Today, most people think of South Mountain and the military
operations during the Maryland Campaign of 1862 as the only
actions that took place on South Mountain during the Civil War.
The battles of Turner's Gap, Fox's Gap and Crampton's Gap were all
fought on September 14th, 1862 as Union General George McClellan's
Army of the Potomac closed in on General Lee's Army of Northern
Virginia. Three days later, a bloody battle took place along the
Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg.
South Mountain is a mountain range that covers three states.
Near Hillsboro, Virginia South Mountain is known as Short Hill
Mountain that covers an area between Hillsboro and Leesburg and
follows to the Potomac River. South Mountain then extends into
Maryland at Knoxville and crosses into Pennsylvania at Blue Ridge
Summit and ends at Dillsburg as a series of small hills near the
Susquehanna River outside of Harrisburg covering a distance of
more than seventy miles.
South Mountain consists of several mountain gaps and passes.
Typically the definition of a mountain pass is a location in a
range of mountains that is lower than the surrounding peaks. A
mountain gap travels between mountain peaks. During the Civil War
the Armies waging campaigns into Maryland and Pennsylvania used
many South Mountain Gaps and Passes. Crampton's Gap is located
where Arnoldstown and Gapland Roads intersect. Fox's Gap is
located on the old Sharpsburg Road known as Reno Monument Road.
Turner's Gap is located on the old National Road between
Middletown and Boonsboro.
Also on South Mountain toward the northern section of Maryland,
Wolf's Tavern Pass connects the Thurmont area to the Smithsburg
and Cavetown area. Raven Rock Pass is located on a section of
roadway that once traveled from Hagerstown to Westminster. The
Pennsylvania side of South Mountain consists of three main
mountain passes that were used extensively during the Pennsylvania
Campaign. Monterey Pass connects Emmitsburg and Waynesboro with
the Fairfield Road that leads through Fairfield Pass. From
Chambersburg to Gettysburg one must travel through the Cashtown
General Lee learning from the mistakes of the Maryland Campaign
wanted to concentrate his army at Chambersburg. In Pennsylvania,
General Lee could gather as much livestock, food and supplies as
he needed to carry out the war for another year. South Mountain
acted as a natural barrier dividing the Confederate Army from the
Union Army. With this natural barrier there developed several key
strategies. With Chambersburg being the concentration point of the
Confederate Army, Lee could guard the rear of his army if he
needed to retreat or attack General Hooker on the eastern side of
General Hooker in return needed to protect Washington and he
too used South Mountain to do just that. General Hooker also knew
if he crossed over South Mountain, he could harass the rear of
Lee's Army and if necessary attack Lee in Northern Maryland or
Pennsylvania. However, on June 27th, General George Meade took
command of the Army of the Potomac and he didn't like the lay out
of the army and felt that the best way to defend Washington and
Baltimore was to hit General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia head
On June 28th, General Meade issued his marching orders to march
northward to Emmitsburg, Taneytown and Union Mills. He wasn't sure
of General Lee's intentions as far as attacking York and Baltimore
or swinging back down the valley and maybe attacking Frederick and
on to Washington. The worst possible scenario for General Lee
would be to make a stand at South Mountain in Pennsylvania. By
ordering the Union Army northward, General Meade would have
control of every road leading to Baltimore, Frederick or even
Washington. South Mountain played a very big role in the army's
advance into Pennsylvania.
South Mountain was very important not only for communication
but also because control of the gaps and mountain peaks meant
control of the area. Both armies felt the need to obtain and
protect their positions by using these mountain gaps and peaks.
Because of this troops often encamped at such places playing the
role of communication and observation. These types of instances
happened quite often, especially when campaigns were waged nearby.
Communication was major factor that played a crucial role along
South Mountain. Both armies had several ways of communicating and
The Signal Corps used South Mountain during the Pennsylvania
Campaign. The Signal Corps communicated with each other through
Myer's Wig Wag System. Albert J. Myer, in 1856 drafted this system
that used flags and each movement of the flag represented the
number 1,2 or 3. They could communicate with each other by waving
these flags in a series of codes. Situated on the highest and
clear point they would translate or send out messages. They used
two types of signal flags. One flag would be red with a smaller
white square in the center, while the second was all white and a
smaller red square in the center. Each movement of the signal
flags represented a letter. The signalmen would wave these flags
while the intended party who was observing these flags would look
through a telescope calling out the numbers and another man would
write the numbers down. Then they would decipher what the message
Another way of communication was by telegraph. The armies had
what was called a Flying Telegraph battalion or company. They
would set up near the signal corps or where they could best serve
the commanders. From there they would set up a station and run
wires to the telegraph pole to tap into the telegraph line. This
meant messages could be sent faster than having a courier ride
several miles and hand deliver that same message. The wagon
carried a huge battery to give it the electricity needed to
The Pennsylvania Campaign
On June 15th, 1863, the first portions of General Robert E.
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia were crossing the Potomac River
near Hagerstown, Maryland. At this time the Union Army under
General Joseph Hooker could not pinpoint General Lee's exact
location, as he had used South Mountain as cover to screen his
movements. In order to find the Confederate Army's location,
General Hooker needed to seize the mountain passes at South
Mountain. But unknown to General Lee, Union scouts had seen his
movements in Maryland as early as June 17th. Because of this
General Hooker started to develop a plan of attack.
