Operations of South Mountain During Early’s 1864 Raids

South Mountain witnessed much activity during the American Civil War, most famously the Battles of South Mountain in September 1862. During the 1863 Pennsylvania Campaign the majority of SouthMountain in Maryland and Pennsylvania, saw much activity including the Battle of Monterey Pass, situated along the Mason Dixon Line. In July of 1864, South Mountain would again see major activity during Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Maryland Campaign.

On July 3, many citizens living in the Cumberland Valley heard cannon fire in the direction of West Virginia, and began to flee, crossing South Mountain in the wake of another Maryland Invasion. It was rumored by many refugees that Lt. Gen. Early was leading an army toward Shepherdstown, and would ford the Potomac River there into Maryland. As many refugees flocked east of South Mountain, Middletown residents doubted that another invasion was even going to take place.

Headquartered in Baltimore, Union Major General Lew Wallace heard the same rumors about a massive troop movement moving up the Shenandoah Valley, that could threaten Maryland or Washington. He had also received reports about Lt. Gen. Early’s movements from the officials of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Major General Wallace thought to himself about the consequences of this campaign. If Washington was the Confederate target, they could capture the defenseless city, as most of those troops were sent to Union General U. S. Grant.  If the city was lost, the Confederates would capture the Quartermaster Depot, Naval Yard, and the U.S. Treasury. This would be a major blow to the Union.

The Confederate army began to ford the Potomac River on July 5. By July 7, they were fully concentrated at Sharpsburg, where in September 1862, many of these men fought in the battle of Antietam. Major General Wallace boarded a train at Baltimore and made his way to Frederick. From there he began assessing his situation and weighing his options. Union cavalry stationed in Frederick also went out to assess the situation. There, at Turner’s Gap, upon SouthMountain, a detachment of the 8th Illinois Cavalry skirmished with Brigadier General Bradley Johnson’s Cavalry Brigade. This was no contest for the Confederate cavalry, and they pushed ahead toward Middletown when two cannon were fired by Alexander’s Baltimore Artillery, supported by the 8th Illinois Cavalry. Brigadier General Johnson and his cavalry would skirmish toward Braddock’s Gap upon the CatoctinMountain.

During the day, Lt. Gen. Early ordered his army to SouthMountain, skirmishing at several points along the way with Union Major General Franz Sigel’s force. Confederate Major General John C. Breckenridge marched into Rohrersville, where he was supplied with new shoes for his soldiers, and encamped for the night. A few miles to the south, Major General Robert Rodes’ Division skirmished with Union cavalry, but by nightfalll the Confederates were bivouacked near Crampton’s Gap. Lieutenant General Jubal Early, along with Major General Stephen Raseur’s Division were near Boonsboro.

Acting on orders, Mr. Flechter scouted the movements of the Confederate army. Reporting back to Major Burt about the activity near Boonsboro, Mr. Flecther recalled, “Discovered a large number scattered all over the country, gathering horses, with scouts in mountain for the same purpose, preventing my going any farther, and have gathered in a large number of horses from the Maryland farmers.” Major Burt sent that information to Major General Darius Couch in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

On July 8, Early’s army began marching toward Middletown. The Confederate army marched over SouthMountain at three different mountain gaps. Using the National Road through Turner’s Gap was Lt. Gen. Early and Maj. Gen. Ramseur’s Division. Also, the wagon train that followed the Confederate army used that same route. About a mile to the south was Fox’s Gap, situated on the Old Sharpsburg Road. Following this route was the Army of South Western Virginia under the command of Major General John C. Breckenridge. About seven miles south of that point was Crampton’s Gap. This is the route Major General Rodes’ Division would use.

Since the Old Sharpsburg Road and the National Road both led to Middletown, this would be the concentration point by evening for both Early and Breckenridge. Major General Rodes would continue his march to the town of Jefferson. The only natural barrier that separated the Confederate army from Frederick was the Catoctin Mountain.

As the Confederate troops moved over SouthMountain, the Union cavalry skirmished with the Confederate rear guard. By the end of the day, Crampton’s Gap was being used to hold Confederate prisoners that were captured by the Union cavalry.

