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

The Catoctin Mountain during the Pennsylvania Campaign

Emmitsburg News Journal, 2013

Following the Maryland Campaign and the engagements in September of 1862, the Catoctin Mountain was again visited by the Union army. On June 15th, 1863, the advance of the Confederate army crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland. Three days later, General Joseph Hooker ordered the mountain gaps along the old SouthMountain battlefield to have a Union presence. Union General Robert C. Schenck received General Hooker’s request to spare a portion of his artillery, infantry, and cavalry, to seize and hold the SouthMountain passes, as well as holding MarylandHeights, and the passage via Sandy Hook.

On June 25 and 26th, the majority of the Union army began crossing the Potomac River at Edward’s Ferry in Maryland. The First, Third and Eleventh Corps would begin occupying the old South Mountain battlefield by June 26th and 27th. In addition, the Twelfth Corps would occupy Pleasant Valley, while the Second Corps occupied Knoxville on June 27th. The other Corps of the Army of the Potomac would be situated near Frederick.

On June 28th, after General Joseph Hooker’s resignation was complete, General George Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac. Not liking the layout of the Union army, he issued orders for his army to concentrate at Frederick. Those Corps occupying South Mountain would march over the Catoctin Mountain to Frederick. Sergeant William Saxton of the 157thNew York described the scene as he crossed Braddock’s Gap. He recalled: “Today, I had another opportunity of seeing a large number of troops. Middletown lies between SouthMountain on the west and the Catoctin Mountains on the east. When we had arrived at the top of the Catoctin range we could look back for five or six miles and see into Middletown, and as far as we could see, forward and backward, the road was filled with marching soldiers of blue.”

After the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate army retreated through the SouthMountain range using Cashtown gap and MontereyPass in order gain access to the CumberlandValley and the Potomac River, near Williamsport.  General Meade would use several CatoctinMountain passes and gaps to protect Baltimore and Washington, while trying to head off the retreating Confederates. Hamburg Gap, High Knob, Shookstown, Braddock’s Gap, and JeffersonPass were all used by the Union army as they penetrated into the MiddletownValley. The recent downpours of rain made marching over the Catoctin Mountian miserable for the infantry. Wagons and artillery being pulled by horses and mules tore up the roads leading over the mountain for which the infantry was to follow.

The Eleventh Corps was the first to ascend the CatoctinMountain. At 3:30 a.m. on July 7th, the Eleventh Corps pressed ahead of the Union army. Their destination was the town of Middletown. Marching for several hours from Emmitsburg, the Eleventh Corps marched down Old Frederick Road to Creagerstown, and then to Utica, where they turned westward and marched to the Catoctin Mountain, crossing over at High Knob Pass. High Knob was a steep, rocky, narrow road which the artillery and wagons found difficult to move upon. The horses, as well as the men, were completely exhausted. The advance of General Carl Schurz’s Third Division reached Middletown at around 8:00 p.m. that evening.

Lieutenant Colonel Dobke was among Schurz’s Division and recalled: “The heaviest march of the campaign was executed, marching 32 miles from Emmitsburg, and arrived at 10 p. m. at Middletown, a distance of 34 miles, through the open fields, taking a narrow pass road over the mountains in a circuit. Toward night the rain descended in torrents, amid which men and beasts sank down, tired to death, most of the soldiers without any shoes, barefooted, or shoes so ragged or torn that they did not deserve the name.”

The roads were so badly tore up from the heavy rains, that the Second and First Divisions were forced to take Old Frederick Road almost to Frederick, and march westward, passing through ShookstownPass. As midnight passed, they traveled through Shookstown and to the National Road, where the First and Second Divisions continued their march to Middletown. The Eleventh Corps covered more ground than any other army corps in the Army of the Potomac. The rear of the Eleventh Corps arrived at Middletown before 11:00 a.m. on the 8th of July.

