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 The Civil War Along Tom's Creek and Waynesboro Pike

Holding Fairfield & the Waynesboro Pike

Prelude to the Battle of Monterey

John Miller

Part 3 of 5

Before the Gettysburg Campaign, Generals John Imboden and William (Grumble) Jones' fought most of their Civil War career in the western areas of modern day West Virginia. Together they carried out one of the most daring raids during the Civil War in April of 1863. The raid went completely around West Virginia and entered Oakland, Maryland. The purpose of the raid was to destroy the B & O railroad overhangs that were vital to the Federal Army. This was known as the Jones and Imboden Raid. As the Gettysburg Campaign was unfolding parts of the Army of Southwestern Virginia was summoned to General Lee to assist in the Confederate Invasion of Pennsylvania. By June 30th General Jones’ Cavalry Brigade was closing in on the Mason and Dixon Line.

On July 1st General Grumble Jones and his Cavalry brigade crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland. There he left the 12th Virginia Cavalry on the southern side of the Potomac while Colonel White’s 35th Virginia Cavalry was detached to operate independently. On July 2nd, General Jones and his Cavalry marched from Greencastle to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania where they encamped that night.

Shortly after midnight, General Jones’ Brigade consisting of the 6th, 7th, 11th Cavalry Regiments, and Chew’s Battery began their march toward Cashtown. Once they arrived in Cashtown, General Jones received an order from General Lee. The order stated that there needed to be a force of Cavalry to form a battle line near Fairfield. Complying with General Lee’s request, General Jones traveled the road leading from Cashtown to Fairfield. It was at this same time that General Imboden was guarding the Divisional supply wagons of the Confederate Army. The Confederate wagons were moved further to rear of the main Confederate Army near Cashtown.

General Wesley Merrit’s Cavalry was moving from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg when a local resident notified Merrit’s command of Confederate Wagons assembling near Fairfield. Once the General Merritt received word of the wagon trains movement near Fairfield, he ordered the 6th U.S. Cavalry under Major Samuel H. Starr to scout the area in Fairfield and to find the wagon train.

Moving back toward Emmitsburg, the 6th U.S. Cavalry took a road leading into Fairfield where they realized that the Confederate wagon train must have been approaching Cashtown. As the afternoon progressed, not a rebel was spotted nor was the wagon train. Major Starr ordered the men to halt. However Major Starr found out that some of the wagons he was looking for had left Fairfield before his arrival.

Once in Fairfield, Major Starr learned that a wagon train had just rolled out of town and was heading to Cashtown. He divided his 400 men and began to search for the wagon train. He ordered Captain George Cram to follow the old railroad bed that was at the western end of Fairfield. Major Starr also sent Lieutenant Christian Balder ahead of the column on the Fairfield and Orrtanna Road (Carroll's Tract Road) to catch up with the rear with the wagon train that was moving to Cashtown. Major Starr and the other members of the 6th U.S. Cavalry followed behind but nothing was spotted.

Lieutenant Christian Balder’s small band was just a few yards away when they spotted roughly 50 pickets of the 7th Virginia Cavalry. Lieutenant Balder managed to push back the Confederates until suddenly he was overwhelmed and ordered a retreat. He turned his men around and rode toward Major Starr to inform him of the situation.

As Major Starr’s men cleared a small ridge, he ordered them to dismount and form a battle line on both sides of the road. As the Federal Cavalry moved to their line of battle, 50 men of the 7th Virginia Cavalry charged, and were repulsed by the 6th U. S. Cavalry who had taken refuge near the gates and threw out their men on both sides of the country road. The 7th Virginia Cavalry quickly fell back and took up defenses on a country lane that was enclosed by a rail fence.

General Jones later recalled the failure of the 7th Virginia Cavalry was due to the lack of promptly being rallied by it’s officers. General Jones ordered the 6th Virginia Cavalry to support the 7th Virginia Cavalry and try to reorganize their battle lines. The 7th Virginia would soon redeem itself during the various skirmishes on Waynesboro Pike.

