previous next
[215]

My ride around Baltimore in Eighteen hundred and Sixty-four. [from the Journal of the U. S. Cavalry Association, Fort Leavenworth, Texas, September, 1889.]

After the battle of Trevillian's, June 12, 1864, at which Hampton drove Sheridan back from his attempted raid on Lynchburg to cooperate with Hunter, who was moving down the Valley with the same objective, General Hampton gave me permission to undertake an enterprise, which I had often discussed with him during the preceding sixty days.

My command, the Maryland Line, had been distributed to the infantry and cavalry, by the movement of Lee's army to the lines around Richmond, and I had retained command of the First Maryland Cavalry, about two hundred and fifty effective men, and the Baltimore Light Artillery (Second Maryland Artillery), with five inefficient guns.

The gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Ridgeley Brown, commanding the cavalry, had been killed at the fight at the South Anna bridge on the first of June, and Captain Griffin, with many of his men and two guns, had been captured at the affair at Yellow Tavern, May 11th, when Jeb Stuart lost his life charging with the Second Virginia Cavalry, to save Griffin's guns.

In the battle of Trevillian's I had, during the second day, been made to do pretty much the duty of a brigade, for which my force was utterly inadequate, and the day after that engagement Hampton gave his consent that I should start on my long projected expedition.

This was to pass along the base of the Blue Ridge, through Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, and Loudon counties, cross the Potomac at Muddy Branch, at a ford well known to many of the command, who were constantly passing and repassing it on their way to and from Maryland, surprise the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, generally known to us as the California Battalion, and then ride at speed to the Soldiers' Home, where Mr. Lincoln had his quarters, capture him and send him off with a trusty party back over the river to Richmond.

I was at the same time to divide the command into two partiesone to cut the railroad and telegraph between Baltimore and Washington, [216] and then push across the river at White's Ford in Montgomery, and the other to move rapidly through Frederick, along the upper Potomac and cross at the Point of Rocks, or Shepherdstown, or wherever else opportunity offered.

In case of necessity both parties were to push north into Pennsylvania and escape through West Virginia, and even try to get to Canada by way of Niagara if hard pushed.

The total sacrifice of the command would have been well repaid by the capture of Mr. Lincoln, but I did not consider escape utterly hopeless for the main body who were to go through Northwestern Maryland.

The object was to create such confusion among the telegraph and railroad and commanding officers that the small detachment having Mr. Lincoln in charge would escape without attracting attention, while pursuit would be directed solely to us. This was my plan, however, and I set out to execute it.

I was shoeing my horses and getting up my dismounted men and putting everything in order for sharp and active work when General Early came along a few days after, at the head of his column, marching to head off Hunter, then pushing up the Valley to Lynchburg.

I knew General Early well, and was attached to him by the comradeship of arms, by my respect for his intellect and by my warm love for his genuine, manly, true character, and I explained to him my projected movement. He said it would not do. ‘I'm going to Lynchburg,’ said he, ‘and as soon as I smash up Mr. Hunter's little tea party, I'm going to Washington myself. You'll put all that out, so you musn't try it until I come back.’ He then directed me to move to Staunton and watch the Valley until he got there. By the last of June he came back.

I was assigned to the cavalry brigade of General William E. Jones, who had been killed at Mount Hope Church on Hunter's advance. We began our movement down the Valley from Staunton, Ransom's Cavalry Division on the roads right and left of the Valley pike and the infantry and artillery on the macademized road between them.

