in the Civil War
Meade and the Defense of Emmitsburg
Shortly after the Gettysburg Campaign in the summer of 1863.
General Daniel Sickles, commander of the Third Corp, tried to
bring General Meade up on charges. The charges were related to
General Meadeís plan for the Pipe Creek Defense Line. After a
short hearing on the charges, General Daniel Sickles was removed
from field command. General Sickles however remained in the
military until after the Civil War.
General Daniel Sickles was born in 1819 in New York. As grown man,
Daniel Sickles went into the law practice. Three times he was
indited for legal improprieties. He was known to be as womanizer,
and married a young beautiful girl who was 15 years younger than
him. In 1857 Daniel Sickles was elected to Congress. In those days
when you went into politics you spent a lot of time away from
home. It was acceptable for a man to have affairs with other
women, but it was unlady like for a married woman to have an
affair with a man. Daniel Sickles had asked his friend Philip
Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key (who is a relative of
mine), to escort his wife to the balls and dinners that were
always held in Washington, D.C. Philip Key was caught having an
affair with Daniel Sicklesís wife and in an act of rage Daniel
Sickles shot and killed Philip. He stood trial and became the
first American to be acquitted on a murder charge pleading
temporary insanity. Daniel Sickles moved back to New York until
the out break of the Civil War.
During the Gettysburg Campaign, General Hooker was relieved of
command and General Meade was appointed the new commander of the
Army of the Potomac. General Meade and General Sickles could never
mask their ill feeling for each other. During the Chancellorsville
battle, which was held in the spring of 1863, General Hooker gave
the order to Daniel Sickles to surrender the high ground. The
Confederate Army subsequently took possession and began to shell
the federal lines. General Sickles vowed never take an order like
that again. That was a promise which, General Sickles kept even
here in Emmitsburg. On June 30th General Meade had made his
headquarters near Taneytown, located about seven miles east of
Emmitsburg on Route 194. While General Sickles' made his
headquarters at Bridgeport which was part of a series of
entrenchments made by the Federal army known as the Pipe Creek
Bridgeport is situated five miles east of Emmitsburg on the
Frederick and Carroll County border.
The Pipe Creek Defense Line ran from Middleburg, Maryland to Union
Mills, Maryland. The Pipe Creek Defense Line included the major
roads that led to Baltimore and Washington. D.C. Routes 30, 97,
140, and Bull Frog Road were the major arteries to Baltimore. The
reserves that were held in Middletown and Frederick were
protecting the road to Washington, D.C. The Western Wing under the
command of General Reynolds was ordered to advance to Emmitsburg
in response to the Confederate cavalry engagements at Fairfield
was then that Meade spotted portions of the enemy. The intentions
of the Confederates were uncertain. General Meade did not want to
take a chance to prevent Washington or Baltimore from being
targeted. Meade created the Pipe Creek Defense Line and deployed
it on July 1st. General Sickles criticized General Meade for this
defensive line for the reason that it predicted a Union defeat.
(However at that time, General Meade did not know that the whole
western wing of his army was already being deployed at
Gettysburg.) If this was true, then Gettysburg would have never
Some people surmise that the battle of Gettysburg should have
happened near Taneytown, Maryland because of the Pipe Creek
Defense Line. Some guess that General Meade took the wrong road
and met the Confederates by accident. However if this was the
case, General Buford would have never engaged the Confederate at
Gettysburg. To prove this point, if the Pipe Creek Defense Line
was created in case of a Union defeat then why was the order given
to General Reynolds to advance to Emmitsburg. This order supports
the idea there would be a major battle preparing to be fought in
Emmitsburg and not Taneytown.
The Confederates were outside of Gettysburg from the directions of
Cashtown, Carlisle, and York. A.P. Hillís Corp came down
Chambersburg Pike toward Gettysburg. Generals Early and Ewell
moved down from the north and east on the York and Harrisburg
Turnpikes. If General Buford had never engaged the Confederate at
Gettysburg, the main parts of the Confederate Army would have
moved toward Emmitsburg. Since General Reynolds received a message
from General Buford that the Confederates were spotted in the
direction of Fairfield, General Reynolds had the First Corp move
north of Emmitsburg to Marsh Creek leaving behind the Eleventh
Corp and a reserve of artillery at Emmitsburg. This was the
protection of the town of Emmitsburg.
On the evening of
June 30th through the morning hours of July 1st, The Third Corp
under General Daniel Sickles was at Bridgeport, Maryland just east
of Emmitsburg. It is here that the controversy begins with General
Meade and General Sickles while the Third Corps was encamped at
Bridgeport, Maryland. General Sickles was ordered by General
Reynolds (his wing commander) to advance onto Cat Tail Branch
facing Gettysburg, however due to General Meade's orders a series
of events would follow when General Sickles disobeys orders
directed to him while he was at Emmitsburg on July 2nd. The
following Union correspondences state the specific orders given to
General Sickles from General Meade and General Reynolds.
HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, At Moritz Tavern, June 30, 1863.
Sickles, Commanding Third Corps:
Major-General Reynolds directs me to say he wishes you to camp
upon Cat Tail Branch with your command, and for you to also send a
staff officer to these headquarters.
I am, general,
very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Edward C. Baird, Captain, and Assistant Adjutant-General
S.]-General Reynolds wishes, when you take up your position upon
Cat Tail Branch, to face toward Gettysburg, and cover the roads
leading from Gettysburg.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD CORPS, Bridgeport, on the Monocacy, June 30,
1863-7. 45 p. m.
Captain E. C.
Baird, Aide-de-Camp, Headquarters Left Wing:
direction of the general commanding, I have gone into camp here,
countermanding a previous order to go to Emmitsburg, and I am to
await here further orders from headquarters Army of the Potomac.
When these orders were received, I sent Captain Crocker, of my
staff, to communicate them to Major-General Reynolds, and to
inform him of my position. My First Division and two batteries are
farther toward Emmitsburg (across Middle Creek).
D. E. Sickles,
HEADQUARTERS THIRD ARMY CORPS, Bridgeport, on the Monocacy, June
General S. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the
Enclosed please find communication from Major-General Reynolds. It
is in accordance with my written orders, received from
headquarters Army of the Potomac at 1 p. m., but in conflict with
the verbal order given me by the general commanding while on the
march. Shall I move forward? My First Division is about a mile
this side of Emmitsburg.
I am, general,
very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. E. Sickles,
Major General, Commanding
Headquarters Army of the Potomac, June 30, 1863
Officer Third Corps (General Sickles):
Reynolds reports that the enemy has appeared at Fairfield, on the
road between Chambersburg and Emmitsburg. I am, therefore,
instructed by the commanding general to say that it is of the
utmost importance that you should move with your infantry and
artillery to Emmitsburg with all possible dispatch.
respectfully, S. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General"
Emmitsburg on July 1st, General Sickles received an order to hold
Emmitsburg in case of a Confederate break through. Subsequently
another order came for the Third Corp to move forward to
Gettysburg. Once the Third Corp began to break camp, yet another
order was issued to disregard the order, to march to Gettysburg,
hold Emmitsburg at all cost.
General Meade must
have felt that if a Confederate breakthrough occurred, the
Confederate army would try to out flank the Union army, by way of
Emmitsburg. General Sickles pressed forward to Gettysburg.
Completely disregarding the order of holding Emmitsburg. This was
also General Sicklesí testimony when he tried to bring General
Meade up on charges. General Sickles felt that the order of
holding Emmitsburg, was preparing the Army of the Potomac to
retreat back toward Emmitsburg.
General Sickles arrived at Gettysburg and took action in the Wheat
Field. Here, another order given by General Meade was disobeyed.
General Sickles was ordered to retreat back toward his original
position giving up the ground gained by the Federals. General
Sickles disregard for that order resulted in him being carried off
the field, his leg shattered by a Confederate bullet. He was
carried off the field smoking his cigar. His Third Corp holding of
its position may have been significant in the Union victory at
July 7th, after the battle of Gettysburg, General Meade rode
through Emmitsburg and briefly stopped to visit the town. The
residents hailed him, thanking him for all that he had done to
protect the town from the main Confederate Army. Since General
Meade drew up the Pipe Creek Defense Line the Confederate Army
really never had a chance of attacking Washington, D.C.,
considering that the Western Wing of the Army of the Potomac
heavily protected Emmitsburg.
General Meade rode out of town heading down Old Frederick Road.
The commander crossed Loyds Station-Covered Bridge and made his
headquarters in the small community of Creagerstown. This cleared
Emmitsburg of the hell and gore of the American Civil War to begin
the healing and rebuilding.
General Sickles could have been court marshaled for disobeying
orders given by a superior officer. Instead he was responsible for
saving the Union on July 2nd at Gettysburg. General Sickles was
awarded a medal of honor three decades after his actions at
Gettysburg. The famous leg that was amputated at Gettysburg is
still preserved today in Washington, D.C. Daniel Sickles returned
to Washington to visit his leg whenever the opportunity existed.
After the Civil War, he went to Gettysburg annually to pay his
respects for all those who died there. Daniel Sickles is noted
responsible for the preservation of those fields in Gettysburg,
spending his own money to see it become a memorial. People in
Emmitsburg today are reminded of his dedication to Civil War
memorials and preservation work by the signs placed next to the
U.S. Post Office.
other articles by John Miller
Mike Hillman's Account of the Emmitsburg role in the
Battle of Gettysburg