Verily We Must Make Better Time

The Pursuit of General Lee's Army; July 4 - July 10, 1863

Edwin Forbes Painting, Army of the Potomac on the March

"Pursuit of Lee's Army.  Scene on the road near Emmitsburg - marching through the rain." by artist Edwin Forbes

Table of Contents


After the Confederate Army's third attempt to break through Union lines at Gettysburg failed on July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee  made plans to retreat.  With casualties  estimated as high as 28,000 men, he didn’t have much choice, so orders to evacuate the wounded went out that evening, while plans for a retreat were decided.  The next morning while the two armies faced off across the battlefield, each hoping the other side would attack, the Confederate wagon train of wounded started off in a westerly direction for Williamsport, Maryland on a dreary rain soaked day.

The Union Army Commander, General George Gordon Meade kept his forces in a defensive posture.  They had won the battle, but the men needed rest, and supplies, and horses.  Some of General Meade’s  most trusted commanders were gone, including General John F. Reynolds; killed; and General Winfield Scott Hancock, wounded.  Many other Brigade commanders were also hors’d’ combat.

The rainy weather contributed to the difficulty of making any moves on July 4th.  Both sides waited and watched.  About 9:30 in the morning General Meade received intelligence that Confederate wagons were on the move, so he ordered General Alfred Pleasanton to send out  the Union Cavalry, “to gain his rear and line of communication and harass and annoy him as much as possible in his retreat.”  General Pleasonton responded quickly.

By late afternoon General Meade believed his opponent had started to retreat through the Fairfield pass.  He accordingly made plans to march his army by another parallel route towards Middletown, MD, but he waited a day to gather more information before marching in earnest.

Map of the First Corps

On July 5th, the 6th Corps cautiously followed Lee’s route to Fairfield to report on the enemy’s dispositions.  The 1st & 3rd Corps were ordered to be ready to support the 6th if re-enforcements were called for.  The rest of the army started moving out of Gettysburg.

The 6th Corps was tardy, starting off on its reconnaissance, and it was slow to report.  During the day other information arrived at head-quarters that convinced General Meade the Confederate army was in full retreat.

At night Chief of Engineers, General G.K. Warren reported on the 6th Corps reconnaissance to General Meade at headquarters.  Warren and 6th Corps commander Major-General John Sedgwick believed that Lee’s army  was poised near Fairfield awaiting an attack from the Union army.  Upon receiving this news, General Meade halted the march of his troops.

General Meade wanted to know from Sedgwick if the mountain passes held by General Lee, could be taken without too much loss and ordered the 6th Corps to press forward, in force, on July 6th.  Re-inforcements were readily available if needed.  Sedgwick opposed the move sighting difficult terrain in the mountains, obscured by fog; besides having seen a large number of campfires the night of the 5th, he thought the pass was held with a strong rear guard.  He ordered a probe for the following morning to verify this.  Meade nevertheless ordered the 6th Corps to advance in force on July 6.

About noon, on July 6, General Meade changed his mind about attacking in the mountains based on Sedgwick’s earlier warnings that the passes could be easily defended by the enemy with a small force.  Instead, he ordered his army to rapidly advance to Middletown as planned.  The 6th Corps was ordered to leave Fairfield for Emmitsburg.

The Federal Army began its race to Middletown in earnest, early on the wet morning of July 7th.  The troops responded with difficult forced marches up to 20 miles in length.

The march was rapid and on July 9th the Army of the Potomac was lining up to oppose Lee’s newly entrenched defenses around the town of Williamsport, Maryland.  A locale the small number of remaining soldiers in the “13th Mass,” knew well.

Whats On This Page

The telling of the dramatic Cavalry Battle of Monterey Pass opens this page.  The exploits of the Union Cavalry pursuit fill up the rest of the first half of this narrative.  These accounts are focused on the engagements my ancestor fought in with 3rd U.S. Battery C, under command of Lieutenant William Duncan Fuller.  Fuller's battery was attached to the cavalry brigade of Colonel Pennock Huey, who in turn was temporarily attached to the cavalry division of Brigadier-General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.  A daring reporter for the New York Times, Mr. E. A. Paul, rode with Kilpatrick's Division and reported on its actions in great detail.  His reporting with intermittent excerpts from Private William H. Forbush's unpublished diary, and other resources will take readers on a relentless gallop through several day's of fighting.

When the First Corps infantry begins to march on July 6, the story is picked up by writers Charles E. Davis, Jr., Austin Stearns, and Sam Webster of the “13th Mass,” accompanied by entertaining comments from the journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright, Chief of First Corps Artillery.

During a pause on the march several soldiers wrote home to describe the fearful losses they withstood at the great battle of Gettysburg.  Letters from Colonel Gilbert Prey, and Charles Barber (104th NY) and Sergeant William McGinley (107th PA) are presented in the section titled, “Some Letters From the First Brigade.”

Acknowledgments.  The essays on this page are not ideas original to me, except with regard to the 3rd U.S. Artillery.  Source material included, North & South Magazine, SPECIAL EDITION, The Retreat From Gettysburg, August, 1999; which in part includes the following articles:  “Ten Days In July:  The Pursuit To The Potomac,” by Ted Alexander; “Hurry Was The Order Of The Day, by Steve French; “This Was A Night Never To Be Forgotten,” by Eric J. Wittenberg;  & “Errors That Doomed A Campaign,” by Keith Poulter.  Also of great advantage were two books, The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study In Command, by Edwin B. Coddington, Touchstone, 1979;  and “One Continuous Fight,” by Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent, Savas Beati, New York & California, 2008.

PICTURE CREDITS:  All  images are from the Library of Congress Digital Collections with the following exceptions.  The cropped color cavalry painting is “An Episode of the War, The Cavalry Charge of Lt. Henry B. Hidden,”  by artist Victor Nehlig, 1862. From the New York Historical Society; The Color Painting “Burning of the Wagon Train at Apache Canyon” by Roy Anderson, was accessed digitally [an article by Jeffery Robenalt, "Civil War in the Southwest.";  Illustrations from, “Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War” were accessed digitally at the web archive, [];  Private William Henry Forbush's photo is from my personal collection; View of Ravenrock Pass by John A. Miller accessed at;  Image of Colonel Pennock Huey, [cropped] from Digital Maryland, Enoch Pratt Free Library;   The Howard Pyle illustration titled,  “They talked it over with me sitting on the horse,”  was accessed at the New York Public Library Digital Collections, [Tinted by me in PHOTOSHOP, with apologies to Mr. Pyle];  Artist Frank Beard's illustration of soldiers awaiting orders, is from, "Boys of '61" by Charles Carleton Coffin, accessed via googlebooks;  Illustration of the “Brigadier,”  was done by artist Par H. De Sta, from "L'Alphabet Militaire" accessed digitally;  The panoramic view from South Mountain was taken by myself, Bradley Forbush;  Image of Colonel Gilbert Prey, 104th New York Volunteers, is from the New York State Military Museum and Veteran Research Center, [];  The Rufus Zogbaum Illustration of Trooper's mounting up, is from, Civil War Times Illustrated;  The sepia-toned artillery illustrations are by artist William Trego, from the book, “History of Durell’s Battery, Battery D, PA Volunteers,” Illustrations are titled “McIlvane Going to the Support of Buford's Cavalry,” and “Awaiting orders to cross the Burnside Bridge.” [cropped];  The canon is a Louis K. Harlow illustration from the author's personal collection.  ALL IMAGES have been EDITED in PHOTOSHOP.

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The Cavalry Battle at Monterey Pass, July 4th-5th



Creagerstown, Md. 6th.  It is reported here by officers that on Saturday afternoon, our cavalry, under Kilpatrick, intercepted a retreating train of rebel wagons guarded by Jones’s fragment of cavalry, infantry and artillery, near Monterey, on the Hagerstown and Gettysburg road.

He captured 900 prisoners, including 200 wounded officers.  He also took 150 wagons and two guns.  The wagons were destroyed.  The rebels were completely surprised and unable to make any serious resistance. 

Firing was heard in the direction of the enemy’s retreating column yesterday afternoon.  It was probably caused by our cavalry and flying artillery pressing on their rear.

A Summary of the Action

The map of the battle is by Britt Isenger, accessed at

When General Longstreet’s attack failed on the afternoon of July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee turned his attention to getting his army and it’s massive supply trains safely back to Virginia.

Overview map of the Battle of Monterey Pass

His immediate destination was Williamsport, Maryland, from which place he planned to cross the Potomac River.  The quickest route there, was from Fairfield, near Gettysburg, over the South Mountain summit to  Monterey Pass, and then west, down the mountain to Williamsport.  It was decided to march the army in this direction, preceded by the supply wagons of General Ewell’s 2nd Corps.  The wagon train of wounded soldiers would take another, safer route, through the mountains, farther to the west.

Ewell’s supply wagons, “including  a herd of nearly 5,000 cattle”1  got under way early, the morning of July 4th, leaving Oak Ridge north east of Gettysburg, and moving slowly toward the Black Horse Tavern near Fairfield road, then on towards Monterey.  Union Signalmen reported the move to headquarters.

Orders were issued to the Federal cavalry  “to gain his [the enemy] rear and line of communication, and harass and annoy him as much as possible in his retreat.”2

Accordingly, in the morning of July 4th, Brigadier-General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, a young, aggressive, and sometimes reckless cavalry commander, rode south to Emmitsburg, where his two brigades  were reinforced with a third; that of Colonel Pennock Huey.  Riding with Huey was the 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C.  My ancestor, Private William Henry Forbush, formerly of Co. K, 13th Mass., was riding with that battery.

The combined force of about 5,000 horsemen with 16 pieces of artillery left Emmitsburg and rode west into the mountains the afternoon of July 4th.

Brigadier-General George A. Custer

The first clash came at 9 p.m. when General George A. Custer’s brigade in the advance, received a blast from an unseen Confederate battery.

Rebel Captain G. M. Emack and 21 troopers of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, with their single gun, were able to hold the Union advance at bay for several hours in the blackness of night.  Beyond Emack’s position the Confederate Wagon train rumbled through Monterey Pass.

Kilpatrick’s force slowly fought its way up the mountain top and gained the Eastern Summit around midnight.  He took up headquarters at the Monterey Inn Hotel.  After talking with local guides, he split his force and sent a Vermont regiment down the mountain to Smithsburg to try and cut off the head of the enemy wagon train as it descended the western side of the mountain.

