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Civil War Diary

The 150th Commemoration of the Maryland Campaign

John Miller
Emmitsburg Area Historical Society

Part 3

During the course of 2012, many people will take time to reflect on a series of important Civil War events that took place in 1862 in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Many tourists will assemble to Virginia during the Spring and Summer to bare witness to the commemorations of the Peninsular Campaign, Jackson’s Valley Campaign, and the Second Manassas Campaign. 2012 also marks the 150th Sesquicentennial the Maryland Campaign which resulted in several skirmishes and battles, including South Mountain and Antietam. By October of this year, the 150th will again shift into Pennsylvania as we commemorate Confederate JEB Stuart’s Chambersburg Raid, where Emmitsburg bore witness to his cavalry.

Over the course of 2012, I want to take time to educate those on the importance of the Maryland Campaign, as well as Stuart’s Raid into Chambersburg. You might travel through Frederick on your way to Washington or Baltimore during your daily commute, but do you realize that you’re driving through some very rich Civil War history. Others may travel to Hagerstown or to Chambersburg, and they too, may not realize that they are driving through an area with historical ties to the Civil War. There is a lot to cover this year before I shift from 2012 to 2013.

With that in mind, since November of 2011, I started the commemoration process. I wanted to introduce you, the reader, to a few of the experiences of both the Union and the Confederate soldier, from what they wore, how they appeared, and what they carried on campaign. Now the time has come to introduce you to some of the historical events that took place and why they took place. The Maryland Campaign affected every community in Carroll, Frederick, and Washington Counties, including those towns along the Mason Dixon Line in Pennsylvania.

Even though today, we know where the Confederate army was located and where they were headed, the civilian population and the Union army at the time didn’t. This was the first time during the Civil War that fear was introduced to many of the Maryland communities. People read the newspapers from the start of the war, and knew that this war was not romantic in any respect. So when the war entered Maryland, the realization of the affects of war had a huge impact. The rumor machine had already been turning for several months, and now the threat was here. Getting accurate news in the face of occupation was hard to come by.

So how did the Maryland Campaign come about? On August 30, 1862, after the Battle of Second Manassas, found the Union Army, under the command of Major General John Pope, in full retreat, marching his army to the safety of Centerville, Virginia. On August 31st, the victorious Confederate Army, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, decided to send General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson to Chantilly, Virginia and cut off Pope’s Army from retreating to Washington. On September 1st, General Jackson engaged Union forces, but the Battle of Chantilly proved to be a tactical set back as General Jackson’s movements were foiled, and he was unable to block the Union retreat or destroy Pope's army.

On September 2nd, as the Confederate Army began marching toward Leesburg, portions of Cole’s Cavalry engaged a superior Confederate force near Leesburg. Many of these troopers of Cole’s Cavalry were from the Emmitsburg and Gettysburg areas. At a severe cost they managed to push back the Confederate cavalry, and then fall back into Harper’s Ferry. With the route to Leesburg and the Potomac River clear of any Union resistance, General Lee, planning his next movement, sent a dispatch to Confederate President Jefferson Davis asking for his approval to take the war north and enter Maryland. General Lee wanted to take the war northward into Maryland for several reasons.

One of the main reasons was to take advantage of the political atmosphere. The morale of the northern people was very low, and the citizens began to have doubts in their elected officials of winning a war. The war had become increasingly unpopular among northern people. Up until now, the war had been fought in Confederate territory. By bringing the war northward into Union territory, the people will see first hand the death and destruction that is left behind. This could force the northern people to demand immediate peace with their elected leaders.

Another reason was because of the fact that the war had been fought in Virginia. Virginia had suffered much and was war torn. Even though the people of Virginia were rejoicing in the latest Confederate series of victories, the Virginia farmers needed to harvest their crops in peace, without the threat of Union forces interfering.

Also, several Marylanders serving in the Confederate army brought it to Lee’s attention that recruitment was a possibility. They felt that Marylanders would view the Confederate army as liberators and not invaders, and those men would flock to enlist in the Confederate army. If the Confederate army was victorious and won a major victory in the north, then England and France would easily be persuaded to recognize the Confederate States as a separate country, with the end result of supporting the South in the war.

The stakes were high for General Lee’s Army and the Confederacy, and everything seemed to hang in the balance of the outcome of this campaign. With President Jefferson Davis’ blessing, General Lee’s Army began to ford the Potomac River near Leesburg on September 4th. Once in Maryland, the Confederate Army marched to, and concentrated on, the city of Frederick. There, they received a less than lukewarm reception and soon orders to Hagerstown were issued. However, the garrison at Harper’s Ferry threatened the rear of the Confederate army, as well as their line of communications and supplies. Then came the sounds of battle. From September 13th through September 20th, the sounds were heard as far away as Emmitsburg, as civilians wrote about hearing the distinct sound of cannon and musketry.

The outcome however, was costly for both armies. At South Mountain more than 6,000 soldiers were wounded, killed, or taken prisoner. At Harper’s Ferry more than 13,000 were taken prisoner by the Confederates under Jackson, and at Antietam there were more than 23,000 casualties. Every community in the north and in the south was affected. These numbers don’t take into consideration of the several skirmishes and small engagements that took place, or the Battle of Shepherdstown, which was the last major battle to be fought during the Maryland Campaign.

The closest thing that could be considered as a Union victory occurred when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, paving the way for freedom for those still under the bondage of slavery. This gave the war a new meaning. No longer was this just a war to preserve the Union, but now it was a war to also free the slaves. The Maryland Campaign changed the war both socially and politically.

Some of the topics that I will cover this year will include the civilian aspect of the invasion, the battle that never occurred at Weverton, and the Battles of South Mountain and the Catoctin Mountain. I will end the year on the Chambersburg Raid.

This year, many communities, non-profit organizations, and government agencies are finalizing their schedules that will commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Maryland Campaign. The Heart of the Civil War is planning some very nice events, in addition to the National Park Service, and the Maryland State Park Service at South Mountain State Battlefield. In Franklin County, Pennsylvania there will also be events taking place. I encourage you to take advantage of the seminars, programs, and events that will commemorate this important piece of our history.

Read Part 4

Read more about Emmitsburg in the Civil War