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Civil War Diary

The Pennsylvania Campaign Sesquicentennial

John Miller
Emmitsburg Area Historical Society

Over the past year, I have researched and written many articles for the Emmitsburg News Journal about Maryland and how its effects during the Civil War were felt. As we approach 2013, the big Gettysburg commemoration will be the main focus in our area. The Pennsylvania Campaign is a very important Civil War campaign which resulted in the Battle of Gettysburg. For the next thirteen months, I will be writing a series of articles that focus on Frederick and Washington Counties in Maryland as well as Adams and Franklin Counties in Pennsylvania.

But before we focus on the Pennsylvania Campaign, I want to bring you, the reader, up to speed as to what happens after the Maryland Campaign. After the Battle of Antietam and the conclusion of the Maryland Campaign, several changes went into effect for both armies. After General George McClellan was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac, General Ambrose Burnside began his movements into Virginia. In November, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia underwent reorganization. Lee’s Confederate army was now being organized into three corps, which was approved by the Confederate Congress before the Maryland Campaign.

By December, the Battle of Fredericksburg had occurred and morale both for, and in the northern army began to sink. In early 1863, the Union army began to lessen the load that a soldier had carried. The war also had become unpopular again with the northern people. By the end of January, after Burnside’s failure at the Battle of Fredericksburg, he was relieved of command and General Joseph Hooker was given the opportunity to lead the Army of the Potomac.

Hooker reshaped his army making several changes to the command structure and also began a series of experiments. One was relieving the soldier of the baggage he carried. By March, all of the contents from the haversack, knapsack and accoutrements were weighed. Anything that was not essential or needed was to be stored in the supply wagons with the quartermaster. This would help the Union soldier during longer marches. You would see this improvement during the Army of the Potomac’s movements toward Gettysburg. Hooker’s appointment did help the morale of his men, but that would change after the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863.

After losing Thomas Jackson, one of his best generals, General Robert E. Lee, began putting his army into motion in early June to carry the war northward. This time, Lee thought that he had the upper hand, and for many good reasons. Again, he would carry the war northward into Maryland, this time crossing west of the South Mountain range. From there he could knock out any threats from the various Union deployments located in the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. By entering Maryland General Lee could force Major General Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac out of Virginia, and in return Lee could carry out the campaign in northern territory and fight Hooker’s army on the ground of Lee’s choosing. Upon entering Pennsylvania, Lee’s army could gather as much supplies as they needed such as agricultural produce and materials, and still threaten Washington and Baltimore. Lee also hoped that by invading Pennsylvania it would take some of the pressure off of General Bragg’s Confederate army in Tennessee and General Pemberton’s Confederate army that was entrenched at Vicksburg.

In 1864, M. Jacobs, a Professor of Mathematics and Chemistry at Gettysburg College published a book entitled "Notes on the Rebel Invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania and the Battle of Gettysburg." He summed it up best when he wrote: "First, he [Lee] felt the increasingly deficiency of cavalry and artillery horses, and of the means of subsisting his army in an almost desolate territory from which he had hitherto drawn his supplies; secondly, there was the alleged demoralization of General Hooker’s army after the battle [Chancellorsville]; thirdly, there was the evident fact of the depletion of the Union army, by the return to their homes of a number of regiments whose term of service had expired; fourthly, there was the apparent division of sentiment in the loyal States, in regard to the conduct and continuance of the war and the strong undercurrent of sympathy manifested for the success of the rebellion, engendered by an intense partisan feeling, and the desired office."

As a result of launching his campaign into Maryland and Pennsylvania, Lee’s army managed to get the supplies from the Cumberland Valley, known as the land of "milk and honey." In the weeks leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee had foraging wagons going from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to Winchester, Virginia loaded with the rich agricultural produce, crops, and livestock from the farms and towns of Pennsylvania. The Confederate army also gathered many supplies from the Pennsylvania towns such as leather, fabric, and clothing. The Battle of Gettysburg might not have gone the way Lee wanted, but the supplies gathered in Pennsylvania was a huge success for the Confederate army, and sustained them in order to keep the war going for a little while longer.

The Union army under the command of General Hooker was situated near Fredericksburg. Realizing that Lee was making his movements toward the north, they would begin marching toward the Potomac River, and fording at Edward’s Ferry on June 25th, 1863. Hooker’s 75,000 man army was ten days behind the Confederate army when their advance forded the Potomac River at Williamsport and Botler’s Ford. From there, the Union army would be scattered about Frederick County, occupying areas south and west of Frederick.

Upon General George Meade’s appointment to command the Army of the Potomac, he will lead his army toward the Mason Dixon Line, while General Robert E. Lee orders his army to concentrate at Gettysburg. The end result was not about shoes, but two armies meeting at Gettysburg at the same time.

From June 27th through July 8th, 1863, Emmitsburg would see thousands and thousands of soldiers, both Union and Confederate. Emmitsburg will be considered as the left wing of the Federal army, and a staging area for a short time. Emmitsburg will also witness, the sounds of battle, property destruction, food supplies being drained, and roadways being destroyed by the passing armies. Emmitsburg was reduced by a great fire, which was not started by a Confederate soldier or sympathizer, but a drunk in a stable. Many Union soldiers wrote about their experiences in Emmitsburg, some classifying the town as pro-southern town, while others say it was a town dedicated solely to the Union.

By the end of Gettysburg, Washington County will see fighting for ten continuous days, while the Federal army marches southward toward Frederick to make a westerly shift to try and cut off the advance of the Confederate army. During the later part of the year, the civilians of Emmitsburg, just like the citizens of countless other communities, would rebuild and continue their daily lives the best that they could.

Read more about Emmitsburg in the Civil War