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Last month, I discussed the movements of the Confederate army as they withdrew from Gettysburg, PA to the Mason Dixon Line, near Waynesboro, PA. I also discussed the movements of the Army of the Potomac, as they too, pursued the Confederate army from Gettysburg toward the Mason Dixon Line near Emmitsburg, MD and Littlestown, PA. This month, I want to write about what happened beginning on July 7, 1863, with regard to those movements of the Northern and Southern armies.
By early morning of July 7, the Union army was on the move. The I and III Corps moved directly to Emmitsburg. They stopped briefly at Emmitsburg before moving out on the Emmitsburg Road. The I Corps moved onward to Lewistown, MD, and turned west to begin it’s ascent up the Catoctin Mountain. The III Corps moved as far as Thurmont, MD where they were forced to encamp for the night. The XI Corps and VI Corps will march out of Emmitsburg and move to Middletown, MD. The XI Corps marched over the Catoctin Mountain via High Knob, and the advance unit began arriving at Middletown that evening. The II Corps will take up their line of march to Taneytown, MD from Two Taverns. The XII Corps, near Littlestown, PA, would march to Walkersville, MD on the road that led to Frederick. The V Corps at Emmitsburg picked up the Frederick Road and marched to Utica, MD, where they would encamp for the night.
The Confederate army had encamped along the Mason Dixon Line between Waynesboro, PA and Leitersburg, MD, and began marching to Hagerstown and Williamsport. The bulk of the Confederate army moved without incident. Meanwhile, Union Brigadier General Thomas Neill’s infantry brigade and Colonel John McIntosh’s brigade of cavalry followed safely behind the Confederate rearguard. They entered Waynesboro that evening, where they received a warm reception. Meanwhile, Union Major General William Smith’s division of Pennsylvania militia and New York State National Guard had arrived at Mont Alto, PA. The next day Smith’s division would move into Waynesboro, PA and link up with Brig. Gen. Neill’s brigade encamped there.
While the armies were on the move, heated skirmishes took place just outside of Hagerstown, at the College of St. James and Funkstown. At the College of St. James, just outside of Jones’ Crossroads, the 6th New York Cavalry was ordered to make a demonstration upon the Confederate front positioned near the college. They managed to push back the Confederate pickets. The 6th New York Cavalry then fell back onto Union Colonel Thomas Devin’s line. Shortly before noon, some Confederate infantry, supported by artillery, moved toward the Union Cavalry line. The 9th New York Cavalry moved out to meet the Confederate force near the college, while the rest of the Union cavalry moved east of the Antietam Creek. As the skirmish continued, a squad of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry was ordered to support the 9th New York Cavalry. Seeing these reinforcements, the Confederates began withdrawing back, breaking off the engagement.
The first Battle of Funkstown occurred when the 6th U.S. Cavalry was scouting the area and were spotted by the 7th Virginia Cavalry. As the 7th Virginia Cavalry charged, the 6th U.S. Cavalry quickly deployed skirmishers. During the initial attack, the 7th Virginia Cavalry managed to push the Union troopers back. Orders were given to the Union troopers to mount up and fall back. While they quickly did this, a pursuit took place. The Union troopers of the 6th U.S. Cavalry fell back upon Brigadier General Wesley Merritt’s brigade and the 7th Virginia Cavalry quickly fell back. Casualties from the first Battle of Funkstown for the Union was 10 killed, 15 wounded and 66 men missing. The Confederates had 2 wounded and 9 missing.
On July 8, the V Corps began their ascent up the Catoctin Mountain, moving through High Knob to access the Middletown Valley. The XI Corps began moving into Middletown and marched to Turner’s Gap on South Mountain. That evening the XI Corps would be ordered to send reinforcements to the battlefield at Boonsboro, MD. The I Corps marched to Middletown and then was ordered to follow the rear of the XI Corps to Turner’s Gap. The II Corps arrived at Taneytown, MD, where they received a very warm welcome by the citizens of Maryland. The III Corps would march due south of Emmitsburg to Lewistown, and begin crossing the Catoctin Mountain at Hamburg Pass. With the recent heavy rains and the badly torn up road, the III Corps was redirected to march to Frederick, and cross the Catoctin Mountain at Braddock’s Gap on the road to Middletown. The VI Corps would march to Lewistown and then take the road that led over the Catoctin Mountain via Hamburg Pass. The XII Corps marched directly to Frederick and moved through Braddock’s Gap on the Catoctin Mountain.
As the Union army began penetrating into the Middletown Valley, Confederate General Robert E. Lee knew it was only a matter of time before they would move into the Cumberland Valley. Because of the heavy rains that fell for several days, the Potomac River was too high to ford. The pontoon bridge that was burned at Falling Waters on July 4 by Union cavalry forced the Confederate army to wait for the waters to recede before they could cross into West Virginia. General Lee needed to do a few things in order to protect his army. He needed more time for the rear of his Confederate army to concentrate at Hagerstown. Then a new bridge needed to be built in order to carry most of his army across the Potomac River. At the same time, he would order the construction of entrenchments in order to protect his army.
