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Civil War Diary

John Miller
Emmitsburg Area Historical Society

Part 12: The Road to Smithsburg - Part 1

On the morning of July 5th, 1863, General JEB Stuart made his way from the horrors of the fields of Gettysburg to Emmitsburg. General Stuart marched a brigade and a half of cavalry to the town of Emmitsburg during the dawn hours with the 34th Virginia Cavalry under Lt. Colonel Vincent Witcher leading the advance into Emmitsburg. There was a sharp skirmish fought near the old Farmer’s Inn or what is known today as the Emmit House. Seventy Union men were taken prisoner along with some much needed supplies such as medical items that would be used for the wounded Confederate soldiers who fought at Gettysburg.

Among the prisoners was a photographer from Mathew Brady’s Photography Firm. Three photographers, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O'Sullivan, and James Gibson all were traveling to Gettysburg when they came to Emmitsburg on the night of July 4th. Gardner himself stayed at the (Hoffman) Farmers Inn and Motel at Emmitsburg. Which one of the three photographers that Stuart captured is not known however, evidence may suggest it could have been Gardner himself. Gardner's fifteen year old son Lawrence was attending a boarding school just outside of Emmitsburg and his father may have been assuring his son’s safety while he was held in captivity.

Stuart’s men also captured Emmitsburg resident Samuel McNair who was resting after the fight at Gettysburg. He was a member of Company "C" of Cole’s Cavalry. Major Oliver Horner, an officer in Cole's Cavalry wrote "After rendering General Burford valuable service during the battle, McNair and some of his companions on Saturday night, July 4th found their way back into Emmitsburg. Stuart’s Cavalry dashing into the place on Sunday morning captured them with others at Hoffman’s hotel. McNair and Gwinn were taken over the mountain but during the first night, when about Boonsboro, they made their escape and came back to Emmitsburg finding their horses had been saved to them by Harry Hoffman."

Also among the Union prisoners were those in the Signal Corps. In this report to General Slocum, it tells of the small ordeal: "During the late movements of the army, 3 signal officers and 6 flagmen were captured by the enemy. The only reported injuries were those of 2 flagmen slightly wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. Captain C. S. Kendall and Lieutenant L. R. Fortescue, acting signal officers, were taken at Emmitsburg, where they had been on station, by Stuart's Cavalry upon their retreat from Gettysburg."

As Stuarts horsemen walked the streets of Emmitsburg they visited the stores that were untouched by the fire on June 15th. They had no way of paying for the personal supplies that they received from the town due to the fact that Confederate money did not hold the value of green backs, and Confederate money was no good in this northern region. Emmitsburg store owners were unable to recoup the money for what the Confederates took.

Farms in the Emmitsburg area were also being raided for their horses. On one occasion, Confederate soldiers halted by a local mill and were in the process of taking the mill horses when the miller became aware of what was happening and ran outside and yelled "You can’t take my horses, I need them for my work." The soldiers told the miller that they needed them badly to get back home, and if they could use them to get to Hagerstown and across the Potomac River that the miller could have them back. So the miller went with the troopers and brought the horses safely back to his mill several days later.

General JEB Stuart learned that the battle of Monterey Pass happened only a few hours prior to his arrival in Emmitsburg and that the route he wanted to take to rejoin Lee’s Army had been occupied by General Judson’s Kilpatrick Third Cavalry Division. Kilpatrick’s Cavalry rode out of Emmitsburg during the afternoon of July 4th to attack a Confederate wagon train on top of South Mountain and another detour was needed. General Stuart studied maps of the area to determine which roads he could use to cross the mountains. While Stuart interviewed prisoners that he had detained at the Emmit House, orders were being carried out by his cavalrymen to feed and water their horses.

While watering their horses, Emmitsburg residents, curious of the outcome of the battle of Gettysburg asked Jenkins’ troopers who won the battle of Gettysburg; their reply was that they had won. The troopers became suspicious of some of Emmitsburg’s residents. On one occasion the Rebels detected two gentlemen watching their every move, when suddenly the Rebels raised their pistols. They thought that the gentlemen were Union spies or were part of the Signal Corp. Once the two gentlemen explained that they were villagers of the town and were curious as to what all the bedlam was about, the Rebels placed their guns back into their holsters realizing that it was a false alarm.

Soon orders were given and Stuart’s Cavalry rode out of Emmitsburg during the mid morning hours. While Stuart’s Cavalrymen trotted along, Stuart came in contact with Reverend John McCloskey, a staunch supporter of the Union, riding his horse. Dr. Thomas C. Moore of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary recalled seeing General Stuart’s Cavalry during the second raid on the college grounds during the Civil War. Dr. Moore wrote: "The Vice-President, Rev. John McCloskey, an excellent horseman and a notable figure on horseback, rode for quite a distance alongside the commander, General J. E. B. Stuart. Father McCloskey related frequently, as an incident of the interview he had with the commander, that whilst they were conversing, as they rode along leisurely, an orderly rode up asking for instructions; taking off his soft felt hat the commander looked attentively for a few moments at the interior and held it so that Father John could see it, and at once gave directions as to the road and paths to be taken to make their escape through the mountains into the Cumberland valley, and so to the crossing of the Potomac. Father John says every road and mountain path was carefully marked in the hat-covered map."

After leaving Emmitsburg, Stuart’s Cavalry traveled toward Creagerstown on the direct road to Frederick or what is known as Old Frederick Road. At around noon, an hour and a half after departing Emmitsburg, Stuart came to an intersection. The roads of this intersection led to Rocky Ridge, Creagerstown and Graceham. Stuart sent a detachment to follow the rode to Graceham, while Stuart and the main body went to Creagerstown passing through Loy’s Station. Colonel Robert L.T. Beale of the 9th Virginia Cavalry recalled: "We left the main pike leading from Emmitsburg before noon, and, filing off to the right." This road would have taken them into the town of Graceham.

Mr. William Cramer, a resident of Graceham did not have time to hide his horses and the black powder that he kept in his store as the Confederate cavalry entered Graceham. Outside of his store Confederate troopers and their mounts were thirsty. Cramer’s daughter, Belva Anne Elizabeth Cramer, pumped the water for the horses and men. Tears started to roll down her face as she pumped. Thinking that the little girl was frightened of the ragged appearance of the soldiers, a trooper told her "Don't cry little girl. We're dirty and ragged, but we are all gentlemen and we will not hurt you." The trooper did not know that Belva had a bad tooth and that pumping the water from the well had made the pain worse.

As General Stuart entered Creagerstown or Cooperstown as he called it, he ordered his men to rest their horses before taking a northwestern road to Graceham to meet up with the detachment that he had sent there. After leaving Creagerstown, Stuart took Graceham Road to avoid the town of Thurmont, known as Mechanicstown during the Civil War.

The main objective for General Stuart was to get across the Catoctin Mountain and South Mountain and rejoin General Lee’s Army as it retreated from Gettysburg. At Graceham, Stuart learned of the impasse at Harman’s Gap near Foxville due to General Wesley Merritt’s U.S. Cavalry guarding the road that led from Thurmont to Cavetown. This was discouraging to Stuart as that road would have been a good route for the Confederate cavalry to take. After learning of the impasse at Harman's Pass, General Stuart traveled Old Emmitsburg Road passing through Franklinville, located near modern day Thurmont.

Read Part 13: The Road to Smithsburg - Part 2

Read more about Emmitsburg in the Civil War