace Road, and then head into the woods and hit the Confederate left flank. 14

By 10:00 p.m., the Union cavalry moved again. In between lightning strikes, Captain Emack sees the Union movements, and orders his company to fall back to Red Run, where reinforcements could easily be had. As Captain Tanner was withdrawing, the Pennsylvanians come out of the woods and captured the limber. The Confederate cannoneers managed to save the cannon and redeployed their gun to support the Confederate cavalry at Red Run. They would use ammunition from the wagon trains as they approached the Monterey tollgate house. 15

As Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick gained the eastern summit, he quickly studied the network of roads looking over a few area maps. He knew as the wagon train entered Monterey Pass, it would come off the mountain in the Cumberland Valley; therefore, he wanted to send a small force to get in front of it, preventing it from advancing any further. He also knew that the wagons were coming from the direction of Fairfield and would send a small detachment to block the gap and prevent their movements into Monterey Pass. Finally, he knew that if he sent a portion of his division to the actual pass of Monterey, he could cut the wagon train in half. After talking with locals, including Charles Buhrman, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick began dividing his cavalry. 16

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Battle of Monterey Pass, Britt Isenger

Near midnight, Charles Buhrman guided the 1st Vermont Cavalry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Addison Preston, into the Cumberland Valley via Raven Rock. This mountain pass was located to the south of Monterey Pass, where the small town of Smithsburg is located. Arriving at Smithsburg, the 1st Vermont Cavalry moved to Leitersburg, where the main road led directly into Hagerstown and Williamsport. 17

Arriving at Leitersburg at 5:00 a.m., the 1st Vermont Cavalry immediately began attacking a portion of the wagon train. The scene was wild as cattle, soldiers, horses, and wagons crowded the road. As soon as the revolvers and carbines cracked, several mules began running away with their wagons still attached. Most of these wagons contained wounded Confederate soldiers. One Union trooper recalled hearing the screams of those who were in pain. Several of the wagon drivers were shot by the Vermonters. 18

Realizing that the head of the wagon train was still moving toward Hagerstown, Lt. Col. Preston divided his regiment. He led the majority of his men toward Hagerstown to cut off the head of the opposing force before it got there. With Buhrman as their escort, the other detachment was ordered to meet back up with Kilpatrick at Ringgold, MD. The 1st Vermont Cavalry captured 100 Confederate soldiers, three miles of wagons, and a large herd of cattle. The Vermonters inventoried the wagons, removed all wounded men from inside, and either burned the wagons or busted the wooden spokes of the wheels in order to render them useless. 19

Meanwhile back at Monterey Pass, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick ordered a squadron of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Peter Stagg, to Fairfield Gap in order to block the wagons entering Monterey Pass and possibly turn the Confederate right flank. This small gap is located one mile to the northeast of Monterey Pass. Using Hetty Zeilinger as their guide, they will proceed down Furnace Road, passing her farm house. As the wagons moved through Fairfield Gap, they traveled about one mile until Monterey Pass was reached, and the road turns onto the turnpike by the Monterey tollgate house. Brigadier General Kilpatrick ordered Brig. Gen. Custer to move his brigade forward to Monterey Pass in order to cut the wagon train in half. 20

Shortly after midnight, Lt. Col. Stagg comes into contact with Mooreman’s Battery and two companies of the 11th Virginia Cavalry, who were supported by the 5th North Carolina Cavalry. The Fairfield Gap attack is a failure, and within a few hours the remnants of the 1st Michigan squadron fell back to the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike. 21

Union Brigadier General George A. Custer

Brigadier General Custer’s brigade was deployed mostly on the right of the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike. As they moved through the thick woods toward Red Run, fighting became fierce. With darkness and heavy rain, one had to be guided by sound and senses rather than sight. Both Union and Confederate cavalrymen who were dismounted in the woods literally had seconds to distinguish objects in their front after a flash of lightning or small arms fire illuminated the landscape. 22

