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

 

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 Confederate troops marching west on East Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland, September 12, 1862. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Frederick County, Md., citizens helped split the Union, but they also helped preserve it. As contradictory as that sounds, the Civil War divided Frederick County as much as it did the country. Within its borders, a smaller version of the war played out 150 years ago. Frederick County saw battles fought in and near its towns and reeled in the aftermath of other battles. It saw great military leadership and even greater displays of compassion. Both Union and Confederate troops occupied its towns and families were divided because of where their loyalties lay.

 

“Frederick County was a border county within a border state,” said Chris Haugh with the Tourism Council of Frederick County. Bordered by the Mason-Dixon Line to the north and the Potomac River along the southwestern edge, Frederick County has the traditional border between the North and the South as its northern border and the actual border during the Civil War to the southwest.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the National Road both ran through the county making it an important transportation center during the war as troops and supplies moved through the area.

“Frederick County was important to the Confederacy, too, as this was kind of their thoroughfare to the North,” Haugh said. He points out that the Confederacy had three major campaigns into Maryland and they all had ties to Frederick County.

Before the War

Frederick County’s experience in the Civil War could be said to have begun years before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina (where some Frederick County citizens were among the Confederate attacking force).

Roger Brooke Taney lived in Frederick City for 22 years practicing law. He moved to Washington to become a U.S. Supreme Court in 1835 and eventually chief justice. That is when case of Dred Scott vs. Sanford came before the court. His court ruled that slaves could not sue in federal court because they were not citizens, the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and Congress had no right to abolish slavery from its territories. The decision became so controversial that it is frequently listed as one of the causes of the Civil War.

John Brown had a scout in Frederick before his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 and Frederick’s Home Brigade was part of the armed response to the raid.

Avoiding Secession

Frederick County’s split sympathies about the war drew a line across the county that was as clear as the one the war drew across the country. It was in this environment that Gov. Thomas Hicks brought the Maryland legislature in the spring of 1861 to vote on whether Maryland would secede from the Union. As divided as Frederick was, Annapolis was a bomb waiting to explode and a secession vote would have lit the fuse.

As the legislature debated the issue in Kemp Hall in Frederick, the federal government began taking steps to ensure that Maryland would not secede. Virginia had already done so and if Maryland followed, the Washington, D.C. the Confederacy would have entirely surrounded the Union capital. Federal troops arrested legislators with Confederate leanings and imprisoned them in Fort McHenry. When the time for the vote came, so many legislators were either afraid or imprisoned that a quorum couldn’t be reached.

“Some of the legislators did not even answer when their names were called. They were in the gallery, but they feared being arrested,” Haugh said.

Hospital City

In the fall of 1861, Union Gen. Nathaniel Banks created a military hospital in Frederick’s Hessian Barracks.

“From an operational standpoint, it was a perfect location,” said George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. “It was near the B&O Railroad so patients could be evacuated if need be. It had clean water and mountain air.”

The hospital was called Union Military Hospital No. 1 and unfortunately, there would be more, many more, in Frederick. Following the Battle of Antietam, Frederick would have 28 hospitals taking over most of the large buildings in the city.

Military Hospital No. 1 could house 900 patients, but it wasn’t until June 1862 that the number of patients began to climb toward that number.

On June 4, 400 Union sick soldiers arrived at the hospital and the medical authorities were not prepared for them. The doctors requested that the Daughters of Charity help care for them. The Daughters of Charity had a reputation as excellent nurses, and Catholic sisters were the only trained nurses in the country at the beginning of the war. More than 300 Daughters of Charity would serve in hospitals, battlefields, military prisons, ambulances and troop transports for both the Union and Confederacy during the war.

By the end of the war, Military Hospital No. 1 would treat more than 40,000 patients.

Antietam

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s first invasion into the north came in September 1862 and his first destination was Frederick City.

“He had been told that he would find plenty of men to sign up and volunteer in Frederick, but they gave him the cold shoulder,” Haugh said.

The Confederate Army occupied Frederick for only a few days, but hosting an army can devastate a town. The additional soldiers and horses overwhelm an area’s ability to support the numbers of people.

It was during this time that 96-year-old Barbara Fritchie defied Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson and flew the Union flag while the Confederate Army was marching out of town. Her actions turned her into a folk heroine who was immortalized in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier.

