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Emmitsburg in the Civil War

The Raids of 1864 

John Allen Miller

After volunteering at Monocacy National Battlefield,  I was amazed how little the battle that saved Washington was remembered.  I soon discovered it was not known what General Early’s intentions were.  Was it Harrisburg? Or, was it Washington?  Nobody during the that time knew. The one thing that was clear, a Confederate force of about 18,000 under the command of General Early was marching toward the Mason-Dixon Line by way of Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. 

Unlike any battle, Monocacy acted as a roadblock against General Early's Confederate forces.  Only a handful of 100 days men and militia under the command of General Lew Wallace guarded the entrance into Washington via Frederick, Maryland. General Rickett's soon re-enforced General Lew Wallace and on July 9th, 1864 the battle that saved Washington was on. General Wallace was fighting for time to delay the invading Army for re-enforcements to be brought in from Petersburg, Virginia to defend the Ring of Forts that surrounded Washington. If General Early seceded the Civil War may have ended a day later as the Confederates would have invaded the defenseless capital via Fort Stevens. This was the second time in history the capital of this nation was endangered..... 

For a year; Emmitsburg’s community was quiet and the effects of the Gettysburg Campaign had passed by. The families of Emmitsburg and the surrounding area had resumed in leading a normal life. The Civil War was at the gates of Petersburg with no threat of the war in site for Emmitsburg until the Summer Campaign of 1864 or Jubal Early’s Raid as it is better known, jeopardized the town's way of life.

Jubal Early was one of most foul and outspoken generals in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. But one fact that most people are unaware of is Jubal Early was very outspoken against Secession before the Civil War. He loved the Union and supported it until the end. Just as Robert E. Lee, once Virginia succeeded from the Union, Jubal Early felt his obligation was to the protection of the state of which he came from, not to invade as it's enemy.

General Jubal Early received orders from General Lee instructing him to take his Corp and leave Petersburg. General Lee hoped that this would relieve pressure off his army entrenched at Petersburg, forcing General Grant to send out portions of his army in pursuit. General Early's orders were simple. Liberate Lynchburg from General Hunter's Federal Army. Rid the Shenandoah Valley from all other Federal Soldiers to relive pressure for the farmers so they can gather their corps before winter comes. Cross into Maryland and get desperately needed supplies for the Army of Northern Virginia. If practical take the war to Washington and send a detachment of cavalry to Point Lookout, Maryland and release the Confederate Prisoners there to bring up the Confederate strength.

General Early's Army of the Valley left Petersburg, Virginia on June 12th. By June 18th, their first task was completed with the liberation of Lynchburg.  General Early then traveled up the Shenandoah Valley and entered Maryland at Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  Splitting the Confederate Army into two columns he sent the cavalry headed for Hagerstown with the demands of $200,000 dollar ransom from the town.  If the demands were not met, the officer in charge had orders to torch Hagerstown if necessary.  However, the officer in charge misunderstood the order and incidentally he forgot to add an extra zero to that number.  The town officials came up with $20,000 dollars worth of medical supplies, food, and clothing and the town was spared.  While the cavalry was at Hagerstown, Early’s Confederate army sidestepped the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry and crossed the Potomac River at near Shepherdstown into Maryland on July 5-6.

On July 5th, First Lieutenant H. T. McLean Commanding the Federal Sixth Cavalry was patrolling all the roads, near Waynesboro, Pa. Not knowing where the Confederate Army was marching to, Lieutenant McLean had pickets and scouts posted along the Waynesboro Road and eventually had pickets stationed in the town of Waynesboro itself. Everything was quiet in the Waynesboro and Emmitsburg areas. A few days later, Federal Cavalry made their through Emmitsburg and halted for further orders. Meanwhile General Early's force was concentrating ever closer to Frederick, Maryland.

By July 7th, movements of General Early’s Army was detected and on July 8 at Turners Gap, near Middletown MD, the Confederate Cavalry engaged in a series of skirmishes with Union troopers.  While at Middletown, General Early demanded ransom, and Middletown barley met the Confederate demand.  Since leaving Middletown, the Confederates met resistance from a unit of Federal Cavalry at Antietam Creek, South Mountain, Catoctin Creek, Ballenger Creek, and finally ending at Frederick in the late evening hours.  The Confederates had pushed the Federal cavalry back into the city of Frederick on a 12-mile stretch from the foot of South Mountain. 

