Emmitsburg, a Town Divided

In the year leading up to the Civil War, Emmitsburg was already a divided town, politically speaking. During the 1860 presidential elections, Emmitsburg’s political views supported the Southern Democratic Party giving John C. Breckinridge 323 votes, more than half the population of Emmitsburg during the time of the Civil War. Although many Emmitsburg citizens supported the Southern Democrats, their views were mostly devoted to the Union.

Shortly after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Maryland citizens were faced with a decision to determine if Maryland was to remain loyal to the Union or secede with the newly formed Confederacy. The strong southern feeling prevailing in Baltimore culminated in a violent outbreak on April 19, 1861, when the 6th Massachusetts Regiment marching on their way to Washington was obstructed by a mob. After the riot, a number of citizens opposed to secession left Baltimore for their safety.

The Commissioner of the Land Office William Seabrook, a Frederick native, remembers, “Only a few weeks after the exhibition of mob sympathy with secession in Baltimore, a notable meeting of prominent citizens was held in the auditorium of the Maryland Institute, in that city, to give expression to their views in relation to the action of the Government in resorting to war for the preservation of the Union. Every section of the State was represented and the great hall of the institute was crowded with a body of as representative citizens as ever assembled in Maryland.” Emmitsburg resident Doctor Andrew Annan was among those who attended this meeting and gave Emmitsburg’s support to the preservation of the Union.

Although this vote didn’t include the southern viewpoint of Emmitsburg, the history of Mount Saint Mary’s College records that the citizens who lived in and around Emmitsburg were very evenly divided during the outbreak of the Civil War. Doctor Thomas C. Moore recalled, “A company of volunteers marched off openly one day to strike for the Union cause; whilst others discovered they had important business demanding immediate attention down in the direction of Dixie’s land. The latter went off without the aid of brass bands; and if any tears were shed at parting they rolled in secret. But the feeling of bitterness on both sides was doubtless more intense than could be found farther either way from the line. Border States are always more exposed to the vicissitudes of war, and the hatred begotten of daily intercourse between citizens is deeper and more lasting than among enlisted soldiers.”

Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary did not escape the divided loyalties. It had a good many Southern students who had proclaimed their allegiance to the newly formed Confederate States of America. Dr. John McCaffrey was the college’s President and a strong supporter of the Confederate States. In a letter written on October 4, 1861, from Archbishop John Purcell to Doctor McCaffrey, he stated his opinions about the Confederate Cause. John McCloskey was the college’s Vice-President and a strong supporter of the Union. Although a Union man, he still placed the practices of Mount Saint Mary’s first and treated every Southern student with respect.

The faculty of Mount Saint Mary’s College was just as divided, but the College itself for the most part was a pleasant place no matter what side the students and faculty chose. Daniel Beltzhoover, a professor of mathematics, was an 1847 graduate of West Point and served in the wars in Florida and also Mexico. Before the Civil War, he commanded a company of Zouave Mountain Cadets and drilled them thoroughly on Eardin’s and Casey’s tactics. Beltzhoover helped to organize Watson’s Artillery, named after A. C. Watson. According to the Story of the Mountain, at least thirty Mountaineers (Mount Saint Mary’s Students) also served in the ranks of Watson’s Artillery.

With more trouble anticipated during the late election since Maryland was a border state and loyalties were truly divided, the Secretary of War and Commanding General Williams sent troops for the protection of Union men at the polls in November of 1861. Major Stone who was the provost-marshal for the areas of Woodsboro, Myersville, Wolfsville, Emmitsburg, Mechanicstown, and Wolf’s Tavern sent troops of infantry and cavalry out in protection of pro-Union men voting, however, no armed men went near the polls, and no serious disturbance occurred in this part of the state. This would be the first time that the Emmitsburg area would escape the disturbances of the Civil War.


From the Potomac River to the Mason Dixon Line: The First Corps on the Road to Gettysburg

Shortly after the Chancellorsville Campaign in May of 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to launch a campaign into the north for several reasons. Locally, the Army of the Potomac morale had hit a low point. Also more than twenty regiments were to be mustered out of service since the enlistments were up with many of the men. The area in which the war was being fought was devastated and war torn, and the people of Virginia needed some normalcy in their lives. Supplies were also needed, and by taking the war northward, Lee could gather an abundance of produce, livestock, and materials. Looking to the population in the north, the war had once again grown unpopular and the people had lost confidence in their elected officials. Nationally, the Confederate states needed to relieve pressure off of several areas including Vicksburg.

Lee began moving his army northward. By the time Union General Joseph Hooker realized that the Confederate army was on the move, he began to move the Army of the Potomac. During the march northward toward Maryland, the Union soldier did not have the typical appearance that they were known for, as several accounts stated raggedness, dirtiness and filth was the common image of the Union soldier. Many were shoeless and lacked good uniforms. The reason for this was because once it was realized that the Confederate army had been on the march for a whole week before the Union army moved, the supply wagons hung back at a further distance while the main army moved forward with great speed.

