Civil War Heritage of Emmitsburg

To educate, to interpret and to preserve

“Just as the advanced guard entered the street, a young lady rode out of a yard of a house before us, and seeing, to her dismay, a body of soldiers, which she took for Federals of course, she dashed off out of town towards her home some miles in the country.”  Lieutenant Colonel W.W. Blackford, Stuart's Cavalry, October 1862


Photograph of Mount Saint Mary's College in 1863

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Emmitsburg Civil War Tour

William Emmit founded the town of Emmitsburg in 1785. Today, Emmitsburg’s history tells us stories of patriots joining General George Washington's army and of Francis Scott Key's childhood home not far from the town where he was born. During the American Civil War, Emmitsburg witnessed every raid that carried over into Pennsylvania from JEB Stuarts’ first Chambersburg Raid of 1862, the Pennsylvania Campaign in the summer of 1863 and finally, General Early’s Raids in July of 1864. Many men from Emmitsburg fought in the Civil War. Many Confederate soldiers from Emmitsburg fought in the Army of Northern Virginia; however, Charles A. Donnelly was the first to enlist from the Emmitsburg area. Charles A. Donnelly enlisted into the Confederate Army at the age of 24 on April 6, 1861, in Lucas' Battalion of Infantry at Castle Pinckney, which is located in the Charleston Harbor of South Carolina. Most of the Emmitsburg men who fought for the Union were recruited and enlisted into Company “C” of the 1st Potomac Home Brigade, Cole’s Cavalry. Company C, known as the Keystone Rangers was mustered into service at Frederick, Maryland on September 9, 1861.

Starting Point: Mount Saint Mary's University

Found in 1808, Mount Saint Mary’s did not escape the divided loyalties at the outbreak of the American Civil War. It had a good many Southern students who had proclaimed their allegiance to the newly formed Confederate States of American. Dr. John McCaffrey was the College’s President and a strong supporter of the Confederate States. John McCloskey was the College’s Vice-President and a strong supporter of the Union. Although a Union man, he still placed the practices of Mount Saint Mary’s first and treated every southern student with respect. John McCaffrey and John McCloskey didn’t allow their beliefs get in the way of their friendship or College matters.

Daniel Beltzhoover, a professor of mathematics, was an 1847 graduate of West Point and served in the wars in Florida and also Mexico. Before the Civil War, he commanded a company of Zouave Mountain Cadets and drilled them thoroughly. He entered the Confederate Army and was commissioned in the 1st Louisiana Heavy Artillery Regiment. He became a Lt. Colonel and a school teacher at Mobile, Alabama by late 1864.

Using the highest point in the Emmitsburg area, Indian Lookout became a landmark.  This area situated near Mount Saint Mary's College held the most spectacular view of the battle of Gettysburg.

The Mountain Cemetery at the entrance to the Grotto is the final resting place for many Civil War veterans including Daniel Beltzhoover. A trail leading to Indian Lookout is also on the grounds of the Grotto.

Stop One: The Toll Gate

During the afternoon of June 27th, 1863 a portion of General George Armstrong Custer’s Brigade of Michigan cavalry encamped just south of Emmitsburg on the old tollgate, before heading toward Hanover. George Custer was promoted to Brigadier General in Frederick and replaced General Joseph T. Copeland as commander. General Custer had scouted the Emmitsburg area and hired a local resident by the name of Jim McCullough to guide his cavalry around the Emmitsburg area. The old Toll House stands next to the Getty gas station off of Route 15 at the exit for South Seton Avenue. Traces of the old Emmitsburg Road can still be seen.

Stop Two: Saint Joseph’s

From South Seton Avenue, three Civil War Trail markers are located in the parking lot of the Daughter's of Charity and St. Joseph's. The 5th Michigan Cavalry encamped on the grounds of Saint Joseph’s on June 27th. On June 29th, as General Reynolds and his staff approached Emmitsburg that evening, General Reynolds rode ahead of his columns and entered Emmitsburg. Once there, Reynolds and his staff tried to recruit locals to cross over the Catoctin Mountain Gaps to observe and report in detail the movements of the Confederate army. General Reynolds also placed a company of Signal Corps on the mountain behind Mount Saint Mary’s known as Indian Lookout. Saint Joseph’s witnessed the Union encampment on its grounds belonging to the First and Eleventh Crops prior to the battle of Gettysburg. After General Reynolds ordered the First Corps to Marsh Creek, General David Birney’s Division of the Third Corps encamped on the grounds of Saint Joseph’s.

Stop Three: Lincoln Park

Using one of the baseball fields, look toward the southwest. This is the direction of Mount Saint Seminary. The Catoctin Mountain ends here at the high point you see. This is known as Indian Lookout. Using the highest point in the Emmitsburg area, Indian Lookout became a landmark. This area held the most spectacular view of the battle of Gettysburg. Emmitsburg resident George T. Humerick was sixteen years old when the Civil War broke out. During the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, he witnesses the flags waving from the top of the mountains west of town. He went up to what is known as the old Wagaman farm and came upon seven signal corpsmen taking signals from the Gettysburg battlefield. The signal from Gettysburg read: "General Reynolds was killed and they are pressing us hard.” Mr. Humerick, the first civilian to hear of the death.

Stop Four: The Emmitsburg Post Office

Two Itinerary Signs are located just off of South Seton Avenue. These signs were originally posted at Emmitsburg’s square. Later they were removed to the current location.

Stop Five: The Emmit House

On the morning of July 5th, General JEB Stuart made his way from the fields of Gettysburg to Emmitsburg. General Stuart came to the town of Emmitsburg during the dawn hours with the 34th Virginia Cavalry under Lt. Colonel Vincent Witcher leading the advance into Emmitsburg where seventy Union men and their captain were taken prisoner. Among the prisoners was a photographer from Mathew Brady’s Photography Firm. Three photographers named, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O'Sullivan, and James Gibson all were traveling to Gettysburg when they came to Emmitsburg on the night of July 4th. Gardner himself stayed at the (Hoffman) Farmers Inn and Motel at Emmitsburg.

Stop Six: Elias Lutheran Church

Emmitsburg during the time of the battle of Gettysburg: “Small flags waved and dipped from the tower of the old Lutheran Church, used as a signal station by the army. Bearers of dispatches and squads of cavalry dashed madly through the town. The long roll of drums and the blood-stirring bugle calls filled the air; the fields were alive with soldiers. To the untrained eye it looked like a great mob, but it was not a mob in any sense, for in a very short time the men fell into orderly lines and in full marching swing, pressed forward across the fields toward Gettysburg, towards victory and also many of them toward death."

Stop Seven: St. Joseph's Rectory

Saint Joseph's Rectory was one of few building on the block still standing from the fire of June 15th, 1863, General Reynolds set up his headquarters and directed Union efforts from Emmitsburg’s Lutheran parsonage, St. Joseph's Rectory.