Maryland in the Civil War
The Maryland Line
Source: Confederate Military History, Vol. 2
After the First regiment was mustered out of service August, 1862, and the army of Northern Virginia returned from Sharpsburg, the hope of Maryland seemed dead. The Second regiment and the First cavalry in the valley were ordered to report to Brig.-Gen. William E. Jones, commanding the Valley district. Steuart was brigadier, Elzey was major-general, and Johnson was colonel on a military court organized under an act of the Confederate Congress to sit as permanent general court-martial for each corps in the army. The Marylanders were more dispersed than ever.
When the campaign of 1863 opened, the Second Maryland led Ewell's advance on Winchester, and established its reputation for drill, for gallantry and for esprit, in the army. From Winchester Lee crossed the Potomac and moved into Pennsylvania. Johnson, chafing at being in the rear when the army was advancing, convinced Hon. James A. Seddon, secretary of war, that it was legal to constitute a regiment by consolidating the infantry and cavalry battalions, and he was commissioned colonel of the First regiment, Maryland Line. He was ordered to take command of all the Maryland battalions and companies in the army of Northern Virginia, and authorized to organize regiments and appoint officers for them and report to Maj.-Gen. Isaac R. Trimble. He left Richmond, took horse at Charlottesville, and rode rapidly through the country to Gettysburg, where he arrived on the evening of July 2d. He reported his orders to Trimble, who reported them to Ewell. Ewell had succeeded Jackson in command of the Second corps, and knew Johnson well. He said in his crisp, brusque way, "This is no time to be swapping horses." The battle was then raging in his front. The next day, the 3d, Ewell assigned Johnson to the command of his old brigade, and he remained in command of the Second brigade until November, 1863, when at last the order assigning him to the Maryland Line was executed. General Lee ordered him to take the Second infantry, the First cavalry and the Baltimore light artillery (the Second Maryland) to Hanover Junction, where the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac railroad crossed the Virginia Central and where five long, high bridges over the North Anna, the South Anna and the Middle river made the safety of the position essential to the transportation of Lee's army. Here then at last, after more than two years' effort and struggle, was the Maryland Line organized. During the winter it was reinforced by Maryland commands and Marylanders, until there were assembled more than fifteen hundred Marylanders under the Maryland flag, the largest number that was ever collected in war: more than Lord Sterling commanded at Long Island, or under DeKalb fell and died in front of Camden, or under Otho Williams swept the field at Eutaw, or by Howard's order charged at Cowpens, or broke the Grenadier Guards at Guilford.
It was composed of the élite of the State, young men charged with devotion to duty, honor, country, liberty, justice and right. Their gallantry in battle became an ideal of the army of Northern Virginia all through their service.
The commands assembled were: First Maryland cavalry, Lieut.-Col. Ridgely Brown; Maj. Robert Couter Smith; Adjutants George W. Booth, Tom Eager Howard Post.
Second Maryland infantry: Captain J. Parran Crane commanding; Lieut.-Col. Jos. R. Herbert and Maj. W. W. Goldsborough, both absent, wounded at Gettysburg.
First Maryland artillery, Capt. Wm. F. Dement.
Second Maryland artillery, Baltimore light, Capt. Wm. H. Griffin.
Fourth Maryland artillery, Chesapeake, Capt. Walter S. Chew.
The organizations of the batteries were as follows:
First Maryland: Captain, William F. Dement. Lieutenants, Charles S. Couter, John Gayle, Wm. J. Hill.
Second Maryland, Baltimore light artillery: Captain, William H. Griffin. Lieutenants, William B. Bean, John McNulty, J. W. Goodman.
Fourth Maryland, Chesapeake artillery: Captain, Walter S. Chew. Lieutenants, John E. Plater, Benjamin G. Roberts.
The field and staff consisted of: Bradley T. Johnson, colonel commanding; George W. Booth, captain and A. A. G. ;Wilson Carey Nicholas, captain and A. I. G.; George H. Kyle, major and C. S.; Charles W. Harding, major and Q. M.; Richard P. Johnson, surgeon and medical director; Thos. S. Latimer, assistant surgeon; Rev. Thomas Duncan, chaplain. Andrew C. Trippe, lieutenant and ordnance officer.