Meanwhile, Custer’s men kept up the attack to gain the crossroads controlling the pass.

Captain Emack’s small Confederate force fell back about 1/2 mile and took a position in front of the road where the wagons rolled by.  He was promised re-enforcements which eventually arrived, but were slow in coming.  Still with determination  he managed to hold back the Union advance nearly 3 more hours.

A small bridge over Red Run in front of Emack’s position stymied Custer’s advances.  Eventually Kilpatrick sent forward re-enforcements, the 1st West Virginia Cavalry,  that charged across the bridge and turned Emack’s canon over an embankment.  They gained the supply train and began destroying wagons.

The flanking force sent down the mountain to Smithsburg was guided North West to Leitersburg, reaching that place at dawn.  There they encountered the Confederate wagon train rolling out of the mountains, and attacked it in the road.  Colonel Addison Preston, commanding the Union troopers, divided his force, sending half of it up the mountain to secure the captured wagons in that direction and to rejoin Kilpatrick’s main body.  He rode west with the other part of his regiment, the 1st Vermont Cavalry, all the way to Hagerstown in search of the head of the train; but found the wagons had already safely arrived at Williamsport.  He rested at Hagerstown and re-joined Kilpatrick at Boonsboro the night of July 5th.

Victor Nehlig, Cavalry Charge of Lt. Henry B. Hidden, cropped.

The Vermonters captured 2-3 miles of wagons, 100 prisoners and a large heard of cattle.  Kilpatrick captured 1,400 prisoners and about 6 miles of wagons.3  Most of the wagons were burned.  The spokes of the wheels were busted out of the remaining wagons to render them useless. General Kilpatrick reported his losses as 5 men killed 10 wounded and 28 missing.

Although General Kilpatrick was successful in capturing part of General Ewell's retreating wagon train, he was not successful in holding  Monterey Pass and blocking its use from the retreating Confederate Army, moving fast behind the wagons.  With a divided force too weak to hold the pass, Kilpatrick's men he followed the captured wagons down the mountain, to Ringgold, where he re-united with elements of the 1st Vermont.

A news correspondent E. A. Paul, with the New York Times wrote a dramatic account of the events on that dark and stormy night, July 4-5, at Monterey Pass.

Heavy rains; a night black as pitch; punctuated with thunder and lightning, echoed in the dark by flashing musketry and canon blasts sets the scene.

 Desperate cavalry charges on a mountain road amongst runaway wagons tumbling over cliffs, are part of the heart thumping drama of the fight that culminated with the capture of 1,400 Confederate prisoners and the burning of 9 miles of wagon train.  They lit up the early morning sky like hellish fireworks.

1.  North & South Magazine, August, 1999, Vol. 2, Number 6; "This was a night never to be forgotten; The Midnight Fight in the Monterey Pass, July 4-5, 1863." Eric J. Wittenberg, page 46.
2.  Report of Major-General Alfred Pleasonton, August 31, 1863; O.R. 27, Part 1,  p. 916.
3.  Number of captured and miles is estimated at 9 miles in length total, from Ted Alexander from Ten Days In July:  The Pursuit To The Potomac,” p. 13-14. The Vermonters wrote they captured about 2-3 miles of wagons.  Eric Wittenberg article cited in note #1; p. 52. [cites W.P.Conrad & Ted Alexander, "When War Passed This Way," (Greencastle, PA: 1982), pp. 394-395.].

THE NEW YORK TIMES; July 21, 1863
From our Special Correspondent

The Night Attack Upon the Enemy's Train, &c.

Saturday morning, July 4, it became known that the enemy was in full retreat, and Gen. KILPATRICK moved on to destroy his train and harass his column.  A heavy rain fell all day, and the traveling was anything but agreeable.  We arrived at Emmetsburgh -- one of the strongest secesh villages to be found -- about midday, during a severe storm.  After a short halt the column moved forward again, and at Fountaindale, just at dark, we commenced ascending the mountain.

soldiers in the rain

Imagine a long column of cavalry winding its way up the mountain, on a road dug out of the mountain side, which sloped at an angle of 30 degrees -- just wide enough for four horses to march abreast -- on one side a deep abyss and on the other an impassable barrier, in the shape of a steep embankment; the hour 10 o'clock at night, a drizzling rain falling, the sky overcast, and so dark as literally not to be able to see one's own hand if placed within a foot of the organs of vision;  the whole command, both men and animals worn out with fatigue and loss of sleep; then imagine that, just as the head of this tired, hungry and sleepy column nears the crest of the mountain, a piece of cannon belches forth fire and smoke and destructive reissues directly in front.  Imagine all this, and a little more, and the reader can then form some idea of what occurred to Gen. KILPATRICK's command, on Saturday night, July 4,  as it ascended the mountain to the Monterey Gap, and so across to Waterloo on the western slope. 

Brigadier-General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

The column commenced to ascend the mountain at about dark, and arrived near the Monterey House, at the top, between 9 and 10 o'clock. The enemy had planted a piece of artillery near this spot, so as to command the road, and also had sharpshooters on the flanks.  It was intended to make a strong defence here, as one half mile beyond the enemy's train was crossing the mountain on the Gettysburgh and Hagerstown pike.  The Fifth Michigan cavalry was in advance, and although on the look out for just such an occurrence, it startled the whole column; a volley of musketry was fired by a concealed force at the same time at the head of the column; the first squadron of the Fifth broke, fell back upon the second and broke that -- but there was no such thing as running back a great ways on that road;  it was jammed with men and horses. 

The broken squadron immediately rallied, and skirmishers were posted on the most available points, and the First [West] Virginia, Major COPELAND, was ordered to the front, and upon arriving there were ordered to charge; and charge they did at a rapid gait down the mountain side into the inky darkness before them, accompanied by a detachment of the First Ohio, Capt, JONES.  As anticipated, the train was struck, just in rear of the centre, at the crossing one half mile west of the Monterey House.  A volley is fired as the train is reached. "Do you surrender?"   "Yes," is the response, and on the First [West] Virginia dash to Ringgold, ordering the cowed and frightened train-guard to surrender, as they swept along for eight miles, where the head of the train was reached.  Here the two hundred men who started on the charge had been reduced to twenty-five, and seizing upon a good position the rebels made a stand.

As the force in front could not be seen Major Copeland decided not to proceed further but to await daylight and reinforcements.  Both came and the enemy fled.   Arriving at Gettysburgh Pike, the Eighteenth Pennsylvania was placed there as a guard;  for protection a barricade was hastily thrown up.  No sooner was this done than cavalry were heard charging down the road.   "Who comes there, &c.?" calls out the officer in charge at the barricade. 

"Tenth Virginia cavalry!" was the reply,  

"To h -- 1 with you, Tenth Virginia cavalry,"  and the squadron fired a volley into the darkness.  That was the last heard of the Tenth Virginia cavalry that night, until numbers of the regiment came straggling in and gave themselves up as prisoners of war.  Other cavalry moved up and down the road upon which the train was standing, and some most amusing scenes occurred.  The train belonged to EWELL's division, and had in it also a large number of private carriages and teams, containing officers' baggage.  Four regiments were doing guard duty, but as they judged of the future by the past, they supposed our army would rest two or three months after winning a battle, and magnanimously permit the defeated enemy to get away his stores and ordnance, and have a little time also to recruit, and therefore the attack was a complete surprise.

A thunderstorm was prevailing at the time, and the attack was so entirely unexpected that there was a general panic among both guard and teamsters.  I am not surprised at this, for the howling of the storm, the rushing of water down the mountain side, and the roaring of the wind, altogether were certainly enough in that wild spot to test the nerves of the strongest.

Federals Take a Wagon Train

But when is added to this a volley of pistol and carbine shots occasionally, a slap on the back with the flat of a sword, and a hoarse voice giving the unfortunate wretch the choice of surrendering or being shot, then added to this the fearful yells and imprecations of the men wild with excitement, all made up a scene certainly never excelled before in the regions of fancy.  Two rebel Captains, two hours after the train had been captured, came up to one of the reserve commands and wanted to know what regiment that was -- supposing it belonged to their own column.   They discovered their mistake when Lieut. WHITTAKER, of Gen. KILPATRICK's Staff, presented a pistol and advised them to surrender their arms.  Several other officers who might have easily escaped came in voluntarily and gave themselves up.  Under so good subjection were the enemy that there was no necessity of making any change in teamsters or drivers -- they voluntarily continuing right on in Uncle Sam's service as they had been in the Confederate service, until it was convenient to relieve them. 

At first the prisoners were corralled near the Monterey House.  When the number had got to be large they were driven down the mountain toward Waterloo.*  A gang started off in this direction at about midnight -- it was not prudent to wait until morning, for daylight might bring with it a retreating column of the enemy, and then all the prisoners would have been recaptured;  finally, when near the Gettysburgh road crossing, a band of straggling rebels happened to fire into the head of the party from a spur of the mountain overlooking the road.  Here was another panic, which alike affected guards and prisoners.  The rain was falling in torrents, and the whole party, neither one knowing who this or the other was, rushed under the friendly shelter of a clump of trees.  All of these prisoners might have, at that time, escaped.  Hundreds did escape before daylight dawned.

It is impossible to tell the number of vehicles of all descriptions captured; the road was crowded with them for at least ten miles; there were ambulances filled with wounded officers arid privates from the battle-field of Gettysburgh; ambulances containing EWELL's, EARLY's and other officers baggage; ambulances filled with delicacies stolen from stores in Pennsylvania;  four and six mule and horse teams;  some filled with barrels of molasses, others with flour, hams, meal, clothing, -- mainly obtained from the frightened inhabitants of York County and vicinity; wagons stolen from Uncle Sam with the "U.S." still upon them;  wagons stolen from Pennsylvania and loyal Maryland farmers;  wagons and ambulances made for the Confederate Government, (a poor imitation of our own);  wagons from North Carolina and wagons from Tennessee -- a mongrel train -- all stolen, or what is still worse -- paid for in Confederate notes, made payable six months after the recognition of the Southern Confederacy by the United States Government -- or in other words -- never. 

After daylight a lot of the wagons were parked and burnt at Ringgold; hundreds were burnt in the road where captured.  Our men filled their canteens with molasses and replenished their stock of clothing, sugar, salt and bacon.  Some very expensive Confederate uniforms were captured; several gold watches and articles of jewelry were found.  A few of the captured wagons (the best) were saved, and to the balance, with contents, the torch was applied.  The road here is more like the bed of a rocky river, the dirt having been washed away by the heavy rains, left large boulders exposed; where there were no boulders, there was mud and water.  Over this road the troopers dashed and splashed in the midnight darkness, yelling like demons.  Is it to be wondered at that the Confederate soldiers unanimously declare that they never will visit Pennsylvania again?