Upon arriving on the field, Chew’s Battery took up position in a Wheatfield and began shelling the Federal Cavalry. The 7th was re-enforced by the 6th Virginia Cavalry and a part of the 11th Virginia Cavalry. The 7th was situated on both sides of the country road while the 11th supported the 7th Virginia’s left flank. With the 6th Virginia in support, the Confederate Cavalry charged and forced the 6th U. S. Cavalry Regiment to retire with heavy losses. The 6th U. S. Cavalry losses were 6 killed, 28 wounded, and 208 accounted for.

Lieutenant Nicholas Nolan recalls when the 6th U. S. Cavalry began falling back:

"After the regiment was repulsed from Fairfield, I immediately commenced 'retreating,' disputing every inch of ground with the enemy. Finding the enemy in force, I gradually fell back in the direction of Mechanicstown, where I found the regiment, and also ascertained that the commanding officer was wounded and in the hands of the enemy."

The Confederates pursued the retreating Federal cavalry for about three miles, through the streets of Fairfield, to the entrance of Fairfield Gap, where they finally gave up the chase. Lieutenant Nolan fearing he was being cut off found the only exit through the Confederate lines. He and some of his comrades made their escape through the streets of Fairfield. After being chased, Lieutenant Nolan headed toward the Maryland Border to Emmitsburg as fast as they could. Once there, Lieutenant Nolan led his small detachment to their old camp near Mechanicstown (Thurmont), where they met Major Starr's remnants that had also fled the scene from Fairfield.

Lieutenant John Blue of the 11th Virginia Cavalry regarded the situation:

"The chase was soon dispensed. Lt. Louis H. Carpenter of the 6th U. S. managed to assemble some of the disorganized Federals three times in half a mile, checking Jones' advance and compelling him back through Fairfield. By this time, Carpenter had only 100 men with him, and Nolan an additional fifty. Their ardor for the chase thus chilled, Jones' Brigade then went into camp. The remnants of the 6th U. S. Cavalry fled all the way to Emmitsburg, where its survivors found fragments of the rest of the Reserve Brigade."

The losses for the 7th Virginia Cavalry were 8 killed, 21 wounded, and 5 missing. During the charge Richard Black of Company "B" had his horse killed and later on was paid $600.00 to compensate his lost.

After the battle of Fairfield, General Jones and his Brigade camped for the night about a mile outside of Fairfield. By this time, the last battle of July 3rd was over. Later that night the Union Cavalry started it's withdraw from Gettysburg, Union Colonel Pennock Huey commanding the Second Brigade Cavalry of General Greg’s Division received orders to move his command to Emmitsburg, for the purpose of taking possession and holding the town. Colonel Huey's command bivouacked near Westminster to receive rations and forage where they would pick up their march to Emmitsburg in the morning.

Around 11 o'clock that night, General Imboden received word from a courier that General Robert E. Lee had summoned him to his headquarters. After riding from Fairfield to Lee's Headquarters, General Imboden met with Lee around 1 o'clock in the morning on July 4th. It was during this meeting that General Lee order General Imboden to lead the wagon train of wounded men back to Virginia.

General Lee instructed the full retreat of his army. General Lee issued the orders for a retreat with the importance of doing so in perfect order. General A. P. Hill's Corps would lead the way by withdrawing from it’s position after dark. A. P. Hill's Corps was to proceed on the Fairfield road through the mountain passes of Fairfield and Monterey. General Longstreet's Corps would then follow. General Richard Ewell's Corps then brought up the rear of the Confederate Army.

The wagon trains that accompany the army would move between the leading and the rear corps, each under the charge of their respective chief quartermasters and Lieutenant Colonel James L. Corley who was chief quartermaster and would regulate the order in which they moved. The artillery of each army corps would move under the charge of their respective officers of artillery under the commander of the artillery of the army.

After dark, on July 3, Stuart withdrew his Cavalry from the battlefield to the York Road, where he encamped for the night. The main army was at the same time withdrawn to the ridges west of Gettysburg. Information of this activity did not reach Stuart, and it was only by a personal visit to army headquarters during the latter part of the night that he was made aware of it. His command was now in an isolated and dangerous position. In the early morning of July 4th, Stuart reorganized his line of march putting his cavalry in a much safer area.

