The Confederate Retreat and the Union Pursuit, Part Five

On July 9, 1863, the Confederate army is fully concentrated in and around Hagerstown. They begin building earthen entrenchments that begin just west of Funkstown. These entrenchments will be built all the way to Williamsport and Falling Waters. Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry will protect the Confederate right wing, which is located just to the west of Funkstown, above the Antietam Creek. Using Funkstown as the anchor, Maj. Gen. Stuart will guard every road leading into Hagerstown from the south and east.

That same day, Union Major General George Meade orders his army to cross South Mountain. The I, VI, and the remainder of the XI Corps move through Turner’s Gap. The III and V Corps would move through Fox’s Gap. While the II and XII Corps move through Crampton’s Gap. By the evening, all of the Union army is west of South Mountain, cautiously moving toward Williamsport and Hagerstown. That evening, Maj. Gen. Meade would move his headquarters from the Mountain House at Turner’s Gap to the Devil’s Backbone, located on the Antietam Creek.

Early in the morning of July 10, Brigadier General John Buford’s cavalry division was moving along the National Road leading to Funkstown. He was supported by Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry division. At Beaver Creek, Buford’s men ran into some Confederate pickets. Closer to Funkstown, Buford’s cavalry moved into Stover’s Woods, where he quickly deployed them. The brigade of Brigadier General Wesley Merritt was placed on the right flank, while the supporting brigades of Colonel Thomas Devin and Colonel William Gamble were concealed in the woods. Brigadier General Buford’s artillery quickly deployed near the edge of the wood line and prepared to the attack.

Major General Stuart had his Confederate cavalry deployed in a crescent moon formation. The brigades of Brigadier Generals William Jones and Fitzhugh Lee held the left flank of Stuart’s line. The brigades of Colonel Milton Ferguson, Colonel John Chambliss, Brigadier General Beverly Robertson, and Colonel Laurence Baker held the right. Located on higher ground on the right was Captain Roger Chew’s Battery in support.

By 8:00 a.m., the Second Battle of Funkstown began, as Buford’s skirmishers were ordered forward and his artillery opened fire on the Confederate cavalry. Major General Stuart did not expect this attack, and some of his cavalry became confused. Major General Stuart knew that he must hold this line at all cost, as he was guarding the left flank of the entire Confederate army. Stuart’s troopers began to sway, forming huge gaps in their lines. Chew’s Battery, firing one cannon at one time, had to fall back to another position.

Around noon, Maj. Gen. Stuart sent a dispatch to Lieutenant General James Longstreet asking for infantry support. He had several regiments located within supporting distance. Two infantry brigades commanded by Brigadier General Goode Bryan and Colonel William White arrived on the battlefield and began plugging in the gaps. With new Confederate reinforcements arriving, Brig. Gen. Buford ordered Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick into the fight. His division hit the Confederate right flank. After several unsuccessful charges, the Confederates held their position.

By 1:30 p.m., knowing that the I and VI Corps were behind his battle line and running low on ammunition, Brig. Gen. Buford rode back to get infantry support. He came across Brigadier General Albion P. Howe. Brigadier General Howe was under orders to not fully engage the Confederates. But opening lines of communication with VI Corps commander Major General John Sedgwick, Brig. Gen. Buford would receive the infantry he needed. Brigadier General Howe ordered Colonel Lewis Grant and his Vermont Brigade to take up position where Buford’s men were located.

At 3:00 p.m., the Vermont Brigade arrived at Funkstown, and began to deploy skirmishers. The 5th and 6th Vermont Infantry were ordered to a wooded crest that was occupied by portions of Buford’s men. Seeing the Confederate infantry moving toward the crest, the Vermonters managed to beat the Confederates to the high ground. The 5th Vermont, held the left, closest to the National Road, while the 6th Vermont, held the right close to the Baltimore Pike. This extended their skirmish line almost two miles.

Due to the skirmish line stretching so far with so few men, a gap soon opened on the left flank of the 5th Vermont Infantry, near the Antietam Creek. Two companies of the 2nd Vermont Infantry were ordered to fill the gap, while the rest of their regiment was held in reserve. The 3rd and 4th Vermont Infantry regiments were ordered to support the 3rd New York Battery under Captain William Harn.

Soon the Confederate artillery began shelling the Union line. Thinking that an infantry attack would soon follow, Colonel Grant ordered the 3rd Vermont Infantry forward, to the right of the 6th Vermont, becoming the extreme right of Vermont’s skirmish line. The 4th Vermont Infantry was ordered to be positioned between the left of the 6th Vermont Infantry and the right of the 5th Vermont Infantry. Eight companies of the 2nd Vermont Infantry were held in support of the 3rd New York Battery.

Soon the Confederate infantry began to move forward against the Union line. The Confederate infantry had to move across open fields, and the stone walls proved to be deadly for them, forcing them to stop, climb over, and then reform their lines. The Vermonters did not yield one inch of ground and forced the Confederate infantry back after a fierce contest. The Confederate infantry reformed their battle line and began to move forward. One regiment was sent across the Antietam Creek to threaten the Union left flank.

Seeing this, Colonel Grant ordered the remaining companies of the 2nd Vermont Infantry forward, extending the Vermonter’s skirmish line even further. The Confederate advance was repulsed. The fighting was so intense at Funkstown that at one point the Vermonters had gone through their ammunition and more had to be brought up by stretchers to resupply them.
Funkstown was also one of the only battles, since the closing of the Battle of Gettysburg, where infantry fought against infantry. The Vermonters had won the day, however the fighting that took place during the day bought the Confederate army more time. Many soldiers of the Sixth Corps saw the Vermonters fight, and saw first hand their display of gallantry.

The town of Funkstown lost the most. Much of the rich agriculture and produce was destroyed by the battle. The town itself became a vast hospital, and several homes were hit by the destructive Union artillery. The Union casualties for the Battle of Funkstown were as follows: Buford’s Division lost 99 troopers in the fight; the Vermonters lost 97 men. The Confederates had lost about 183 men, with more than half of that number from Stuart’s cavalry. As night fell the Vermonters began to dig in.

While the Battle of Second Funkstown raged, Maj. Gen. Meade ordered his army to move forward. The I and XI Corps moved toward Beaver Creek and Wagner’s Crossroads. The III Corps marched to Keedysville and halted near Meade’s headquarters. The V Corps marched to Jones’ Crossroads. The II Corps and the XII Corps marched to Bakersville.

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