As the Confederates were leaving, one soldier left behind Lee’s orders issued to the army. A Union soldier found the orders wrapped around a set of cigars.

“How much the lost orders changed the course of the war is debatable,” said Barbara Justice, a national park ranger at Monocacy Battlefield. “Some say most of the orders had already been carried out, but others say that it caused [Union Gen. George] McClellan to speed up his pursuit so that Lee didn’t have as much time as he expected to have to carry out his plan.”

The Union Army caught up with the Confederate Army on South Mountain. Fighting began there and carried over to the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American history.

Following Antietam, wounded poured into Frederick. “Imagine a town of 10,000 getting 8,000 wounded in, which almost doubles the population, and those 8,000 men are helpless. They need to be fed and cared for. They and the horses brought in with them create a tremendous amount of additional biomass that pollutes the water. Things disappeared very quickly when an army came through. Financially it must have been devastating for them,” Wunderlich said.

Monocacy

During the summer of 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early came through the county with his army and ransomed Frederick for $200,000. He demanded the ransom in gold or medical supplies or he would burn the city to the ground. City officials managed to pay the ransom and Early continued south intending to capture Washington. A smaller Union force fought Early’s army during the Battle of the Monocacy. The battle delayed Early and allowed Washington’s defenses to be reinforced

“I think it’s very possible they [the Confederate Army] could have captured Washington,” Justice said. Could they have held it? Probably not, but they could have burned it and the capture would have had an effect on the effect on the 1864 Presidential election.”

When the war ended in April 1865, Frederick citizens celebrated the end of three years that had been marked by invading armies and deprivation.

“It was a fascinating time to live in Frederick County, but it must have been scary knowing you were in the path of armies,” Haugh said.

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I’ve had the chance to be on television three times so far in my writing career. Once was with a local independent station. Once was with a statewide cable network, and the most recent was for C-SPAN. I actively pursued the first two, but the

I actively pursued the first two, but the C-SPAN appearance was a happy turn of events. I was doing a book signing at the Gettysburg Heritage Center for two days during the anniversary weekend, and I volunteered to make a presentation about my book, The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg. Shortly before anniversary weekend rolled around, I was told that C-SPAN would be filming the author presentations for a future broadcast.

I think this shows that if you are an author out there marketing yourself and your books, things will eventually start to happen for you. It may be a hard doing this at first, and hard getting to the point where things happen, but they will start to come together for you.

My only regret is that the presentation wasn’t one of my better ones. Right before I started, I was told that I would need to cut the presentation so that it could end by a certain time. I found myself cutting on the fly, and I felt the presentation was choppy. I also wound up cutting too much out.

Here’s the presentation:

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Civil WAr 10a frontSince the founding of the country, counterfeiters had been devaluing currency through the use of fake bills and coins and the Civil War created opportunities for even greater profit.

Even as counterfeiting grew in prevalence, law enforcement seemed unable to prosecute effectively counterfeiters. Arrests were made, but it seemed like where one counterfeiter was arrested, two more sprung up.

“…neither New York nor any other American metropolis ever launched an all-out campaign to eliminate counterfeiting from its jurisdiction.” Thomas Craughwell wrote in Stealing Lincoln’s Body (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007: pg. 38).

In part, the problem was police officers were investigators. They were men who enforced the laws.

The Cost of War

As with any war, once begun, the expenses to run a war became one, if not the largest, expense in the federal budget. In the case of the Civil War, the government’s expenditures exceeded its income. (Robert P. Sharkey, Money, Class, and Party: An Economic Study of Civil War and Reconstruction, Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995, pg. 18)

Preserving the Union

In the early years of the war as the North struggled for victory, the country’s gold reserves began to dwindle and the country faced a crisis. To put off the looming collapse, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act on February 24, 1862. The legislation allowed the treasury to move from coinage, which had been favored since the Revolutionary War to issue $150 million in paper currency and to recognize it as legal tender.

Counterfeiting National Currency

This created opportunities for counterfeiters.

“Like the rest of the American public, counterfeiters adjusted to the new national currency quickly. In fact, they preferred it to the old banknotes. A Philadephia shopkeeper who would have studied a fifty-dollar banknote from the Planter’s Bank of Tennessee would accept a U.S. fifty-dollar bill without a second thought,” Craughwell wrote (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007: pg. 41).