On June 25th, 1863, ten days after the first Confederate soldier had set foot on northern soil, the First Corps was ordered over the Potomac River using the pontoon bridge at Edward’s Ferry, and were the first of the army to enter Maryland. They encamped around the village of Poolesville. A soldier from the 97th New York recalled that the day was spent marching while drizzle fell. A soldier from the 11thPennsylvania described passing through Poolesville and encamping near Barnsville that night. The roads that he marched upon were “soft and slippery.” That night, the men rested before waking up at four o’clock in the morning to begin their march to Jefferson, Maryland.

The next day on June 26th, the First Corps marched passed several small towns along the way including Barnsville, Greenfield, and Adamstown before reaching Jefferson. The first obstacle to Jefferson was the Catoctin Mountain. The road leading to Jefferson over the Catoctin Mountain was not as steep as it was to the north along the National Road. Many soldiers would come to know the Catoctin Mountain soon enough after the Battle of Gettysburg. A soldier from the 16th Maine recalled marching just after five in the morning and reaching Jefferson that evening at around six o’clock. The next morning the men marched through the village to cheers from the locality. The entire town, as written by one soldier in the 150thPennsylvania, was there to greet the soldiers in blue. “Old and young was gathered in the main street, waving miniature flags, and the ladies were profuse in their bows and smiles.” The scene was similar as regiment after regiment marched through the village on their way to Middletown.

During the seven mile march toward South Mountain via Middletown the advance units arrived shortly after one in the afternoon and spent the day relaxing in the fields of the Middletown Valley as best as one soldier could. Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin recalled his regiment’s march to Middletown. “Our marches, except today, [June 27th, 1863] have been long and toilsome. What do you think of trudging along all day in the soaking rain, getting as wet as a drowned rat, taking supper on hard tack and salt pork, and then wrapping up in a wet woolen blanket and lying down for a sleep.” Dawes continued “In the dust, men are dogged and silent. In the rain they are often even hilarious and jolly.”

The First Corps was no stranger to this area. During the Maryland Campaign not even a year before, General Hooker led the First Corps into battle at SouthMountain. Many soldiers of the famed Iron Brigade recalled seeing the field where they fought upon near Turner’s Gap and the graves of the dead they buried there. Rufus Dawes recalled that the grave’s headboards were “barley legible.”

Several regiments were spread around the Middletown area encamping for the night near the foot of SouthMountain along the National Road. The local farmers of the MiddletownValley were shocked to see how quickly their fences were disappearing for fuel to keep the fires of the soldiers going. As the First Corps encamped for the night, a command change was made when General Joseph Hooker learned that his resignation was accepted and General George Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac.

Not liking the layout of the Union army in FrederickCounty, General Meade issued orders for his army to concentrate at FrederickCity to begin movements northward toward Pennsylvania. At four o’clock in the morning the First Corps began moving out of the MiddletownValley, and ascended the CatoctinMountain along the National Road, as well as the road to Hamburg. They began to enter the streets of FrederickCity by late in the evening, where the soldiers bivouaced for the evening. General George Meade had issued orders for his army to begin marching northward toward Pennsylvania at four o’clock the next morning. 

On June 29th, the First Corps marched along the Frederick Road to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where they entered the town during the evening. The soldiers passed through Lewistown, Catoctin Furnace, and Mechanicstown where the population greeted the men with fresh bread, cakes, coffee, tea and buttermilk, which the soldiers placed into their haversacks. A soldier from 150thPennsylvania recalled the ladies of Mechanicstown were wearing dresses made from the National colors and waving small miniature flags.

Upon reaching Emmitsburg, the men were shocked to see that a major fire had burned the majority of the town. The men had marched more than twenty-six miles that day. Some of the units had marched more than thirty-five miles within a twenty-four period. The soldiers were ordered to encamp on the grounds of Saint Joseph’s.

By June 30, the First Corps were ordered to Marsh Creek along the Emmitsburg Road. General John Reynolds made his headquarters at the Moritz Tavern. The next day, the First Corps were called to Gettysburg.

Chamberlin, Lt. Colonel Thomas. History of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, McManus JR. and Co. Philadelphia, PA. 1905.
Dawes, Rufus. Service With The Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, Alderman and Sons, 1890.
Fiebeger, Colonel G.J. The Campaign and the Battle of Gettysburg, West Point, New York, 1915. Reprinted Bloodstone Press of New Oxford, PA 1984.
Hall, Isaac. The Ninety-Seventh New York Volunteers in the War for the Union, LC Childs and Sons, UticaNY, 1890
Locke, William Henry. The Story of the Regiment, JB Lipponcott, 1868
Small, Major AR. The Sixteenth Maine in the War of the Rebellion, Thurston and Company, PortlandMaine, 1866.
Strong, William. Survivors Association. History of the 121stPennsylvania Volunteers. Catholic Standard Times, Philadelphia, PA 1905.
Winey, Michael. Union Army Uniforms at Gettysburg, Thomas Publications, FairfieldPA, 1998.