As General Jenkin's Cavalry crossed the Potomac River on the
15th of June, Confederate General Richard Ewell ordered the 1st
Maryland Cavalry to Frederick and destroy the iron railroad
brigade at Monocacy. The Marylander's crossed South Mountain at
Tuner's Gap and entered Frederick where they were met by heavy
resistance from Federal Cavalry. After a spirited skirmish, the
Marylander's occupied Frederick. After it was known that cavalry
could not destroy the iron brigade, Gilmore pulled his Maryland
Cavalry back. The Marylanders crossed Turner's Gap moving toward
Boonsboro and made it safely at Hagerstown.
During the morning of June 18th, General Hooker requested that
a signal station be built at Crampton's Gap on South Mountain.
General Hooker also asked for cavalry support that was near
Harper's Ferry to seize all mountain gaps from Maryland Heights to
Boonsboro. General Robert C. Schenck received General Hooker's
request to spare a portion of his artillery, infantry, and
cavalry, to seize and hold the South Mountain passes, as well as
holding Maryland Heights and the passage via Sandy Hook. This is
in preparation of the Union Army entering Maryland.
On June 19th, General Hooker ordered General Samuel P.
Heintzelman who was at Poolesville to help seize the mountain gaps
on South Mountain. General Heintzelman's force consisted of 1600
infantry, one battery and five troops of cavalry. Realizing that
his line would be stretched too thin, General Heintzelman wrote to
General Hooker and asked him if General Schenck's forces at
Harper's Ferry could hold South Mountain as the mountain range was
in the Middle Department under his command. General Hooker was
forced to operate without General Heintzelman's support and
Thinking that a battle would be fought at or near Harper's
Ferry, Chief Engineer General Gouverneur K. Warren wrote to
General Hooker about preparing the Army of the Potomac for battle
with these deployment ideas:
1. The whole of Lee's army is reported to be on the Potomac,
above that place, part of it across the river, and threatening
an advance upon Harrisburg.
2. There we can protect Washington as well, and Baltimore
better than here, and preserve our communications and routes of
3. It is the shortest line to reach Lee's army; will enable
us to operate on his communications, if he advances; to throw
overwhelming forces on either portion of his army that he allows
the river to divide; and is too strong a position for him to
attack us in, even if we make heavy detachments.
4. It will enable us to pass South Mountain without fighting
for the passes, if we wish to move upon him, and will thus
destroy any advantages these mountains would give as a
protection to his right flank.
5. It will prevent Lee from detaching a corps to invade
Pennsylvania with, as it would expose the rest of his army to
our attack in superior force.
6. These opinions are based upon the idea that we are not to
try and go round his army, and drive it out of Maryland, as we
did last year, but to paralyze all its movements by threatening
its flank and rear if it advances, and gain time to collect
re-enforcements sufficient to render us the stronger army of the
two, if we are not so already.
A view of Monterey Gap
from Waynesboro, Pa.
On June 22nd a skirmish erupted at Monterey Pass near the Mason
and Dixon Line of South Mountain as Company D of the 14th Virginia
Cavalry of General Albert Jenkins' Brigade ran into an armed
militia of Captain Robert Bell's 21st Pennsylvania, Captain David Conaughy's Home Guard and a detachment of 1st Troop Philadelphia
City Cavalry under Captain Samuel Randall. Confederate skirmishers
scoured the woods on foot on each side of the Emmitsburg and
Waynesboro Turnpike. When the Federal cavalry left, the
Confederates reached Monterey Springs and continued firing at
several bodies on horseback to enter Fairfield at dusk. This was
the first fight that took place on South Mountain during the
On June 23rd and 24th, General Hooker requested to have more
Federal troops in possession of South Mountain and Hooker's orders
were being carried out by General French, as Union scouts were
overlooking and watching the Hagerstown Valley as well as Pleasant
Valley. During the early hours of June 25th, General John Reynolds
ordered General Oliver O. Howard to send a brigade of infantry
along with a battery of rifled guns to report to General Stahel
and his cavalry at Crampton's Gap.
On June 26th, General Oliver O. Howard's 11th Corps began to
occupy the mountain gaps along South Mountain. His headquarters
was located at the Cookerly farm outside of Middletown. General
Howard posted one brigade at Crampton's Gap, one at Turner's Gap,
and another brigade on the road to Burkittsville and the final
brigade on the Hagerstown Road. During the evening General Howard
sent a dispatch to General Reynolds that stated that no
Confederate force reported to have been seen at Crampton's Gap.
General John Reynolds led his 1st Corps to Jefferson, Maryland and
would proceed to Middletown the following day.
General Julies Stahel reported to General Reynolds through a
dispatch that the whole Confederate Army had passed through
Hagerstown and was now in Pennsylvania. General Anderson's
Division of General A.P. Hill Corps had passed through Boonsboro
on the 25th at around 6 a.m. He also reported that General Ewell's
Corps had passed through Hagerstown and was heading toward
Harrisburg. He had about 25,000 troops along with sixty-six pieces
of artillery. A portion of General Ewell's Corps was seen in
Smithsburg with at least sixteen pieces of artillery. He then
reported that a small band of Confederate cavalry was located in
Boonsboro, but soon moved on.
General Stahel's deployment was stretched all across South
Mountain. He had one brigade and a section of artillery posted at
Crampton's Gap as well as a brigade and two sections of artillery
from General Howard's Corps. He had one regiment at Turner's Gap
and one brigade and two sections of artillery at Middletown.