Between Winchester and Martinsburg, Early divided his forces, directing Johnson's Cavalry and Rodes' Brigade of Ramseur's Division, under Early himself, to the right, to cut the Baltimore and Ohio railroad at Kearneysville and unite with McCausland's Cavalry and Breckinridge's Corps at Martinsburg; Johnson and Mc- [217] Causland to make a junction at Hainesville, behind Martinsburg, and thus cut off the retreat of Sigel, who was at that place. I struck Leetown just after daylight, and found it held by General Mulligan with two thousand or three thousand infantry, five hundred cavalry and four guns, and just as the sun rose on the 3d of July I fired the first gun. Mulligan had a good position on a range of hills. The infantry of Breckinridge was half a day's march behind, and I had about eight hundred half-armed and badly disciplined mountaineers from Southwest Virginia, who would fight like veterans when they pleased, but had no idea of permitting their own sweet wills to be controlled by any orders, no matter from whom emanating. They were as brave, and as fearless, and as undisciplined as the Highlanders who followed Charles Edward to Culloden. However, after several hours fighting, Mulligan withdrew, and the junction at Martinsburg being then unnecessary, by reason of the escape of Sigel, we moved towards Shepherdstown. Early on the 5th of July I crossed the Potomac with my command, and that night camped two and a half miles from Boonsboro. On the 6th I moved to Middletown, and on the 7th drove a small force that showed itself on the mountain between Middletown and Frederick, back to Frederick, and, pressing after it, arrived in front of the town about midday.

I knew every foot of the country—having been born and bred there—and I had the advantage, also, of an accurate knowledge of the condition of affairs in the town. I proposed to send one regiment down the Georgetown pike, into the south end of the town, another by the Reservoir road, into the north end, and press on in front from the Hagerstown road on the west side. This would have given me about one thousand prisoners and much baggage, wagons and artillery. But my commanding officer, General Ransom, thought I was over sanguine because it was my own place, and refused to allow the movement to be executed. He directed me to withdraw, under cover of night, to the top of the mountain, until the infantry got up. Accordingly we lay all day, the 8th, in a drizzling rain on the mountain. At night I was directed to report in person to General Early, and found him on the roadside just south of Middletown, and he then informed me that he had received an order from General Lee by a special officer, Captain R. E. Lee, dispatched to him for the purpose. I was directed to march at daylight of the 9th to get a position to the north of Frederick and watch Early's left until I was satisfied that he was getting on all right in the battle about to take place that day below Frederick, and then [218] strike off across the country, cut the railroads and telegraphs north of Baltimore, sweep rapidly around the city, cut the Baltimore and Ohio railroad between Washington and Baltimore, and push on rapidly so as to strike Point Lookout on the night of the 12th. Captain John Taylor Wood was to be there in an armed steamer which he was to run out of Wilmington. We were to capture the place. I was to take command of the prisoners there, some ten or twelve thousand, and march them up through lower Maryland to Washington, where General Early was to wait for me. The prisoners were to be armed and equipped from the arsenals and magazines of Washington, and thus reinforced, Early's campaign might be still further aggressive.

I told General Early that the march laid out for me was utterly impossible for man or horse to accomplish; it gave me four days, not ninety-six hours, to compass near three hundred miles, not counting for time lost in destroying bridges and railroads, but that I would do what was possible for men to do. Accordingly I started from Hagan's, on the Catoctin Mountains, about daylight on the morning of July 9, 1864, moved across to Worman's Mill, on the Old Liberty road, two miles north of Frederick, and waited until I was satisfied that Early's left flank was free. I was so careful as to communicate my orders only to my Assistant Adjutant-General, Captain George W. Booth; Assistant Inspector-General, Captain Wilson G. Nicholas, of my staff, and Colonel Peters, commanding the Twenty-first Virginia, the ranking officer of the brigade. But this caution probably cost me time, as I made an unnecessary detour in arriving at my objective. I moved through Liberty, New Windsor, Westminster and Reisterstown, reaching the latter place about daylight of the 10th. While passing through the latter place a citizen in dishabille was very urgent to be satisfied that the troops were Confederates. At last conviction came upon his doubting mind to his great delight, which he gave expression to as follows: ‘Well, I told Jake so; ain't I got it on him? He thought they would never come, but I always said they would.’ He was much gratified at his superior sagacity. Some hours after he came to me on the march, begging me to order a horse given back to him, which had been captured by some predatory Confederate, ‘not that he cared for the horse,’ he said, ‘but that Jake would have such a rig on him. That his dear Confederates, so long expected and come at last, should take his horse!’ He got it back.