To accomplish the issue with time, General Lee ordered Major General J. E. B. Stuart to take his cavalry division and move along the road from Funkstown and Williamsport, to keep the Union army busy and to keep them from crossing into the Cumberland Valley, via Turner’s Gap on South Mountain. This was to buy at least eight hours of time to allow the rear of the Confederate army to safely move into Hagerstown.
At Boonsboro, Brigadier General John Buford’s cavalry was guarding the Funkstown Road, while Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry remained in the open fields along the road leading to Williamsport. They were to guard Boonsboro in case of a Confederate attack that might move along the road to Turner’s Gap.
Early in the morning, Maj. Gen. Stuart’s cavalry began engaging some of Brig. Gen. John Burford’s pickets at Beaver Creek and the Battle of Boonsboro erupted. This battle is Maryland’s largest all cavalry fight during the Civil War. By 10:00 a.m., the battle was concentrated just northwest of town. Brig. Gen. Buford managed to keep back the Confederate cavalry along the Funkstown Road, while receiving intelligence from the Signal Corps base at Washington Monument. But, with the Confederates bearing down on his position, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick was forced to enter the fight.
By that time, Confederate cavalry began deploying on the Williamsport Road, as they tried to hit Buford’s left flank. With both Union cavalry divisions engaged, a game of chess was being played in order to keep the Confederate cavalry in check. A dispatch was sent to Middletown asking for Union infantry support. That message was delivered to Major General Oliver O. Howard, who ordered Major General Carl Schurz’s Third Division to Boonsboro. By 5:00 p.m., Maj. Gen. Schurz was deployed east of Boonsboro. Seeing this, Maj. Gen. Stuart broke off the battle and began withdrawing back to Funkstown. Major General Stuart did exactly what General Lee needed by buying time.
Shortly, around 9:00 a.m., on July 4, Union signal corpsmen spotted the westward movements of Confederate wagons moving down the Fairfield Road. These were the wagons of Lt. Gen. Ewell’s Corps, who were to follow behind Major Harman’s reserve train through Monterey Pass over South Mountain. They left Gettysburg from Oak Ridge, making their way down toward Black Horse Tavern, which was next to the Fairfield Road.
Upon receiving this information, Maj. Gen. Meade had limited options for an all out Union pursuit. His army was hungry and in rags. Many were shoeless and ill-equipped for an aggressive pursuit. His cavalry units at Gettysburg were in the same situation. Major General Meade, knowing that most of his cavalry was at Westminster, Maryland guarding his supply wagons, could only use what cavalry he had on the Gettysburg battlefield.
Major General Alfred Pleasanton was ordered to pursue the Confederate army’s wagon trains moving westward. He ordered Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s Third Cavalry Division to locate which South Mountain pass the Confederates were using, and harass the retreating columns of wagons. Brigadier General Kilpatrick was also ordered to disrupt their line of communications.
Leaving Gettysburg around 10:00 a.m., Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick, with the brigades of Brigadier General George A. Custer and Colonel Nathaniel Richmond, moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, arriving there at noon. Once there, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick was reinforced by Colonel Pennock Huey’s brigade from Brigadier General David Gregg’s Second Cavalry Division. Brigadier General Kilpatrick’s force now consisted of 5,000 mounted horsemen, sixteen pieces of rifled artillery and at least one mile worth of wagons of supplies.1
As the day continued at Gettysburg, both armies look upon each other from opposite sides of the battlefield. Knowing he had 4,000 Union prisoners that could slow his march back to Virginia, General Lee sent a dispatch to Maj. Gen. Meade asking for a prisoner exchange. Lee’s request was refused. Earlier on July 3, the Confederate army paroled 1,500 Union prisoners. Major General Meade knew that an army in retreat would be slowed with prisoners being escorted.
While the Army of the Potomac took care of burial details and the wounded, Maj. Gen. Meade ordered Major General William French in Frederick, Maryland to occupy and reinforce the South Mountain gaps of Turner’s Gap, Fox’s Gap and Crampton’s Gap to protect Washington and Baltimore.2 Major General Meade also ordered Major General Darius Couch’s Department of the Susquehanna to send troops to Cashtown. Major General William Smith’s division of New York State National Guard and Pennsylvania Militia were ordered to move down the South Mountain ridge near Carlisle to Cashtown Gap. From there, they could reinforce Maj. Gen. Meade’s army at Gettysburg, or proceed to pursue those retreating columns of the Confederate army into Maryland.3
By nightfall on July 4, with heavy rain falling, the Confederate army began marching out onto the Fairfield Road. Lieutenant General A.P. Hill’s Corps moved out first. Following behind was Lt. Gen. Longstreet’s Corps. Once Lt. Gen. Longstreet’s Corps was on the road, then Lt. Gen. Ewell would close up the line and bring up the rear.
By 9:00 p.m. at Monterey Pass, the Union cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick attacked the retreating columns of Confederate wagons. As fighting escalated, more Confederate reinforcements arrived on scene, and by dawn of July 5, had secured Monterey Pass for the rest of the Confederate retreat. Brigadier General Kilpatrick moved to Ringgold, Maryland and halted just after daybreak. Taking inventory of prisoners and captured supplies, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick moved to Smithsburg, within range of support from Maj. Gen. French. The Confederates lost 1,300 men taken prisoner, a dozen wounded, and several killed. Kilpatrick lost over 100 men that were killed, captured, or wounded.