During the morning of June 27th, General Birnery was ordered by
General Reynolds to send one infantry brigade and a battery of
rifle guns to Crampton's Gap to relieve the forces of General
Howard once he arrived in the neighborhood of Jefferson and
Burkittsville. While General Howard's men at Crampton's Gap were
waiting to be relieved, Colonel William D. Mann commanding the 7th
Michigan Cavalry occupied Turner's Gap and sent patrols throughout
the valley toward Hagerstown. He reported that four hundred
Confederate cavalry and three pieces of artillery were in the area
of Jones' Crossroads. Most of the Confederate forces had left
Hagerstown and were concentrating their efforts at Chambersburg
and fortifying the area. Some of Colonel Mann's scouts reported
that large quantities of supplies were being sent back to
Virginia. Colonel Mann wanted to send a small force toward Jones'
Crossroads and requested one mountain howitzer to accompany them.
General Adolph Von Steinwehr commanding the 11th Corps' Second
Division sent a dispatch to General Reynolds at Middletown that
his scouts had seen 5, 000 of Stuart's Cavalry that passed through
Williamsport during the afternoon. This may be part of the cavalry
force that was foraging the farms of Pennsylvania and returning
the goods to Winchester. These foraging excursions happened
throughout the Pennsylvania Campaign. In preparation of any
Confederate advance toward Frederick, General Steinwehr deployed
his force at Turner's Gap. Colonel Charles R. Coster's Brigade was
deployed near Turner's Gap; Colonel Orland Smith's Second Brigade
occupied the summit of Turner's Gap with one regiment connecting
to Colonel Coster's First Brigade. The artillery was left with the
Colonel Coster's First Brigade and if necessary were to be brought
up in a half hours time. He also had outposts scattered all over
South Mountain. Washington Monument was used because of the view
of the valley below.
During the afternoon, General Oliver O. Howard occupied
Turner's Gap and sat up his headquarters at the Mountain House.
General Howard also reported that he saw no threat of the
Confederate Army in or around Boonsboro or the Valley. Colonel
Smith had Captain Buchwalter of the 73rd Ohio Infantry operate the
signal station at Washington Monument. Captain Buchwalter noted
that one can clearly distinguish the roads leading from Boonsboro
to Hagerstown, Sharpsburg, and Shepherdstown, and did not see any
troops moving upon them, except the Union cavalry.
Lt. Colonel Asmusse who served as the 11th Corps Chief of Staff
reported that Confederate cavalry was driving cattle and horses
through the valley toward Williamsport. He also noted that pickets
were set in the fields outside of Hagerstown, Maryland. The
headquarters of the Army of the Potomac moved to Frederick, and an
attempt was made to open communication between Frederick and the
station on Sugar Loaf Mountain, which proved unsuccessful due to
the unfavorable condition of the atmosphere. A station of
observation was established at Middletown, and communication
opened from there to another point of observation at South
Mountain Pass, and the results were reported to Generals John F.
Reynolds and Oliver O. Howard.
During the Pennsylvania Campaign,
Cole's Cavalry separated and
each company was to act as an independent organization. On June
27th, Lieutenant William A. Horner asked permission to take a
dozen men and go through the Confederate lines to see what was
going on. After some debate Captain Albert Hunter, commanding
Company C of Cole's Cavalry allowed a dozen of his troopers to go
on reconnaissance. On June 28th, they left Boonsboro and traveled
to Waynesboro over South Mountain to the
small town of Fountain
Dale that sits along the eastern side of South Mountain. Seeing a
detachment of twenty-five Confederate soldiers from Pegram's
Artillery Battalion foraging for horses, Lieutenant Horner ordered
his detachment to charge. During this small skirmish, many of the
Confederate soldiers were captured and all of the horses taken
On June 28th, newly appointed commander of the Army of the
Potomac General Meade issued his marching orders to his Corps
Commanders to march northward Pennsylvania. Lt. Colonel Rufus R. Dawes of the 6th
Wisconsin Infantry wrote about the Union advance toward
Pennsylvania: "We left South Mountain in great haste on the 28th
and marched to Frederick through a drizzling rain as usual. Next
day we moved from Frederick to Emmitsburg, Md., and today we came
here, where we are having a muster for pay. I don't think I ever
before saw at this time of the year such a long continued, misty,
drizzling storm as we have been marching through since we crossed
the Potomac. General Meade as commander of the army was a
surprise." Lieutenant William Wheeler of the 13th New York
Battery also reflected on the movements of the Army of the
Potomac. "The artillery took a road for itself that day, in order
not to be encumbered by the infantry, and we made a march of about
thirty miles to reach Jefferson City, where we camped in long, wet
grass, exposed to a heavy rain storm. The next morning my Battery
marched with one brigade to Burkettsville, which lies at the foot
of South Mountain, and was the scene of the battle of that name in
last September. We passed through Frederick after nightfall, and
did not see the place; the next day we marched to Emmitsburg and
rested there, preparatory to the approaching conflict."
On June 29th, the Federal cavalry and Battery A of the 2nd U.S.
Artillery under John Buford moved toward Pennsylvania
investigating the Confederate forces in the area. General Buford
left Middletown and took the National Pike to Boonsboro, Maryland
where he then took the road to Smithsburg; from there he traveled
up to Monterey Pass. As General John Buford stood at the opening
of Monterey Pass through South Mountain, overlooking the
Cumberland Valley, he saw the dust in the background toward the
mountains in the Greencastle area. At this time it was evident to
General Buford that a major battle would soon erupt in
south-central Pennsylvania. Unfortunately for General Lee, his
army was spotted; this was the downside of using a mountain to
screen his movements.
