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.