Federals burning Confederate Wagons

The Fifth New-York was pushed forward to Smithsburgh early on Sunday morning, but found only a small picket to interrupt their progress, and this ran away upon their approach.  This town was held by the Fifth until the arrival of the main column, at a late hour in the day.

When the First Vermont, Lieut.-Col. PRESTON, had reached the Monterey House Saturday night, it was detached to aid in the main object of the expedition, by intercepting a portion of the rebel train which it was believed might possibly be in the advance.  At the Mountain House, at about 12 o'clock midnight, Col. PRESTON took the left hand road, and moving in a southwesterly direction down the mountain, passed through Smithsburgh and Lightersburgh [Leitersburg] to Hagerstown, arriving there soon after daylight, without meeting with any team, and scarcely meeting an armed enemy.  A drove of cattle and something like one hundred rebel soldiers, stragglers, were captured, and were brought into the main column Sunday night.

The head of the column, as I have said before, reached Ringgold at about daylight -- the whole command, horses as well as men, tired, hungry, sleepy, wet, and covered with mud.  Men and animals yielded to the demands of exhausted nature, and the column had not been at a halt many minutes before all fell asleep where they stood.  Under the friendly protection of the dripping eaves of a chapel, a gay and gallant Brigadier could have been seen enjoying in the mud one of those sound sleeps only obtained through fatigue, his long golden locks matted with the soil of Pennsylvania.  Near him, in the mud, lay a dandyish Adjutant, equally oblivious and unmindful of his toilet, upon which he generally bestows so much attention.  Under a fence near at hand is reclining a well got up Major, whose stylish appearance and regular features have turned the heads of many fair damsels on Chestnut-street; here a chaplain, there a trooper, a commanding General, aids, orderlies and servants here for the nonce meet on a level.  The faithful trooper lies by his horse, between whom there seems to exist an indescribable community of feeling.  Two hours are thus passed in sleep -- the Provost Guard only on duty -- when word is passed that "the column has all closed up,"  which is the signal to move on again.  The indefatigable ESTES shakes himself and proceeds to shake the Commanding General to let him know that the object for which the halt was made had been accomplished; that it is time to move.  Five minutes more all are in the saddle again and marching for Smithsburgh.  A body of armed men, mailed in mud!  what a picture. 

*Waterloo is where Rouzerville is today.

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The Fight at Smithsburg, July 5th

A Summary of the Action

The two sources for this summary are North & South Magazine, August, 1999, Vol. 2, Number 6; "TEN DAYS IN JULY, The Pursuit to the Potomac" by Ted Alexander, pp. 14-16. & "The Road To Smithsburg" by John A. Miller, posted at  the website "When War Passed This Way,"; May 22, 2010. 

After resting at Ringgold, the morning of July 5, General Kilpatrick directed his 3 brigades northeast to Smithsburg at the foot of South Mountain.  The townspeople gave his men an enthusiastic welcome as they rode in about 2 p.m.  Scouts were then sent into the mountain pass opposite the town, to guard against any Confederates that might be approaching.  They were, and in the late afternoon Kilpatrick’s force had a brisk skirmish with General J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederates.

General J.E.B. Stuart

At dawn that morning General Stuart arrived in Emmitsburg.  He was screening the eastern flank of Lee’s infantry as it marched from Gettysburg through Monterey Pass, and then west to Williamsport.  On the morning of July 5th, the pass was securely held by Confederate infantry.  To the east at Emmitsburg,  Stuart learned that a large body of Federal Cavalry had passed through town the afternoon before and that they had ridden to Monterey. 

General Stuart reasoned the Union cavalry would have been turned right or left at Monterey Pass by the wagon train guard.  If his force continued on its way across the mountains towards Cavetown, as planned, he might intercept them.

After a brief rest for the horses and men, Stuart rode south, then turned west on a series of back roads that led over the mountains to Smithsburg.

Before descending the west slope he divided his force on the only two roads that led down to the village. Lt. Milton Ferguson, leading a brigade, took the lower road, and Stuart took the upper road.

At Smithsburg, General Kilpatrick was ready to receive them.  He deployed his men and artillery on three hills around town. Colonel Pennock Huey held the center, Colonel Nathaniel Richmond held the right where Ferguson would descend, and General Custer held the left somewhat to the rear of town near the road to Leitersburg.

Stuart’s immediate advance on the upper road was blocked by Union scouts that blocked Raven Rock Pass.  His men were forced to dismount and fight their way forward “crag to crag. “ …Our passage was finally forced, and, as my column emerged from the mountains, it received the fire of the enemy’s battery, posted to the left, on the road to Boonsborough.” 1

Stuart’s opponent, General Kilpatrick reported: 

“The Rebel column were seen debouching from the wooded mountain passes and around 5:30 p.m. Fuller’s battery opened;  a few moments later Elder followed.” 2

In response to the Federal fire, Stuart took cover and ordered up his artillery to answer.  An hour long artillery duel followed.

In his report Lieutenant William D. Fuller, (3rd U.S. Battery C; posted with Col. Huey) wrote:

The enemy had closely followed us all night, capturing our stragglers, but did not appear in force until after 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when a column of Confederate cavalry came out in sight to the north of Smithsburg.  I fired three case shot at them with effect, as they rapidly withdrew, and immediately opened fire from six guns at the distance of about a mile.  A spirited action ensued for about an hour, when the enemy ceased firing, and left the field, followed by our fire as long as they were in sight.  Two of their guns were smoothbores, and their shells all burst short of us.  The rifle shells were, as usual, of superior caliber and quality to our 3-inch ammunition.” 3

Private William H. Forbush, 3rd US Artillery, Battery C

William H. Forbush serving with Fuller’s battery wrote in his diary: 

“Came to within mile of Smithsburg Md. and we came on the Rebels.  We opened on them with our whole Battery and they with a Battery.  Their Shells struck in the Town but done us no harm.” 4

When Fuller’s battery opened, Stuart sent a messenger to Lt. Ferguson with orders to go back up the mountain; and come to his support at Raven Rock.

It was getting dark now, and with Ferguson’s force retiring General Kilpatrick suspended the fight.  He was satisfied with his success at Monterey, and marched his command, south to Boonsboro.

“Incredibly, [Kilpatrick] neglected to advise Company E, 6th Michigan Cavalry of the movement [to Boonsboro].  Armed with seven shot Spencer repeating rifles, these troopers had deployed as skirmishers on one of the ridges around  the town.  Captain James Kidd, recalled, 'My troop… was forgotten when the division moved away after dark, and we lay there for an hour within sight of the Confederate camp until, suspecting something was wrong, I made a reconnaissance and discovered that our command had gone.  I therefore mounted the men and followed the trail which led toward Boonsborough.' ” 5

Part of the Confederate Cavalry camped at Smithsburg that night while part of it rode with General Stuart 5 miles west to Leitersburg, to send a report to General Lee, and camp for the night.

1.  Stuart's Report;  "The Official records of the Union and Confederate Armies," [O.R.] Vol. 27, Pt. 1, p. 700.
2. Kilpatrick's Report; O.R., Vol. 27, Pt. 1, p. 994; as cited in John A. Miller's article "The Road to Smithsburg" noted above.
3. Fuller's Report;  O.R. Vol. 27, Pt. 1, pp. 1035-1036.
4. William Henry Forbush Diary entry, July 5, 1863.
5. Ted Alexander, "Ten Days in July"  North & South Magazine, August, 1999, p. 14.  [Kidd's quote is from J.H. Kidd "Personal Recollections of a Cavalryman" (Iona, Michigan, 1908), pp. 172-73].

NEW YORK TIMES, July 21, 1863 continued.


Pictured is the view to Ravenrock Pass from Smithsburg, where  General  J.E.B. Stuart's Cavalry descended the mountains.  Photo taken by John A. Miller, of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association.

Ravenrock Pass, Smithsburg

Smithsburgh was reached by 9 o'clock A.M. The reception met with there made all forget the trials of the night -- made them forget even their fatigue.   It was Sunday. The sun shone forth brightly;  young misses lined the street-sides singing patriotic songs; the General was showered with flowers, and the General and troops were cheered until re-echoed by the mountain sides; young ladies and matrons assailed the column with words of welcome and large plates heaped up with pyramids of white bread spread with jelly and butter, inviting all to partake.  While the young sang, the old shed tears and wrung the hands of those next to them.  The little town was overflowing with patriotism and thankfulness at the arrival of their preservers. While these things were detaining the column, the band struck up “Hail Columbia,”  followed by the  “Star Spangled Banner.”   Many eyes unused to tears were wet then. The kind reception met with here did the command more good than a week's rest.  Even the horses -- faithful animals -- seemed to be revived by the patriotic demonstration.  No one who participated in the raid of Saturday night, July 4, 1863, can ever forget the reception met with at Smithsburgh.  It was like an oasis in the desert -- a green spot in the soldier's life.  May God prosper the people of Smithsburgh.