General Wesley Merrit and his cavalry were ordered near
Mechanicstown, Maryland, after being ordered to guard Harman's
Pass on the Catoctin Mountain and watching Wolf's Tavern Pass upon
South Mountain. These soldiers were the Army of the Potomac's U.S.
Cavalry. The U.S. Cavalry was to guard and to protect the roadways
and communication lines in the vicinity of Mechanicstown. Its duty
was also to guard the Army of the Potomac's supply wagons
consisting of an aggregating ten thousand four hundred. General
Merritt controlled the mountain passes. A dispatch came to General Merrit on July 2nd to move forward with the wagon train to
Emmitsburg, Maryland. General Merrit then received orders to meet
with General Kilpatrick on the battlefield of Gettysburg that
Very late on July 3rd and during the early morning hours of
July 4th, 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 its position after dark. General 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 brought up
the rear of the Confederate Army. General John Imboden was ordered
to lead the wagon train of wounded through South Mountain at
Cashtown Pass to Chambersburg and then onto Williamsport.
General Lee ordered the two key passes at Monterey and
Fairfield to be secured for the 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.
While General Lee was preparing for the return to Virginia,
General Meade ordered General French who was at Frederick to send
a detachment of men to Turner's Gap and hold South Mountain in
case General Lee would try to cross and attack Frederick. General
French ordered General William H. Morris to take his Second
Brigade and to take possession of South Mountain and the mountain
gaps from Turner's Gap to Crampton's Gap. General Morris' command
was also to report any movements of the Confederate Army in the
valley marching toward Hagerstown. Morris deployed his command
along the mountain passes and waited for any Confederate advance.
On July 4th, the Union Cavalry was ordered to begin harassing
General Lee's Army as it retreated. Union General Judson
Kilpatrick's Cavalry Division was order to seize and destroy the
Confederate wagon train that traveling through the mountain passes
upon South Mountain. The first mountain pass that was hit by the
Union Cavalry was Monterey Pass.
Monterey Pass is located in the southeastern portion of
Franklin, County Pennsylvania on South Mountain and is made up of
two geographical mountain peaks. Mount Dunlap is 1,760 feet above
sea level and Monterey Peak is 1,420 above sea level. The Monterey
Pass area extends into four counties and is divided by two states
along the Mason and Dixon Line. Franklin and Adams Counties make
up the Pennsylvania side while Frederick and Washington Counties
make up the Maryland side. Situated in the middle of Monterey Pass
is the community of Blue Ridge Summit.
The battle of Monterey Pass was the second largest battle in
Pennsylvania and was the only battle fought on both sides of the
Mason and Dixon Line taking place in four counties. Being a direct
route to the Potomac River, Monterey Pass was used by the bulk of
the Confederate Army during it's withdraw from Gettysburg.
On the evening of July 4th, 1863, one of the most confusing
battles of the Civil War occurred during the retreat from
Gettysburg known as the battle of Monterey Pass. General Robert E.
Lee had given the order to retreat from Gettysburg. During this
retreat General Ewell's Confederate wagon train took the road
leading over Jack's Mountain from Fairfield.
At around 9:00 p.m. near Fountain Dale, Pa. the Union cavalry
under the command of General Kilpatrick came in contact with the
Confederate 1st Maryland cavalry under Captain George Emack, who
had a small detail guarding the approach to Monterey, re-enforced
by one cannon from Captain William Tanner's Battery that was
loaded with two rounds of ammunition.
Darkness set in during a blinding rainstorm. The Confederates
wearing gum blankets were mistaken as Union troops by Kilpatrick's
cavalry as they made their way from Fountain Dale. Knowing that
their identity was withheld, the order came to fire the cannon. As
the confusion subsided, the Confederates charged, pushing the
Federals back until they reached the Federal artillery that was
near Fountain Dale. After gaining the eastern summit at the
Monterey House, Pennington's Battery deployed and began shelling
the enemy's wagons.
Fairfield Pass is located a few miles southeast of Monterey
Pass on the old Maria Furnace Road that is no longer traveled.
Modern day Furnace Road replaced the old road. It was where the
Fairfield Road followed the western side of Jacks Mountain and
then entered the western side of Pine Mountain near the eastern
side of Wildcat Rocks and turns into the Devil's Racecourse. Pine
Mountain stands nearly 1400 feet above sea level while Wildcat
Rocks stands at 1500 feet above sea level. The Devil's Racecourse
is a term that was used to describe a portion of the Pennsylvania
side of the old Maria Furnace Road that was straight and ran
between Buzzards Roost and Monterey Peak. Closer to Raven Rock is
the other portion of the Devil's Racecourse.
The 1st Michigan Cavalry under Lt. Colonel Peter Stagg was sent
upon a road leading to Fairfield Pass near Pine Mountain to head
off the Confederate wagon train coming out of Fairfield. Lt.
