Civil War Heritage of Emmitsburg

To educate, to interpret and to preserve

"The next morning all the privates were paroled, but the commissioned officers were held on account of Pope's order "to forage off the enemy" and Lieuts. Milling Gallagher and myself were held, and it was well for five or six of our men were wounded, one fatally." Captain Albert Hunter, Cole's Cavalry, Company C


Photograph of Captain Albert Hunter (left) and Daniel Link (Right)

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In Their Own Words; Emmitsburg Occupied, 1863

On June 15th, 1863, the first portions of General 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.

Also on the same day around eleven o' clock at night, a major fire had started in the town of Emmitsburg in the loft of the Beam and Guthrie Stable. The fire had spread eastward up along Main Street, involving the northeast, northwest and southeast blocks around the old water hole. More than fifty homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Some speculation and rumors stated that it was set on fire by parts of the Confederate army or by some southern sympathizers. Civilians in Gettysburg were looking southward and saw the orange glow in the sky. Fearing the worst was coming their way; this was surely a sign of what was to come. It was later discovered Emmitsburg resident Eli Smith was responsible for starting the fire.

The Gettysburg Complier ran an article about the fire that occurred in Emmitsburg and it listed that Eli Smith was the one responsible for starting it. A few days later a rebuttal was written, as there was a man who lived in Gettysburg by the name of Eli Smith and townsmen thought he was the same guy. All the rebuttal did was to add a middle initial so as not to confuse the two men.

“On Saturday the 27th day of June, two regiments of Michigan cavalry camped a mile south of Emmitsburg on the Toll Gate held the advance of Kilpatrick's division. They were armed with the deadly Spencer repeating carbines and looked like they could fight. They stayed until Monday, when the division arrived and they all marched to Hanover, Pa. They were guided by Jim McCullough, an Emmitsburg soldier boy, who was counted as one of the best scouts in the army.” Emmitsburg Chronicle

"The Army of the Potomac was truly a beautiful sight" and describes as grand but horrible the passing of "the wagons, ambulances, cannons, etc, which were coming early dawn till nightfall. ... They camped around Emmitsburg. Their campfires, as viewed from the college windows, almost led one to imagine that this section for miles had received in one shower all the stars of the heavens." Dr. Thomas C. Moore, 1863

“Well at 4 o'clock that morning (the 29th), we began our march to this place and arrived here last night about 6 o'clock and stayed in that place until this morning when we moved to this place, a Shady Grove, near a Nunnery or rather on the farm and near the Buildings belonging to the Sisters of Charity.”

“The town is a very nice one, hardly as large as Urbana, but all fine buildings. About one half of the town was burnt about two weeks ago. The people think it was done by a resident of the town whom they now have in Jail. He is said to be a union man although the town is one of the worst secessionist towns in Maryland. But that was not the reason it was burnt. It was in revenge for some private wrong done by some individual of the town, His store was set on fire and burnt the rest with it.”

“This institution of the Sisters of Charity (whose grounds we are now on) Farm and Buildings (especially the latter) is the finest I ever saw. Nothing in Ohio will compare with it; I was astonished to find such magnificence in such a place, a place I have never heard of before. The buildings cover about a square of ground, the same as a square in a town, built entirely of brick and ornamented with marble carvings. The main buildings are 4 stories high, built in Splendid style, Before the war began, there were 500 Sisters of Charity of this institution. But all but about 60 are with the army in the various hospitals, taking care of the sick and wounded, and they are said to be very good nurses and very kind.”

“The institution belongs to the Catholic Church and on almost every part of the buildings are crosses stuck on, they have, of course a Chapel (a place of worship). This is finished beautifully, the room is very large and in the form of an arch. Beautiful paintings are all around the room and a large statue of the Virgin Mary and Child. But the altar is the nicest feature in the Chapel. It is built of the finest marble and on it is a splendid cross with an image of our Savior on it with a crown of gold (real) on his head, an angel on either side of him (the cherubim's). It is a nice room.”

“Near the institution is the cemetery and in the center of it is a small but beautiful Chapel. Beneath which in a vault is the remains of Mother Mary Seton, the foundress of the institution, (She left the grounds and money to build, furnish and set to running the institution. She died in 1821.) The chapel is a little round room with an altar in it similar to the one just described."

“The farm has 400 acres in it and is under the best of cultivation. It is worked by several Catholics, old Irishmen who I suppose are not able to take care of themselves, but who find labor and a home here with someone to take care of them, as there is a directing hand somewhere, although I know not who it is.”

“But I forgot something about the cemetery. There are 155 graves in it in regular rows and about 10 in a plot with paths between the plots. The graves are all in good condition, very narrow, with the grass growing nicely on each. Each grave has a cross at the head with the name, age and death on it; and all have foot stones. One thing is worthy of note, and ages of those buried there (all females) all vary from 13 to 25, all young women in the prime of life.”