Here Gen. KILPATRICK decided to let his command rest until evening.  But the enemy were on the alert, and seemed determined not to let the troops rest.  At about 2 o'clock P.M., Assistant Adjt.-Gen. Estes, accompanied by scout McCULLOUGH and a correspondent, started out to carry dispatches to the headquarters of the army, then near Gettysburgh.  It was known that the enemy's pickets and patrols were scattered about promiscuously, and a considerable degree of caution was necessary to avoid being captured.  At the suggestion of the scout, a route passing a little north of Emmetsburgh was selected as being the most practicable.  The trio started off in good spirits, and had gone about six miles up into the mountain when suddenly they came to within one hundred yards of seven armed rebels -- the advance, as it suddenly proved to be, of a large column of cavalry and mounted infantry in pursuit of Gen. KILPATRICK.  The rebels ordered the trio to surrender, and at the same moment fired.  Instead of surrendering, the party wheeled their horses and dashed off down the rocky mountain road at a breakneck speed, the rebels following them. For nearly four miles the race was continued, sometimes the pursued gaining a little and sometimes the pursuing party.  The race was interrupted by meeting one of our cavalry patrols.  A squadron, and then a regiment, was thrown out to keep the enemy in check, until the prisoners who had been started on this road could be sent off on another towards Boonsboro.  While this was going on another column was reported to be approaching from a northeasterly direction, on the road which the Vermont cavalry had passed over at an early hour in the morning.  Samuel ElderGen. KILPATRICK, having got his prisoners off in safety, was to his element, and declared his intention not to leave town until the time agreed upon, evening, notwithstanding the force confronting him was much larger than his own.  The enemy had evidently intended to attack him from two points simultaneously, but upon trying at one point, and seeing what splendid disposition Gen. KILPATRICK had made of his force they undoubtedly arrived at the conclusion that the town could be taken only by a greater sacrifice of life than the result to be attained thereby warranted.  They opened a battery on a hill commanding the town, several shells from which struck houses in town during the engagement, doing considerable damage.  ELDER's battery was opened to respond.  The attack was kept up until nightfall, when the enemy, having failed in several attempts to charge into the town, suspended operations, and Gen. KILPATRICK slowly retired, and reached Boonsboro the same night. In this contest the enemy displayed their usual cunning --  They, it has since been ascertained, had picked up about seventy-five of our men -- stragglers and men whose horses had given out.  While the fight was going on at Smithburgh, these men were exposed in an open field with the avowed intention of attracting our fire.  It was the only force thus openly exposed.

Captain Samuel S. Elder, commanding Battery B, 1st U.S. Artillery, pictured.

In the affair at Smithsburgh, in the deposition of his troops, Gen. KILPATRICK displayed generalship of a high order.  Nearly surrounded by a much superior force, he so arranged his command that he could concentrate just so many as might be required to repel an attack at any point, and still from no one point on the field could one-fourth of his command be seen. The enemy being on the mountain side, had a better view, and they did not like it.

At dusk the prisoners having got well away, Gen. KILPATRICK moved off slowly, and at 11 O'clock that night reached Boonsboro. The enemy did not follow.

On this march a sad affair occurred.  A private of the Fifth New-York, who was much intoxicated, deliberately and without cause killed Lieut. WILLIAMSON, of ELDER's battery, by shooting him with a pistol. The men in the vicinity immediately killed the offending trooper.  Lieut. W. was an excellent officer, and much respected in the command.

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Battle of Hagerstown & Williamsport; July 6

A Summary of the Action

At Boonsboro, General Kilpatrick learned of another Confederate wagon train moving through Hagerstown.  At 8 o’clock in the morning, July 6, he advanced in force to that place with Colonel Nathaniel P. Richmond’s Cavalry Brigade out front.   A sharp bloody battle occurred in the streets of the town, with the Federals first gaining the advantage by surprising the outnumbered Confederates.  Once again the Federal Cavalry performed aggressively.

A Special Correspondent for the Philadelphia Press summed up the new character of the Federal Cavalry during the campaign.

leaping horse graphic

July 11, 1863.


Beaver creek Bridge, on the Hagerstown turnpike, had been barricaded with logs, old stumps of trees, and fence-rails, making a chevaux de frise which would turn away ordinary cavalry.  But our cavalry are extraordinary now, and our impetuous troopers, angry at being detained a single moment, leaped this fearful barrier, and captured the handful of astonished and bewildered sharpshooters who held us in check.  I say they were astonished — yes, confused, confounded.  One of the prisoners, after several unsuccessful articulations, managed to exclaim, in tones of commingled wonder and admiration, “why who would ever thought your cavalry could fight so well?  Not long ago they would only run away from us; now they always charge into us.” 

— Philadelphia Press,  July 15, 1863.

The Federal mounted cavalry engaged in hand to hand combat at the town square.  Resident W. W. Jacobs, viewed the battle from the roof of the eagle Hotel.

Edwin Forbes, Struggle for the Guidon

"The cutting and slashing was beyond description; here right before and underneath us the deadly conflict was waged in a hand to hand combat, with the steel blades circling, waving, parrying, thrusting, and cutting, some reflecting the bright sunlight, others crimsoned with human gore; while the discharge of pistols and carbines was terrific, and the smoke through which we now gazed down through and on the scene below, the screams and yells of the wounded and dying, mingled with cheers and commands, the crashing together of the horses and firey flashes of small arms presented a scene such as words cannot portray." 1

While the fight raged in the square, Rebels built more defensive positions up town, and brought in some artillery.  The gunners exchanged fire with Lt. Elder’s Federal battery posted on a hill at the south-east corner of town. Colonel Richmond reported,

“Lieutenant Elder’s battery immediately went into position, and fired several rounds at this battery, one of which blew up a caisson or limber chest of the enemy.” 2

The duel lasted about 1/2 an hour, after which the street fight see-sawed back and forth for several hours.

When General Kilpatrick learned Confederate infantry and cavalry was approaching Hagerstown he decided the wagons he was after were not worth the cost.  He  turned his attention to Williamsport.

He left Colonel Richmond’s Brigade at Hagerstown to keep the enemy in check, and rode south-west with Custer & Huey’s Brigades to connect with General John Buford’s division assaulting Williamsport.

Buford reported, “The connection was made, but was of no consequence to either of us.” 3

Map of the Cavalry Routes to Williamsport,  July 6

General Buford had ridden out from Boonsboro the afternoon of July 6, to destroy or capture the Rebel wagon train that just arrived at Williamsport.  His opponent, Brigadier-General John Imboden, commanding the wagon train, did a good job putting up an obstinate defense and faking out the Federals into thinking he had a much larger force  than he did.  Caught short-handed, General Imboden formed makeshift companies out of the cooks, teamsters, quartermaster personnel, and any of the walking wounded that were on hand that could participate.  They were armed and ordered to the front lines.  But it was his substantial artillery that held the aggressive General Buford at bay.  General Imboden proudly remembered this affair as “The Wagoners’  Fight."

At Hagerstown, despite their boldness, Colonel Richmond’s Brigade was driven out by Confederate infantry and cavalry rushed to the support of their beleaguered compatriots.  The re-enforcements happened to be the North Carolina infantry of Colonel Alfred Iverson’s brigade, which was so roughly handled on Oak Ridge at Gettysburg by Henry Baxter’s brigade.

Col. Richmond reported:

“For two or three hours we contested the posession of the place most desperately, but were at last compelled, by the vastly superior force of the enemy, to fall back, which we did in good order for a distance of about 2 miles, fighting over every foot of the ground, retiring two regiments and two guns, and holding the enemy in check with two regiments and two guns until those retiring again took position.” 4

Retreating from Hagerstown, Richmond's Federals moved south to connect with Kilpatrick.  Stuart's cavalry engaged closely him all the way.

Meanwhile, less than a mile from Williamsport, General Custer's Brigade was having some success, but General Kilpatrick was forced to call off his attack.  He reported,

“General Custer had finally pushed his regiments one after another to the front, and was about to advance, with every prospect of success, when I received a dispatch from Colonel Richmond, saying that the enemy had attacked him with infantry, cavalry, and artillery.  Word came at the same time that a column of infantry was moving on my right flank. It was now 6 p.m.  A few moments later General Buford sent a staff officer to say that he was about to retire; that he feared the enemy would move down on the Sharpsburg pike and intercept our retreat. My command was in a most perilous position, attacked in front, rear, and flank, and no prospect of a safe retreat till night.  Slowly the regiments of each bridge fell back, taking up one position after another, repulsing each attack until night set in, and we formed a junction with General Buford, both commands going into camp near Jones’ Cross-Roads.” 5

General Kilpatrick's Division had to fight its way to safety.  Both General Kilpatrick and General Buford admitted they had failed in their objective, to destroy the enemy's wagon train at Williamsport.  Both divisions retreated to the east from Williamsport and camped for the night at Jones Crossroads.

*See this website page for the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.
1.  W.W. Jacobs cited in Ted Alexander's article "Ten Days in July"  North & South Magazine, August, 1999, p. 16-17.
2.  O.R. Vol. 27. Part 1, Colonel Richmond's report, p. 1005-1007.
3.  O.R. Vol. 27, Part 1, Buford's report, pp. 926-928.
4.  Same as note 1.5.  O.R. Vol. 27, Part 1, Kilpatrick's report, pp. 995-996.


In all of this fighting around Hagerstown and Williamsport, two guns of battery C, 3rd U.S. Artillery were somewhere in the mix; still attached to Colonel Huey’s brigade.First Lieutenant William D. Fuller, 3rd U.S. Battery C

Lieutenant Fuller commanding Battery C, wrote:

“Kilpatrick’s division marched on the morning of the 6th for Williamsport and Hagerstown, but I could send but one section with him.  My ammunition  was nearly expended – the percussion shells entirely –and men and horses were worn out, while Kilpatrick had a fresh division of cavalry and two batteries lately equipped.  In my opinion the safety of my guns would have been compromised by exposing them in the crippled condition of the battery.  The best horses were collected, and one section fitted out by borrowing ammunition, and, under command of Lieutenant Meinell, marched to Williamsport, where he was severely engaged.  He rejoined the battery, which had been left at Boonsborough, on the morning of the 7th, having had 4 horses killed.

“I will add that out of Colonel Huey’s brigade of cavalry, with which we had served, only 200 men could be mounted to accompany Lieutenant Meinell’s section, so severe had been our previous service.”

Pictured is Lieutenant William Duncan Fuller, 3rd US Artillery, Battery C. -- Lt. Fuller liked to complain in his reports.

Col. Huey’s wrote:

“At 1 a.m.* on the morning of the 6th instant, we moved to Hagerstown, where we met the enemy in force, this brigade taking the left, and fought against greatly superior force for about three hours, when we were obliged to fall back in the direction of Williamsport, taking a position to hold the enemy in check and cover General Kilpatrick’s rear, which we did, under a severe fire of shot and shell, until dark, when we followed General Kilpatrick into camp at Boonsborough.

Colonel Pennock Huey

"Since leaving Emmitsburg my command  has lost, in killed, wounded, and missing, 1 commissioned officer and 144 enlisted men, and been obliged to abandon 197 horses.”

Colonel Pennock Huey, 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Commander, 2nd Division Cavalry, pictured left.

My own interpretation of events as regards Meinell’s battery, based on these scant reports is that he was engaged after Kilpatrick had moved to Williamsport with Custer and Huey’s brigades, the same as Alexander Pennington’s battery, [2nd U.S. Battery M], which rode with Custer.

General Custer reported of his battery:

July 6. - Marched to Hagerstown; thence to Williamsport, where the battery was engaged.  Sergeant Frain was here wounded in the head, and 3 privates also wounded.”