Union citizens weren’t the only ones who used the new national currency. Confederate citizens sought the bills to offset the increasingly devaluing confederate currency. Counterfeiters took advantage of this need by taking larger amounts of counterfeit bills into the South. Since few confederates were familiar with real bills, the counterfeits escaped close scrutiny. (Lynn Glaser, Counterfeiting in America: The History of an American Way to Wealth, Philadelphia: Clarkson N. Potter, 1960, pg. 103)

The fake bills were also being circulated in the north and by 1864, estimates are that half the bills in use were fake. With this much fake currency, the U.S. financial system was in danger of collapse.

The Protectors of Currency

Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase hired William P. Wood, superintendent of the Old Capitol Prison system, to track down counterfeiters. This was the beginnings of the Secret Service.

Within a year, Wood and the men he hired had arrested over 200 counterfeiters and removed a great amount of fake currency from circulation as well as the tools of the trade the counterfeiters used to make their fake money. (David Johnson, Illegal Tender: Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America, Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, pg. 76)

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CanawlersCurious how to pronounce the title of my historical novel Canawlers?

It’s CAN-all-ers. It’s what boatmen on the C&O Canal sounded like when they used to say “canaller”.

They also had a challenging and dangerous job during the Civil War. Canawlers brought coal and other goods 185 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown. All the while, they traveled along the Potomac River within site of the Virginia shore and the Confederate States of America. The C&O Canal ran along the border of two warring nations, the canawlers were caught in the crossfire.

Hugh Fitzgerald is a proud canawler. For nine months a year, he and his family live on their canal boat, working hard to get them through the lean winter months.

The year 1862 was a hard year to live on the canal, though. To this point, the Confederacy has stayed south of the canal, but now the Confederate Army intends to go on the offensive and take the war into the north.

Not only are the Fitzgeralds’ lives endangered by the increased activity of warring armies and raiders on the canal, but the Fitzgeralds’ secret activity as a stop along the Underground Railroad only endangers their lives all the more.

Then fate takes Hugh away from his family, leaving his wife, Alice, to hold the family together. With the help of her children; Thomas, George and Elizabeth; Tony, an orphan from Cumberland; and David Windover, a disillusioned Confederate soldier, they will face the dangers presented by the war, nature, and the railroad together.

Download your Kindle copy for FREE until Jan. 20.

From the reviewers:

  • “A powerful, thoughtful and fascinating historical novel, Canawlers documents author James Rada, Jr. as a writer of considerable and deftly expressed storytelling talent.” – Midwest Book Review
  • “James Rada, of Cumberland, has written a historical novel for high-schoolers and adults, which relates the adventures, hardships and ultimate tragedy of a family of boaters on the C&O Canal. … The tale moves quickly and should hold the attention of readers looking for an imaginative adventure set on the canal at a critical time in history.” – Along the Towpath
  • “Mr. Rada presents an interesting slice of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal boatman’s life set against the backdrop of the turbulence and uncertainty of the American Civil War. The use of the canal as a route on the Underground Railroad is also woven into the plot which reveals how hard work, a strong family and difficult times could come together along the canal.” – Rita L. Knox, Park Ranger, C&O Canal NHP

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This is the third in a series of articles about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

 

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Salisbury Prison for Union soldiers in North Carolina.

Eight civilians from Gettysburg were arrested during the 1863 battle, taken south, and imprisoned in POW camps where they endured brutality and starvation.

 

The arrested men were George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

“Both Pennsylvania and the U. S. government informed the Confederacy that they had taken noncombatant civilians, and demanded their return. Because it refused, and since it was regarded as an act of state terrorism, the U. S. Secretary of War ordered the U. S. Army to seize 26 Confederate civilians and hold them as counter hostages at the Fort Delaware Prison on the Delaware River,” according to the Gettysburg Times.

The fort is on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River between Delaware and New Jersey. It had granite and brick walls that ranged in thickness from seven to 30 feet and were 32 feet high. Conditions for prisoners there were unpleasant, although not as unpleasant as things had been in Salisbury Prison for the Gettysburg civilian prisoners.

One Union doctor wrote of his visit to the prison and was recorded in The War Of The Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies. “The barracks were at that time damp and not comfortably warm, and I suspect they have been so a part of the time during the winter…Some, perhaps a large majority, were comfortably clad. Some had a moderate and still others an insufficient supply of clothing. The garments of a few were ragged and filthy. Each man had one blanket, but I observed no other bedding nor straw. Nearly all the men show a marked neglect of personal cleanliness. Some of them seem vigorous and well, many look only moderately well, while a considerable number have an unhealthy, a cachectic appearance.”