We reached Cockeysville, on the Northern Central railroad, about [219] nine o'clock Sunday, July 10th, and burned the bridges there. Here I detached Colonel Harry Gilmor, under Early's instructions, with a part of the First and Second Maryland Battalions, to strike the railroad at Gunpowder river, on the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railroad, and destroy communication between Baltimore and the North. Gilmor accomplished this the next morning, Monday, the 11th of July, capturing several trains going north from Baltimore, and took prisoner Major General Franklin, of the United States army. That night General Franklin escaped from the guard who had him in charge, and who were utterly broken down by sixty hours continuous ride.

I was occupied several hours at Cockeysville, and while there dispatched a faithful friend, Colonel James C. Clarke, into Baltimore to ascertain the condition of the troops and forces available for the defence of Washington.

Early had defeated Wallace at Monocacy the day before and I knew that he was going to push into the capital, if practicable. After getting an agreeable lunch at Hayfields, the seat of John Merryman, Esq., I left two young gentlemen there to get the report of my Baltimore scout and bring it to me as soon as possible. The charming society, the lovely girls, the balmy July air and the luxuriant verdure of Hayfields, all combined to make the scene enchanting to soldiers who have been for months campaigning on the battle-scarred plains and valleys of Virginia.

From there I moved across the Green Spring Valley, in Baltimore county, and passing near the country residence of the then governor of Maryland, Augustus W. Bradford, I detailed Lieutenant Blackstone, of the Maryland cavalry, to burn it, in retaliation for the burning of the home of Governor Letcher of Virginia, which had been destroyed by General Hunter, at Lexington.

I bivouacked that night at ‘The Caves,’ the place of John N. Carroll, Esq. About midnight I received a message by the two couriers left at Hayfields, from Colonel Clarke, whom I had sent into Baltimore. He informed me that all the available transportation of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was concentrated at Locust Point; that the Nineteenth Corps of Grant's army, under General Emory, and part of the Sixth Corps were on transports in the stream awaiting the arrival of General Emory, to disembark and move to Washington. I at once sent this information to General Early by an officer and escort, and moved on.

Passing Owings' Mills early in the morning, we came across [220] Painter's ice cream establishment which had a large supply of that luxury for the Baltimore market. As rations were scarce and issued with great irregularity, the ice cream was confiscated and issued to the troops, many of whom had never seen anything like it. The mountaineers thought the ‘beer’ was nice, but too cold, so they put it in their canteens to melt.

Pushing on across the Baltimore and Ohio railroad above Woodstock, we passed by ‘Doughoregan Manor,’ the seat of John Lee Carroll, Esq., since Governor of Maryland, with whom I had the pleasure of lunching. During the afternoon of that day, Monday, July 11th, I dispatched another message to General Early by a trusty courier, guided by the son of a friend, who undertook to show him the way across the country.

After the battle of the Monocacy between Early and Lew Wallace on Saturday, the 9th, the former had marched direct on Washington. His advance arrived before the fortifications of that place on the 11th, but owing to the heat of the weather and the broken down condition of the troops, the column was not closed up and in position before late in the evening of that day. ‘Under these circumstances,’ says General Early, ‘to have rushed my men blindly against the fortifications, without understanding the state of things, would have been more than folly.’ After consultation with Major-Generals Breckinridge, Rodes, Ramseur and Gordon, he determined to make an assault on the enemy's works at daylight next morning, unless some information should be received before then, showing its impracticability, and he so informed these officers. ‘During the night a dispatch was received from General Bradley Johnson from near Baltimore, informing me that he had received information from a reliable source that two army corps had arrived from General Grant's army and that his whole army was probably in motion. This caused me to delay the attack until I could examine the works again, and as soon as it was light enough to see, I rode to the front and found the parapets lined with troops. I had, therefore, reluctantly to give up all hopes of capturing Washington after I had arrived in sight of the dome of the capital and given the Federal authorities a terrible fright.’ [Early's Last Year of the War, page 59.]