There is a brief mention of Pennington’s battery in action here at Williamsport in correspondent E.A. Paul’s New York Times article.  He wrote:

“PENNINGTON's battery was being placed in the first position on the hill above Williams-port, the enemy, by concentrating their fire upon that spot, endeavored to drive the battery away. A perfect shower of shot and shell fell in and around it. There was no flinching, however. PENNINGTON was there, Gen. KILPATRICK was there. Had they succeeded in this attempt our force, by the enemy advancing in overwhelming numbers, would have been scattered to the four winds.”

Kilpatrick was in a jam at Williamsport in the late afternoon - early evening of July 6.  The enemy was bearing down on him from front rear and flank. He had to fight his way out.  This is a very likely time for Lt. Meinell’s guns to be useful, though they are not mentioned anywhere outside of Lt. Fuller’s report.Lieutenant Henry C. Meinell, 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C  And it was at this time, that Kilpatrick tapped the 2nd NY of Huey’s Brigade, for help as reported by the same New York Times correspondent, E. A. Paul:

“The enemy were pressing his front and rear -- the crisis had arrived; he ordered the Second New-York (HARRIS' Light,) to charge upon the exultant foe then coming like an avalanche upon his rear. Nobly did this band of heroes perform their task. They fell into the breach with a yell, and sword in hand drove back the enemy, relieving the exhausted rear guard, and holding the enemy in check until the whole command was disposed of so as to fall back, which they did in good order, fighting as they went. For three miles, over one of the worst roads ever traveled by man, was this retreat conducted, when the enemy, dispirited at their want of success in surrounding and capturing the whole command, halted, and the cavalry corps went into camp, men and officers, exhausted from the labors of the day, falling to sleep in the spot where they halted.”

Pictured is Lieutenant Henry C. Meinell, 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C.

Lt. Meinell’s part in all this may remain a mystery, but he was somewhere heavily engaged; his section of 2 guns lost 4 horses in the affair, and the most likely scenario is that he was engaged at Williamsport as Lt. Fuller reported, rather than at Hagerstown.  The battery was most likely holding the fast approaching enemy at bay while Kilpatrick's division moved toward Jones Cross-Roads.

*I believe that the time reported, 1 a.m. , is an error.  Both Col  Kilpatrick's men arrived in town shortly before noon. Also, the brigade retired to Jones' Cross-Roads on the way to Boonsboro the night of the 6th, and returned to Boonsboro July 7th.

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Buford Hangs A Spy

The speculation above, on the whereabouts of Lt. Meinell's section of guns on July 6th, is important to me personally, because my ancestor was a soldier in the same Battery.  He did not ride out that day with Meinell however, but stayed in camp at Boonsboro, with the majority of the battery.  Lt. Fuller said the men and horses were too worn out to go with Kilpatrick on the 6th, and they were also low on ammunition, so only two of the six guns rode to Hagerstown.  William Henry Forbush's diary entry for July 6th adds even more confusion to the conundrum of Meinell's location.

Diary of William Henry Forbush, July, 1863

Monday 6.  We came to Boonsboro Md. and the left Section went to a Rebel train of wagons and burnt them about 4.esn (dozen) number and charged through Hagerstown.  Hung a Spy and then Laid in the woods that Night.

Tuesday 7.  The Section came back here.  Laid in Camp at Boonsborough Md. all Day.  At Night had Orders to get ready to march but the Order was countermanded.  Pleasant Day but Rainy Night.

Pictured is a page from Private William Henry Forbush's diary, Friday, July 3, 1863 - Wednesday, July 8, 1863.

William mentions about 4 dozen wagons burned by the left section, presumably Meinell's two guns.  This could correspond to a line in General Kilpatrick's after action report.

“We failed in destroying the large trains parked at Williamsport, but forced the enemy to burn a large train northwest of Hagerstown.”

Colonel Huey's report did state his brigade was on Kilpatrick's left, which would have been the west side of Hagerstown.  Confederate General Stuart reported that about 60 wagons were captured near Mercersburg, PA, north-west of Hagerstown, but that was on July 5th.  There is not enough information available to sort it all out.  But another intriguing statement in William Forbush's diary is well documented.

When I first transcribed this entry of my ancestor's diary, I was intrigued by the mention of the spy.  Since that time I have found this incident written up in the newspapers, and even mentioned in Private Sam Webster's diary [drummer of the "13th Mass,"].  It must have been a 'big thing.'




Baltimore, 6th.  A spy named William Richardson, about fifty years old, was hung this morning.  He was captured yesterday, at Oxford, Md., but it appears that he had been previously captured but had made his escape.

It is reported that he admitted his guilt, and said he had been in the business a long time.

It is also said that important communications between Lee and Ewell were found on his person.



About dusk on Sunday evening our cavalry captured three men, who were undoubted spies.  One of these, named Richardson, was a sharp little old man, about fifty years old.  He had documents about his person sufficiently damning, beside his confession in open court.  His body, now suspended to the limb of a locust tree in the centre of a clover field, is swayed gently to and fro by the fitful breeze.  the other two will probably be executed to-day.  This is just.  It is never too late to do good.


Execution of the Spy Richardson.


A correspondent in Frederick writes:  Passing through the camp and crossing a broad field of ripe grain, I presently drew rein in the midst of an idle group of officers, cavalrymen and townspeople, who, gathered under the fatal tree, told fanciful stories about the “great spy,” for, like many a better man, he had suddenly become great, now that he was dead — and cracked grim jokes at his expense.

As I looked upward at the horrid thing that hung so lankly there, and dreadfully wound and unwound itself, I had a most disagreeable remembrance of the face.  The man’s name was Richardson, and he belonged, before the war, to West Baltimore, I believe, where he peddled newspapers, maps, and songs.  For more than eighteen months this desperate man had strolled — he confessed it, I am abundantly assured — from camp to camp in the Union armies of the Potomac and Rappahannock, still peddling maps that were false, and songs that he sung around the camp fires.  To-day a cavalryman, fresh from the Gettysburg havoc, actually lay on the grass under that tree, and sang one of the swinging wretch’s own songs to him:  “Everything looks lovely and the goose hangs high!”

Howard Pyle Illustration of a hanging, tinted in photoshop

At the drum-head court martial, it is said, the evidence of his guilt abounds.  Drawings of fortifications were found on his person, enumerations and description of forces and their position, diagrams of “situations,” and maps of country roads.  This man had bought papers from him at Fairfax, that at Falmouth; another had heard him sing such and such a song at Berryville; and one, while a prisoner in Richmond, had observed him in close conversation with Jeff Davis.  The proof was damning, of course, and the shrift was shorter than the rope.  But they mercifully “eased him down” twice, to confess; which he did, saying that he was a “true man to the South,” and was ready to die for it;  boasting of the service he had rendered to the cause, which — infatuated wretch — he confessed he loved;  boasting that he had once led a strong force of Union cavalry into an ambuscade, and that “if you had not hung me, we should have that train to-morrow;” alluding to a long file of trains that went out to-day.

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The Cavalry Fight at Boonsboro; July 8

A Summary of the Action

Brigadier-General John Buford

Generals Buford and Kilpatrick did a great job harassing the enemy as ordered, during the withdrawal from Gettysburg.  But their cavalry force was too divided to reap any substantial advantage for the Union Army.  Lee’s route of retreat was not cut off and he managed to move his extensive wagon trains and infantry safely, for the most part, from Gettysburg to Williamsport.  By July 8, General Lee’s army was beginning to dig in at Williamsport.  Two of his three infantry corps were there, and the third arrived that afternoon.  General Stuart rode out in search of the Federal cavalry;  to engage them and keep them occupied, so the last of Lee’s army could pass through Hagerstown unmolested.

Riding from Funkstown down the National road, Stuart’s vanguard learned from captured Union vedettes that the main body of Federal Cavalry was at Boonsboro, a couple miles ahead.

General Buford's brigade held the road and fields on either side of it.  Kilpatrick's brigade was on Buford's left, acting in part as a reserve.

Brigadier-General John Buford, pictured.

The Confederates pushed forward a bit then opened with artillery on Buford’s right flank.  The Federal batteries immediately thundered a reply and the battle was on.  It lasted from about 10:30 in the morning until nightfall.  Although the day was clear, recent rains had flooded the ground and made maneuvering in the soft mud difficult for the horses and the artillery.  The Union cavalry had been riding and fighting now for 5 days without forage for their animals. Horses dropped dead from over exertion.   Much of the fighting was done dismounted.  In one Federal battery, a gunner recalled, “we were in a wheat field with mud six inches deep, which proved too much for our gun carries; the recoil in such soil strained and broke five out of six axles under the guns and we were sent to Frederick City for repairs.” 1  Lieutenant Fuller of the 3rd US Artillery wrote: “My ammunition was nearly expended - the percussion shells entire — and men and horses were worn out.”  My ancestor wrote in his diary, “Started out about 12 A.M. and Skirmeshed with the Rebels until dark then came back to the other side of Boonsboro and halted for the Night.” 2

Kilpatrick at Boonsboro, from Frank Leslie's, Aug 8 1863

This sketch from Frank Leslie's Illustrated New, August 8, 1863, represents General Kilpatrick's Division fighting at Boonsboro on July 8th.  Perhaps the battery depicted is my Great-Great Grandfather's Battery, 3rd U.S. artillery, Battery C.

By mid-afternoon the Confederates were forcing the Federals back toward Boonsboro.  Rebel artillery fell amidst the town.  Kilpatrick’s reserves were sent in.  As the Union line, low on ammunition, wavered, signal men atop South Mountain to the east sent a message that 11th Corps Infantry was on its way to help.  This bolstered the cavalry's resistance long enough to hold off Stuart’s aggressive troopers.

As darkness approached, Stuart called off the engagement knowing Union re-enforcements were coming, and being low on ammunition himself, he back tracked toward Funkstown.  He wrote:

“About this time, I was informed that the enemy was heavily re-enforced, and that our ammunition, by this protracted engagement, was nearly exhausted; and, despairing of getting possession of the town, which was completely commanded by artillery in the mountain gap, and believing that, in compelling the enemy to act upon the defensive (all that day retreating before us), the desired object had been fully attained, I began to retire toward Funkstown, excepting Jenkins’ brigade, which was ordered to its former position on the Williamsport road.” 3

A force of dismounted troopers, with Buford himself leading, chased the Confederates nearly 3 miles in the dark. 4  Once across the Beaver Creek, half-way to Funkstown, where the engagement began, the blast from a Rebel canon ended the Union pursuit.