In early 1865, the Gettysburg civilian POWs finally got their hearing before General Winder in Richmond. “He called some of us disloyal Pennsylvanians. I told him I was loyal to the backbone,” Samuel Pitzer wrote after the war.

This led to their release and they began returning home to Gettysburg in the middle of March 1865.

The return of the prisoners was a surprise to many because most of them had been presumed dead after the battle. Emanuel Trostle’s wife hadn’t given up hope that her husband still lived and was rewarded for her dedication when he returned home. He went on to lead a successful life as a shoemaker and a farmer.

He died in 1914 at the age of 75. He would have been alive to see the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and perhaps, the same men who had captured him during the battle. It is not known whether he attended the reunion, though.

George Cordori’s return on March 13 got a small mention in the Adams Sentinel. The joy of his return lasted only two weeks. He died of pneumonia at the age of 59.

“For a number of years he had had an attack of this dangerous disease almost every winter, but during the past 18 months, though suffering the privations incident to the life of a prisoner of the South, he informed us his health was very good,” the Gettysburg Compiler reported. It is believed he caught a cold riding the crowded transport that brought freed prisoners to Annapolis and dropped them off.

Ironically, three days after Codori died, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate released a joint resolution asking “That the Secretary of War be respectfully requested to use his utmost official exertions to secure the release of J. Crawford Gwinn, Alexander Harper, George Codori, William Harper, Samuel Sitzer (sic), George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle, and such other civilians, citizens of Pennsylvania, as may now be in the hands of the rebels authorities, from rebel imprisonment and have them returned to their respective homes in Pennsylvania.”

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This is the second in a series of articles about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

800px-bird_eye_view_of_the_confederate_prison_pen_salisbury_north_carolina_1864When the Confederate Army left Pennsylvania at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, they left with eight civilians. These men had done nothing wrong except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were captured at different locations around Gettysburg on the suspicion that they were spies for the Union Army.

They weren’t.

They were ordinary citizens caught in the middle of a great battle.

The arrested men were George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

Samuel Pitzer was a Gettysburg farmer who had been arrested on July 2. He wrote that the prisoners were first sent to Castle Lightning prison in Richmond where all of their money except for two cents, their knives and their blankets were taken.

They were then moved to Libby Prison. Pitzer was upset that his hat was stolen there, which he said would have been worth $150 to $200 in Confederate dollars.

“The first thing we hear when new prisoners came in was ‘Fresh Fish,’ to which another would immediately reply ‘Scale him,’ and it was not long they had them all scaled,” Pitzer wrote.

The rations were poor, so much so that even the pigs ate better.

“They raise beans down there on which they fatten their hogs,” Pitzer wrote. “We got a broth with about a dozen of these beans and a little corn bread.”

After a time, they were sent to Castle Thunder Prison where the rations were even worse.

The commander there was a Union army deserter named George Edwards. He had a reputation for brutality. Pitzer wrote that he would make the prisoners stand around him while he swung his sword back and forth coming close to slicing the prisoners open.

After two months in Richmond, the prisoners were sent further south to Salisbury, N.C., where they were imprisoned in an old tobacco factory. At first, there were 500 prisoners in the factory prison, but during October 1863, that number swelled to 14,000.

What little food the prisoners received had a lot to be desired. In the beginning, their rations consisted of a little meat that was “strong and so full of worm holes that we could see through it,” according to Pitzer.

Other days, the guards simply threw a little beef and tripe into the garrison and let the prisoners fight over who got to eat it.

Sometimes the prisoners weren’t fed for two or three days at a time. It was a tactic used to encourage them to join the Confederate army so they could be sent to guard forts and camps.

The prisoners got to the point that they were eating just about anything they thought would fill them up.

“They ate rats, cats and dogs and I saw an Irishman eating the graybacks as he picked them from his clothes,” Pitzer wrote.

Within four months that 14,000 number had dwindled to 4,500 as men died from malnutrition.

“As regularly as the day returned from forty to sixty died,” Pitzer wrote.

The dead were buried in a common grave four bodies deep.