By 3:30 a.m., after several hours of hard fighting, Colonel Russell Alger of the 5th Michigan cavalry, supported by artillery, led a charge across the bridge spanning Red Run. He quickly deploys, forming a makeshift battle line. The Confederate cavalry, now reinforced by additional units, began deploying at the Monterey tollgate house. Confederate reinforcements are arriving from Fairfield Gap, as well as from Waterloo. 23

Brigadier General Custer, after pleading for additional reinforcements, receives the 1st West Virginia Cavalry and Company A of the 1st Ohio Cavalry. Orders were soon given to charge the Confederate positions, and the two reinforcing units charged across the bridge and began taking on prisoners and seizing wagons. The people of Waynesboro saw the fires of the wagons stretching all of down the mountain moving into Maryland; it was a fourth of July spectacle they would never witness the likes of again. Confederate cavalry deploying on both sides of the turnpike tried to stop the charging Union cavalry with no success. 24

Brigadier General Kilpatrick’s cavalry reserves began moving up and deployed near the tollgate house.  They were supported by artillery. The Confederate provost guard deployed on Maria Furnace Road and began moving forward to retake the tollgate house. Not long afterward, Brigadier General Alfred Iverson’s North Carolina brigade reached Monterey Pass and deployed. Chew’s Battery also came up from Fairfield and deployed. A short distance behind was Brigadier General Ambrose Wright’s Georgia Brigade. Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick realized that even though he once outnumbered the Confederates, he, himself, is now outnumbered.  With his command scattered all along the Mason Dixon Line, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick orders the remainder of his cavalry westward to Maryland. By dawn of July 5, the Union cavalry reaches Ringgold and halts. 25

In the wake of the Battle of Monterey Pass, about nine miles worth of wagons had been captured or destroyed. Upwards of 1,300 Confederate prisoners were taken, and several dozen were wounded and killed. For the Union cavalry, upwards of100 men were captured, wounded, or killed. 26

With the withdrawal of Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick’s cavalry, Monterey Pass is still in possession of the Confederate army. During that evening, the infantry corps of Lt. Gen. Hill and Longstreet bivouacs at Monterey Pass. The next morning, the Confederate army continues to march to Hagerstown, and Williamsport. Bringing up the rear was Lt. Gen. Ewell’s Corps, with the last Confederate soldier marching through Monterey Pass during the afternoon of July 6.  For the next several days, the Cumberland Valley will become one vast battlefield. Fighting occurred everyday up to July 14, when the Confederate army, after waiting for the waters of the Potomac River to recede, began making their way into West Virginia, and to the safety of Virginia. 27

Notes and Citations:

