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Thurmont During the Civil War

Mechanicstown 1861-1862

John Miller

Rarely known for its Civil War history, the ever-growing town of Thurmont and its neighboring town of Emmitsburg have seen their share of the Civil War. At the time of the Civil War, Thurmont was known as Mechanicstown and has a very unique Civil War history that most people are surprised to hear. No battles were fought in Mechanicstown, but more of a mishap of opportunities.

During the year of 1860, the state of Maryland was in turmoil. Many families were forced to take sides and many even fought against each other. William Seabrook best sums up what Maryland was going through: "Troops were brought down from the North for the defense of Washington. The feeling of the Marylanders was shown by the conduct of a mob, who attacked the soldiers during their passage through Baltimore, and killed some of them. The establishment of these troops at Washington cut off Maryland from the other Southern States and withheld her from following her natural bent and joining the new Confederacy."

During the late election of November 1861, the Secretary of War sent troops for the protection of Union men at the polls. Union Major Stone served as the provost-marshal for the areas of Woodsborough, Myersville, Wolfsville, Emmitsburg, Wolfís Tavern, and Mechanicstown sent troops of infantry and cavalry out in protection of pro-union men voting, however, no armed men went near the polls, and no serious disturbance occurred in this part of the State.

General JEB Stuart with 1800 troopers and General Pelgramís Battery of two to four guns made their way to the Potomac River and on October 9th, 1862 crossed a ford near Clear Springs, Maryland. This raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania was made completely around General McClellan and was known as the Chambersburg Raid. General Stuartís orders were to capture equipment, disrupt communication lines, destroy parts of the C&O Canal and also take out parts of the B&O railroad at and near Chambersburg. After completing his objectives, General Stuart made his way into Cashtown, Fairfield, and reached Emmitsburg at about sunset on October 11th, 1862.

General Alfred Pleasonton who was commanding the Federal Cavalry Corps was tracking General Stuartís whereabouts. He thought that General Stuart was retracing his footsteps back toward the Potomac River in the direction in which he came, but Stuart headed east and the pursuit was on. General Pleasonton arrived at Mechanicstown around 8.30 p.m. and immediately sent scouts in the direction of Emmitsburg, Taneytown, Middleburg, Graceham and Gettysburg picketing all the roads in that vicinity.

At around 9:00 p.m., portions of Stuartís Cavalry reached Rocky Ridge where they met a Federal scouting party of General Pleasontonís. Around 10:30 p.m. Stuartís Cavalry observed the passing through Woodsboro. Stuartís location was dispatched to General Pleasonton only few miles away at Mechanicstown.

The Federal Cavalry had several opportunities to attack Stuartís Cavalry at Emmitsburg and Rocky Ridge. Because of the false intelligence and missed opportunities this allowed General Stuart to safely get away.

Read other articles by John Miller on the civil war