On the morning of July 6, 1863, the Confederate army, having retreated from Gettysburg, took up their line of march on the Hagerstown Road. This road led directly to Fairfield, where it would transverse through Fairfield Gap and Monterey Pass on South Mountain. From Monterey Pass, the Confederate army would move into Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Taking the Leitersburg and Antietam Road, the Confederate army would move directly into Hagerstown and Williamsport, Maryland.
Encamped on South Mountain since July 5, Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s Corps marched up Jacks Mountain Road to the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike and took the lead during the retreat. Following behind them, was Lieutenant General A. P. Hill’s Corps. The night prior, Hill’s Corps had taken the Hagerstown Road from Fairfield to Monterey Pass, where the corps encamped. Located behind them, was Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Corps. They had encamped near South Mountain the night before.
Early in the morning of July 6, the Confederate army began its movement to Waynesboro. Lieutenant General Ewell had ordered Major General Robert Rodes to take his division and relieve Major General Jubal Early’s Division, who had skirmished with portions of the Union VI Corps at Fairfield. Major General Early was ordered to lead Ewell’s Corps for the duration of the day.
While the Confederate army issued marching orders to march toward Waynesboro, Major General John Sedgwick and his VI Corps made plans to harass the rearguard of the Confederate army. Major General Sedgwick ordered Brigadier General Thomas Neill and his brigade of infantry to lead the attack. Brigadier General Neill’s brigade consisted of six companies of the 7th Maine Infantry, a detachment of the 33rd New York Infantry, 43rd New York Infantry, 77th New York Infantry, and the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry.
Major General Rodes deployed his division with the brigades of Brigadier General George Doles to the right of the Hagerstown Road and Brigadier General Junins Daniel’s brigade on the left of the road, near the Reed farm as skirmishers. With Iverson’s brigade already ahead of the main army, Ramseur’s Brigade and O’Neal’s Brigade would not participate in the action.1
Brigadier General Neill deployed his brigade in skirmish formation and proceeded to move toward the Confederate line. Their line stretched out one to two miles long when the attack was launched. With Brig. Gen. Daniel’s brigade occupying the Reed farm, some of the Union troops had entered the orchard behind the farm house and hit the 45th North Carolina with Captain J. A. Hopkins commanding. This regiment was on the extreme left, located in front of the Reed farm. Upon reaching the hill, Captain Hopkins was ordered to surrender. Captain Hopkins charged the enemy’s position and forced them from the hill. Casualties totaled nine men lost, 2 killed, 2 wounded, and 5 missing. Captain Hopkins and the rest of Daniel’s brigade occupied the hill leading into the entrance between jacks Mountain and South Mountain. A portion of Brig. Gen. Doles’s left flank repelled an attack with no casualties.2
The engagement of Iron Springs was over as soon as it began. With a strong Confederate rearguard in their front, it was determined that they should now begin to fortify South Mountain at the entrance of Fairfield Gap. The Union troops pulled back to Fairfield and halted. The Hagerstown Road was now clear for about five miles behind the Confederate army. The last of the Confederate skirmishers began marching through Monterey Pass with no further annoyance by the Union troops.
The VI Corps was ordered to Emmitsburg, Maryland, and Brigadier General Neill was detached to operate as a light division. Colonel John McIntosh’s brigade of cavalry was assigned to Neill’s command as well as two pieces of artillery from Lieutenant Martin’s battery. They were ordered to harass the Confederate rearguard, but not to fully engage them. By evening, the Confederate army was concentrated in and around Waynesboro and Leitersburg, Maryland. Neill’s brigade would encamp near Monterey Pass.3
- Report of Maj. Gen. R. E. Rodes, O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
- Ibid, Report of Brig. Gen. Junins Daniel, O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
- O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] — Gettysburg Campaign