The preservation of Washington from capture was owing to the energy and decision of John W. Garrett, Esq., President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, more than to any merit of the military authorities. [221]

Mr. Garrett's railroad telegraph had kept him thoroughly informed as to the movements in western Maryland. He had perceived as early as the Thursday or Friday before, that Early had crossed the Potomac in force and that his real object was Washington. He had impressed his views personally upon President Lincoln and the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, and insisted on the necessity of fighting a battle at Frederick, in order to either gain time for troops to be got up for the defense of that city, or, failing that, that prepations could be made for its evacuation. Accordingly when the battle of Monocacy was fought on Saturday, and he found Early in full march southward, he immediately prepared the transportation on his road to receive the reinforcements which he was informed would arrive the next day at Locust Point. During Sunday the fleet of transports from Fortress Monroe, with the Nineteenth and Sixth Corps, began to arrive, but the officer in command refused to allow any troops to land until General Emory had arrived. After striving in vain to start the disembarkation, Mr. Garrett proceeded on a special engine to Washington and so impressed his views on the President and Secretary of War that he brought back with him an order to the senior officer of the troops on the transports to report to him until General Emory should arrive.

During Sunday night and Monday, Garrett, thus actually in command of two army corps, pressed the reinforcements on his cars and hurried them to Washington. Early saw their advance filing into the works on Monday afternoon, and the rest of them lining the parapets on Tuesday at daylight.

While these events were taking place, I was pressing in hot haste through Howard and Montgomery counties. I reached Triadelphia after nine o'clock that night, and unsaddled and fed my horses, and let the men get a little sleep. By twelve o'clock I received information that a large force of Federal cavalry had gone into camp since my arrival, at Brookville, only a few miles off. I at once got ready and started to attack them, but on reaching that point found they too had received information of their unwelcome neighbors and had left. Thence I moved to Beltsville, on the railroad between Baltimore and Washington.

There I found about one thousand cavalry of Wilson's Division, which had been dismounted in a recent raid in lower Virginia, and sent north to recuperate. They were mounted on green horses and we drove them, after a short affair, down the road toward Bladensburg. It was now the morning of Tuesday, the 12th. I was due [222] that night at Point Lookout, the extreme southeast point of Maryland, in St. Mary's county.

It was physically impossible for men to make the ride in the time designated. I determined, however, to come as near it as possible.

I sent an officer with a detachment to ride at speed through the country, impressing fresh horses all the way, and informing the people along the route that I was coming. They were unanimously my friends and I requested them to have their horses on the roadside so that I could exchange my broken down animals for their fresh ones, and thus borrow them for the occasion. During the preceding day, I had been taking horses by flankers on each side of my column, and kept a supply of fresh ones at the rear of each regiment. As soon as a man's horse broke down he fell out of the ranks, waited until the rear of his regiment came up, got a fresh horse, left his old one, and resumed his place.

By this means I was enabled to march at a trot, which, with a column, is impossible for any length of time without breaking down horses, and broken down horses speedily break down men. With fresh horses, however, I hoped to make a rapid march and get to Point Lookout early on the morning of the 13th.

After returning from the pursuit of Wilson's Cavalry, I turned the head of the column toward Upper Marlboro, and had proceeded only a short way when I was overtaken by a courier from General Early. He brought me orders to report at once at headquarters, at Silver Spring, on the Seventh Street road. I moved down the Washington road to the Agricultural College, and thence along the line of the Federal pickets, marching all night, occasionally driving in a picket, and expecting every moment to be fired upon from the works, within range of which I was moving. I reported to General Early after midnight, and found the whole army in retreat. I was directed to close up the rear with Jackson's Cavalry Brigade behind me. We reached Rockville during the day, where Jackson was pushed by the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, who hung on to his rear, and rendered things very uncomfortable generally.