As the sun rose on July 9, the Battle of Monocacy would erupt. While, Lt. Gen. Early was there fighting, he maintained a chain of pickets that covered many of the mountain gaps situated upon SouthMountain. Federal scouts entered Wolfsville, where they stated that fifty Confederate infantrymen were on picket duty, and that they were part of a chain of pickets that stretched across South Mountain from there to Boonsboro. It was also reported that several Confederate troops were fortifying the battlefield of South Mountain.

On July 10, it was reported that Confederate cavalry were foraging SouthMountain from MontereyPass to Frederick, stealing horses, and creating much alarm. During the day, Major John Burt wrote to Major General Couch, who was at Chambersburg, that about 3,000 cavalrymen under General Bradley Johnson were in Lewistown and Creagerstown, with another 7,000 cavalrymen at Smoketown. He also confirmed that the Confederate troops were fortifying South Mountain, and that General Imboden, with about 1,500 men, came down the west side of South Mountain, sending a small detail of men into Smithsburg, eight miles from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

Captain Maxwell Woodhull, who was serving as Acting Assistant Adjutant-General wrote a dispatch to Union Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence that Brigadier General William Morris wanted a cavalry to scout the area near SouthMountain at BlackRockBridge. Reports were of Confederate cavalry and a section of artillery moving along the Westminster and Baltimore Pike, from Boonsboro. The Westminster and Baltimore Pike was a roadway that led from Hagerstown, over SouthMountain at Wolf’s Tavern, and at the CatoctinMountain to Emmitsburg, and continued to Westminster.

This ended the actions on South Mountain during Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington.  This campaign is a fascinating one. Although, the majority of the Confederate army marches toward Frederick and fights a battle along the banks of the Monocacy, one can see how far the effects of the campaign reached. Troop movements, picket lines, and smaller raid parties had a far reaching effect on the communities on and around South Mountain.

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Wolfsville, Maryland, Occupied!

Wolfsville is situated between the Catoctin and South Mountains and was a major crossroads at that time. Further up the road, about three miles to where South Mountain descends toward Smithsburg was another major crossroads. These roads could take you directly to modern day Thurmont, Hagerstown, Frederick, or Emmitsburg. Situated at the crossroads at Wolfsville is the Wolfes Tavern. A place that was heavily guarded in November of 1861 during the Maryland special elections.

During the Pennsylvania Campaign in 1863, Union soldiers used Black Rock which overlooked the Cumberland Valley for observation of Lee’s Army after it had retreated from Gettysburg. Black Rock is connected to Wolfsville via the old Black Rock Road that ran from east to west over South Mountain. Union patrols of cavalry garrisoned out of Harper’s Ferry also traveled through Wolfsville protecting the citizens against any Confederate raiding parties that might come into the area.

During General Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington, resulting in the Battle of Monocacy, General Early had sent Confederate soldiers on forage as well as picket duty along South Mountain in what is known as a “chain of pickets.” On July 8th, 1864, while the Confederate Army crossed South Mountain, about fifty Confederate soldiers occupied Wolfsville, guarding Early’s left flank as he encamped in Middletown that night. With the Battle of Monocacy raging in the open fields south of Frederick on July 9th, 1864, two Union scouts managed to enter their camp. From there the information was reported to the Union authorities on Maryland Heights.

After the Maryland Campaign in July of 1864, and the unsuccessful raid on Washington, General Jubal Early and his Confederate forces crossed the Potomac River back into Virginia near Leesburg at White’s Ford on July 14th. From there Early’s forces would take up the line of march toward the Shenandoah Valley. After a small victory at Cool Springs, Virginia on July 18th, 1864, and suffering defeat on the 20th at Rutherford’s Farm, General Early’s threat against the Union as well as Washington was thought to have come to an end. As a result Union General Horatio Wright abandoned his pursuit of Early’s Confederate forces and ordered the VI and XIX Corps to return to Washington, where they were to be sent to General Ulysses Grant at Petersburg.