General Meade and the Defense of Emmitsburg

Shortly after the Pennsylvania Campaign in the summer of 1863, General Daniel Sickles, commander of the Third Corp, tried to bring General Meade up on charges. The charges were related to General Meade’s plan for the Pipe Creek Defense Line during the opening phases of what would become the Battle of Gettysburg. After a short hearing on the charges, General Daniel Sickles was removed from field command. General Sickles however remained in the military until after the Civil War.

General Daniel Sickles was born in 1819 in New York. As grown man, Daniel Sickles went into the law practice. Three times he was indicted for legal improprieties. He was known to be as womanizer, and married a young beautiful girl who was 15 years younger than him. In 1857 Daniel Sickles was elected to Congress. In those days when you went into politics you spent a lot of time away from home. It was acceptable for a man to have affairs with other women, but it was un-lady like for a married woman to have an affair with a man. Daniel Sickles had asked his friend Philip Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key (who is a relative of mine), to escort his wife to the balls and dinners that were always held in Washington, D.C. Philip Key was caught having an affair with Daniel Sickles’s wife and in an act of rage Daniel Sickles shot and killed Philip. He stood trial and became the first American to be acquitted on a murder charge pleading temporary insanity. Daniel Sickles moved back to New York until the out break of the Civil War.

During the Gettysburg Campaign, General Hooker choose to be relieved of command and General Meade was appointed the new commander of the Army of the Potomac. General Meade and General Sickles could never mask their ill feeling for each other. During the Chancellorsville battle, which was held in the spring of 1863, General Hooker gave the order to Daniel Sickles to surrender the high ground. The Confederate Army subsequently took possession and began to shell the federal lines. General Sickles vowed never take an order like that again. That was a promise which, General Sickles kept even in Emmitsburg. On June 30th General Meade had made his headquarters near Taneytown, located about seven miles east of Emmitsburg on Route 194. While General Sickles’ made his headquarters at Bridgeport which was part of a series of entrenchments made by the Federal army known as the Pipe Creek Defense Line. Bridgeport is situated five miles east of Emmitsburg on the Frederick and Carroll County border.

The Pipe Creek Defense Line ran from Middleburg, Maryland to Union Mills, Maryland. The Pipe Creek Defense Line included the major roads that led to Baltimore and Washington. D.C. Routes 30, 97, 140, and Bull Frog Road were the major arteries to Baltimore. The reserves that were held in Middletown and Frederick were protecting the road to Washington, D.C. The Western Wing under the command of General Reynolds was ordered to advance to Emmitsburg in on June 29th, to engage the Confederate Army head on rather than hitting them from the rear in the Cumberland Valley.

The intentions of the Confederates were uncertain. General Meade did not want to take a chance to prevent Washington or Baltimore from being targeted. Meade created the Pipe Creek Defense Line and deployed it on July 1st. General Sickles criticized General Meade for this defensive line for the reason that it predicted a Union defeat. (However at that time, General Meade did not know that the whole western wing of his army was already being deployed at Gettysburg.) If this was true, then Gettysburg would have never happened.

Some people surmise that the battle of Gettysburg should have happened near Taneytown, Maryland because of the Pipe Creek Defense Line. Some guess that General Meade took the wrong road and met the Confederates by accident. However if this was the case, General Buford would have never engaged the Confederate at Gettysburg. To prove this point, if the Pipe Creek Defense Line was created in case of a Union defeat then why was the order given to General Reynolds to advance to Emmitsburg. This order supports the idea there would be a major battle preparing to be fought in Emmitsburg and not Taneytown.

The Confederate Army was outside of Gettysburg from the directions of Cashtown, Carlisle, and York. A.P. Hill’s Corp came down Chambersburg Pike toward Gettysburg. Generals Early and Ewell moved down from the north and east on the York and Harrisburg Turnpikes. If General Buford had never engaged the Confederate at Gettysburg, the main parts of the Confederate Army would have moved toward Emmitsburg. Since General Reynolds received a message from General Buford that the Confederates were spotted in the direction of Fairfield, General Reynolds had the First Corp move north of Emmitsburg to Marsh Creek leaving behind the Eleventh Corp and a reserve of artillery at Emmitsburg. This was the protection of the town of Emmitsburg.