Colonel Stagg's portion of the 1st Michigan Cavalry traveled
eastward toward Fairfield Gap, he ran into Confederate soldiers
belonging to the 5th North Carolina Cavalry and two companies of
the 11th Virginia Cavalry under the command of Captain A. J. Ware
that were protecting the rear of General Ewell's wagon train and
guarding Fairfield Pass. 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
As Captain Brevoort's squad led Lt. Colonel Stagg's advance
they took on a few Confederate prisoners as they headed westward
toward Monterey Pass from the old road. During the advance, the
Confederate's brought up a cannon belonging to Mooreman's Battery
and fired grape and canister at them. Captain Brevoort, seeing the
cannon ahead, ordered his men to follow the side of the road. When
the cannon fired it missed the front portion of Captain Brevoort's
column, but injured many that brought up the rear.
In the same weather conditions as Monterey, Captain Wells'
squadron of the 1st Michigan Cavalry was ordered to dismount and
be deployed as skirmishers. Fighting raged for three hours as the
1st Michigan Cavalry fought their way through the Confederate
battle lines. As the Confederates held their ground, Lieutenant
Colonel Stagg against superior numbers ordered Captain William
Elliott's squadron to charge the Confederates.
In leading the charge, Colonel Stagg's horse was killed, and
the falling horse seriously injured Colonel Stagg. Captain Elliott
was mortally wounded and Lieutenant James S. McElhenny and twenty
men of Captain Elliott's squadron were killed during the fight.
Captain Ware's men charged the 1st Michigan Cavalry back toward
the Emmitsburg Pike.
By 3:30 a.m. the Union cavalry reached the road where Ewell's
wagon train was located, capturing and destroying 9 miles worth of
wagons, taking 1,360 prisoners and a large number of horses and
mules as they moved on to Waterloo and ended at Ringgold. During
the battle of Monterey Pass, General Kilpatrick ordered Lieutenant
Colonel Addison Preston and his 1st Vermont Cavalry to cross over
South Mountain and attack the wagon train at the western base of
the mountain. As Lieutenant Colonel Preston passed through Raven
Rock Pass, no wagons were seen in Smithsburg. Colonel Preston
headed toward Lietersburg and engaged Confederate forces,
destroying a large number of wagons and capturing a large number
of prisoners. From there Lieutenant Colonel Preston headed to
Ringgold where he came upon General Kilpatrick.
Operating behind Confederate lines at Ringgold, Maryland,
General Kilpatrick was in a dangerous situation. He had to get to
Turner's Gap in order to seek safety. General French had
re-enforcements already at Tuner's Gap and General John Buford was
heading in the same direction. Following South Mountain due
southward, he pressed on to Smithsburg. Fearing a possible attack
from the direction of Emmitsburg, General Kilpatrick sent scouts
into the areas of South Mountain protecting his cavalry near Raven
On July 5th, during the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg,
Union cavalry had destroyed many bridges that spanned across the
Potomac River. Cole's Cavalry destroyed the bridge at Harper's
Ferry and detachments of General William French's force destroyed
the bridge at Falling Waters. This would slow General Lee's Army
crossing into Virginia. General French also stated that the layout
of General Lee's Army in the valley reminded him of the previous
Maryland Campaign that was waged a year before. General William
French was in possession of the mountain passes on South Mountain
and could harass General Lee using Crampton's Gap to delay their
arrival to the Potomac River, which was flowing very high due to
the weather conditions. Fearing that Confederate cavalry under
General JEB Stuart was covering General Lee's flanks, General
Stuart's Cavalry passed through Emmitsburg during the dawn hours.
As General JEB Stuart entered Emmitsburg, a sharp skirmish
developed and seventy Union soldiers were taken prisoner. Stuart
learned of the action at Monterey Pass and traveled to
Creagerstown, where he then met up with the rest of his column in
Graceham. He learned that the road needed to get across the
Catoctin and South Mountains were guarded by General Wesley
Merritt's troops at Harman's Pass. After the battle of Gettysburg,
General Merritt was ordered to guard the same mountain passes as
he did before the battle of Gettysburg.
Raven Rock Pass.
Stuart's men traveled back toward Emmitsburg stopping at
Franklinville. Cutting his way through the Catoctin and
South Mountains via Emmitsburg Gap on through Harbaugh Valley, Stuart made his way to
Deerfield. Near Deerfield, General Stuart divided his cavalry at
the intersection at Zion Church. General Stuart sent Colonel
Ferguson on the lower road that was a direct route to Smithsburg.
General Stuart and Colonel Chambliss traveled the upper road that
took them through Raven Rock Pass and back on the old Hagerstown
Colonel Ferguson's Brigade was making its way toward Smithsburg
using Raven Rock Pass and upon emerging from South Mountain, saw
General Kilpatrick's Cavalry commanding the approach to
Smithsburg. General Kilpatrick had deployed his cavalry on three
hills. General Custer's Brigade and Pennington's guns held the
hill on the left. Colonel Huey's Brigade and Fuller's Battery held
the hill known as Gardenhour's Hill at the center of General
Kilpatrick's deployment. To General Kilpatrick's right on Goat
Hill was Colonel Nathaniel Richmond's Brigade with Elder's
Colonel Ferguson would attack the right of General Kilpatrick's
line while General Stuart and Colonel Chambliss's Brigade would
try to dislodge Kilpatrick from the left branching off from the
main road. Soon both cavalry forces began to engage between
Smithsburg and Raven Rock Pass. Fuller's Battery opened fire on
Stuart's Cavalry. Griffin's Battery was placed on the high ground
known as Nicodemus Hill and began to open fire. During the
exchange of cannon fire, a lone shell hit a home in Smithsburg.
