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Archive for the ‘Frederick County’ Category

This is the final post in a series about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md.

 

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Union General George Meade

 

Change of Command

Union Col. James Hardie arrived at the Robert McGill farm in Arcadia, Md., in the early hours of June 28, 1863.

He was under orders not to dress in uniform or tell anyone where he was going. He had been “given the necessary passes and money to buy his way to his destination if he encountered delay or opposition. If met by [Confederate Gen. JEB] Stuart and the Confederate cavalry, he was to destroy his papers, endeavor to escape, and deliver his orders verbally,” John Schildt wrote in Roads to Gettysburg.

Hardie presented Gen. George Meade with sealed orders from the War Department. Meade now commanded the Army of the Potomac. He protested his appointment, but he could do nothing about it. Gen. Joseph Hooker was no longer in command.

The formal change of command took place around noon and Hooker left shortly thereafter.

Charles Coffin, a reporter on the scene, wrote, “Gen. Hooker bade farewell to the principal officers of the army on the afternoon of the 28th. They were drawn up in a line. He shook hands with each officer, laboring in vain to stifle his emotion. The tears rolled down his cheeks. The officers were deeply affected.”

Here are the other posts in the Frederick Civil War series:

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This is the sixth in a series of posts about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md.
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Catoctin Aqueduct on the C&O Canal

Boating the border of warring nations

While the Mason-Dixon Line being the dividing line between the North and the South, an argument could be made that the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was the dividing line between the Union and Confederacy. Running alongside the Potomac River as it does, Virginia was directly south of the canal and Maryland was to the north. Whenever you read about an army crossing the Potomac River, it also had to cross the canal.

The unlucky location meant that the canal was vulnerable to destruction by both the Union and Confederate armies

“In some instances, battles were fought so close to the canal that the company’s property was hurriedly made into hospitals and morgues,” Elizabeth Kytle wrote in Home on the Canal.

The Confederate Army attempted multiple times to destroy the canal during the war or at least damage it so it wouldn’t hold water, thereby stranding the canal boats and keeping the coal from reaching Washington. The Monocacy Aqueduct was a target of their destruction, but it was a failed target.

“The C&O Canal was a pipeline to Washington for coal and the Confederate Army wanted to destroy it to cripple the Union Army,” said Chris Haugh with the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

When the Confederate Army crossed the canal in September 1862 on its way to Frederick, Confederate Gen. Daniel Hill stayed behind to destroy the canal.

He quickly learned that there wasn’t enough black powder or tools to destroy the aqueduct so he tried to blow up Lock 27. His men managed to drill small holes for the black powder, but the blast did little damage.

Confederate Gen. John Walker tried his luck a week later.  His men drove off the Union pickets at the aqueduct and tried to drill holes in each of the seven aqueduct arches for the black powder. “After several hours, Walker’s chief engineer reported little progress, complaining that the drills were extremely dull while the masonry was of ‘extraordinary solidity and massiveness,’” Harland Unrau, a National Park Service historian, wrote in The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal During the Civil War: 1861-1865.

Demolishing the canal would have taken them days, not hours. So the plan was abandoned. They would damage other areas of the canal during the war, but not the 438-foot -long Monocacy Aqueduct.

Because of the problems with raiders disrupting trade on the canal, President Abraham Lincoln had also authorized Representative Francis Thomas, a former president of the canal company in 1839-41, to organize four citizen regiments to protection canal property and boaters on the canal and along boat sides of the Potomac River. The companies would be called the Potomac Home Brigade.

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This is the fifth in a series of posts about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md.

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The Occupation of Mt. Airy

Although Maryland remained in the Union, Mount Airy was strongly and openly pro-Confederate.  It was not unusual for that area of the Frederick County.

Chris Haugh with the Tourism Council of Frederick County explained that southern and eastern areas of the county had been settled predominantly by English and Scotch families from Southern Maryland who had no major problem with slavery. The northern and western areas of the county were settled heavily by German families who favored family farms.

Mount Airy’s leanings concerned the Union Army because the town was also a stop on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

“The railroad was important to the Union not just for troop transport but for communications,” Haugh said. “The railroad men were the eyes and ears for President Lincoln to know what was happening along the line.”