The Federals were proud of their fight and what they did. But it was General Stuart who achieved the greatest strategic objective.  He bought time for General Lee to assemble his army at Wiliamsport. The "ball" was now in General Lee's court.


BOONSBORO, July 9. —There have been no active operations on our front to-day.

After the cavalry fight of yesterday, the enemy drew in their forces toward Hagerstown, and formed a line on elevated ground extending from Funkstown on the right, to the bend of the river below Williamsport, thus uncovering the Shepherdstown crossing.

Our scouts and reconnoitering parties report that Lee is entrenching his front, and drawing ammunition from his train on the Virginia side, and making general preparations for another battle.  It is contradicted to-night that we have a force on Lee’s line of retreat in Virginia. It is not likely that a general battle will be delivered to-morrow.   T.B.

Signal men atop South Mountain played an important role in the fight for Buford, and Kilpatrick.  The observation stations  alerted the Union Commanders to every move the Rebels made.  But it was the arrival of the Union infantry, including the First Corps, that saved the day for the cavalry at Boonsboro.  The story of the infantry march follows.

NOTES:  1.  Dan Goodwin, "Williamsport and Boonsboro," National Tribune, October 11, 1883, p. 7. as cited in Ted Alexander, "Ten Days in July"  North & South Magazine, August, 1999, p. 26.
2.  Fuller's Report;  O.R. Vol. 27, Pt. 1, pp. 1035-1036.
3.  Stuart's Report;  "The Official records of the Union and Confederate Armies," [O.R.] Vol. 27, Pt. 1, p. 703.
4.  One Continuous Fight; by Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent, 2008, Savas Beati, New York & California, p. 186

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The March of the First Corps

The narrative of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers resumes with historian Charles E. Davis Jr.'s entries from the regimental history.

Frank Beard Illustration, "Awaiting Orders"

From "Three Years in the Army", by Charles E. Davis, Jr., Estes & Lauriat, 1894; Boston.

Monday, July 6.  It having been definitely settled that the enemy had left the vicinity of Gettysburg, we started on the road toward Emmitsburg, and after a march of six miles went into camp about two miles north of that town, it being certain that the rebels were sufficiently interested in their own welfare not to think of doing us any harm.

Colonel Wainwright's journal writings add detail regarding the march of 1st Corps.

From "A Diary of Battle", The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Edited by Alan Nevins.

Monday, July 6th n’r Emmittsburg. - The army started to head Lee off this morning.  The 6th Corps, which has had less of the fight this time than any of the others, along with the Cavalry went in direct pursuit yesterday.  Our Corps was one of the last to get off, & are to take the same road we came up by.  We started about noon, & halted here for the night, some 2 miles north of the town.  The men have even a more dirty appearance than usual.  As for myself, I never was so dirty before in all my life.  From what reason I do not know, our Corps H’d Qt wagons have not come up since the fight; & now I hear they have been sent around to Frederick by another road.  Gen’l Newton has his own wagon, but the old staff are entirely without.  Six days without even a clean pocket handkerchief is awful.  I had to stop by a brook today, & wash mine, hanging over my head to dry as we rode along.  I also sank my rank for once, & washed my feet by the road side, like a private.  But in spite of my best endeavours, I feel horribly nasty.

The Brigadier, from Alphabet Militaire

The men of course were still talking about the fight; & were loud in their curses of Pennsylvanians.  If their curses could do this people any harm, the lot of Gettysburg would be as bad as that of the cities of the plain.  All are rejoicing that we are once more out of the State.  On the road we met several large waggons filled with Sisters of Charity from the convent here, & with the good things they were taking up to the wounded.  Even the white covering of the baskets did one good in the midst of so much dirt.

We had to leave a strong force of surgeons behind, though large numbers are said to have come down from the cities.  ...All the regiments look very small & some of them have disappeared altogether; three of the 2d Division were captured entire. [Brigadier-General John C. Robinson's 2nd Division].

General Newton* is rather undersize,  smooth face; & light hair; he seems a gentlemanly man, & quite affable.  He brought his Adj’t Gen’l, with him from his old Division.    The first of these, Russell is already making himself very disagreeable, by finding fault with every thing & every body in the Corps, & talking very largely as to what he will do to bring them up to the mark.  What sort of men he had to deal with in his old place, I do not know; but there are a number here who will not put up with his airs.  Bankhead tells me that Russell wanted them to acknowledge him as Ch’f of Staff, but was informed that he was ranked by nearly half a dozen of the staff.

*Colonel Wainwright is commenting on Major-General John Newton, the new 1st Corps commander, who was appointed by General Meade following Major-General John F. Reynold's death at Gettysburg.

General Meade finally decided not to try and attack Lee's army in the mountain passes near Emmittsburg and accordingly ordered long marches this day to make up for lost time.

From "Three Years in the Army":

photo of patriotic school girls

Tuesday, July 7.  Got away early and marched about twenty miles over a rough mountain foot-path, camping about 8 P.M. near the top of Catoctin Mountain, and not far from a place called Belleville (or Bealtsville).  During the latter half of the day it rained in torrents.

During our march to-day a very pretty scene occurred that touched a tender chord in the hearts of the boys.  Our service in Virginia was so generally exempt from exhibitions of loyalty, that we highly appreciated the evidences of warm-hearted feeling which existed for the Union soldiers, and it brought a good deal of encouragement.  These outward manifestations of friendly feeling for us were so very real, that they made a deep impression on the mind.  We were a dirty, ragged, unattractive lot; our equipments battered with the hard use of many campaigns of marching, digging, and fighting.  In spite of our uncomely and unsoldierly appearance, we were enthusiastically received, and it did us a power of good.  We had halted for a rest at some cross-roads, when a lot of pretty bright-eyed girls, all dressed in “Stars an Stripes,”  came from a school near by, and forming themselves into a group, with the smallest standing on the upper rail of a fence, waving a flag, they sung the “Battle-cry of Freedom.”  It was an effecting sight to see those pretty little creatures, so earnest and with voices so sweet, singing to a lot of old veterans, whose eyes moistened as they listened in silence to the words of that noble hymn.  It was a graceful thing, which the lapse of time cannot efface from our memory.

Sergeant Austin Stearns remembered this event a bit differently in his memoirs, but it still made a lasting impression.

From "Three Years With Company K", by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns [deceased] Edited by Arthur Kent.

"At one place where we halted in the afternoon, a gentleman with his family of children came down through the fields from his house which was some distance off on another road, waving the National colors and singing “Rally round the Flag boys, rally once again.”  It was the first time I had ever heard the song, and coming as it did so soon after one of the fiercest of fights, how it made the blood start with a quickened flow to listen to its soul-stiring strains.  Yes we were willing and more then willing to rally, not only once but many times for its defense."

From "A Diary of Battle":

Colonel Wainwright had some interesting comments for this day's travel, particularly regarding Major Russell; of the new Corps Commander's staff.

Hamburg  M’d; Tuesday, July 7th -  We started early this morning, passing the 11th Corps at Emmitsburg.  I sent Lt Matthewson on ahead to buy me a pair of socks & a couple of handkerchiefs in the town. He got them; the socks very large, & the handkerchiefs very small;  the latter as well as the former of cotton.

When we got into Emmitsburg I found our new Major Russell, giving orders to some of my Batt’s, & swearing a good deal. I quietly asked him if he was transmitting orders from Gen’l Newton; & informed him that if he was I was the proper person to receive them; if not; that this was my command, & I allowed no interference.  Almost directly afterward I heard Gen’l Robinson pitching into him in less civil terms.  The Major will soon find that he is too big for his boots, & have to shrink into his proper proportion.  He says that Gen’l Newton allowed him to run the Division; it may be so; but I am inclined to think that the Major is, like my old friend Chauncey McKeever, a bully.

Illustration of Gen Banks' troops marching in MD

We followed the road we marched up on, between the turnpike and the mountains, through Mechanicsville & Cato Furnace; where there are a dozen small children in each house, & every one of them has red hair.  About two thirds of the way down the infantry were turned off to the right up  the hill by a bridle path, which it was said would cut off some  8 miles.  The Batteries had to go around, nearly down to Frederick and then climb the hill from that direction.  I wanted to camp near Frederick & go from there direct to Middletown but Gen'l Newton would not let me as it might interfere with the march of other Troops.  I missed the way once, & went about half a mile up a by-road to a mill, where we had to turn around, & had some difficulty in getting straight again.  The climb up the Catoctins was very steep; but the road was good, & no one else on it, so by taking it quietly & doubling teams where necessary, we reached the top soon after dark & with only some half dozen horses of the 5th Maine giving out.  The carriages came in rather straggling, but were all parked for the night by ten o'clock, and only just in time, for as the last one got into the field it began to rain, and poured pretty much all night.

… I found this morning that the General & his staff had lain out all night in the rain; Hamburgh affording no roof to cover them.  It is a village of the past, without inhabitants; only half a dozen or so of log houses, the roofs of which have all fallen in.  I was better off, & lay quite snug & dry under one of Batt’y L’s tarpaulins.  Sanderson, the two doctors & myself got a good breakfast at a farm house near the foot of the mountains.

From"Three Years in the Army":

Illustration from Frank Leslie's; Rainy march on a mountain

Wednesday, July 8.  Marched in a drenching rain though Belleville and Middletown, halting about four hours in the latter place; then continued our march through South Mountain Gap, where we halted after dark.  Distance, fourteen miles.  Upon our rival we threw up works in anticipation that the enemy might dispute our advance, as some of our artillery had become engaged with him just outside of Boonsboro’.  We finished our line of breastworks about midnight.

Austin Stearns memoirs add some bit of detail to the rainy march this day.

From "Three Years With Company K", by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns [deceased] Edited by Arthur Kent.

"We marched down on the east side of the ridge and then crossed at Fox’s Gap.  How well I remember even now of our toiling up that mountain side and then descending into the valley on the other side.  It was dark before we halted for the night, and in the morning oh, how it did rain.  The first thing I remember was some of the brigade staff officers riding around crying “Fall in, fall in men.”  How we scrambled our things together and, without any breakfast, started on the march through the mud, and wadeing the creeks whose waters ran like a race-horse and knee deep.  But we were all in good spirits and were anxious, eager, to be let loose upon the fleeing enemy.  We crossed the valley and halted a few miles from Middleton near the South Mountain Gap, old and familiar locality. It ceased to rain, and after a few hours rest we crossed to the west side, and fileing off to the right began to build a breastwork, but stopped before they were half done."

