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

Civil War Diary

John Miller
Emmitsburg Area Historical Society

Part 4: The 1862 Confederate occupation of Emmitsburg

In October of 1862, nearly two weeks after the battle of Antietam, the Union Army was still waiting to be issued orders. During this time President Lincoln repeatedly sent out messages to General McClellan asking why no attempt was made to pursue General Lee. General McClellan continued to send dispatches back to President Lincoln stating his army was not ready; they needed supplies and time to heal their wounds. General McClellan's cautiousness led him to lose his command in late October.

That same month, General JEB Stuart with 1,800 troopers and Major Pelham's Battery of two to four guns made their way to the Potomac River and on October 9th, crossed a ford near Clear Springs, Maryland. General Stuart received orders from General Robert E. Lee to capture equipment that the Confederates needed, to disrupt communication lines, destroy parts of the C&O Canal and also take out parts of the B&O railroad at and near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

On October 10th, General Stuart entered Chambersburg and had captured the Federal arsenal containing clothing, along with supplies that the Confederate army so desperately needed such as rifles, pistols, and swords. General Stuart ordered the arsenal to be burned, destroying excess items that they could not carry.

Due to torrential downpours that had caused the Potomac River to swell, making fording of the river problematic, Stewart ordered his troops to mount up and the Confederate cavalry left Chambersburg. Needing an escape route, General Stuart took a detour and traveled in an eastern direction, down Old Chambersburg Pike toward Cashtown.

Union General Pleasonton, who was attempting to track the Confederate cavalry, was ordered to proceed toward Emmitsburg and Mechanicstown. Due to incorrect intelligence, General Pleasonton lost two hours of valuable time that allowed General Stuart and his Confederate cavalry to slip by and head directly to Emmitsburg.

On the afternoon of October 11th, General Stuart made his way into Cashtown, where $32 worth of goods was taken from local stores. Upon leaving Cashtown, General Stuart's Cavalry took the road leading toward Fairfield.

In Fairfield, over $1,200 worth of merchandise and clothing was taken in addition to 30 stands of arms from the Home Guard Armory. Jacob M. Sheads noted that during the raid in Adams County, General Stuart took 13 prisoners in addition to confiscating over 80 horses.

After leaving Fairfield, General Stuart's Cavalry headed toward the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike. At the Pike, Stuart's Cavalry turned towards Emmitsburg. Once at Emmitsburg, General Stuart ordered his men to dismount and sent out pickets blocking the intersection at Zora.

Just an hour before the Confederate arrival in Emmitsburg, 140 men of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry had passed through the town headed toward Gettysburg. Members of General Stuart's advance guard charged through Emmitsburg chasing after the stragglers of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry. This would be the first of two cavalry battles fought in the streets of Emmitsburg during the civil war.

As Stuart's Cavalry entered Emmitsburg, they were hailed by the residents, many even applauding them. Stuart ordered his troops to rest and to feed and water the horses. As Stuart's men began to mingle with Emmitsburg's residents, they received fresh bread, buttermilk, and meat. While many men from Emmitsburg had gone south to fight for the Confederacy, few in town had ever seen a Confederate soldier in uniform and were curious to hear the tales they had to tell.

Confederate Lieutenant Colonel W.W. Blackford, who was a captain during the 1862 Chambersburg Raid, noted in his diary: "We reached Emmitsburg at about sundown. General Stuart ordered pickets to guard the road leading out of Emmitsburg and capture anyone who attempted to leave. Just as the advanced guard entered the street, a young lady rode out of a yard of a house before us, and seeing, to her dismay, a body of soldiers, which she took for Federals, of course, she dashed off out of town towards her home some miles in the country.

"Our men called upon her to halt, but this only made her whip up her horse the more, and being reluctant to use their firearms, the only thing to do was for two of the best mounted to overtake and capture her. It was an exciting race for a mile and the poor young lady was, as she told us, scared almost to death, but finding she could not escape she pulled up and surrendered in great terror. But when she and her captors appeared leisurely riding back they were in high good humor, laughing and talking over the adventure.

"The young lady returned to the house she had been visiting and was requested to remain there until we had been gone an hour. Though only a mile or two from the Pennsylvania state line, the people here seemed to be intensely southern in their sympathies and omitted no opportunity of showing us attention during the short half hour we passed among them."

Cinfederate Private Henry Matthews remembered the women of Emmitsburg: "Basket after basket of provisions was passed around." He continued: "The old battle scarred boys of the battery, with their farmers' hats were indeed an object of curiosity to those sweet and dear ladies. Several boys could not resist the tender smiles of the fairer sex; I was one of the first victims, so we gave them our straw hats as souvenirs. I doubt not that some of those hats are still treasured by some of the ladies in that locality yet."

While General Stuart's Cavalry was at Emmitsburg, the alarm was sent to the other communities around Frederick County, Maryland, and also Adams County, Pennsylvania. Fearing that a large Federal force was nearby, the order was given to mount up. General Stuart left Emmitsburg shortly after sundown, and with it, the first confederate occupation of Emmitsburg ended, peacefully.

Read Part 5: Cole's Cavalry during the Winter of 1861-1862

Read more about Emmitsburg in the Civil War