The Gettysburgians endured, though, not knowing when the end would come, but knowing that it would come eventually.

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27124uThe Sixth Massachusetts Regiment wasn’t looking for trouble when they came to Baltimore in April 1861. The city wasn’t even their destination. They were traveling to Washington, D.C., but there was no direct railroad connection between Massachusetts and Washington. The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad ended at President Street Station. Horses then had to pull the rail cars 10 blocks along Pratt Street to Camden Station and onto the rails of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The soldiers were answering the request of President Abraham Lincoln who had called for 75,000 troops to put down rebellion that began at Fort Sumter a week earlier. The call had only encouraged the Confederacy. What had been seven Confederate states quickly grew to 11 and many Marylanders wanted their state to be the 12th. These people saw the arrival of Union troops, even those passing through, as a foreign invasion.

With tensions high, the Baltimore Police escorted the Massachusetts troops as they transferred between stations. Nine rail cars were allowed to pass over the Jones Falls bridge with little but catcalls like “Let the police go and we’ll lick you” or “Wait till you see Jeff Davis” harassing them.

When the tenth car approached the bridge, someone in the gathering mob managed to throw the brake on the car and stop it. The crowd then pelted the rail car with paving stones as the soldiers within took cover.

The crowd quickly grew to 800 people who began to tear up the street and tracks with shovels and picks. With no way to continue, the soldiers were faced with marching through the growing mob in order to get to Camden Station. However, the mob had continued to grow both in size and anger. It was now estimated to be 2,000 people strong.

When the troops didn’t leave the relative safety of the rail car, the mob prepared to storm it. They were only stopped by the Baltimore Police who rushed in force to put themselves between the crowd and the rail car.

With the tracks blocked, the troops had no choice but to disembark into the hostile crowd. They formed ranks and began to slowly push their way toward the Camden Street station. The mob wasn’t willing to let them go so easily, though. The soldiers tried to march in one direction and were blocked by an unyielding crowd. When they reversed direction, the mob blocked them in that direction, too.

“Then the crowd pressed stronger, until the body reached the corner of Gay street, where the troops presented arms and fired,” according to an eyewitness account published in The Sun. “Several persons fell on the first round, and the crowd became furious. A number of revolvers were used, and their shots took effect in the ranks.”

Chaos reigned as people scattered, yelling and trampling each other. The police efforts were overwhelmed within minutes as they lost control of the situation.

The soldiers now found themselves in a running fight with the mob as they tried to reach Camden Station. The mob continued throwing bricks and stones and some even got a hold of weapons and fired toward the soldiers.

“After firing this volley the soldiers again broke into a run, but another shower of stones being hurled into the ranks at Commerce street with such force as to knock several of them down, the order was given to another portion of them to halt and fire, which had to be repeated before they could be brought to a halt,” according to The Sun. “They then wheeled and fired some twenty shots, but from their stooping and dodging to avoid the stones, but four or five shots took effect, the marks of a greater portion of their balls being visible on the walls of the adjacent warehouses, even up to the second stories. Here four citizens fell, two of whom died in a few moments; and the other two were carried off, supposed to be mortally wounded.”

3c32929uOne soldier who was brought down by the mob begged for his life, saying “he was threatened with instant death by his officers if he refused to accompany them. He said one-half of them had been forced to come in the same manner, and he hoped all who forced others to come might be killed before they got through the city.” Whether he spoke the truth or just hoped to win his life is not known, but the mob took no further action against him.

The soldiers eventually reached Camden Station and the police formed up their own ranks to block the mob. The troops were alive but they had lost much of their equipment and some of their wounded, who they had been forced to leave behind.

The small battle left four soldiers and 12 civilians dead. It is not known how many civilians were wounded but 36 soldiers were left behind to be treated. One of the dead soldiers, Corporal Sumner Henry Needham, is sometimes considered to be the first Union casualty in the Civil War, though he was killed by civilians.

Though the Maryland legislature voted against secession on April 26, it had to meet in Frederick to do it for fear of inciting another riot. Union troops were also deployed throughout the state to ensure that it remained within the Union. Confederate sympathizers like the mayor of Baltimore and the police commissioner were imprisoned in Fort McHenry.

The most-lasting effect of the riot is that it inspired James Ryder Randall to write “Maryland, My Maryland,” a strongly Southern supporting song, which eventually became the state song.

 

 

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