Over at Cashtown, Brig. Gen. Imboden assembled the columns of wagons, including the wounded from Gettysburg. He encountered some minor skirmishing along the way during the night and early morning hours of July 5. Brigadier General Imboden was saddened as he heard the screams of wounded soldiers, begging for their lives to end. At Greencastle, some of the wagons were attacked by civilians, who, with axes, began cutting the spokes from the wheels.
By the morning of July 5, Maj. Gen. Meade knew that General Lee was on the move. He ordered the VI Corps to pursue him into South Mountain, while the rest of the Union army marched southward toward Frederick, and then turned westward toward Middletown. With the heavy rains, medical attention required for the wounded, burial details, and condition of his troops from the battle, his orders would be delayed by one day.
By late afternoon, Maj. Gen. Stuart’s cavalry, after moving through Emmitsburg during the early morning, was now moving through the Catoctin Mountain. Once he arrived at South Mountain at Raven Rock, he ran into Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick’s skirmishers just at the entrance of South Mountain, near Smithsburg. Union and Confederate cavalry skirmished for several hours. Artillery from both sides opened, keeping each checked. By nightfall, Kilpatrick falls back to Boonsboro, Maryland. Kilpatrick lost 5 men wounded and 3 men missing, while Stuart had 1 man killed and 3 men wounded.
On July 6, fearing the Confederate army was fortified in South Mountain near Monterey Pass and Fairfield Gap, Maj. Gen. Meade ordered the VI Corps to move directly to Emmitsburg for the pursuit. VI Corps commander, Major General John Sedgwick detached Brigadier General Thomas Neill’s Brigade and Colonel John McIntosh’s cavalry brigade. Their orders were to continue following the Confederate army without committing themselves to an all out fight. They marched all the way to Boonsboro, linking up with the Army of the Potomac a few days before the Confederate army retreated beyond the Potomac River into West Virginia.
During the morning at Boonsboro, Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick and Brigadier General John Buford coordinated two attacks with one another. Brigadier General Buford would attack the Confederate positions at Williamsport, while Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick attacked Hagerstown. Both commanders moved out of Boonsboro during the morning.
Nearing Hagerstown, Colonel Nathaniel Richmond’s brigade was the first to advance. Fighting quickly broke out on the city streets. Colonel Richmond’s brigade made it almost to the city hub where it was barricaded. Then troopers began fighting on other streets. Fighting from yard to yard and house to house took place. Within hours, Maj. Gen. Stuart’s cavalry was concentrated in Hagerstown, supported by artillery and infantry. By nightfall, the Battle of Hagerstown was over. Kilpatrick lost 21 killed, 59 wounded, and 220 missing. The Confederates had 11 killed, 1 mortally wounded, 50 wounded, and 38 missing.
As the attack on Hagerstown was erupting, Brig. Gen. Buford’s division, along with Custer’s brigade of Kilpatrick’s division began their advance on Williamsport. Brigadier General Imboden was made aware of the Union advance and began deploying his brigade, supported heavily by field artillery. He also had wagoneers and wounded men join in the defensive line.
By the afternoon, as several cannon from Buford’s division came out of the woods and deployed, they opened up on the Confederate position. The Confederate artillery responded. During the bombardment, the Confederate artillery began to run low on ammunition, which had to be ferried from the West Virginia shore to the Maryland side of the Potomac River.
Between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Confederate reinforcements had arrived on the field. By dusk, Kilpatrick’s men began to give way on the right flank at Hagerstown, which forced Buford to fall back toward Boonsboro. Night quickly covered the ground and Imboden had won the day. Buford had 1 killed, 3 mortally wounded, 5 wounded, and 172 missing. Imboden had 14 killed, 117 wounded, and 47 missing.
1. When Kilpatrick entered Emmitsburg, he thought that their might be a chance he would run into resistance from Confederate cavalry. Colonel Nathaniel Richmond was the acting commander of Brigadier General John Farnsworth’s brigade. Brigadier General Farnsworth was killed during the attack on July 3 at South Cavalry Field.
2. Major General William French was command of the garrison of Harper’s Ferry. During the first days of the Confederate invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania, he was tasked with protecting the South Mountain passes of Turner’s, Fox’s and Crampton’s Gaps. These passes were located along a network of roads that led directly to Washington and Baltimore, via Frederick city.
3. Miller, John A. The New York State National Guard during the Pennsylvania Campaign, Emmitsburg News Journal, J&M Printing, Waynesboro PA, 2014. The New Yorkers along with Pennsylvania Militia left Carlisle during the afternoon of July 4 headed to Cashtown Gap. Weather conditions in this area of South Mountain slowed their progress and as a result missed the rear of the Confederate wagons in that area when they arrived on July 6. Major General George Meade counter commanded the orders for them to move to Gettysburg and ordered them to link up with Brigadier General Thomas Neill’s Brigade at Waynesboro.