On the evening of June 30th through the morning hours of July 1st, The Third Corp under General Daniel Sickles was at Bridgeport, Maryland just east of Emmitsburg. It is here that the controversy begins with General Meade and General Sickles while the Third Corps was encamped at Bridgeport, Maryland. General Sickles was ordered by General Reynolds (his wing commander) to advance onto Cat Tail Branch facing Gettysburg, however due to General Meade’s orders a series of events would follow when General Sickles disobeys orders directed to him while he was at Emmitsburg on July 1st. The following Union correspondences state the specific orders given to General Sickles from General Meade and General Reynolds.

HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, At Moritz Tavern, June 30, 1863.

Major-General Sickles, Commanding Third Corps:

General: Major-General Reynolds directs me to say he wishes you to camp upon Cat Tail Branch with your command, and for you to also send a staff officer to these headquarters.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, Edward C. Baird, Captain, and Assistant Adjutant-General

[P. S.]-General Reynolds wishes, when you take up your position upon Cat Tail Branch, to face toward Gettysburg, and cover the roads leading from Gettysburg.

HEADQUARTERS THIRD CORPS, Bridgeport, on the Monocacy, June 30, 1863-7. 45 p. m.

Captain E. C. Baird, Aide-de-Camp, Headquarters Left Wing:

Captain: By direction of the general commanding, I have gone into camp here, countermanding a previous order to go to Emmitsburg, and I am to await here further orders from headquarters Army of the Potomac. When these orders were received, I sent Captain Crocker, of my staff, to communicate them to Major-General Reynolds, and to inform him of my position. My First Division and two batteries are farther toward Emmitsburg (across Middle Creek).

D. E. Sickles, Major General

HEADQUARTERS THIRD ARMY CORPS, Bridgeport, on the Monocacy, June 30, 1863.

Brigadier General S. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac:

General: Enclosed please find communication from Major-General Reynolds. It is in accordance with my written orders, received from headquarters Army of the Potomac at 1 p. m., but in conflict with the verbal order given me by the general commanding while on the march. Shall I move forward? My First Division is about a mile this side of Emmitsburg.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. E. Sickles, Major General, Commanding

Headquarters Army of the Potomac, June 30, 1863

Commanding Officer Third Corps (General Sickles):

Major-General Reynolds reports that the enemy has appeared at Fairfield, on the road between Chambersburg and Emmitsburg. I am, therefore, instructed by the commanding general to say that it is of the utmost importance that you should move with your infantry and artillery to Emmitsburg with all possible dispatch.

Very respectfully, S. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General”

Upon reaching Emmitsburg on July 1st, General Sickles received an order to hold Emmitsburg in case of a Confederate break through at Gettysburg. Subsequently another order came for the Third Corp to move forward to Gettysburg. Once the Third Corp began to break camp, yet another order was issued to disregard the order, to march to Gettysburg, hold Emmitsburg at all cost.

General Meade must have felt that if a Confederate breakthrough occurred, the Confederate army would try to out flank the Union army, by way of Emmitsburg. General Sickles pressed forward to Gettysburg, completely disregarding the order of holding Emmitsburg. This was also General Sickles’ testimony when he tried to bring General Meade up on charges. General Sickles felt that the order of holding Emmitsburg, was preparing the Army of the Potomac to retreat back toward Emmitsburg.

General Sickles arrived at Gettysburg and took action in the Wheat Field. Here, another order given by General Meade was disobeyed. General Sickles was ordered to retreat back toward his original position giving up the ground gained by the Federals. General Sickles disregard for that order resulted in him being carried off the field, his leg shattered by a Confederate bullet. He was carried off the field smoking his cigar. His Third Corp holding of its position may have been significant in the Union victory at Gettysburg.

On July 7th, after the battle of Gettysburg, General Meade rode through Emmitsburg and briefly stopped to visit the town. The residents hailed him, thanking him for all that he had done to protect the town from the main Confederate Army. Since General Meade drew up the Pipe Creek Defense Line the Confederate Army really never had a chance of attacking Washington, D.C., considering that the Western Wing of the Army of the Potomac heavily protected Emmitsburg.

General Meade rode out of town heading down Old Frederick Road. The commander crossed Loyds Station-Covered Bridge and made his headquarters in the small community of Creagerstown. This cleared Emmitsburg of the hell and gore of the American Civil War to begin the healing and rebuilding.

General Sickles could have been court marshaled for disobeying orders given by a superior officer. Instead he was responsible for saving the Union on July 2nd at Gettysburg. General Sickles was awarded a medal of honor three decades after his actions at Gettysburg. The famous leg that was amputated at Gettysburg is still preserved today in Washington, D.C. Daniel Sickles returned to Washington to visit his leg whenever the opportunity existed. After the Civil War, he went to Gettysburg annually to pay his respects for all those who died there. Daniel Sickles is noted responsible for the preservation of those fields in Gettysburg, spending his own money to see it become a memorial. People in Emmitsburg today are reminded of his dedication to Civil War memorials and preservation work by the signs placed next to the U.S. Post Office.