The shell is still lodged in the side of the brick house today.
Stuart's and Kilpatrick's Cavalrymen dismounted and fought a hard
battle until dusk. Seeing Stuart's troopers on the move, General Kilpatrick
thought that General Stuart ordered a withdraw from the field.
Seeing this Kilpatrick, carrying baggage from the previous day's
battle ordered his command to withdraw from the field. Kilpatrick
using the western base of South Mountain pulled his forces to
During the evening of July 5th, General Meade issued orders for
the Army of the Potomac to begin its removal from the battlefield
at Gettysburg the next morning. The 6th Corps followed the rear of
the General Lee's Army as it continued its withdraw from
Gettysburg. The 1st Corps, 3rd Corps and the 6th Corps would march
to Emmitsburg, taking the direct road to Mechanicstown, Lewistown
and Hamburg before reaching Middletown. The 5th Corps and the 11th
Corps would march on the Taneytown Road, through Emmitsburg,
Creagerstown, Utica and Highknob Pass and to Middletown. The 12th
Corps and the 2nd Corps and the Artillery Reserve would march
toward Taneytown to Middleburg, and Woodsboro, through Frederick
Colonel F. Hecker of the 82nd Illinois Volunteers recalled his
regiment's 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. Upon reaching Emmitsburg in the afternoon, the
82nd encamped there for the night before passing through. Before
sunrise on July 7th, the march to Middletown continued via
Creagerstown and Utica Post Office. This was a distance of 30
miles. The regiment arrived at Middletown around 10:00 p.m. that
night in a rainstorm.
By July 6th, the majority of the Union Army was in motion
marching over Catoctin Mountain or marching to Frederick. General
William H. Morris had established his headquarters at Bolivar. He
wrote to Lieutenant William F. A. Torbert, Acting Assistant
Adjutant to General Meade, explaining what it would take to hold
Crampton's, Fox's and also Turner's Gap. He suggested that four
regiments would be enough to defend South Mountain if General Lee
was to send his army over the mountain gaps.
General Morris was worried about the openness of the woods,
stating that if Lee would send infantry through the woods and take
possession of the heights, the Confederates would have an
advantage. With the ground having a stony character it made
throwing up entrenchments extremely difficult in many places.
However, stonewall breastworks could be made and cut timber would
also help to strengthen the position. General Morris asked for an
engineer company to come forward with the necessary tools to
assist his troops in defending the mountain gaps. General Morris
had two regiments at Turner's Gap except for two companies that
were sent to Fox's Gap as well as two pieces of artillery and one
regiment at Bolivar. He also dispatched Colonel Kitching's
Regiment along with two pieces of artillery to Crampton's Gap.
Morris also looked at the approaches of the mountain gaps and was
impressed with the circuitous that artillery would be able to
sweep the enemy but for short distances. Because of this, Morris
requested more infantry instead of artillery feeling that it would
be an unnecessary risk to have more artillery posted along the
General John Buford reached Turner's Gap where General Morris
was stationed. General Buford ordered a small group of signal
corpsmen to begin observation from a top the Washington Monument.
From here they could see the whole valley and report any movements
to General Buford.
On July 7th, a party of signal officers, under charge of
Captain William J. L. Nicodemus, arrived from Washington, for the
purpose of working in conjunction with the signal corps of this
army. Captain Nicodemus opened a line of communication between
Frederick and South Mountain Pass. General French ordered Captain
Nicodemus to report to General Meade. Upon seeing General Meade,
Captain Nicodemus was ordered to detach his men and begin
operating from South Mountain and Maryland Heights to begin
communicating with Frederick and South Mountain. The detachment
was deployed as follows: Lieutenants Charles Herzog and Thomas P.
Rushby to Maryland Heights, Lieutenant Fisher to Crampton's Pass
while Captain Daniels, and Captain Denicke along with Lieutenants
William J. Galbraith, Briggs, Denicke, Swain, and S. Cary
Tuckerman were sent to the front to establish observation stations
in Boonsboro Valley.
At 6:00 p. m. Captain Nicodemus left Frederick with Captain
Denicke and Lieutenants Denicke, Galbraith, Briggs, and Swain,
arriving at Turner's Gap at 3:00 in the morning. Upon entering
Turner's Gap, their mission was to open communication by signals
for the advance of the Army of the Potomac that was near
Middletown. Captain Nicodemus ordered Lieutenant Galbraith to stay
at Turner's Gap to open an intermediate station between Frederick
and Washington Monument, at which point the detachment of
signalmen were ordered to report to Captain Daniels. As the rain
fell and darkness settled in there was no sign of Captain Daniels
so the detachment laid down till daylight.
On July 8th, Captain Nahum Daniels arrived at the Mountain
House at 8:00 in the morning, and as soon as the weather would
permit they would begin to send signals. During the morning a
detachment of signalmen were ordered to open up a signal station
on a hill outside of Boonsboro. In the afternoon, general
headquarters moved to Middletown. Turner's Gap and Boonsboro would
also serve as communications for General John Buford and his
cavalry division along with General Kilpatrick's Cavalry Division.
The Washington Monument.
First built in 1827 and was in ruins by the time of the Civil
Captain Ernst A. Denicke and Lieutenant C.F.M. Denicke opened a
station at Washington Monument early in the morning around 9:00.