Before daylight on the morning of July 7th, the soldiers of the Sixth Corps rested in the rain at Emmitsburg after arriving from Fairfield. Colonel Thomas Neill’s Brigade remained at Fairfield, following the rear of the Confederate army. The lead elements of the Sixth Corps began marching early in the morning, while the rear of the Sixth Corps started off at 11:00 a.m. The divisions of Sedgwick’s corps marched all day, passing through Franklin Mills, Mechanicstown (modern day Thurmont), and following the road directly to Catoctin Furnace. Upon reaching Lewistown, the Sixth Corps took the fork in the road that led to the right, which would take them toward HamburgPass. As darkness approached road conditions began to deteriorate, as the wind and rain picked up in intensity. The climb up the CatoctinMountain on a narrow road, which was nothing more than a path, was a tough one. Upon reaching the top many of the men renamed the pass as “Sedgwick’s Pass” and others called it “MountMisery.”

Nelson Hutchinson noted that, “The darkness was intense…nothing could be seen. Mounted officers could not see the men in the ranks. You could not see who was beside you, if anyone was there. We had to make way for the artillery. They got stuck, while we ended up scattered in the woods.” General Wright noted, “In consequence of the severe storm and extreme darkness, which rendered farther progress impossible.” The artillery was eventually forced to turn around, unhitching the horses and unlimbering the cannon, and head back down the mountainside.

The next day, the Sixth Corps continued its line of march at 5:00 a.m. Many of the men still had to march over the CatoctinMountain, but the weather that morning would brighten up the men, as rays of sunshine broke through the clouds. This allowed the uniforms and blankets to dry. The soldiers even found a mountain creek and quickly began cleaning themselves, as well as their uniforms. General Joseph Bartlett’s brigade was the first of the Sixth Corps to arrive at Middletown around nine o’clock that morning, covering eight miles.

On July 7th, the First Corps marched into Emmitsburg, where they were met by the Sisters of Charity who shared the food that was contained in several of their wagons. Many of the men were dirty, not having bathed in several days. The cold rain during the evening would not change that feeling, and some of the officers even dismounted, washing their feet in the streams with a dirty handkerchief, as such was the case of Colonel Charles Wainwright. After spending a few hours bivouacked at Emmitsburg, the First Corps marched onward to HamburgPass.

Upon marching through Lewistown, many young girls sang out “Battle Cry for Freedom” where members of the 13th Massachusetts complemented them. At Lewistown, as the Union troops marched toward the CatoctinMountain, the heavy rains and muggy weather became hard on the men. Many Union troops were forced to march without shoes, leaving their feet bruised and blistered. The road conditions gradually improved and quartermaster wagons were able to get through. The roadway to Hamburg was congested, and the march was going at a slow pace. Henry Kieffer noted that the CatoctinMountain got “steeper and steeper, while the darkness was deeper and deeper.”

Colonel Wainwright was alerted about the road conditions leading to HamburgPass and he diverted his artillery reserve toward Frederick, taking Shookstown Road, and crossing the CatoctinMountain at ShookstownPass. His artillery horses were doubled up in order to pull the cannon up the steep mountain.

At six o’clock in the morning on July 8th, the Third Corps resumed their line of march toward Frederick. As the Third Corps neared Lewistown, the soldiers began marching toward HamburgPass, where they found the road badly tore up. The route was promptly changed, and they marched to FrederickCity. The 141st Pennsylvania brought up the rear of the Corps and noted that the country side was a vast “sea of mud.” The march was a hard one, as the soldiers carried their guns with the muzzles pointed toward the ground, their blanket rolls were soaking wet, and because of that, made heavier, and those who chose to carry their knapsacks found them bulky. The march halted at 10:00 p.m. that night with the Third Corps resting on the road to Middletown, just outside of Frederick.

After the drenching storm had passed, the first rays of sunlight shone brightly through the clouds during the morning of July 8th, when the Twelfth Corps marched through Frederick, toward Middletown via Braddock’s Gap.

