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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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