The Engagement of Iron Springs

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. 

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The Reed Farm looking toward the Union position

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

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Close to the battle line

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 

Notes:

  1. Report of Maj. Gen. R. E. Rodes, O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
  2. Ibid, Report of Brig. Gen. Junins Daniel, O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
  3. O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] — Gettysburg Campaign

The Confederate Retreat and the Union Pursuit, Part Six

On July 11, 1863, the Army of the Potomac was closing in on the Confederate army near Williamsport. Battle lines are beginning to take shape, as the Confederate army, occupied the ground from just west of Hagerstown, all the way down to Downsville, east of Williamsport. Lt. General Richard Ewell’s Corps held the left flank of the Confederate army, west of Hagerstown. Holding the center, east of Williamsport, was Lt. General A. P. Hill’s Corps. Major General George Pickett, along with Brigadier General John Imboden occupied the Hagerstown and Boonsboro Roads, as they led into Williamsport itself. Holding the Confederate right flank, east of Williamsport and Downsville, was Lt. General James Longstreet’s Corps.

The Union army began taking up positions paralleling the Confederate army. The I Corps remained at Beaver Creek. The II Corps was positioned near Saint James College. The III Corps supported the V Corps near Funkstown. During the evening, the V Corps was ordered to move into the direction of Antietam, near Jones’s Crossroads. The VI and XI Corps moved to Beaver Creek via Funkstown. The XII Corps then proceeded toward the II Corps position.

Early in the morning the next day, Colonel Pennock Huey’s cavalry brigade moved along the Williamsport Road. They were encamped at Jones’s Crossroads and were ordered to re-con the Confederate lines. Near Saint James College, they engaged some of the Confederate pickets. With the sounds of a skirmish ahead, Union infantry were ordered out and several Confederate soldiers were captured.

Meanwhile to the north, near Hagerstown, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry moved toward the city. He was supported by Brigadier General Adelbert Ames’ infantry brigade of the XI Corps. As they approached the city, they were fired upon. Brigadier General Kilpatrick was able to capture some of the Confederate pickets. The Second Battle of Hagerstown had officially begun.

Supported by artillery, Brigadier General Kilpatrick moved to the outskirts of Hagerstown. There, deploying some cavalry behind a stonewall, Kilpatrick ordered Brigadier General George Custer to charge the city. Brigadier General Custer hesitated. Brigadier General Kilpatrick then ordered his headquarters guard, Company A of the 1st Ohio Cavalry to charge. Several Confederate soldiers were captured in charge.

While the headquarters guard charged, Brig. Gen. Ames ordered his infantry forward as support. At the same time, Brig. Gen. Custer finally charged into Hagerstown. He was quickly attacked by Confederate infantry. Fighting in the streets was vicious, as the fight took place from yard to yard. As Custer’s men pushed forward, Brig. Gen. Ames and his infantry began flooding into Hagerstown until they reached the town center. By the end of the Second Battle of Hagerstown, the Union suffered a handful of casualties, and 400-500 Confederates were taken prisoner.

While the Second Battle of Hagerstown was erupting, the Union army was again repositioning itself. The realignment was to get the entire Army of the Potomac west of the Antietam Creek. The I Corps was ordered to take the heights beyond Funkstown. The II Corps moved to Saint James. The III Corps moved toward Marsh Creek. The V Corps began to entrench its position, holding the center of the Union army. The VI Corps would eventually move to the south of Funkstown, and turn southward to occupy the ground connecting the V Corps and the I Corps. The XI Corps moved ahead of the I Corps, and would hold the right flank of the Union army, just south of Hagerstown. The XII Corps held the left flank of the Union army, south of Jones’s Crossroads.

As darkness fell on the defenses of Williamsport, the Union army had a decision to make regarding the next day. Should they attack? Or should they reconnoiter the Confederate defenses. Up until now, the Confederate army has had its back against a swollen Potomac River. They have built some massive entrenchments to protect their army. Now, both armies are looking at each other.

That night, Major General George Meade, whose headquarters was located at the Devil’s Backbone along the Antietam Creek, called for a council of war. Major General Meade asked his council if they felt the Union army should attack the Confederate positions that guarded their aveune back into West Virginia and Virginia.

The council voted “No!” to the question of attacking the Confederate army. The only vote in favor of the attack came from Major General Oliver O. Howard. Meade’s Staff was also in favor of the attack, but their votes could not be counted. Major General Meade would then reconnoiter the Confederates the next day and make plans for an all out attack on July 14. This decision infuriated President Abraham Lincoln.

On July 13, the Union army concentrated on improving their own defenses. Throughout the day, both armies continued to look over at each other. Meanwhile, the Confederate army determined that they would move into West Virginia that night. Longstreet’s and Hill’s Corps would cross over the Potomac River on a newly built pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. At Williamsport, the waters had receded enough and Ewell’s Corps would ford the Potomac River there. Bunker Hill, West Virginia would be the concentration point of the Confederate army.

As night fell on the fields separating both armies, the Confederate army prepared to move out. Near midnight, the Confederate army began moving into West Virginia. By 7:00 a.m. on July 14, it was discovered that, for the most part, the Confederate army was on the south side of the Potomac River. They had performed a great escape.

Early in the morning on July 14, at Falling Waters, MD, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick with Brigadier General John Buford caught up with the rearguard of the Confederate army. Without consulting Brig. Gen. Buford, Kilpatrick ordered Brig. Gen. Custer to attack. Leading his brigade was the 6th Michigan Cavalry and they charged the Confederates. At first the Confederate soldiers thought that this cavalry was part of their own. The rearguard of Hill’s Corps, commanded by Major General Henry Heth, realized that this was Union cavalry. They fired a devastating volley into the Union cavalry. As fighting continued into the early afternoon, Brigadier General James Pettigrew was mortally wounded.

By 1:00 p.m., Maj. Gen. Heth was ordered to fall back to the bridge. The Union cavalry had 111 casualties. The Confederates lost more than 154 men killed or wounded, but upwards to 1,500 men captured. Falling Waters was the last major battle of the Pennsylvania Campaign in Maryland.

For the next several days, the Union army moved back into Pleasant Valley. By July 16, the Army of the Potomac was located in the three main areas of Harper’s Ferry, Sandy Hook and Berlin. That same day, Union cavalry fought near Shepherdstown, where they engaged Confederate cavalry guarding the Potomac River. After several hours of fighting, and both sides standing their ground, the Union cavalry was forced to withdraw after sunset.

On July 17, after being re-supplied and re-equipped, the Army of the Potomac began moving into Virginia. The crossing of the Potomac would take two days. By July 19, the Army of the Potomac was south of the Potomac River.

On July 23, at Manassas Gap, the III Corps was ordered to Front Royal to cut off the Confederate army’s retreat. However, poorly coordinated Union attacks allowed the Confederate army to continue moving without any further pursuit. The next day, the last battle of the Pennsylvania Campaign occurred near Amissville at Battle Mountain. Being outnumbered, Brig. Gen. Custer was forced to fall back, and the Pennsylvania Campaign of 1863 officially came to an end.

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.