The first thing that needed to be done was to cut away the timber
that obstructed the view near the monument. The Confederate forces
marching toward Williamsport were observed from the Washington
Monument by Captain Ernst A. Denicke and Lieutenant C.F.M. Denicke
and this information was soon relayed to headquarters. At around
3:00 in the afternoon, Lieutenant C.F.M. Denicke was ordered to
Frederick and assist Lieutenant Galbraith in opening
communications with the stations upon South Mountain. Lieutenant
Swain was ordered to open a station at Boonsboro while Lieutenant
Briggs opened a station upon Elk Mountain. Captain Daniels opened
a station near the Hagerstown Pike, about 1 mile beyond Boonsboro.
The Confederate cavalry under General JEB Stuart was ordered by
General Lee to attack and stall General Meade's movements as they
were holding the western approach of South Mountain Pass. Five
Confederate cavalry brigades and artillery fought against the
elements of the Union 1st and 3rd Cavalry Divisions and infantry
at around 10:00 in the morning. General Stuart's role was to buy
General Lee time and to keep General Meade from getting his army
into position and surrounding General Lee's Army as they were
concentrating their forces around Williamsport and Hagerstown.
At about 10:30 a.m. the Confederate artillery began to shell
the signal stations that were popping up along South Mountain and
in Boonsboro. As the engagement of Boonsboro was warming up,
Signal Corpsman Captain Denicke reported by signal the movements
of the Confederate cavalry that were reported to General John
Buford. Every movement of Stuart's Cavalry was seen from the
station at Washington Monument. Henry Brown of the Battery K,
First U.S. Artillery was on one of the four guns deployed by his
horse artillery. He took time to write home saying "It was the
severest fight we have had." After the battle of Boonsboro, his
detachment was getting fresh horses and also a new battery.
General Buford held the road while General Judson Kilpatrick's
Cavalry Division rested east of Boonsboro. As the fight at
Boonsboro became very intense, General Kilpatrick's Division came
to assist General Buford. By nightfall, General Stuart withdrew
his cavalry several miles to Funkstown. Generals Buford and
Kilpatrick stayed near Boonsboro to rest their cavalry without
food or supplies. Boonsboro was one of a series of cavalry battles
fought around Funkstown, Hagerstown, and Williamsport. The Army of
the Potomac was moving from Frederick toward South Mountain.
General Meade made his headquarters at Middletown. Lieutenant
William A. Roebling wrote "The roads over the mountains from
Frederick were frightful" on Catoctin Mountain. The next mountain
being South Mountain must have been a dreadful site to the men
dressed in blue.
A section of Battery F, 4th U.S. Artillery under the command of
2nd Lieutenant S. T. Rugg was posted at Crampton's Gap. Near to
the north of Turner's Gap the 140th New York Volunteers under the
command of Colonel Gilbert G. Prey encamped on the western side of
South Mountain. They were ordered to throw up breastworks, which
they did from stones that were noted to be in abundance. The 140th
stayed in position until July 10th when they were ordered to march
on the National Pike toward Hagerstown.
Union General John Newton was protecting the eastern route to
Turner's Gap. Fearing that a much larger Confederate force might
attack, he wrote a dispatch to General S. Williams. General
Newton, unsure of the strength of Turner's Gap, stated that he had
about twenty-four pieces of artillery and 3,300 infantry. He was
going to leave 1700 members of the Vermont Brigade behind since
they were not issued rations and had been on the march for most of
General Newton was unsure of the importance of Tuner's Gap. As
he continued to report to General Williams, if Turner's Gap
required more troops to defend, then General Williams would have
to send them. General Newton thought that if Turner's Gap was
worthy of being held for the Union pursuit of General Lee's Army,
and then more infantry was needed. He remembered the battle of
Crampton's Gap from the year before when he engaged Confederate
troops there that were small in number and how the Union forces
pushed them out from the gap. General Williams replied to General
Newton's dispatch. He told General Newton that the 11th Corps was
ordered to Turner's Gap and that the 6th Corps would be on hand in
support if it was needed.
During the day, General Meade issued the marching orders that
were to be carried at out 5:00 a.m. on July 9th, as follows: The
6th Corps would move out of Middletown through Turner's Gap to
Boonsboro followed by the 11th Corps and the Artillery Reserve.
The 1st Corps was to take possession of Turner's Gap. The 5th
Corps followed by the 3rd Corps would cross over South Mountain at
Fox's Gap. The 12th Corps was ordered to move to Rohrersville
followed by the 2nd Corps. The Engineer Battalion was ordered to
encamp with General Meade who was planning on having his
headquarters at the Mountain House.
Crampton's Gap from the west.
On July 9th, headquarters of the Union Army moved to Turner's
Gap. General Meade used the Mountain House as his headquarters as
the Army of the Potomac closed behind Lee's Army. He ordered a
signal station to occupy Turner's Gap, communicating, through
others at Middletown and Crampton's Pass, with Maryland Heights.
Weather conditions that day were reported to be smoky and
signaling was unpractical. This line, appearing of little
importance on account of telegraphic facilities, was abandoned the
same day, and its officers ordered to more active duty in the
On July 10th, the general commanding and his staff removed to
bivouac near Beaver Creek crossing, west of Boonsboro. In the
evening, communication was opened from general headquarters,
through the Washington Monument station, with headquarters of the
2nd and 12th Corps, near Bakersville: 3rd and 5th Corps near
Antietam Bridge, and the 1st and 6th Corps near Beaver Creek
crossing, on the Hagerstown pike. On this day the officer who
accompanied General Neill on his expedition from a point selected
by him on Franklin's Cliff, South Mountain Range, near
Leitersburg, discovered the numbers and position of the enemy in
and around Hagerstown, and sent the information to General Neill
and by orderly to General Meade.