“With respect to the fifty or sixty now in the institution (I saw but few of them), they wear black dresses (without any hoops) with white aprons, a cape coming over the shoulders and coming to a peak at the waist. And a white bonnet in the shape of a scoop shovel (only more so.) It has a cape also which comes down to the shoulder. The bonnet is the ugliest piece of furniture I ever saw, although it was white as snow as was the apron. The girls are most all-young and good looking, while some of them are beautiful. And it seemed to me to be a shame to keep them immured in a gloomy building like that with no appropriate society.”

“But to return to the grounds, they are laid out in good style. All round among the buildings and grounds are carriage drivers, and springs are plentiful, while here and there are statues, some of the Virgin, some of our Savior and the Apostles, Every once in a while you come across an iron sofa or seat, among the nice trees. They have also a large garden of about three acres. Everything is laid out in good order and the crop is forward.”

“But the barn is one of the curiosities. It is brick also and a bank barn. At each end of the barn is a very large mow and between them are 3 large barn floors, each about 18 feet wide. The barn is very high and the upper part is floored and has stairs to go up into it, and there kept the farming utensils. Beneath in the basement are 5 rows of stalls with a feeding room for each, and each row has room for 8 horses, And there is a shed the whole length of the barn where it (the barn) juts over. Thus you can see what a beautiful barn it is. It never cost less than $3,000.” Lieutenant William Ballentine of the 82nd Ohio Infantry

“I should spare some of that talk for describing the battle of Gettysburg as seen by us from Indian Lookout.  Truly we are at that place (Indian Lookout) almost the whole time during the three days battle.  We had plenty of glasses viz telescopes, spy, and opera glasses. We had a clear view of the field and could see so as to make the men in their lines, attending cannon, the cannon themselves, making charges, officers riding along about their lines, and in a word the whole scene was spread out to our view.

We could distinctly observe the changes in the position of the armies: sometimes one army would slowly give way, but seeming to dispute every inch of ground with as much energy and determination as if the fate of the Nation depended on its holding or yielding its position again rallying and driving the foe headlong before it for some distance. When the retreating body either reinforced some fresh troops or perhaps reinforced with courage, the battle would become terrific.”  A.J.B. Mount Saint Mary's College, 1863

I dispatched Captain W. W. Blackford, of the engineer corps, to General Robertson, to inform him of my movement and direct his cooperation, as Emmitsburg was in his immediate front and was probably occupied by the enemy's cavalry. It was dark before I had passed the extreme right of our line, and having to pass through very dense woods, taking by-roads, it soon became so dark that it was impossible to proceed. We were in danger of losing the command as well as the road. It was raining, also. We halted several hours, when, having received a good guide, and it becoming lighter, the march was resumed, and just at dawn we entered Emmitsburg.

"In and around Emmitsburg we captured 60 or 70 prisoners of' war, and some valuable hospital stores en route from Frederick to the army. I was told by a citizen that the party I had just attacked was the cavalry of Kilpatrick, who had claimed to have captured several thousand prisoners and four or five hundred wagons from our forces near Monterey; but I was further informed that not more than forty wagons accompanied them, and other facts I heard led me to believe the success was far overrated. About this time Captain Emack, of the Maryland Cavalry, with his arm in a sling, came to us and reported that he had been in the fight of the night before, and partially confirmed the statement of the citizen, and informed me, to my surprise, that a large portion of Ewell's corps trains had preceded the army through the mountains." General JEB Stuart, July 5th, 1863

"A large number of rifles were abandoned on the field at Gettysburg, and about half a dozen of them found their way to the woods on the mountain, where they did good service for quite a while in the hands of some of the seminarians. The faculty knew nothing of this. Accidentally George H. Miles discovered it, but said nothing, though during class hours, by a significant sign he made known his knowledge of the good times some of us were having in the hunting carried on quietly during the following fall.”

"Two weeks had fully elapsed before it was thought advisable to visit the battlefield. For many days after, the Union army held possession of it, and as the guards on duty at various points were not over careful in their handling of firearms whenever their command to halt was not heard, it was conceded that the more prudent course was to remain beyond the range of their rifles.”

"From this point on to Gettysburg the evidences of war were more frequent and unmistakable. On both sides of the road were dead horses and the so-called graves of soldiers. Buzzards and crows, in great numbers, either soared high in the air or gorged themselves on the dead bodies about to our right and left. About a mile south of Gettysburg stood a deserted one-story log cabin, and in this, we were told, General Reynolds breathed his last. He had met the Confederates west of the city on the first day of the battle, and there received the wound that finished his career as a soldier.”

"Relic hunters were not numerous on the day of my first visit to the field. But as time passed and the fame of Gettysburg expanded, crowds flocked thither from all quarters, so that of the hundreds of shells, grape-shot, broken rifles, cartridge boxes and bayonets, none probably were to be found a year after.” Dr. Thomas C. Moore, 1863