To keep the Confederate Army of the Valley from threatening the north, General Wright left General George Crook with three divisions of infantry and some cavalry to hold Winchester. With orders to prevent Wright’s reinforcements from coming to Petersburg, General Early attacked Crook’s Department of West Virginia at Kernstown on July 24th. As long as Early’s Confederate forces continued to be a threat in the Shenandoah Valley, Grant would be forced to leave several Union troops to confront Early rather than using them as reinforcements at Petersburg. The fighting at Kernstown resulted in Crook’s defeat and forced him to retreat toward Maryland.

On July 25th, Crook was encamped at Bunker Hill, and reached the West Virginia side of the Potomac River facing Williamsport that night. On July 26th, General Crook was ordered to guard the mountain passes of South Mountain. By the 27th, Crook’s men entered Pleasant Valley via the C&O Canal near Harper’s Ferry for the night. The next day, Crook was ordered by General David Hunter to concentrate his forces at Halltown, since it was fortified. Crook’s men re-crossed the Potomac River and encamped near Halltown, West Virginia.

General Early had enough of the new Federal policy of destruction and had selected Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, as the location of where the retaliation would be made. On July 28th, an unusual order arrived from General Early to General John McCausland. General Early demanded $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency in compensation for the homes destroyed by Union General Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley near Lynchburg. Early ordered McCausland to enter Pennsylvania and ransom the town of Chambersburg. If the city could not produce the funds the city would be burned. Later McCausland wrote: “My men had just dismounted and were making camp and getting ready to eat what rations they could find. I was sitting there on my horse talking to Nick Fitzhugh, my adjutant, when a courier handed me a dispatch from Early. I opened it up and when I read those first lines I nearly fell out of the saddle. He ordered me in very few words to make a retaliatory raid and give the Yankees a taste of their own medicine.”

Early in the morning on July 30th, the Confederate forces under General John McCausland entered Chambersburg in three columns. After meeting with the citizens of Chambersburg, the leading townspeople informed McCausland that the city could not or would not pay. As a result McCausland ordered torches to be ignited and soon three quarters of the town was fully engulfed in flames. In response to General McCausland at Chambersburg, as well as numerous raiding parties reported along the Mason & Dixon Line, General Halleck ordered General Hunter to send troops to advance to the eastern side of South Mountain and occupy Crampton’s Gap and the other South Mountain passes. General Hunter sent a small cavalry force to occupy Turner’s Gap on South Mountain in order for them to communicate with him by courier if any Confederate troop movements appeared in the area.

After hearing reports of Confederate cavalry raiding along the Mason Dixon Line in Pennsylvania as well as in Northern Maryland General William W. Averell, commanding Crook’s Second Cavalry Division investigated the situation. Members of Cole’s Cavalry had seen the smoke from the distance and knew right away that Chambersburg had been burned. General Averell would now begin the pursuit of McCausland’s cavalry force. General Alfred Duffie’s First Cavalry Division was ordered to proceed to the Middletown Valley.

On July 31st, General David Hunter was ordered by General Henry Hallack to move to Emmitsburg, Maryland. This dispatch from Hallack made General Hunter very upset but regardless of his personal views, after four o’clock in the afternoon, General Hunter was moving toward Emmitsburg. In doing so, he sent General Crook on the road to Middletown and General Wright on the road to Frederick. The Federal Departments, fearing an absence of troops on the eastern side of South Mountain toward Emmitsburg began to follow up on the pursuit of the Confederate troops of McCausland’s Cavalry.

General Crook’s force left Halltown, crossed the Potomac River at Sandy Point and marched directly to Burkittsville taking the direct route through Middletown. Marching past Middletown, Crook’s forces encamped near Wolfsville that night, covering some fourteen miles that afternoon. The intense summer sun was immensely hot for the footmen of Crook’s army. Many of the men suffered sun stroke and some even died from the horrendous weather conditions. Even the men of future President Rutherford B. Hayes’ brigade were in poor shape from the hot summer heat.

On August 1st, Crook’s men marched another four miles, halted on the road and camped in the woods near Wolfsville. During the day it was reported from High Rock, some ten miles away on the ridge of South Mountain, that Chambersburg was burned by the Confederates. Throughout the day General David Hunter communicated with General Crook about the recent Confederate raid into Pennsylvania. While Crook was dealing with the situation, his brigade officers found time to write their official reports about the recent Battle of Kernstown.