Finding matters getting disagreeable, I put in a squadron of the First Maryland, under Captain Wilson G. Nicholas, and Lieutenant Thomas Green, and charged into the town, scattering our pursuers, who got out of the way with expedition. Their dismounted men, however, stuck to the houses and fences and poured in a galling fire as we passed. The dust was so thick that in the charge the men could not see the horses in front of them. The horses of Nicholas [223] and Green were killed and their riders wounded and captured. As soon as this loss was discovered, I made another charge and recaptured Green, but was unable to retake Nicholas, whom they had mounted on a spare horse and run off the field.

During the rest of the 13th our pursuers treated us with more respect. All night long we marched and stopped, and stopped and marched, with that terrible, tedious delay and iteration so wearing to men and horses, and it was not until Thursday, the 14th, we reached Poolesville. Here we were obliged to stand and keep back the pursuit, while the infantry and artillery were passing over the Potomac. I got my artillery in position and deployed a strong skirmish line in front of Poolesville, and checked the enemy for several hours. At last, in the afternoon, a wide line of skirmishers could be seen stretching far beyond each flank of those we had been engaged with and which moved forward with a steady alignment, very unusual for dismounted cavalry. I sent word to General Ransom to come to my position, that the infantry had arrived, and that it was about time for cavalry to leave.

He soon joined me, and while we were looking through our glasses at the advancing line, where their cartridge boxes and canteens plainly showed—puff! puff! puff! went their fire all along the line. There was no mistaking the sound. The swish of the minie ball was so clear and so evident that it could not possibly come from carbines. We held on, nevertheless, making a great show with our artillery and repeatedly attempted to charge with cavalry, so that we delayed them until their supports could deploy. By this time, however, the enemy had become far advanced, and having been notified that everything, including my own baggage and ordnance train, had crossed, I withdrew comfortably and got into Virginia about sundown.

We had been marching, fighting and working, from daylight July 9th, until sundown July 14th, four days and a half, or about one hundred and eight hours.

We had unsaddled only twice during that time, with a halt of from four to five hours each time, making nearly one hundred hours of marching. We had isolated Baltimore from the North, and cut off Washington from the United States, having made a circuit from Frederick to Cockeysville on the east, to Beltsville on the south, and through Rockville and Poolesville on the west. We had failed in the main object of our expedition, which was to release the prisoners at Point Lookout, convert them into a new army, capture Washington, [224] establish our communications across the Potomac by Manassas Junction, with Gordonsville and Richmond, and by making this a new base of operations, force Grant to let go his hold and come to the rescue of Pennsylvania.

The co-operative movement on Point Lookout failed, I have since understood, because the secret expedition of John Taylor Wood, by sea from Wilmington, was spoken of on the streets of Richmond, the day before he was to have started from Wilmington. It was, therefore, countermanded, because the Confederate authorities well knew that the Federal general was so well served that he was accurately and promptly informed of everything as soon as it transpired in Richmond.

General Early's attack failed, as I have shown, because of the impossibility of getting to Washington before Monday afternoon. For before then; the energy and sagacity of John W. Garrett had hurled reinforcements from Locust Point to Washington, many of which had arrived before Early.