Communities all over Frederick County were eager to hear about the news of the Confederates.  Not knowing the reason why the Confederates were in Frederick County, troops of the of the Union army were sent to Emmitsburg in case the Confederate Army was advancing to Baltimore by way of Pennsylvania. Once the Confederates engaged at Monocacy on July 9th, it was clear that Washington was their target.  The citizens of Emmitsburg could now rest easy thinking that the threat of Confederates entering the town was over as 6,000 Union troops under the command of Major General Lew Wallace attempted to stop General Early’s invading Confederate divisions along the Monocacy River, outside of Frederick, Maryland. 

Early in the morning, General Early entered Frederick City with a ransom of 200,000 dollars to be paid in gold or medical supplies.  If Frederick did not pay the ransom, then the city was to suffer its fate to the torch. Frederick City officials managed to meet General Early’s demands and the ransom was paid in full. Meantime, General Ricketts’s Division of the VI Corps had been rushed from Baltimore to reinforced General Wallace at Monocacy.  By the time of the battle, General Ricketts was outflanked by General Gordon’s Division and defeated after putting up a stiff resistance. Hearing of Early’s invasion into Maryland, General Grant embarked the rest of the Union VI Corps on transports at City Point, Virginia sending them North to Washington to man the Ring of Forts that surrounded the capital.

On July 11, Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s exhausted Confederates reached the outskirts of Washington near Silver Spring. Skirmishers advanced to feel the fortifications which at the time were manned only by Home Guards, clerks, and convalescent troops.  Seeing his army was exhausted General Early called the attacks off and waited until the next day to resume. 

On July 12, Early was finally in position to make a strong demonstration, which was repulsed by the veteran Union troops. In the afternoon, VI Corps units sorted against the Confederate skirmishers, driving them back from their advanced positions in front of Forts Stevens and DeRussy. As President Lincoln watched the action from Fort Stevens and came under fire from Confederate sharpshooters.  A Union soldier not recognizing the present said "Get down you damn fool, before you get your head blown off." 

With General Wallace’s defeat at Monocacy, he'd had actually bought time for these veteran troops to arrive to strengthen the defenses of Washington. Early’s advance reached the outskirts of Washington on the afternoon of July 11, and the remaining divisions of the VI Corps began disembarking that evening. Monocacy was called the "Battle that Saved Washington." If General Early, would have attack Washington during his arrival at Fort Stevens, he may have entered Washington, because the Union VI Corps was not fully positioned.  However, General Early decided to wait until the next morning to attack.  Instead he attacked around two o'clock in the afternoon.  General Early's slowness gave the Federals time to re-enforce the nearly deserted forts that made up the Defenses of Washington.  

General Early recognized that veterans now defended the Union Capitol, and he abandoned any thought of taking the city.  He withdrew his army during the night, marching toward Leesburg via White’s Ford on the Potomac River, ending his invasion of Maryland. General Early told his staff officers "We didn’t take Washington, but we scared Abe Lincoln like Hell."

After the Battle of Fort Stevens, General Early encamped at Leesburg on July 14, 1864. In his official report of the Battle of the Monocacy and Operations Against Washington, he wrote to General Lee:

“General R. E. Lee, Commanding Army of Northern Virginia.

General: After driving Sigel's whole force of several thousand men to Maryland Heights and demonstrating against him, I moved on the 8th around his force through Boonsborough, Fox's and Crampton's Gaps, and entered Frederick City on the morning of the 9th, driving the enemy's cavalry through the city. I found Wallace in force at Monocacy Junction, his force being stated in Northern accounts at 10,000, and consisting in part of the Third Division, of the sixth Corps, under Ricketts, which had arrived the day before. This force we attacked on the afternoon of the same day, Ramseur demonstrating in front, while Gordon moved across the Monocacy on the enemy's flank by a route, which had been opened by McCausland's brigade of cavalry in a very gallant manner. The enemy in a very short time was completely routed by Gordon, and left the field in great disorder and retreated in haste on Baltimore.  In this action our entire loss was between 600 and 700, including the cavalry, but I regret to say Brigadier-General Evans was wounded and some gallant officers killed.