General Stuart was to designate a cavalry command, not exceeding two squadrons, to follow the army in it’s line of march. General Stuart was to also direct one or two brigades to proceed to Cashtown until the rear of the army has passed through the mountains passes. General Stuart's Cavalry would then take the route to Emmitsburg, Maryland and proceed to Cavetown and Boonsboro, guarding the left and rear of the army.

Once General Imboden rode back into Fairfield, the men of the wagon train had time to rest and collect their thoughts. By 9 a.m. the wagons, ambulances, and wounded could not move until late in the afternoon. As General Imboden was making his final preparations, Confederate scouts were sent out into Emmitsburg searching for Union Cavalry.

Early in the morning Saturday, July 4, Confederate cavalry under the command of General Albert Jenkins came into Emmitsburg. General Jenkins was patrolling nearby the wagon train that was in Fairfield. The Confederate detail under the command of Colonels Chambliss and Ferguson, came to the junction of Zora and headed toward Emmitsburg.

General Lee ordered the two key passes at Monterey and Fairfield to be secured in case of a Confederate retreat. These two passes provided the shortest distance back to the Potomac River. If the Union would take possession of these mountain passes, General Lee would be forced to take an unfamiliar route, possibly cutting off their retreat. General Lee could not afford to take such a risk.

With concerns of the supply wagon being attack by Federal Cavalry, General Jones volunteered his command to escort it back into Virginia. The command of the Confederate Army thought that was a great idea and granted permission to General Jones. General Jones’ Brigade along with Chew’s Battery would be the main force guarding the wagons. Portions of the 7th Virginia Cavalry was used as sharpshooters along the Waynesboro and Emmitsburg Pike, targeting any Federal Scouts that were on reconnaissance.

General Jones also dispatched the 11th Virginia Cavalry along with Moorman’s Battery to guard the road leading from Emmitsburg to Fairfield. Captain A. J. Ware commanding the Bath County Squadron (Company F, 11th Virginia Cavalry) was ordered to scout the enemy’s movements coming from the direction of Emmitsburg. Captain Ware encountered a Federal Regiment and charged the Federal body back into Emmitsburg. The next day Captain Ware’s men were to picket near Jack’s Mountain. Colonel Lomax commander of the 11th Virginia Cavalry mentions that such a fight that took place near Fairfield on the night of July 4th and 5th:

"Found a regiment of adversary cavalry advancing, which I drove back nearly to the junction of the road with the Emmitsburg Pike. The following day his regiment was instructed to take post on the road leading to the Emmitsburg Pike" with one company ordered to move on the pike to the top of Jack's Mountain, to determine the movements of the cavalry column of the adversary."

Captain W. K. Martin, Acting Adjutant of Jones’ Cavalry Brigade noted that on the evening of the 4th, his regiment was in line of battle, supporting Moorman's battery on the road leading from Fairfield to Emmitsburg. By the morning of the 5th his regiment was ordered to take post on the road crossing the mountain and leading to the Emmitsburg pike. Captain John R. Pendleton was ordered to take his company, and move on the pike to the top of Jack's Mountain, to ascertain the movements of a Cavalry column of the enemy that had passed the evening before.

Captain Pendleton took a number of prisoners and horses from the stragglers of the enemy, but found no enemy in force. Captain M. M. Ball was ordered to Emmitsburg, to open communication lines with Major-General Stuart, who was supposed to be at that point. Captain Ball found the enemy pickets about 3 miles from Emmitsburg, and drove the pickets in. On reaching Emmitsburg, he found the enemy in possession of the town and was forced to retire, with the loss of 1 man severely wounded.

Jones’ Brigade had completed their objective. Which was to hold the mountain passes and picket the left flank of the Confederate Army as the Army of Northern Virginia began it’s withdraw from Gettysburg. One fact remains, Fairfield is the only Cavalry Battle in Pennsylvania that was clearly a Confederate victory during the Gettysburg Campaign. Now the long road home would begin through Monterey Pass, the gateway of agony. Generals Jones and Beverly Robertson would have to pull together their small brigades to get the supply wagons of the Army of the Northern Virginia back home safely.

Read Part 4

Read other articles by John Miller