Detachments of General Duffie’s cavalry had been in the saddle since that morning without any rations or provisions to eat. The intense hot weather and the lack of food made the march very rough for the mounted men. Upon entering the town, the men thought they would be supplied with provisions from the townspeople, but unfortunately for them, the town’s residents were all out of provisions. Later in the day, the cavalrymen drew their four day rations and around six o’clock were ordered to proceed to Smithsburg where they encamped for the night. From there Duffie’s Cavalry was ordered to move on to Hagerstown and then to Clearspring to reinforce Averell.

The next day Crook’s Department of West Virginia was still encamped in the woods as well as the fields surrounding Wolfsville. Pickets were thrown up while the soldiers found time to rest, relax, and even wash their cloths in the nearby creek. Many of the soldiers wondered why they were encamped at Wolfsville. While the footman of Crook’s First Division, Second Brigade under Colonel William Ely and the soldiers of the 11th West Virginia Infantry detached from Colonel James Mulligan’s Third Division, Second Brigade was enjoying the day.

On August 3rd, General Crook ordered his command to leave camp at three o’clock in the morning and begin the march toward Frederick. His rested troops would encamp later that night along the banks of the Monocacy River. With General Early still being a threat, General Grant ordered the VI and XIX Corps to the Shenandoah Valley and formed the Army of the Shenandoah with General Philip H. Sheridan. Sheridan took command on August 8th, 1864, and soon after the fight for “The Valley” would begin and the destruction of General Jubal Early’s Army would soon come to a climax that fall.

South Mountain During Early’s Raid

During the summer of 1864, General Lee’s Army was protecting Richmond and Petersburg. Union General U.S. Grant had Confederate General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia under siege. The Federal cavalry had a strong hold on the Shenandoah Valley which was a vital agricultural area that fed the Army of Northern Virginia. If the Shenandoah Valley stayed in Federal hands, Lee wouldn’t be able to carry on the war. By sending General Early out of Petersburg, Lee was hoping to relieve pressure off of his lines and General Grant would be forced to send troops away from Petersburg to pursue Early’s forces.

General Lee sent the 2nd Corps under the command of General Jubal Early out from the trenches of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. General Early pulled his troops out of Petersburg on June 12th and Richmond on June 13th. He was ordered to march to Lynchburg where General John Breckinridge’s Army of South Western Virginia was located and help to defend Lynchburg and liberate the Shenandoah Valley from the Union forces of General David Hunter.

General Early reached Lynchburg on June 17th. From twelve o’clock in the afternoon to two o’clock the next day, Union General David Hunter attacked Early and Breckinridge. During the night General Hunter pulled his forces back and retreated into West Virginia. Since General Early liberated the Shenandoah Valley, he was to continue with phase two of General Lee’s plan. This meant that Early’s and Breckinridge’s forces would move into Maryland and threaten Washington and if practical send a detachment of cavalry to Point Lookout to free the Confederate prisoners there. This would provide Lee more manpower, something that he desperately needed if he was to continue the war.

As the Confederate forces marched up the Shenandoah Valley they arrived at Winchester on July 2nd where General Early ordered General Breckinridge to proceed on Martinsburg and capture Union General Franz Sigel. General Early would then move to Harper’s Ferry and capture the Federal garrison under the command of General Max Webber. At Bunker Hill, Breckinridge began skirmishing with Sigel’s cavalry pushing them back into Martinsburg. Once Breckinridge arrived at Martinsburg, he saw no Federal troops. Confederate Cavalry had been at work destroying the telegraph wire and capturing supplies. General Breckinridge ordered his men toward Harper’s Ferry via the Shepherdstown Road. This forced General Sigel to retreat to Harper’s Ferry.

On July 3rd, many citizens living in the Cumberland Valley and from the Hagerstown area hearing cannon fire in the direction of Virginia began to flee crossing South Mountain in the wake of another Maryland Invasion. It was rumored by many refugees that General Jubal Early was leading an army, marching toward Shepherdstown. These citizens had every right to flee from the invading Confederate army since the Confederate opinion was not so strong towards Maryland’s treatment of their support to the Confederate cause. As many refugees flocked east of South Mountain, Middletown residents doubted that another invasion was going to take place.