From "Three Years in the Army":

Thursday, July 9.  At daylight we found ourselves lying in line of battle on the Boonsboro’ side of the mountain, about half-way down in the rear of three lines already formed, — a fact we were ignorant of on our arrival last night.  Until reaching Middletown yesterday, our direction had been southerly; but on leaving that town we changed it to north-west, our noses pointing toward Hagerstown, about twelve miles away.  That is to say that we were within twelve miles of the point where we landed Aug. 1, 1861, on our journey from home — almost two years before.  Verily we must make better time if the rebellion was to be crushed before our term of service expired.  We remained all day in this position.

Sam Webster Catches up to the Regiment; July 7 - 9 1863.

The night of July 2nd, during the Battle of Gettysburg, 13th Mass drummer, Sam Webster, moved to the rear of the army's lines.  He wrote, "Am back at a bridge: where I came last night.  Can do nothing at the front."  At 10 p.m. July 4th he started for Westminster, MD, where the Army Reserves were camped.  He arrived at his Grandmother's home in Westminster, about 3 a.m., July 5th.  He wrote, "Rained very hard as I came down, as it has done every day lately except the 2nd.  Had a little trouble with a guard, as I came down, near Littlestown, but got by on the pass I'd got on the 1st at Gettysburg, and by stating that I was to report to the Drums Corps.  I found the latter in Zeps field, near Westminster, this morning."

On July 7th Sam started on his way to re-join the regiment, then on the march.  He met up with them at South Mountain overlooking Boonsboro.

The View From South Mountain

View West from South Mountain

Pictured is the view of Boonsboro taken from the Washington Monument atop South Mountain nearby to where the regiment was camped.  The Antietam Battlefield is in the distance to the left, and the National Road to Funkstown is on the right.  This site was used as a Union Signal Station at this time, and several others during the war..  Click to view a much larger image.

From "The Diary of Sam Webster;" (HM 48531) Excerpts are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Tuesday, July 7th.   Left Westminster this a.m.  Catch wagons on the road and get to Frederick, where I find the drum corps with our wagons, in the p.m., a mile out.  Some of the men have been over to see the body of a spy, hung yesterday by General Buford.  Went into the town and bought some bread; try to get square with Sawyer on grub.

Wednesday, July 8th.  Rain last night and this morning.  Go with the wagon train, through Frederick, and out the route we traveled in June to our camp of June 27th.  From here, by the aid of a glass we could distinguish a couple of miles off on a hill, our Brigade flag.  Joined them, and found a letter just arrived, sent from Westminster a week or two previous.  Run a race with the 11th Corps to get on the turnpike crossing the stream on a bridge made of wagons, horse rakes, etc.Spyglass cartoon  They were placed in the water, boards laid from one to the other, and made a very fair bridge.  We beat them and they had to take the old road, on the other side of the hollow through the Gap.  Camped, high up, to the right side of the Gap, overlooking Boonsboro.  Had to build a stone breastwork before doing anything else.

In the next entry Sam tells how he dropped his friend's looking glass from a tree, but before hitting the ground, it safely landed in his same friend's coat-tails, which had snagged on a bush !

Thursday, July 9th.   Built a booth of boughs to lie in last night and had bed of leaves, which made things nice.  A great deal of firing this a.m.  Went up to top of the mountain with Sawyer, but failed to see much as the fog covered the fort.  Had a good view of the valley in the distance, however.  In coming down from my perch at the top of a pine tree I had dropped Sawyer’s glass, which was fortunately preserved.  He had just passed a little pine of cedar brush which his coat skirts caught upon and dragged back, and on the skirt thus held the glass fell, dropping off to the ground. If it had not first struck the skirt it would have smashed on the rocks.  Wrote some letters using my drum for a desk; and got a letter from Bob Lyford.  [Lyford lost 1/2 a foot at Fredericksburg.]

Friday, July 10th.  Regiment on piquet. Visited Mount Pleasant (a village) on the old Frederick and Hagerstown road. Caught enough small fish to make me a mess.  The Maryland Brigade come up and form on our right.  They are the 1st, 4th, 7th and 8th Maryland Regiments, and are joined to the 3rd Division.  E. H. Webster is Colonel of the 7th, and Jess Duble (of Martinsburg) is in it.  Called on Cousin Ed, made myself known, and had quite a pleasant time.  Rather laughted at his breastworks and his complaint that his Regt was small; he had only 730 men or thereabout.  They have not yet been into a fight. (Omittted stating that on June 29th, going to Emmittsburg, we learned that Hooker had been removed from the command of the army.  Geo. G. Meade, of Pa. Reserves, appointed in his stead.  We did not like it much, but are getting reconciled.)

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Some Letters from the First Brigade

When the infantry of General Robinson's 2nd Division reached South Mountain there was a day of  pause, and many soldiers took the opportunity to write home.  The following letter is written by Colonel Gilbert Prey, commanding the 104th New York, which regiment was in the same brigade as the 13th Mass.  This and the following letters pretty well describe the condition of all the regiments in the division after the battle of Gettysburg.

From the files of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, Saratoga Springs, NY,

Our Army Correspondence

From the 104th Regiment.
Bivouack of the 104th Reg’t N.Y.V.
On the western slope of South Mountain, at Turner’s Gap, July 9th, 1863.

To the Editor of the New-Yorker:

Colonel Gilbert Prey, commanding 104th NY Vols

Sitting on a rock on the western slope of South Mountain, where we fought last September and under the shade of the small chestnuts that cover the mountain, I have spent a few moments preparing a list of the casualties which our regiment sustained in the late action at Gettysburg.  I have had a list prepared for some days, but could not send it out, and marching in the rain yesterday it was spoiled.  Having an opportunity to mail letters to-day through the 11th Corps, I avail myself of it to send you the list, which is all I can do at present.  I have no time to give you the particulars of the battle, or that portion of it in which our regiment took part, and which came under my eye.  Suffice it that we lost heavily, but whipped the enemy very severely, who are making tracks for the Potomac, and the Union forces close upon their heels, skirmishing every day.  I anticipated this morning another fight to-day, but they are still striving to get away.  Our troops have advanced considerably to-day, but no engagement as yet. The prospect is that Lee’s whole army will be taken, or so much demoralized that it will be good for nothing hereafter.  General Dix, I understand, is at Culpepper with a  strong force to cut off the retreat of Lee should he succeed in crossing the Potomac, which is hardly possible, as our cavalry force have destroyed their pontoons, and the river is very high, from six to ten feet above low-water mark at the fords.

Hoping that ere this reaches you the Confederate Army of the Potomac will be no more as an army, I am, sir,

Very respectfully yours,            
Gilbert G. Prey.       
Col Com’dg.

Letter of Charles Barbor, 104th New York Volunteer Infantry

The thoughts of the men were still on the battle as they took the chance to write home to their families,  to tell them they were all right.

From the files of the Gettysburg National Military Park

Middleton, Md.
July 8, 1863

Dear Wife and children

I seize the first opportunity since the great battle to inform you of our safety. We had hard marching and hard fighting when we met the enemy at Gettysburg Pa.

Our corps were in the hardest of the fight.  Our regiment is nearly annihilated. We went in with 235 men and have less than fifty left.  Not a single captain and just one lieutenant is left in our whole regiment.  Company A went in with thirty men and now we have only seven here and not a single officer of any kind except one Sergeant.  Both our Lieutenants are taken prisoner one of them being wounded.  Our Orderly Sergeant was shot dead.

We know of over half our company being killed or wounded besides eight or nine that we have not heard from that we expect are prisoners and probably some of them are wounded.  All of our regiment color guards were killed or wounded.  Every field officer of our regiment was wounded or taken except the Colonel and Major they are here now.  Our Java boys were very lucky.  Edgar got his fore finger shot off George Thomas was struck on the thigh by a piece of spent shell doing him but little harm.  A cannon ball struck a tree just over my head and a sliver struck my hand.  The next day a cannon ball struck a big rock near me and a piece of rock struck my other hand.  Neither one hurt or scared me.

There was no cowardice in our regiment.  George Thomas and George Stryker fired sixty rounds each.  We were under fire three days and on the skirmish line the fourth day skirmishing with the rear guard of the enemy after their main army had retreated.  That was the way we spent the fourth day.

The rebels are crossing the Potomac and we are in hot pursuit.  I hear a cannonade now probably our advance has engaged their rear.  We have stopped to rest here a few hours.  Our Corps General was Killed and so was our Brigadier.*  It was an awful bloody time the hardest I ever saw.  It is the greatest battle of the war and our victory is complete, Vicksburg is taken and yet Jefferson Davis says the war has but just begun.

Our corps has marched over thirty miles a day in rain and mud and we may be in a fight again in a few days.

good by,
            Charles Barber

*Brigadier-General G.R. Paul, survived his wounds.

Letter of Major H. J. Shaeffer, 107th Pa. Vols.

There isn't very much material available about this unit and its participation in the fight at Gettysburg, but the Park Library has these two excerpts from the Lebanon Courier, transcribed by Mr. Richard Matthews, in their files.  The letters of Major H. J. Shaeffer and Sergt. William McGinley, are a welcome resource.

From the files of the Gettysburg National Military Park. Transcribed by Richard Matthews.

LEBANON COURIER, July 23, 1863.


Headquarters, 107th P.V.

T.T. Worth, Esq.  I am sorry I cannot give you a list of the killed, wounded and missing of our regiment and particularly of company I, my old Lebanon company.  I will however, give you a short account of our doings in the late engagements with the enemy at Gettysburg.  Our corps, the First, left Marsh Creek, near Emmittsburg, at 9 o’clock on the 1st of July and took the direct road to Gettysburg.  The Eleventh Corps left at the same time taking a different road on our right, and coming into action on the right of the town near the Baltimore Pike. We did not enter the town, but kept about half a mile to the left, taking the stone ridge near the Seminary.  The action was commenced with artillery between 11 and 12 o’clock, but our brigade (1st brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Army Corps) did not get under infantry fire till about 1 o’clock P.M.;  but then occurred one of the most desperate battles I ever witnessed.  Our men, although very tired from incessant marching, went into action with the determination to conquer or die……I could not get a list of the killed and wounded of the enlisted men, but out of twenty three line officers we lost all but nine  — Lieut. Focht took Company I into action and was wounded in the eye.  Serg’t John H. Bemenderfer had two balls in his head.  Lieut. D. S. Matthews went into action as aid on Gen. Paul’s staff.  Gen. Paul was killed* and Lieut. Matthews was the only one of his staff that came out safe…

H. J. Shaeffer
                        Major, 107th Reg’t P.V.

*Brigadier-General G.R. Paul, survived his wounds.