On July 8th, the Fifth Corps began marching toward the CatoctinMountain. At 6:00 a.m. the Fifth Corps marched through Emmitsburg and took the Old Frederick Road, passing through Creagerstown. They encamped near Utica, five miles north of Frederick, at around 6:00 p.m., covering a total distance of about twenty-miles. The march and encampment was a miserable one. The rain kept falling in torrents and the men were soaked to the bone. With marching orders being light, the soldiers did not have many conveniences such as their shelter tents since those items were packed in the quartermaster wagons.

At daybreak on July 9th, the Fifth Corps broke camp and began its march to High Knob Pass. The road leading to High Knob is narrow and very steep. The Fifth Corps finally made it to Middletown at around 4:00 p.m. By nightfall, the Fifth Corps was encamped near SouthMountain. Also during the day, the Second Corps began moving toward Crampton’s Gap, after leaving Frederick. The weather was hot and the march was slow. The soldiers passed through a small horizon of the CatoctinMountain, passing through the small town of Jefferson and Burkettsville.

Although no battle occurred on the CatoctinMountain during the days following the Battle of Gettysburg, the experiences written by those men detail an experience that they would not soon forget.

A Small Skirmish on the Catoctin Mountain and Jefferson

Picketing the Catoctin Mountain and the Fight North of Frederick The Fight at Quebec SchoolhouseThe Braddock’s Gap Fight The Fight at Jefferson Pass

On September 13th, as the advance of Union army was marching upon the eastern base of the Catoctin Mountain many cavalry skirmishes erupted as they collided with the rear guard of the Confederate army. These skirmishes are some of the first major actions to take place in Maryland, as detachments of the Confederate cavalry, supported by artillery, guarded the approach to the Middletown Valley via the Catoctin Mountain. The Union cavalry was under orders to probe and locate the rear of the Confederate army.

On September 12th, 1862 Colonel Thomas Munford and his 2nd Virginia Cavalry, along with the 12th Virginia Cavalry were ordered to guard the Catoctin Mountain pass of Jefferson. Supporting them was Chew’s Battery. The 2nd Virginia Cavalry and the 12th Virginia Cavalry were part of General Beverly Robertson’s Cavalry Brigade. The other units that made up Robertson’s brigade were separated and acting independently. The 6th Virginia Cavalry was left at Centerville, the 17th Virginia Cavalry Battalion was on detached duty in western Virginia moving toward Berkley, and the 7th Virginia Cavalry was ordered to Harper’s Ferry.

During the early morning hours of September 13th, General Alfred Pleasanton ordered the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Rush’s Lancers, under the command of Colonel Richard H. Rush, and a section of artillery to move from the Monocacy River to report to General William Franklin, whose 6th Corps was marching toward Jefferson. The 9th New York Infantry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edgar A. Kimball was ordered by General Isaac Rodman to support Rush’s Lancers. Soon afterward, the remnants of the brigade that the 9th New York was part of, was ordered out.

General John Park, the Chief of Staff for General Ambrose Burnside, ordered the remainder of Colonel Harrison S. Fairchild’s 1st Brigade of General Isaac Rodman’s 3rd Division, General Jesse Reno’s 9th Corps to reinforce the 9th New York Infantry. The other infantry regiments that made up Fairchild’s Brigade were the 89th New York Infantry commanded by Major Edward Jardine, and the 103rd New York Infantry commanded by Major Benjamin Ringold. Fairchild’s Brigade also consisted of a battery of naval howitzers under the command of Captain James Whiting, which was Company K, 9th New York Infantry.

On September 13th, the Lancers moved out along the Jefferson Road. When they were approximately five miles west of Frederick, and a mile east of Jefferson they came upon a few Confederate soldiers. Early in afternoon, Rush’s Lancers were waiting for their infantry support to come up. Colonel Munford’s picketing force saw Union infantry marching upon three roads. Munford noted “The enemy advanced on Jefferson by the Point of Rocks road, on the main road from Poolesville, and by a road over a gap which intersects the road leading to Middletown about 1 1/2 miles from Jefferson.”