New Jersey Infantry commanded by Captain Jacob Janeway were stationed in Mount Airy to protect the railroad and National Road from Confederate sympathizers who might want to commit acts of sabotage.

The infantrymen used the Pine Grove Chapel as a barracks and the mess tent was set up in an area that is now the church cemetery. The land would become a cemetery while the soldiers were there.

“A sick and delirious soldier who wandered into Ridgeville and died was the first person given a Christian burial in the land at the back of the church,” according to the Town of Mount Airy web site.

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This is the fourth in a series of posts about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md.

 

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Confederate General JEB Stuart

 

JEB Stuart’s Hunt for Horses

About a month after the battle of Antietam, Confederate Gen. JEB Stuart crossed back into Maryland with 1,800 soldiers. Their mission from Gen. Robert E. Lee was to capture equipment and horses that the Confederate Army needed. They were also to disrupt communication lines and destroy the C&O Canal or B&O Railroad when possible.

They moved through Washington County, Md., and Franklin County, Pa., taking what they needed and destroying what they couldn’t carry.

Rather than retracing their route through Washington County back into Virginia, Stuart was forced to take a southeastern route from Chambersburg, Pa. Rain had swollen the Potomac River making it impossible to cross at the time so they headed toward Frederick County.

Union Gen. Alfred Pleasonton was on Stuart’s trail. However, some bad intelligence caused Pleasonton a delay that allowed Stuart to get around him and head towards Emmitsburg.

In Emmitsburg, Stuart’s men fought a cavalry battle with members of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry who were on their way to Gettysburg.

“It was one of two cavalry battles fought in the streets of Emmitsburg during the war,” said John Miller, historian for South Mountain State Park and the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society’s expert on the Civil War.

Emmitsburg’s citizens welcomed Stuart’s men and gave them fresh bread, buttermilk, and meat. However, the fighting in Emmitsburg had given Union supporters time to warn other nearby towns forcing Stuart to cut short his visit. Fearing a strong Union response, Stuart headed south as quickly as he could.

Sarah Six’s family lived in Mechanictown. Word spread through the region that Confederate soldiers were taking horses and cattle when they found them. If they paid, they paid in Confederate scrip. Sarah’s father, William Six, was so worried about losing his stock that he took his two horses north to Wrightsville, Pa.

In the end, the hunt for horses didn’t yield much for the Confederacy.

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This is the third in a series of posts about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md

 

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The Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862.

 

Turning the Tide of the War

The battles at Gettysburg and Antietam have been credited as turning points in the Civil War, but it may have actually been during the Battle of South Mountain when the tides of war shifted toward the Union.

“Tactically, the Maryland campaign for the Confederacy was lost at South Mountain,” said John Miller, historian for South Mountain State Park. “Union morale turned around there. It was the beginning of the end. It showed that Lee could not carry the war on the offensive.”

The Battle of South Mountain in western Frederick County was actually five separate skirmishes at the mountain passes as the Confederate Army tried to hold back the Union Army and keep it from crossing. It was the first major battle that occurred in Maryland in Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s campaign that had come through Frederick City days earlier.

The fighting on the mountain lasted from 9 a.m. in the morning to 10 at night when the Confederate forces finally fell back.

“The Confederates really didn’t have much of a chance,” Miller said. “They were caught off guard, but the few Confederates forces left there to hold the passes managed to hold a massive force back for the day.”

That delaying action allowed Lee to stop his northern march through Washington County and pull back to support his troops from South Mountain as they retreated.

Then Union Army followed and the two armies met near Sharpsburg for the bloodiest single day in American history.

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This is the second in a series of posts about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md.

 

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St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg during the Civil War. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Union and Confederate Armies Trade Places in Emmitsburg

The Daughters of Charity archives hold accounts of the Union Army arriving in Emmitsburg on the evening of June 27, 1863. They camped around St. Joseph’s Academy and the officers used homes in Emmitsburg for quarters.

