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Thurmontís Boys in Blue

A. W. Cissel

One of the Thurmont Historical Society's treasured photographs shows a group of 22 elderly Civil War veterans informally posed during Memorial Day observances in May, 1916. These grey-bearded old gentlemen wear their medals and badges pinned to their frock coats. Several of them carry small flags or flower nosegays that the group will lay on a monument at the U.B. Cemetery, an annual tribute to their lost comrades.

Over fifty years earlier, these same men had been fresh-faced farm boys or town clerks and apprentices when they answered the call to serve. In response to President Abraham Lincoln's appeal for more troops, Frederick county offered a $100 bonus for enlistment before Sept 1, 1862 to meet the county's quoat of 1,352 men. Led by Capt. Martin Rouzer and Lts. John Rouzer and C.A. Damuth, 80 men from in and around Mechanicstown and Eyler's Valley organized as Company D, Sixth Regiment of Maryland Infantry (Volunteers).

On a late August morning they assembled at the southeast corner of the main square, known as Freeze's Corner (then vacant lots) where the ladies of the town presented them with a handmade, silken company flag. It would be the only flag in the Regiment for several months. During 1863-1864 Company D would see action as part of the Virginia Campaign.

Charles Damuth kept a memoranda of the company activities, including engagements at Culpepper, Second Manassas, Brandy Station and others as they crossed and recrossed the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers in Grant's pursuit of Lee. But it is the Battle of the Wilderness fought on May 5,6, 1864 that was remembered as the bitterest and most tragic loss for Company D.

The Wilderness west of Chancellorsville, VA was a dense maze of forest, bramble thickets and swamp. As the lines surged back and forth over two days of fighting the splintered trees and undergrowth were set on fire, fanned by a strong wind. Unseen and unknown wounded and dead were trapped by the smoke and flames; their bodies were never recovered. Among these missing were four men of Company D, including Sargeant Jason Damuth, Capt Damuth's brother. The others were George Favorite, William Fourney and William McPherson. They were just a few of the thousands of dead, wounded and captured in this bloody engagement. Though wounded, John Rouzer escaped the "fiery Hell" and received his second battlefield promotion for gallentry. In Sept two more men were missing in action after the Battle of Winchester.

Following Cold Harbor, Petersburg and Appomattox, the men of Company D were mustered out June 20, 1865 and returned home to Mechanicstown. In 1908 a local branch

of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic)veterans organization was formed and named the Jason Damuth Post. It was composed of Co. D. vets along with local who had served in other Frederick County units like Co. B of the Seventh Regiment and "Cole's Cavalry" of the Potomac Home Brigade. In 1914 the G.A.R. placed a monument at the United

Brethren Cemetery, dedicated to those who never came back and whose burial place is unknown. Each Memorial Day the ever diminishing ranks of the Union vets honored their dead. The photograph, once owned by the Elower family, captures this gathering.

The last surviving member of the GAR Post was Henry Fleagle who died November, 1937 at age 95. His grave is one of the 62 Union Veterans graves in the hill cemeteries above Thurmont. He was the last of Thurmont's "Boys in Blue".

Have your own memories of Franklinville or other places in the Thurmont Area?
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