Upon arriving at the eastern base of the Catoctin Mountain, it was reported that a small Confederate force was positioned to the front with artillery near the ridge, blocking Jefferson Pass. Colonel Munford, seeing the Union force, began falling back toward Jefferson. Chew’s Battery was also reported as calmly limbering their guns and moving out toward Middletown. Colonel Fairchild confirmed that Munford’s force had left their position, noting “Company B, of the Ninth New York Volunteers, was thrown forward to reconnoiter on the left, and reported the enemy as having left the position they had occupied the previous night with three guns and a small cavalry force, and the road clear.”

Upon withdrawing, Colonel Munford ordered the 2nd Virginia Cavalry to hold back the Union troopers, while he and the 12th Virginia Cavalry dashed for Burkittsville in order to protect and keep the roads open. There, along the Catoctin Mountain, the mounted and dismounted cavalrymen were used as sharpshooters while hiding in a ravine covered with brush.

The 9th New York Infantry followed behind Rush’s Lancers, and within a few minutes, they deployed skirmishers. Company B took to the left of the road while three companies (C, H, and I) went to the right into the thickly vegetated woods. Within minutes, the Confederate skirmishers of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry under the command of Captain Holland fired. Private Charles Johnson of the 9th New York Infantry reported that he had heard at least a half a dozen shots. While the other companies of the 9th New York were held back in the reserve, Private David Thompson noted “Far up on the mountainside ahead of us we could see, in the fields confronting the edge of the woods that crowned the ridge, the scattered line of Rush’s Lancers, their bright red pennons flattering gaily from their spear heads.”

Within seconds, the mounted Confederate troopers charged into Rush’s Lancers, forcing them back. While this was going on, the 9th New York located in the woods, became entangled and finally reached the summit of Jefferson Pass. Seeing the Confederate mounted force ahead, and not realizing that a handful of dismounted Confederates were near, the Union soldiers began to scramble for a few minutes, resulting in a handful of Confederate soldiers being taken as prisoners.

By then the rest of the 9th New York Infantry was ordered into the woods. During the same time, Colonel Rush asked Colonel Fairchild for additional support. Colonel Fairchild detached two companies of the 103rd New York to support the skirmishers of the 9th New York that was engaged in the woods. The three New York companies were again pushing forward, and began descending the Catoctin Mountain into a cornfield just east of Jefferson.

As Rush’s men began their reorganized advance, the 103rd New York went to support Captain Haseltine’s company of lancers, who were skirmishing with Confederates near the road leading to Middletown. In the book “Annals of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry,” by Samuel Levis Gracey, he remembered that they “Came across a body of dismounted rebel cavalry in the wood. Although largely outnumbering his small force, he drove them into confusion, and made some prisoners. The enemy were armed with carbines, though our men only had the lance and their pistols, by one determined charge they succeeded in dislodging the enemy.” Not able to hold, the 2nd Virginia Cavalry began to fall back.

Union troops of the 9th New York Infantry filled the streets of Jefferson. The naval guns of Company K were brought up and posted, but never saw action during the Jefferson Pass fight. In a line of battle, Colonel Fairchild was situated west of Jefferson with the 89th New York Infantry, and remained there until after sunset when orders came from General Jesse Reno for the brigade to return to Frederick. The next morning at 3:00 am, the brigade would be put into motion and arrive at Middletown by midmorning.

Toward the evening hours Munford took position along the Mountain Church Road and waited for the Union follow up to come, which never occured. General Paul Semmes, who had a brigade posted at Brownsville brought them forward to Brownsville Pass, which overlooked Burkittsville. During the same time, General Semmes ordered Colonel William Parham’s small brigade to Crampton’s Gap. Union General William Franklin arrived at Jefferson that same evening with the advance of the 6th Corps.

By the end of September 13th, all focus was shifting ever so quickly to South Mountain. There along that mountain ridge, the first major Civil War battle would be fought in Maryland. Although the Battle of South Mountain hosted a larger number of soldiers and casualties, the actions of September 13th, 1862 deserve recognition and are just as important. The Union cavalry with horse artillery, supported by infantry had done its job. South Mountain was a consequence of those actions just as Antietam was a consequence of the Battle of South Mountain.