Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

Emmitsburg during the Civil War

The Army of the Potomac After
 the Battle of Gettysburg

John Miller
Emmitsburg Area Historical Society

On July 5, General Meade issued orders for the Army of the Potomac to begin its removal from the battlefield at Gettysburg. The First, Sixth, and Third Corps would march to Emmitsburg, taking the direct road to Mechanicstown, Lewistown, Hamburg, reaching Middletown. The Fifth and Eleventh Corps would march on the Taneytown Road, through Emmitsburg, Creagerstown, Utica, Highknob Pass, to Middletown. The Twelfth, the Second Corps and the Artillery Reserve would march toward Taneytown to Middleburg, and Woodsboro, through Frederick to Middletown.

By July 6, General Meade ordered General Howard to move one of his Corps to Emmitsburg and the other Corps to be posted on a road leading to Fairfield. According to General Meade, after receiving information on the Confederate Armyís retreat route, all evidence showed that the principal force was between Fairfield and Hagerstown moving toward the Potomac River.

By 9:00 a.m., the Confederate Infantry, numbering about 80,000 men, was reported to have passed the Fairfield Road. General Meade learned that the Waynesboro Road was empty when parts of his army arrived. General Meade advised his Corps Commanders that he would continue his flanking movement once the main Confederate Army had retired from the mountain. With this plan, he directed General Couchís Cavalry to move down the Cumberland Valley and threaten the Confederate rear.

General Pleasanton ordered a brigade of Cavalry, under Colonel McIntosh to communicate the Confederate troopís movements as his Cavalry traveled toward Waynesboro. General George Sykes, commanding the Fifth Corps wrote to General Howard during the evening, explaining his position. He was located near the junction of the Emmitsburg Pike and the Fairfield Road. He had not heard word from General Sedgwick on troop movements and had not received orders from General Meade or from his wing commander, General Howard. A sign of frustration along with the lack of communication was taking its toll on the Union Army.

By July 7, General Meade rode through Emmitsburg and briefly stopped to visit the town. The residents hailed him; thanking him for all that he had done to protect the town from the main Confederate Army. General Meade rode out of town traveling down Old Frederick Road. The commander crossed Loyds Station Covered Bridge and made his headquarters in the small community of Cooperstown (Creagerstown), just a few miles east of Mechanicstown for a few hours before heading into Frederick later that night.

Colonel F. Hecker of the 82nd Illinois Volunteers recalled his regimentís march to Emmitsburg. Near midnight, the road conditions and blinding darkness forced his regiment to encamp near a small creek north of Emmitsburg that night. By 3:30 a.m., the line of march continued. His regiment passed through Emmitsburg in the afternoon where they encamped. Before sunrise on July 7, the march to Middletown continued via Creagerstown and Utica Post Office. This was a distance of 30 miles. The regiment arrived at Middletown around 10 p.m. that night in a rainstorm.

During the pursuit of the Confederate Army, the Union Army was slow moving and several of its officers thought that they had passed up the opportunity to end this war by destroying what was left of General Leeís Army. If it had not been for the mountains, General Meade would have pursued the Confederates more aggressively. However, if General Leeís Army of Northern Virginia had dug entrenchments and fortified the mountains, the Gettysburg Campaign could have easily continued for many more days, if not weeks. General Meade understood that and that is one reason he did not want to pursue General Lee, and this was the end of the Gettysburg Campaign on the Eastern side of the Catoctin Mountain.

Read other articles by John Miller