On July 4th, Early’s men battled around Harper’s Ferry. Seeing Maryland Heights fortified, Early decided to move his army north and cross at Shepherdstown and Boteler’s Ford. General Sigel had made his way through Pleasant Valley with 176 wagons. General Early rode with his army to Harpers Ferry to take the garrison there. Generals Sigel and Webber had evacuated Harper’s Ferry and made camp upon Maryland Heights.

On July 5th, General Franz Sigel who made his headquarters upon Maryland Heights stated that his forces consisted of two regiments of infantry, 2,500 dismounted cavalry, two battalions of heavy artillery, and twenty-six field guns. A portion of the Confederate cavalry was at Boonsboro scouting for Federal troops. General Sigel ordered General Stahel, who was located in Pleasant Valley to skirmish with the Confederates crossing the Potomac River near Sharpsburg. General Stahel’s forces consisted of about 1,000 effectives, two companies of artillery acting as infantry and one four-gun battery. Realizing the size of the Confederate Army crossing the Potomac River, General Stahel instead decides to only conduct reconnaissance of the Sharpsburg area.

General Early’s Corps and General Breckinridge’s Division started to cross the Potomac River at Shepherdstown on July 5th and continued to cross the Potomac until July 7th. Once in Sharpsburg, Early’s forces started to set up camp. The Confederate cavalry under General John McCausland reached Hagerstown with orders to ransom the town for $200,000. Misunderstanding the order, McCausland only demanded $20,000.

General Stahel skirmished with Confederate troops on the western side of Elk Mountain; General Sigel ordered him to pull back and move toward Rohrersville and defend the area against any Confederate troops advancing toward Maryland Heights. With Breckinridge’s troops marching toward Rohrersville, a full out assault was not in question against the mass numbers of General Breckinridge’s troops.

Breckinridge’s forces moved onto Rohrersville and a portion of the Confederate soldiers encamped there at the base of South Mountain while another portion of Breckinridge’s men skirmished with General Stahel’s troops near Maryland Heights. The following day at Rohrersville, Confederate troops received their much needed supplies such as shoes.

During the Confederate concentration at Sharpsburg and Rohrersville, Union cavalry were able to scout the Confederates using South Mountain for intelligence from the direction of Frederick. Lieutenant Colonel George Vernon took a portion of Cole’s Cavalry that was operating in Pleasant Valley and Maryland Heights and ordered them to scout and harass Early’s men as they encamped. Lieutenant Colonel Vernon operated within Early’s lines, capturing many prisoners of General Johnson’s Cavalry.

On July 7th, Johnson’s Cavalry Brigade skirmished with a portion of the 8th Illinois Cavalry and their artillery support at Turner’s Gap. After the skirmish, Johnson’s Brigade moved toward Frederick. Frederick was a wild scene as wagons abandoned by Union troops escaping from Harper’s Ferry. The next day, Johnson’s Brigade was ordered back to Turner’s Gap where it fought off a Union Cavalry attack. Further to the south on the road leading to Crampton’s Gap, General Robert Rodes skirmishes with elements of Union forces during the afternoon. Later that evening, General Rodes encamps near Crampton’s Gap.

On July 8th, Early’s Army began marching toward Middletown. The army crossed over South Mountain at three different mountain gaps. Fox’s Gap was the route of Breckinridge’s men while Generals Early and Ramseur traveled over Turner’s Gap and to the south, General Robert Rodes through Crampton’s Gap to Jefferson. Ramseur’s and Breckinridge’s Confederate columns converged at the town of Middletown, where a ransom of $1,500 was met. As Early’s men approached the Catoctin Mountain, the Confederate cavalry began skirmishing with Union troopers. That night the main portion of Early’s Corps encamped at Middletown.

As the Confederate troops moved over South Mountain, Captain Edward Frey skirmished with the Confederate cavalry rear guard. He stated in a report to General Sigel that the Confederate Army was in mass advancing on the Boonsboro Road leading to the right of John Brown’s Schoolhouse. During the afternoon, General Stahel wrote to General Sigel that the Confederates were marching in full force, at least a whole corps and were now marching in the Middletown Valley.

