Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

Emmitsburg's Civil War Soldiers

Marking Anniversary of Close Call Frederick Men had in Mosby Raid

(Originally Published in The Frederick News Post, January 10, 1964)

Edited by John A. Miller

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the unusual Civil War battle on Loudoun Heights, when a Union camp of Frederick County cavalryman narrowly escaped being wiped out by guerrillas commanded by the famous Confederate officer, John Singleton Mosby.

The Frederick soldiers were asleep between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning January 10, 1864, when Mosby and his men rode up Loudoun Heights to make a surprise attack.

On top of the mountain across the Shenandoah from Harper’s Ferry, were encamped several hundred men under Major Henry A. Cole, commander of Cole’s Cavalry.

Mosby, learning from a scout that the Frederick County horsemen were encamped on Loudoun Heights left Upperville, January 9th, to surprise the Marylanders by night.

The first company of Cole’s Cavalry had been mustered into the service in Frederick in 1861 with Cole as it’s captain and George W. F. Vernon as First Lieutenant.

When encamped on Loudoun Heights a century ago, Cole had the rank of Major, while Vernon was a captain.

Among the men in Cole’s Cavalry was Thomas M. Wachter, ancestor of a number of Frederick residents, including the Clerk of the Circuit Court Ellis C. Wachter.

Veteran’s Son Lives Here

A son of George Pryor, another member of Cole’s Cavalry, is now a resident of Frederick. He is Maurice E. Pryor and is a retired Pennsylvania Railroad engineer.

The Frederick County Historical Society owns the sword used by Cole in the Civil War. It was presented to the Historical Society by Dr. Bartus T. Baggot, a Baltimore physician.

While the casualties in the night encounter 100 years ago were not heavy, the event was one of the most unique in the Civil War.

Commander’s Reports Conflicted

Major Cole reported that Mosby’s men as "studiously avoidied" his pickets; who led the attack on the mountain, claimed there was not one sentinel awake.

Mosby marching his men, along a narrow path, reached a position between Harper’s Ferry and Loudoun Heights. When less than 200 yards from the camp, he sent the scout with ten men ahead to try to capture Major Cole, who had his headquarters in a house on the mountain about 100 yards from the camp.

Mistake In Darkness

Then something unexpected happened. Instead of making an attempt to capture Cole, the scout and his men drove their horses up the hill in the darkness shouting and yelling, Mosby claimed he mistook them for Union soldiers and ordered his men to charge.

Whatever the trouble may have been, Mosby’s plans did not go through as expected. Cole’s men were aroused from their sleep and for about an hour the Northern and Southern cavalrymen fought in confusion in the darkness of night.

Rallied Union Men

Captain George W. F. Vernon, commanding Company A, rallied his men until the rest of the command were mobilized. Mosby finding that it was hazardous to hold his position, order his men to retreat.

The news of this strange night battle on the mountain along the Potomac soon reached Frederick.

Vernon was a member of a well-known Frederick family. His father was Professor Nathaniel Vernon, for many years was a member of the faculty of Frederick Academy.

Local Paper Reported

Vernon was wounded by a Confederate rifle ball in an account of the battle in a Frederick Newspaper, it was stated even after Vernon was shot, his voice "was beard cheering and exhorting his troops to the contest." Vernon was struck below the left eye, the rifle ball coming out above the cheek bone.

Vernon Survived Injury

Among those killed on the Union in the battle were Privates Null and Stone, natives of Frederick County. On the day after the battle a train arrived at the B&O depot South Market and All Saints streets, bringing the dead bodies of the two soldiers killed on the mountain.

Also on the train was Captain Vernon. While he had an ugly wound, it was the opinion of the battalion surgeon that it would not prove fatal.

Lived Many Years

The predications of the surgeon was correct. While Vernon later generally known as Colonel Vernon was permanently blinded in one eye, he lives for many years afterwards, and he is still remembered by some of the older residents of Frederick.

The Centennial Anniversary of the night battle recalled that Colonel Vernon was a member of the Maryland Society, Sons of the American Revolution, and was one of the group that formed the Lawrence Everhart Chapter S.A.R. in Brodbeck Hall at Hood College.

For more information about Cole's Cavalry, Please see our Roster of those who fought in the Civil War with Cole's Cavalry.