The station on the hill near Boonsboro was removed, while
another line of communication was opened with Lieutenant Tuckerman
on the left of the Union communication line, with Captain Denicke
on Washington Monument, and Captain Stone on Sharpsburg pike, near
General French's headquarters. The signalmen received orders to
report all important messages by telegraph to General Meade and
Colonel Myer. Captain Denicke to opened communication lines with
Bakersville, waving white flags at the base of the Washington
In his diary on July 10th Captain Alonzo Clapp of the 122nd New
York Infantry wrote: “Marched from Middletown through south
mountain pass on a good Pike, 8 miles to Boonsboro. And went to
the front in line of battle in support of a battery. There was a
"right smart" cavalry and flying artillery fight 2 or 3 miles in
our front late at night. The rebs are in force between here and
Williamsport & Hagerstown & there is a fair prospect of a fight
tomorrow. Marched from Boonsboro on the Hagerstown Pike about 5
miles and went into line of battle near the front on ground
occupied by the rebs this morning. There was a brisk skirmishing
and some spirited cavalry firing during the day. Serg't Trowbridge
tried to force himself by me when I was stationed at a well. My
sword being rusted-in saved his head.”
Following the days of the Union Army holding South Mountain,
General Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia to Williamsport.
On July 11th, by direction of the assistant adjutant-general, a
signal telegraph line was ran between general headquarters and
those of General John Sedgwick, on the Hagerstown pike, 5 miles in
the distance. No communication was had by flag signals on this day
due to the and heavy thick haze. The officers attached to their
respective commands made two reconnaissances toward Hagerstown for
Generals Howard and Kilpatrick. General Lee's Army began
entrenching a line to protect the river crossings at Williamsport
and waited for General Meade's Army of the Potomac to advance.
On July 11th, a small group of Federal soldiers led by Captain
William G. McCreary went to Black Rock, a bare and elevated rock
on the South Mountain Range between Boonsboro and Smithsburg. A
reconnaissance of the area was made. With most of the action
occurring in the Hagerstown and Boonsboro area, the observation
team went back into the valley. They came back to Black Rock the
next day to open communication, but failed to do so and by July
13th the observation personnel moved onto Funkstown.
On July 12th, a party was sent to open a line of signals
between general headquarters and the brigade of General Neill,
near Leitersburg, but the attempt failed by reason of the
thickness of the atmosphere. Because of the weather, observations
were hard to make. The observation station in Middletown was also
closed keeping the line from Elk Mountain and Washington Monument
The signal telegraph wire was extended to General Sedgwick's
new headquarters at Funkstown, and another ran to General Slocum
near Four Corners. Both lines worked with slight interruptions
until the night of the 14th, when they were withdrawn. Flag
signals were set up between the headquarters of the 5th Corps and
as well as others in the vicinity and a station of observation was
built in Hagerstown.
General Meade reached the Confederate Army on the 12th and by
July 13th, skirmishing was heavy along the lines as Meade
positioned his forces for an attack. In the meantime, the river
fell enough to allow the construction of a new bridge, and Lee's
Army began crossing the river after dark on the 13th.
During the retreat from Gettysburg, both armies relied and
depended on the mountain gaps on South Mountain. General Lee used
Fairfield Pass, Monterey Pass and also Cashtown Gap because it was
the shortest route back to Virginia. Because of this, General
Meade feared a direct pursuit would lead to another major battle
along the Mason and Dixon Line on South Mountain. General Meade
instead used South Mountain to shield his own army and was hoping
to cut off General Lee's retreat via South Mountain near
Boonsboro. However, General Lee had a one-day head start. This
allowed him to reach the Potomac River and take up a defensive
plan of attack, allowing his army time for the Potomac River to
recede so they could safely cross into Virginia. After General
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River, General
Meade began to pull his forces back from Williamsport.
On July 13th, all signal communication previously established
was continued. Two officers were sent to make a telescopic
reconnaissance from Elk Mountain. On July 14th, General Meade
issued marching orders to his Corps commanders. By the end of the
day all signal operations and observation stations were
On the July 15th, the troops carried out their marching orders.
The 12th and 2nd Corps would march to Pleasant Valley, encamping
there for the night. The 3rd Corps was to march to Brownsville,
encamping in Pleasant Valley near Harper's Ferry. The 5th and 1st
Corps would march on the Boonsboro Road to the Sharpsburg Road
crossing over South Mountain at Fox's Gap to Burkittsville and
encamping for the night at Berlin. The 6th and 11th Corps along
with the Artillery Reserve would march through Turner's Gap to
Middletown and on to Berlin.
These orders would take two days to complete with Union
encampments surrounding Pleasant Valley, Burkittsville and
Rohrersville. The Army of the Potomac would keep moving onward
toward Berlin and Harper's Ferry preparing to cross the Potomac
River and would continue to pursue General Lee in Virginia.
South Mountain played a major role during the Confederate
retreat and the Union pursuit to the Potomac River. Without this
significant mountain range there would have likely been another
major battle fought in the surrounding communities. Mountain
ranges such as South Mountain were also vital in establishing
communications for the armies of both sides.