Union General A.P. Howell wrote to General Hallack who was near Harper’s Ferry during the evening of July 8th, that he was in possession of Crampton’s Gap. He also stated that he was keeping the Confederate prisoners there as they were captured as Early’s men crossed over South Mountain.

Early in the morning on July 9th, Major John B. Burt an Aid-de-Camp wrote a dispatch to Major Schultze that Confederate troops were fortifying South Mountain near the old battlefield. In his report he also stated that two of his men were in a Confederate camp at Wolfsville on South Mountain. The Federal scouts stated that about fifty Confederate infantrymen were on picket duty and that they were part of a chain of pickets that stretched across the South Mountain from there to Boonsboro.

General Early continued his march toward Frederick. Once his men took possession of Frederick, General Early issued a ransom for the town in the amount of $200,000. As General Early turned southward he ran into resistance from General Lew Wallace and General Ricketts, who re-enforced Wallace’s small force. General Early battled with Wallace at Monocacy until the evening.

After the battle of Monocacy, Lt. Colonel Vernon’s detachment of Cole’s Cavalry was still scouting for small bands of Confederate cavalry that were scattered throughout all of Northern Frederick County. In his book: “Cole’s Cavalry; or Three Years in the Saddle” C. Armour Newcomer wrote:

“Lieutenant Colonel Vernon and his small force of sixty-five men were familiar with the country. The enemy’s cavalry were overrunning Frederick County in small detachments, gathering up horses from the farmers. Our detachment had come upon several small squads of Rebel Cavalrymen and either captured or dispersed them. On our arrival in the neighborhood of Middletown we were informed by the citizens that an old gentleman, a farmer by the name of George Blessing, living several miles distant, had shot one or more Rebels, and Colonel Vernon started at once with his men for Blessing’s farm. As our advance was proceeding up the lane leading to the farmer’s house they were halted by an old gray-haired man, fully sixty-five years of age, who demanded that they should go back, or he would shoot. The old gentleman was partially concealed behind a large tree, with a rifle in his hand. Colonel Vernon called him by name and informed him we were Cole’s men and had come to protect him. Mr. Blessing gave us a hearty welcome and said he had mistaken us for the Confederates whom he had exchanged shots with a number of times during the day, and had driven off the enemy not an hour before, who threatened to return and hang him and burn his property. To prove his assertion, he led the way up to his barnyard, where lay a dead Rebel and one in the barn, wounded. The old farmer had some half dozen guns of different patterns; when the roving bands of Confederates approached his house he would warn them off, they would fire upon him, and this old patriot stood his ground. He would do the shooting whilst his small grandson would load the pieces. Our command remained at the farmhouse over night and the “Johnnies” failed to put in an appearance; they would have received a warm reception if they had returned. Our men buried the dead soldier and left the wounded prisoner in the hands of his captor, who promised to have him properly taken care of.”

On July 10th, Confederate cavalry were foraging South Mountain from Monterey to Frederick, stealing horses, and creating much alarm. During the day Major John Burt wrote to General Couch who was at Chambersburg that about 3,000 cavalry under General Bradley Johnson was in Lewistown and Creagerstown. Another 7,000 Confederate cavalry were at Smoketown. He also confirmed that the Confederate troops were fortifying South Mountain and that General Imboden, with about 1,500 men came down the west side of South Mountain sending a small detail of men into Smithsburg eight miles from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

Captain Maxwell Woodhull who was serving as Acting Assistant Adjutant-General wrote a dispatch to Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence that General Morris wanted a cavalry to scout the area near South Mountain at Black Rock Bridge. Reports were of Confederate cavalry and a section of artillery moving along the Westminster and Baltimore Pike, moving from Boonsboro. The Westminster and Baltimore Pike was a roadway that led from Hagerstown over South Mountain at Wolf’s Tavern and at the Catoctin Mountain to Emmitsburg and continued to Westminster.

From the banks of the Monocacy River, the Confederate Army continued their journey to Washington. By July 11th, Early was within sight of the ring of forts that surrounded Washington. He sent forward his skirmishers. After hearing reports of Union re-enforcements from Petersburg, General Early on the night of July 12th, began to retire from Washington and headed for Leesburg where he would take his army to the safety of Virginia.