Our cavalry has brought off a very large number of horses. Over 1,000 have been brought off and $220,000 in money was levied and collected in Hagerstown and Frederick, the assessment against the latter being $200,000, all of which was paid in Federal and Northern money.

J. A. Early, Lieutenant-General.”

By late July, General Early ordered his army North, and splitting his army into two columns.  The first column under the command of General John McCausland was sent forth to Chambersburg, PA, while the second column under General Early himself set forth to Moorefield W.V.  Some independent Confederate Cavalry units operated independently along the Maryland Border.  The Union Army took action in protecting it's communities along the Mason and Dixon Line.

Emmitsburg saw more Union troops entering the town as operations still continued.  The citizens must have wondered what was going on?  Not realizing another threat was inevitable in Pennsylvania, the towns’ people pondered at the Union Cavalry.  The terror of war was approaching and nobody knew what the targets or the reason of why a Confederate force under the command of General McCausland was approaching in the direction of Chambersburg.  As General Early’s operations against the B&O Railroad continued, Chambersburg was invaded by Confederate troops in late July. 

On July 14,  Union Brigadier General E. B. Tyler, Commanding the First Separate Brigade received a dispatch ordering that Colonel Clendenin's cavalry move toward Emmitsburg to collect and report information of the enemy if the enemy could be found in the area. While the Second Delaware Cavalry under the command of Captain Milligan was to patrol the Middleburg area near Emmitsburg. They were to scout and telegraph their findings to Westminster or if communications could be reopened send a telegraph to Frederick.

By July 19,  Major General David Hunter received a dispatch from General D. N. Couch informing him that a few cavalrymen of his Department of Susquehanna has been scouting and fighting in Maryland. More cavalrymen was needed and ordered along the line near Greencastle, Waynesboro, and Emmitsburg.

On July 28, an unusual order arrived for General McCausland. General Early had enough of the new Federal policy of destruction.  Later McCausland wrote: 

"My men had just dismounted and were making camp and getting ready to eat what rations they could find. I was sitting there on my horse talking to Nick Fitzhugh, my adjutant, when a courier handed me a dispatch from Early. I opened it up and when I read those first lines I nearly fell out of the saddle. He ordered me in a very few words to make a retaliatory raid and give the Yankees a taste of their own medicine." 

Early had selected Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, as the location where the retaliation would be made. General Early demanded $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency in compensation for the homes destroyed by Union General Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley near Lynchburg. The town's leading citizens could not or would not pay and McCausland, ordered torches to be ignited. Fully three-quarters of the town was soon in flames: the Confederate response to the atrocities of the Union army that were now a matter of open policy ordered from Washington's War Department.

General Early had been heavily influenced by the death and destruction that he had witnessed in the wake of Hunter's retreating army from Lynchburg in the Shenandoah Valley. His decision to destroy Chambersburg was not questioned by General Lee.  Chambersburg was the only major Union City to be burned by the Confederates during the course of the war.

While General McCausland was crossing into Maryland, few Confederates had any sympathy for Marylanders other than those in Confederate uniforms. General Bradley T. Johnson was quoted as saying ‘‘Every crime in the catalogue of infamy has been committed except murder and rape," admitting that "pillage and sack of private dwellings took place hourly" and that even a Catholic priest was robbed of his watch.

The Franklin County Newspaper produced an article about the Confederate attentions in Southern Pennsylvania. This pro-Union article gives in great description the Raid as it happened. The Valley Spirit Printed on August 31, 1864, p. 1, c. 1 reads: 

“No sooner had the rebels possession of the town than commenced the work of pillage. The men went howling through the streets for "whiskey" and "greenbacks," while their officers were industriously at work breaking open stores and dwellings and robbing citizens, wherever they met them, of their watches and pocket-books. In the meantime McCausland had an eye to business and determined to drive a sharp bargain. He made a peremptory demand upon the town authorities for $500,000 in greenbacks or, if more convenient and agreeable, would take $100,000 in gold, or burn the town in ten minutes. It was very evident from the conduct of the men, from the moment they entered town that it was a doomed place and would be destroyed under any circumstances. No attention was, therefore, paid to the demand and McCausland immediately fired the town as he would have done had every dollar of the ransom been paid down. Though we lost about everything else we saved at least our self-respect by having no voluntary intercourse with McCausland and his "hell-hounds."