The army headed north on June 30 when “a sudden order was given to strike tents and march for Gettysburg. In fifteen minutes it was done, and Saint Joseph’s Valley relapsed into quiet. Father Gandolfo came out early to say Mass and unaware of the departure of the Northern Army was halted by some Confederate pickets…”

While the Daughters of Charity showed no favoritism in the war, the same didn’t hold true for the girls who boarded at the academy. Many were from Confederate states and were trapped in a country at war with their home states. As the Union Army prepared to leave, one girl is said to have climbed into the cupola on one of the buildings and signaled to Confederate scouts where the Union troops were and that they were leaving.

Confederate troops slipped into the area behind the advancing Union Army with the Daughters of Charity accounts noting, “The country now changed hands for a little time, and the Southern Grey swept round St. Joseph’s, not in large force, but detachments of cavalry, picket men etc.”

They stayed only hours before they, too, headed north.

John Miller, a historian for South Mountain State Park and the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society’s expert on the Civil War, says the problem is that there is no record of the Confederates in Emmitsburg at that time, though there were a few hours during the early morning of  June 29 when it might have happened. He also says that an army the size of the Union Army could not have moved out in 15 minutes.

Sis. Betty Ann McNeil, former Daughters of Charity archivist, agrees that there are discrepancies in the timeline, but adds that the information comes directly from the accounts of sisters and Father Francis Burlando. These accounts were recorded in 1866, though, so their memories might have mixed up the dates.

Miller does note that on July 5, Confederate Gen. JEB Stuart and his men were acting as a rear guard for the slower-moving wagons leaving Gettysburg. He had been told that the Union troops had moved out of Emmitsburg and came in from the western side of town.

“The Union troops hadn’t left, though,” Miller said. “There was a small skirmish out near where the Emmit House is and Stuart’s men took 70 Union soldiers prisoner.”

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Thurmont’s Western Maryland Railroad Station.

On March 2, 1915, David Firor kissed his wife goodbye and told her that he would be back on the evening train from Baltimore. Then he headed into the city to buy Easter items for his store on East Main Street in Thurmont.

 

That evening, “The train came but Dave did not come home, and it was taken for granted that he did not get to finish his shopping and remained until next day as he had done on future occasions,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

When he failed to come home the next day, Firor’s wife and mother began to worry. They began to make inquiries at the places where he typically went, but no one could help them with any information.

Rumors began to run rampant. He had met with foul play in the streets of Baltimore. He was running from creditors because his business was about to go bankrupt. Both of these proved false.

Firor’s brother, J. W. Firor, was a professor at the University of Athens in Georgia. He took a leave of absence from his teaching to join his family in Thurmont. Then he set off for Baltimore to search for his brother in hospitals and other institutions.

Firor was 31 years old and had a medium build.  He stood 5 feet 6 inches tall and had black hair and eyes. He wasn’t particularly distinguishable from among hundreds of men in the city. J. W. made his inquiries, though, and walked through the hospital wards and looked at John Does in the morgue.

No sign could be found of him.

Ten days later, Grace Firor received a telegram from her husband. He was in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Losing all trace of his identity, knowing nothing whatever of his whereabouts until he was put ashore penniless from a dredge boat at Jacksonville, Florida, and cared for by a family of Italians, David Firor, of Thurmont, last Tuesday for the first time in a week realized who he was,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

The cause of the problem was what Firor called “sleepy-headedness” and the doctors called aphasia. In recent months, he had started sleeping a great deal of the time and when he slept, he was nearly impossible to wake. His mother even said that he could fall asleep talking or standing up.

Even after being found in Jacksonsville, he had an attack where he slept for 18 hours straight.

When asked about what had happened to him, Firor said that he couldn’t remember how he came to be on the boat. The last thing he remembered was speaking with Helen Rouzer, formerly of Thurmont, in a Baltimore Department Store.

He also had taken $60 with him to Baltimore when he left Thurmont. It was all missing when he reached Jacksonville. He didn’t remember what had happened to it, but since no orders were delivered to the store, he apparently didn’t spend the money on what it had been intended for.

Some people suggested that he may have been robbed. While this is a possibility, Firor still had his gold pocket watch on him when he was found. It seems unlikely that a robber wouldn’t have taken it as well.

Firor apparently never solved the mystery of what had happened to him during the missing days. He didn’t even know whether he had been conscious for most of them.

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