Letter of Sergeant William McGinley, 107th Pa. Vols.

From the files of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

LEBANON COURIER, July 23, 1863.

Headquarters 107th Regiment P.V.
On Top of South Mountain
8 o’clock A.M. July 9, 1863.

Friend Worth: - I will give you a short history of the actions of Co. I, 107th regiment P.V. in the late battles of Gettysburg as our company is mainly from Lebanon county.

Our corps the First, opened the fight on the 1st of July.  I will not undertake to give you any of the particulars, merely giving you the loss of our company.  Lieut. G.W. Focht of your place had command of the company and a braver officer never led a company into a fight.  Lieut. D.S. Matthews, our former beloved officer, being detailed on Gen. Paul’s staff.  Our loss is as follows:  Lieut. Focht wounded; sergeants J.H. Beamenderfer, J. Ellinger, C.D. Shorpe, Corporals J. Dissinger, J. Delaney, Privates S. Herman, H. Eckert and G. Winnow all wounded - privates S. Reinhard, J. Payne, T. Bolke, J. Brinard, William Miller, J. Kennedy, G. Worley, missing; it is, however, believed that the majority of latter are either killed or wounded.  This left our company without a commissioned officer and the command of the company rested on me.  I have now command of what few brave boys are left and we are willing to stay and do our duty until traitors are wiped out both North and South.  I am happy to state that Lieut. Matthews came out of the fight unharmed, he being the only staff officer on Gen. Paul’s staff that came out with the brigade, the General being severely wounded and the rest of the staff being taken by the enemy.  Major Shaeffer, the former captain of Co. I was wounded. 

Wm. McGinley, Sergeant.

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The Cavalry Clears the Way for the Infantry; July 9 - 11

Colonel Charles Wainwright commanding 1st Corps Artillery once again sets the scene.

From "A Diary of Battle":

Thursday, July 9th.- We have lain quiet in the pass all to day.  A large number of the Cavalry passed during the morning, & in the afternoon drove the rebel cavalry back beyond Boonsboro.  General John Buford, the best Union Cavalry officerI rode out a few miles to see what I could having never before had a chance to look at a Cavalry fight.  From where I was I could see many miles over the country which is quite open.  There was no large engagement, but several quite pretty little charges, & a good deal of cannonading; our men brought in a few score of prisoners.

Gen’l Buford was in command; many say that he is the best Cavalry general we have.  He resembles Reynolds very much in his manners; reserved & somewhat rough.

Lee must be somewhere over in the direction of Hagerstown.  A great many of the prisoners that were captured from us are escaping; I hear of several officers arriving every day.  Even old Col. Wheelock got off though he is as big & old as Jack Falstaff; the old fellow showed a good pluck in running.  We have got some reinforcements from the troops which garrisoned Harper’s Ferry & others.  Kenly’s brigade of 4 Maryland regiments has been assigned to the 3d Division of this Corps; & the General commands the Division.  I hope they may turn out as well as Stannards Vermont 9 months men did.  Every one  praises their behavior at Gettysburg up to the last, though one regiment’s time was actually out, & the others nearly so.

A Summary of the Action

The cavalry engagement witnessed by Colonel Wainwright was between General John Buford’s Division and Confederate General Stuart's rear-guard.  Late in the afternoon of July 9, General Buford attacked Stuart’s small force posted  at Beaver Creek Bridge on the National Road.  Stuart’s men fell back to Funkstown where the main body of his cavalry was digging in.

Rufus Zogbaum sketch of Cavalry Mounting Up

General Buford's cavalry was clearing the way for General Meade's army to advance toward Hagerstown.

The next day , July 10, Generals Buford and Stuart clashed again.  At 8 a.m.,  Buford’s cavalry advanced on the National road to confront General Stuart’s force at their new position Southeast of the village of Funkstown.  The Union Cavalry brought several batteries of field artillery with them.  All day the opposing cavalry commanders fought each other to a standstill, while the opposing artillery units did the same.  By mid-afternoon both sides were low on ammunition, but  Confederate infantry supports were pressing the center of Buford’s line.  General Buford pleaded for help which came from a brigade of Vermont infantry, recently advanced to within striking distance of the battle.  The obstinate Vermonters were advanced and formed a thin skirmish line to bolster the Union Cavalry’s center.  They stubbornly fought off several attacks from Georgia infantry without giving an inch.  Witnesses to the event were impressed and amused at the Vermonter’s obstinate resistance, because skirmish lines were supposed to fall back when hard pressed. At the end of the day General Stuart, decided it was time to pull his troops back across Antietam Creek.  In his report he wrote:

"Owing to the great ease with which the position at Funkstown could be flanked on the right, and, by a secret movement at night, the troops there cut off, it was deemed prudent to withdraw at night to the west side of the Antietam, which was accordingly done."

He had successfully held the Union advance in check another day and had given General Lee's army time to fortify their defences around Williamsport.

COLONEL HUEY & 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C

Graphic illustration of a battery of horse artillery

Colonel Pennock Huey’s small brigade of horsemen, with 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C, attached, were on a different mission this day.  They acted independently and rode out on a scout to Jones' Cross-Roads.  Their ultimate objective was to take and hold the important intersection for the Union infantry to advance.

Headquarters Second Division, Cavalry Corps,
July 10, 1863.

Col. P. Huey,
Commanding Second Brigade, Second Division:

Colonel:   After having uncovered the bridge on the Williamsport and Boonsborough pike, you will move on toward Williamsport, in front of the Fifth and Twelfth Corps.  The detachment of the Third Division, which has gone toward Bakersville, has been ordered to communicate with you.

Very respectfully,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Comdg. Second Division.

In response to this order Colonel Huey reported:

“On the morning of July 10, my brigade was ordered to Antietam, via Keedysville, to guard the crossing of the infantry near Booth’s Mills.  Here I received orders to move my command on the Williamsport road to Jones’ Cross-Roads, where we met the enemy, and, after a severe skirmish, drove him about a mile.  Our loss was 4 enlisted men killed and 6 wounded.  Night coming on, we were compelled to go into camp, after picketing the front.”

Lieutenant William D. Fuller, commanding Battery C, reported:

“On July 10, the battery marched to Keedysville with Colonel Huey’s brigade of cavalry.  Crossed the Antietam, and proceeded up the river, reconnoitering the enemy’s position at Jones’ Cross-Roads.  Engaged the enemy at that point, driving back their skirmishers.

William Trego illustration of a battery riding out on the road

Private William Henry Forbush wrote in his diary:

Friday 10.  Advanced through the Antietam Battle Field and through Kedeysville (Keedysville) to a piece of woods where we came (to a)(crossed out) on the Rebel Cavalry.  We shelled them and they fell back.  Pleasant Day-

On July 11, Union army commander General Meade continued to maneuver his army into place.  Colonel Huey’s small independent command continued to scout, feeling for the enemy's line while the army advanced.

Colonel Huey wrote:

“On the morning of July 11th, I was ordered to make a reconnaissance on the Williamsport road.  We had not moved far when we came upon the enemy’s infantry in force.  Finding they had the advantage in position, we opened upon them with artillery, driving them from it, and our dismounted men, pushing forward, captured 5 in a house and killed 3.  William Trego sketch or a battery command awaiting orders We were then ordered to cease the pursuit, and hold the ground we had taken, which we did until dark, when we were relieved by infantry, and retired half a mile to camp for the night."

Lieutenant Fuller wrote:

“On July 11, again engaged the enemy just beyond Jones’ Cross-Roads, firing canister at skirmishers, placing a section out on the skirmish line."

Private Forbush wrote:

"Saturday 11.  Went with the Cavalry and shelled the Rebels and they fell back about 2 miles and we came back and halted for the Night.  On Guard.

While Colonel Huey was on this reconnaissance, the 2nd and 12th Corps  spread out in front of Jones' Cross-roads.  The First Corps, and the 13th Mass, advanced toward Hagerstown.

From "Three Years in the Army":

Friday July 10.  The enemy having fallen back, we marched down the mountain to Boonsboro’, that pleasant little town through which we marched in the days when we were a thousand strong, now with only seventy-eight men.  We found that the people still held us in kindly remembrance, and opportunity was afforded of renewing our acquaintances of two years back.  louis harlow sketch of a canonWe proceed to a spot near Funkstown, about four miles from Hagerstown, on the Baltimore Pike, where we camped for the night. This country was as familiar to us as the scenes of our childhood, and the old friends we met set our hearts beating with pleasure.

The people were glad enough to supply us with milk and bread, and in fact with luxuries, such as pies and cakes.

During the last two or three days our artillery had been doing considerable “barking,” but, like a young terrier dog, it was all bark and no bite.

Illustration by Louis K. Harlow.


Middletown, July 10, 1863.


From Yesterday’s American.

Gen. Lee’s headquarters were at Hagerstown on Wednesday, and the great body of his army at Williamsport, a division having been sent forward towards Boonsboro’ to guard the approaches to Hagerstown.  The army of Gen. Meade was advancing from Frederick in force, and will this morning be west of the South Mountain — A collision to-day or to-morrow, this side of Hagerstown, is therefore extremely probable.

The cavalry of Gen. Pleasanton has been playing great havoc with the Rebel trains, capturing horses, wagons, and prisoners in great numbers. It was also reported that a Rebel brigade was cut off in the mountains near Greencastle, having been separated from the main body of the Rebel army.

The Potomac was yesterday a surging torrent nine feet deep in the channel and rising, with no possibility of its falling to fording depth for a week to come.  The Rebels were endeavoring to get their wagons across at Williamsport by means of two flatboats, but were compelled to leave their wagons on the Maryland shore, taking their contents and the horses over in the boats.  It was a very slow process, and almost equal to no means of transportation at all.  As Lee can't escape to Virginia the two armies will again be in contact within the next forty-eight hours.  Gen. Meade’s troops are represented to being in fine spirits and are moving forward greatly strengthened and reinforced.   He is now in better condition to meet Lee’s shattered army than he was to meet it at Gettysburg in the height of its glory.


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