They appeared to have adopted a systematically arranged plan for burning the town by firing in regular order from the center to the suburbs. No person can describe the scene of terror and confusion that ensued among the inhabitants. No warning was given the people to leave their homes and the first intimation they had that private dwellings would be burned was the smashing of their doors and having their houses filled with infuriated fiends, still more brutalized by whiskey, who would listen to no appeals, however pitiously made, for times to save some household goods and remove the sick and inform. Their homes were fired over their heads in the midst, of their pleadings and they were left to get through the flames as best they could or perish in them. Many had the clothes burnt off their backs and their persons badly sacrificed in getting out of their burning homes. On leaving their dwellings women and children could be seen in the wildest terror running through the walls of fire on either side seeking an open space to escape the devouring flames, in many instances to be met by the merciless foe and robbed of the little they were struggling to save. In but few cases was anything saved except the scanty clothing on their backs.”

On  July 30, around 11:30 a. m. General H. W. Halleck sent word to General Hunter that as of 3 a.m. the enemy entered Chambersburg in three columns. A detachment of Hunters Cavalrymen was ordered to marched by South Mountain toward Emmitsburg. General Halleck stated that it was absolutely necessary that he know where the Confederates were marching to in order to send re-enforcements. By 3 p.m. General Halleck sent another dispatch to General Hunter stating that Clendenin's cavalry was ordered to scout toward Emmitsburg and send back information on rebel force that entered Chambersburg. Meanwhile, General Lew Wallace sent a detachment of the Twenty-first Pennsylvania Cavalry, under the command of Captain J. C. Hullinger to march to Waynesboro via Emmitsburg. Also a Signal Camp was opened at Emmitsburg by Chief Signal Officer Amos M. Thayer relaying messages to the cavalry stationed at Emmitsburg as they awaited.

Only a small force of inexperienced cavalrymen guarded the approach to Emmitsburg. In his official report General Couch estimates his numbers to General Halleck:

General H. W. Halleck, Chief of Staff:

I have sixty infantry, forty cavalry, and two guns in this Valley, the cavalry being the permanent party of Carlisle, not of my command; tow sections and forty infantry at Harrisburg; one cavalry company, Lehigh District; forty independent and unpaid horsemen near Emmitsburg; Veteran Reserves, twelve companies, guarding hospitals, Petersburg, York, Philadelphia; provost guard, Philadelphia; one company Veterans, Pitts burg. The rendezvous at Carlisle has eighty reliable men. Six companies 100-days' men, unorganized into regiments, are between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Have been ordered here. I will send them to Hagerstown when they arrive. Have already sent there my 100-days' mounted men - two companies. 

D. N. Couch, Major-General."

By the afternoon, a skirmish erupted at Emmitsburg as a percussion from the Burning of Chambersburg. A small contingent of Union Cavalry guarding the area around Emmitsburg was driven into Emmitsburg by superior numbers of Confederate forces.  In the only after action report of the Emmitsburg affair, Captain R. M. Evans, commanding the Philadelphia City Scouts, wrote: 

‘‘My pickets were driven in at Emmitsburg this afternoon (July 30) about one mile from the town by about 200 rebels. I was in danger of being cut off with my command, as there are a great many by-roads running down from the mountains. I was about entering Gettysburg with my command when about fifty men from the (West) Virginia cavalry came through, reporting the rebels were about one mile from here. I immediately sent out scouts, but could find no rebels. All is quiet. I have picketed the roads leading in and out of the town. Will send a scouting party out immediately. I sent out my first lieutenant and four men this morning in direction of Monterey Springs. I can hear nothing from them as yet. ”  

This is the report of Major General Darius N. Couch, U. S. Army who was commanding the Department of the Susquehanna in Harrisburg, Pa., on August 8, 1864, he wrote in his official report:

"Headquarters. Department of the Susquehanna,

General: I have the honor to report that on the 27th ultimo, Brigadier-General Averell, of the Department of West Virginia, with his force lay at Hagerstown, Md., covering the several fords of the Potomac in that Vicinity. At his request I sent him my mounted men, consisting of two companies of 100-days' men, retaining under my orders and within the department Lieut. H. T. McLean's party of forty cavalry from Carlisle Barracks, that covered the roads leading toward Mercersburg, and Capt. R. M. Evans' company of Independent Philadelphia Scouts, an unpaid force that watched in the vicinity of Emmitsburg. At Chambersburg there was part of an infantry company, under Capt. T. S. McGowan, and a piece of field artillery.

On the 28th six companies of 100-days' infantry that were called to Chambersburg were directed by orders to be sent to Hagerstown, where they arrived on the morning of the 29th. After midday of this date General Averell fell back to Greencastle, where I had previously detached fifteen men and an officer from Lieut. H. T. McLean's party. This latter officer had pickets near McCoy's Ferry, which were driven, about 3 p. m., back to Mercersburg. The enemy's advance, 200 men, charged through the town, forced the small party to fall back after a severe skirmish. Dark coming on, a picket was left at Bridgeport, while Lieut. H. T. McLean fell back to Saint Thomas, seven miles from Chambersburg, on the Pittsburgh pike. In course of the day and evening all of the horses in the Valley, amounting to several thousand, were moved north by my order, and the trains of General Averell, with those at Hagerstown, refugees, &c., came through and encamped near Chambersburg. I notified General Averell that I had no force to protect them. That officer was duly notified of Lieut. H. T. McLean's movements as well as that I had no force to protect his trains."

In his report; Captain Franklin E. Town who was the Chief Signal Officer during the Operations of the Shenandoah Valley stated on July 31st, he had reached Frederick, Maryland and sent Lieutenant Ellis to Emmitsburg to communicate with Captain Thayer (Also a Signal Officer) and order him to go to Chambersburg and report the operations of the enemy there. A line of communications was made along the Mason and Dixon Line which kept General Crook in communication with headquarters during his march toward Emmitsburg. On August 1st, Lieutenant Ellis reported from High Rock that Chambersburg was burned; General Couch had returned to Carlisle, and General Averell was at Greencastle and was headed toward Gettysburg. On the 2nd of August, Lieutenant Ellis returned to Frederick from Emmitsburg.

On August 2, 1864,the Star and Sentinel of Gettysburg wrote of the horrors that was brought on Chambersburg. Gettysburg held a town meeting wanting to help it's neighbor. The article also stated: A detachment of Philadelphia City Scouts have been operating in out county during the past week, with considerable efficiency. A considerable number of Rebels have been captured, as also several deserters from our ranks. They are all carefully attended to by the Provost Marshal. Among those arrested a few days ago was a brother of the celebrated General Stewart, of raid memory. He was taken near Emmitsburg by two or three of the scouts from Philadelphia, one of whom was a physician, and had been in the same medical class at Philadelphia with the Rebel spy arrested (Dr. Stewart.) He accosted the Stewart familiarly by name, when he came up to him. The latter denied all knowledge of his captor, but finally confessed that he was the man. There were found on this person maps of roads, distances, statements of positions and strength of the Union forces at different points showing him to be confirmed and intelligent spy. He was brought to here (Gettysburg) to the Provost Marshal's and after examination, was strongly manacled, and sent off  to Harrisburg to await his merited doom.

After the burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Generals Johnson and McCausland’s cavalry brigades rode toward Cumberland, Maryland, to disrupt the B&O Railroad. The Confederates destroyed the vital bridges along the B&O Railroad at Flocks Mill near Cumberland.  General Benjamin Kelly organized a small force of soldiers and citizens to meet the Confederate advance. On August 1, Kelly ambushed the Rebel cavalrymen near Cumberland at Flock’s Mill, and skirmishing continued for several hours. Eventually the Confederates withdrew. The last battle of the Civil War in the state of Maryland was finally over.  

The Chambersburg Raid brought terror of war to the north in the hearts of every citizen.  The Citizens could now relate to the southern towns as the Union army used the same tactics.  Emmitsburg was not a target however the Confederate cavalry came close to Emmitsburg as the Union Cavalry was held about a mile from the town of Emmitsburg.  Emmitsburg was once again spared from the destruction of war.  Emmitsburg witnessed every raid that carried over into Pennsylvania from JEB Stuarts’ first Chambersburg Raid of 1862, the Gettysburg Campaign in the summer of 1863 and finally, General Early’s Raids of July of 1864. 

Read other civil war articles by John Miller