  1. Long, A. L. Memoirs of Robert E. Lee. Edison, NJ: Blue and Grey Press, 1983. 294-296., Longstreet, James. From Manassas to Appomattox. New York, NY: Mallard Press, 1991. 426-427.
  2. Large, George. Battle of Gettysburg, the Official History by the Gettysburg National Military Park Commission. Shippensburg, PA: Burd Street Press, 1999. 282-283., Imboden, John. “The Retreat from Gettysburg.” Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Vol. 3. New York: Centaury, 1884. 420. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, vol. 27, part I, II and III (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1889). Cited OR
  3. Brown, Kent Masterson. Retreat from Gettysburg. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005. 93, 95-97, 103.
  4. The old Wagon Road today would make up the following modern day roads. From Gettysburg, it was the Fairfield Road (Route 116) to Iron Springs Road, west of Fairfield into South Mountain to Gum Springs Road, through Fairfield Gap, onto Maria Furnace Road, and would have connected to Old Waynesboro Road. From there, it ran west of the mountain, sidestepping Waynesboro, continuing to Hagerstown, and ended at Williamsport. Many historians state that Iron Springs Road was used during the Confederate retreat, however, no road past the current intersection of modern day Gum Springs Road exists on any Civil War period maps. Iron Springs Road from Gum Springs Road that leads to Old Waynesboro Road today, was established in the late 1860’s when copper was discovered in the mountain. The earliest map that shows the Monterey Pass area and the Great Wagon Road was first surveyed in 1751 by Colonel Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson and was known as Nicholson Gap.
  5. Brown, Kent Masterson. Retreat from Gettysburg. 123-124
  6. This information is based off of the official Order of Battle from the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum archives.
  7. The Baer family recorded the actions of July 4, 1863. The manuscript states that all of the male civilians living on and near Monterey Pass were gathered up as prisoners and housed at the Monterey Hotel which was an inn during the battle. Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum archives.
  8. Stoner, Jacob. Historical Papers of Franklin County and the Cumberland Valley. Chambersburg, PA: The Craft Press, 1947. 456-457.
  9. Urwin, Gregory J. W. Custer Victorious. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska, 1983. 87.
  10. Hopkins, Luther. From Bull Run to Appomattox: A Boy’s View. Baltimore, MD: Fleet-McGinley, 1908. 104. Kidd, James Harvey. Personal Recollections of a Cavalryman with Custer’s Michigan Cavalry. Ionia, MI: Sentinel, Printing 1908. 166-168.
  11. Bates, Samuel. Fraise, Richard. History of Franklin County. Chicago IL: Warner, Beers & Co., 1975. 379.
  12. Ibid
  13. Ibid. Many other first hand accounts published in 1880-1900 by members of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry and 5th Michigan Cavalry mention the narrow road leading up to Monterey Pass. On their left was a steep ravine which is still visible today on Old Waynesboro Road, and to their right, a high mountain peak known as Monterey Peak.
  14. Rodenbough, Theophilus Francis, Grier Thomas J. History of the Eighteenth regiment of cavalry, Pennsylvania volunteers. New York, NY: 1909. 84.
  15. Manuscript, letter from Captain George Emack. Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum archives.
  16. Buhrman during the Battle of Monterey Pass. Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum Archives.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Bates, Samuel. Fraise, Richard. History of Franklin County. Chicago IL: Warner, Beers & Co., 1975. 379.
  20. Manuscript of letters from members of the 1st Michigan Cavalry to Hetty Zeilinger talk in detail about the movements to Fairfield Gap. Fairfield Gap is a misunderstood portion of the Battle of Monterey Pass and is often separated out from the Battle of Monterey Pass. Many historians claim that Fairfield Gap is located on Jacks Mountain. The problem is that many of those who fought at Monterey Pass also called it the Battle of Jacks Mountain or South Mountain. Other historians claimed that Fairfield Gap is on Iron Springs Road. Fairfield Gap is located on Furnace Road and it is where Maria Furnace Road forks from Furnace Road.
  21. OR. Series I, vol. 27, part 2. 763-764. Official report of Colonel L. L. Lomax, 11th Virginia Cavalry. O.R. Series I., Vol. 27, Part 3, Page 741. Official report of General George Custer.
  22. Kidd, James Harvey. Personal Recollections of a Cavalryman with Custer’s Michigan Cavalry. 168-171.
  23. Manuscript of Russell Alger during the Battle of Monterey Pass. Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum archives.
  24. Lesage, Joseph A. “NARROW ESCAPES.” Ironton Register 22 Dec. 1887, Manuscript ed., Interesting War Experiences NO. 58 sec. Print.
  25. OR. Series I, vol. 27, part I. 581. General Iverson’s account of his actions during the early dawn hours of July 5, as his brigade helps to push Kilpatrick’s cavalry out of Monterey Pass. Ibid. 625. General Ambrose Wright’s official account on July 4, 1863.
  26. At Monterey Pass, there is a state marker that states the Confederate casualties, including wounded, killed, or captured. It also states that nine miles of wagons were captured. Going through all of the Union regimental histories for those engaged at Monterey Pass, the names of almost 100 men have surfaced. Kilpatrick in his own O.R. stated his losses were about two dozen.
  27. Long, A. L. Memoirs of Robert E. Lee. Edison, NJ: Blue and Grey Press, 1983. 294-296., Longstreet, James. From Manassas to Appomattox. New York, NY: Mallard Press, 1991. 426-427.