His trains were running from Locust Point on Sunday night, all day Monday and on Tuesday night, and the last of them had passed over the road not many hours before I reached it at Beltsville on Tuesday morning. The movement on Washington was a feint to draw Grant from Richmond, to be converted into an attack if opportunity offered. I believed that Grant had begun to move from Richmond. I knew that two of his corps were on the Patapsco, at Baltimore, and had information that others had moved up the Potomac. A young man, represented to me as reliable, well known to some of my people, had left Washington and Georgetown on Monday, and he reported to me that he had seen General Grant in Washington on Sunday. I was therefore forced to believe that Grant was in motion, and I so reported to General Early, first from near Baltimore, and afterwards when I joined him on the morning of the 13th. I do not to this day know the origin of the story of General Grant's presence in Washington on Sunday. He may have been there or it may have been another general officer of that name. I have understood that there was another General Grant in Washington. But be that as it may, it is clear that at no time after Monday morning, the 111th of July, could General Early have been justified in attacking the strong fortifications of Washington. His command consisted of the depleted divisions of Gordon, Rodes, Breckinridge and Ramseur, of about 8,500 muskets, the Cavalry Division of Major-General Robert Ransom, consisting of the brigades [225] of Jackson, Johnson, McCausland and Imboden, about 2,000 badly armed, worse equipped, and undisciplined mounted men, and three battalions of artillery of about forty guns and 1,000 men; making a total effective force of about 11,500 men of all arms. Washington could only have been taken by surprise, and it was impossible to surprise it, when General Grant at City Point was nearer to it than General Early at Sharpsburg.

Sharpsburg is four marches from Washington. It might be made in three forced marches. The sagacity of Mr. Garrett's recommendation that a battle should be fought at Frederick, even if it were lost, will be appreciated. It would have been nearly equivalent to one whole day's march, and extended Early's time from three or four to four or five days.

On the other hand, transports from City Point could reach Baltimore on the Patapsco, or Washington on the Potomac, in twelve hours. They could have transported General Grant's whole army from the James to the Federal capital before General Early could possibly have marched from where he was forced to cross the Potomac. In this possibility lay the strength and weakness of the strategy. Had Grant been so inclined he could have withdrawn his whole force, or such part of it as to have paralyzed his movements on the James, and the threat to Washington would make him contemplate the necessity of such a move. If Early's movement had induced him so to act, Lee would have been relieved, and the South allowed another year for a breathing spell. If it did not so influence him, we were no worse off than when the attempt was made.

I have always considered the movement one the audacity of which was its safety, and no higher military skill was displayed on either side, than that shown by General Early in this daring attempt to surprise the capital of his enemy with so small a force.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Baltimore, Md. (Maryland, United States) (16)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (8)
Point Lookout, Md. (Maryland, United States) (5)
Martinsburg (West Virginia, United States) (4)
Poolesville (Maryland, United States) (3)
Lynchburg (Virginia, United States) (3)
Cockeysville (Maryland, United States) (3)
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (2)
Sharpsburg (Maryland, United States) (2)
Rockville, Md. (Maryland, United States) (2)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
City Point (Virginia, United States) (2)
Yellow Tavern (Virginia, United States) (1)
Westminster (Maryland, United States) (1)
Upper Marlboro (Maryland, United States) (1)
United States (United States) (1)
St. Marys county (Maryland, United States) (1)
Silver Springs (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Reservoir (Georgia, United States) (1)
Old Liberty (Virginia, United States) (1)
Niagara County (New York, United States) (1)
Muddy Branch, Md. (Maryland, United States) (1)
Montgomery County (Maryland, United States) (1)
Montgomery (Alabama, United States) (1)
Loudoun (Virginia, United States) (1)
Kearneysville (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Howard (Maryland, United States) (1)
Hainesville (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Hagerstown (Maryland, United States) (1)
Gunpowder river (Maryland, United States) (1)
Green Spring Valley (Maryland, United States) (1)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (1)
Culloden (Georgia, United States) (1)
Canada (Canada) (1)
Brookville, Ind. (Indiana, United States) (1)
Boonsboro (Maryland, United States) (1)
Bladensburg (Maryland, United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 11th (2)
July (2)
September, 1889 AD (1)
July 9th, 1864 AD (1)
June 12th, 1864 AD (1)
July 14th (1)
July 10th (1)
July 9th (1)
July 5th (1)
July 4th (1)
July 3rd (1)
June 1st (1)
June (1)
May 11th (1)
14th (1)
11th (1)
9th (1)
8th (1)
6th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: