Civil War Along Tom's Creek and Waynesboro Pike
Zora: The Pivotal
Crossroad of the Civil War
1 of 5
Monterey Springs, Pennsylvania, the community of
Zora saw troops from both Union and Confederate Armies
during the Civil War. Although Zora was not a town until
the late 1800ís, early 1900ís, troops passed through and
left an impact on the community that took years to
rebuild. Zoraís Civil War history is not well known and
unlike any of its kind.
Zora was only a crossroad at the time of the Civil War. It was
where the Emmitsburg-Waynesboro Road and the Fairfield Road came
together. Waynesboro Pike during the Civil War was a major artery
that traveled from Emmitsburg to Waynesboro. Zora played a major
role in the battle of Monterey and the Confederate retreat from
the fields of Gettysburg and proved to be a key route for the
armies during the Civil War.
Due to communication reasons both armies felt the need to
obtain and protect their positions at these crossroads and
mountain gaps. Because of this troops encamped at Zora. Instances
such as these happened quite often, especially when battles were
waged nearby. Scouts and pickets used the crossroads to see the
troop movements that came from the direction of Emmitsburg and
Fairfield. Zora, just as Emmitsburg was always on the extreme
perimeter of major campaigns such as, Antietam, Gettysburg and
Early's Raid on Washington.
On October 11th of 1862, General
Stuartís Cavalry entered Zora. At this crossroad, Stuartís
Cavalry then proceeded to Emmitsburg, Maryland. Once at
Emmitsburg, General Stuart ordered his men to dismount, and sent
out pickets blocking the intersection at Zora. It was reported
scouts of Colonel Rushís command were in the nearby area.
During the Gettysburg Campaign in June and July of 1863, Zora
was a key route for Federal and Confederate troops on their way to
Gettysburg. By June 29, 1863, General John Buford stood at the
opening of Monterey Pass which overlooked the Cumberland Valley
and saw the Confederate Army in Greencastle. It was at this time
that he suspected a battle would soon erupt in south-central
Pennsylvania. There he stood at the opening of Monterey Pass
through South Mountain, and overlooking the Cumberland Valley.
There at Monterey, he saw the Confederate troops in Greencastle.
That evening General Buford counter-marched back toward
Fountain Dale, and
on the highest point he looked down the valley toward Fairfield,
and saw the campfires of those troops belonging to General Henry
Henry F. Long of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry wrote had this
to say in regards to the movement around Zora:
" June 29, we marched from Middletown, through Boonsborough
to Cavetown, to Monterey Springs, PA to near Fairfield where
Confederate troops were encountered; withdrew a short distance
toward Emmitsburg, MD; June 30, moved from near Fairfield,
through Emmitsburg, Maryland, and then toward Gettysburg; July
1, on picket duty somewhere near Gettysburg in Adams County,
Major General Alfred Pleasonton wrote this in his official
report of the Gettysburg Campaign:
"Orders having been issued for the advance of the army toward
Pennsylvania, on June 29, Buford's division moved as follows, to
cover and protect the left flank of the line of march: The
Reserve Brigade was detached under Brig. General Merritt, and
moved to Mechanicstown and afterward to Emmitsburg. The First
and Second Brigades passed through Boonsborough, Cavetown, and
Monterey Springs, and encamped near Fairfield, within a short
distance of a considerable force of the enemy's infantry.
There has been much excitement here all week, owing to the
presence of the Confederates in the neighboring counties. The
following we give as the latest intelligence, and it can be
relied upon: On Friday there was a large force of the enemy at
Hagerstown, probably 20,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and
artillery numbering twenty or more guns.
On Saturday night Jenkins' Cavalry, numbering 2,000 were
encamped a short distance beyond Waynesboro, and yesterday moved
up the South Mountain. Their skirmishers scoured the woods on
foot, in advance on each side of the turnpike. When our
informants left they had reached Monterey Springs, or the top of
the mountain, firing at several bodies of persons on horseback
on the route. Near dusk a body of their cavalry entered
Fairfield, in this county, and but eight miles from Gettysburg.
Their number is estimated at from fifty to one hundred."
Near Fairfield, Union cavalry commander John Buford spotted a
detachment of Confederates and sounded the charge for attack. Upon
seeing the Confederates deploy a cannon, General Buford sounded
the order for recall in fear that he would not be able to
distinguish where the main body of the Confederate Army was
located. Once General Buford collected his men, they headed in the
direction of Zora. At the intersection in Zora, General Buford
mistakenly took a wrong road, which led them directly into the
town of Emmitsburg.
As General Lee maneuvered his forces, Zora found itself right
in the middle of the two armies. When Leeís main force reached
Chambersburg, he retained one corps there, and sent two others
eastward through Gettysburg toward York and then onto Harrisburg.
Later, when he learned of the approach of the Union Army from the
south, General Lee concentrated them from the north, making
Gettysburg a geographical contest. In this description of the
Battle of Gettysburg, the Emmitsburg vicinity is roughly clarified
as the boundary north by Greenmount, or Marsh Creek; on the east
by Bridgeport; on the west by Zora or Fountain Dale, and on the
south by Mechanicstown.
On June 30, the left wing of the Federal Army was encamped near
Emmitsburg. As the Gettysburg Campaign started to commence, it
looked as if the battle was developing in the Emmitsburg District.
The main Confederate force was located at Cashtown traveling in
the direction of Gettysburg or Fairfield. It was on this same day
that General Ewell was coming from Harrisburg heading southwest
After the western wing of the Federal army saw Confederate
troops at Fairfield, General Reynolds positioned the First Corps
at Marsh Creek on the evening of June 30. By July 1, General
Buford engaged the Confederate forces at Gettysburg. As news of
the engagement came to General Meade, he ordered the Federal
troops to push forward from the Pipe Creek Line and head for
Gettysburg, thus avoiding a major battle in the small towns of
Emmitsburg and Zora.
Captain Ulric Dahlgren of the Union Army was sent on a mission
which led him straight to Zora. One of the men in Captain Ulric
Dahlgrenís unit, Captain Milton Cline of Indiana had ridden out of
Salem with Stuartís cavalry on June 25, and was an especially
resourceful operative. After passing into Maryland, Cline had
deserted his "comrades" and had ridden long and hard to rejoin the
Army of the Potomac in Frederick. In that city he relayed to
Captain Dahlgren a conversation that he had overheard at Stuartís
headquarters about a packet of dispatches en route from Richmond
to General Lee.
The dispatches, signed by Jefferson Davis, were to be conveyed
across the Potomac by a courier, protected by a cavalry escort, at
a specified hour on July 2. From there were to be forwarded to the
Army of Northern Virginia headquarters via the Greencastle
Turnpike. After hearing his story, General Pleasonton, provided
Dahlgren with ten troopers to ride with him to Greencastle and
intercept the Rebel mail. Early on June 30, Dahlgren set out,
crossing South Mountain at Monterey Pass, Pennsylvania. With Cline
and the others he veered northwest through Waynesboro, careful to
avoid enemy patrols.
Late in the morning of July 2, Captain Dahlgrenís company
entered Greencastle, some twelve miles west of the site where Lee
and Meade were locked in battle. Almost exactly on schedule, the
Rebel mailman and his company size escort came up the trail.
Captain Clineís intelligence had come through magnificently. As
Dahlgren prepared to signal his men into action, a Rebel supply
train, trundled into Greencastle from the opposite direction,
bound for Virginia with a harvest of spoils. Its arrival threw
Dahlgren into a dilemma, for its infantry guard, if teamed with
the courierís escort, might overpower his little band.
Dahlgren, could not let this opportunity pass and gave the
signal to attack. As the wagons and the messenger converged on the
middle of town, his men broke from cover and charged them,
shouting and shooting. Cutting through the supply train, they
stampeded the lead teams, causing some vehicles to overturn. The
center of Greencastle was in chaos under cover of which Dahlgrenís
men dispersed the courierís escort with pistol and carbine fire.
As the Rebel company dispersed, Captain Cline wrested the dispatch
case from its bearer and dashed with it to safety.
The wild abandon of Dahlgrenís fight persuaded the Confederates
that they were outnumbered. The train escorts fled town, leaving
behind three officers and fourteen men. The prisoners were turned
over to the local authorities as the captain had no time to deal
with these men. Captain Dahlgren, then remounted and galloped
south, with his company behind him. Below Waynesboro, fearing
pursuit, the troops split up. Riding alone with the mail, Captain
Dahlgren re-crossed the mountains at Monterey Pass by way of Zora
and entered Emmitsburg. He finally reached General Meade at
Gettysburg at approximately midnight.
Read Part 2
other civil war articles by John Miller
to Previous Page >