During the winter General Lee conceived the plan of sending the Maryland Line, the cavalry minus their horses and the artillery minus their guns, across the Potomac in open boats to attack Point Lookout, where there were 15,000 Confederate prisoners with a strong guard of infantry and artillery. This forlorn hope was broken up by Federal movements around Hanover Junction, which rendered the Maryland Line more essential there than in any desperate forays against gunboats or fortified places and heavy artillery to rescue prisoners of war. About the 1st of March, 1864, Colonel Johnson was informed by telegram from army headquarters that a heavy force of cavalry had passed by the right flank of the Confederate army and was making its way for Hanover Junction, presumably to burn the bridges, and he was directed to protect them at every cost. He at once dispatched most of his cavalry in an expanding circle of scouts north and northeast, until after midnight he located the enemy moving by Frederick's Hall toward Ground Squirrel Bridge over the South Anna, five miles east of the railroad bridges. Posting all his infantry at the bridges, Colonel Johnson with the remnant of the First cavalry and the Baltimore light artillery pushed out toward the enemy. A mile from camp he struck a Federal picket approaching the bridges. A couple of shells and a rattling charge sent the raiders whirling whence they came. Johnson then moved along a parallel road to get between them and Richmond if possible. He had sixty sabers and four guns. At Ashland a party charged into the village, but were driven back, and the Marylanders pushed on to Yellow Tavern, where the road they were on ran into and joined the road by which the Federal Cavalry were pushing on to Richmond. Arriving at the point after his enemy, Johnson concealed his force behind a barn on the roadside and posted a picket on the Brooktown pike, just in front, along which the Federal cavalry were advancing. The advance of the Federals were thundering away with their artillery at the outside fortifications of Richmond. In a few minutes five horsemen in blue dashed up to the pickets, who were clad in Federal uniforms captured that morning. Two were killed and three captured. Among the captured was a lieutenant, staff officer of Colonel Dahlgren. From the prisoners was extracted with difficulty and by force the information that the enemy in front, attacking, was under Maj.-Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, with 3,000 sabers, and that Colonel Dahlgren with 500 more was on the river road and that this dispatch was to inform Kilpatrick of his whereabouts, and that he intended to charge into the city at dusk and expected General Kilpatrick to assist by charging at the same time. Thus, knowing his enemy's hand Colonel Johnson promptly trumped it. He picked up his sixty sabers and hurled them against Kilpatrick's rear guard on the Brook pike. He ran them in on Kilpatrick, who was shelling the Richmond defenses. That officer, seeing he was between the upper and the nether millstone, took horse and got out toward the Chickahominy, which he crossed, and went into camp at the Meadow Bridges, the Marylanders being on the side nearest Richmond. During the night Hampton came down on him with the First and Second North Carolina cavalry and ran him out of his camp. He stood not on the order of his going, but went at once, and at daylight Johnson and the Marylanders struck his trail. During the whole day they incessantly charged his rear guard and delayed and hindered his march. The ferry boats on the Pamunkey had all been sunk by Colonel Johnson's order as soon as he was notified of the movement of the enemy's cavalry by General Lee, the river was nowhere fordable, and Kilpatrick's only escape was by the peninsula to Fortress Monroe, or to a force sent thence to relieve and rescue him. At Old Church he was obliged to turn and fight. He put his 3,000 men and six guns in line of battle and sent one regiment out to charge his pursuers. He hadn't an idea of who or what they were. They might be Hampton with the whole of the Confederate cavalry pushing to gobble him up. The Federal charge drove the Marylanders back a mile with a loss of two men killed and one prisoner. As they were reforming to renew their attacks on Kilpatrick's rear guard, a courier reported that a heavy column was moving rapidly up on Colonel Johnson's rear and was then less than half a mile distant. Johnson had just time to dismount his men and rush them into the woods on each side of the road, but had not time to get his led horses out of the way when the Federals charged. They went through and the remnant rejoined Kilpatrick a mile distant, but the Marylanders killed, wounded and captured over a hundred men. This last detachment was a part of Dahlgren's command. Colonel Dahlgren, his communication with Kilpatrick having been cut off by the capture of his dispatch at Yellow Tavern, had taken one hundred men and gone off to find him. He had crossed the Pamunkey at Dabney's Ferry by swimming his horses and carrying his men and ammunition over in the sunken ferry boat, which he had found and raised, and was making his way back to the Union lines when he was killed in King and Queen county, the very night after the day the other part of his command cut its way through the Marylanders and escaped to Kilpatrick.
After this little episode the Marylanders stuck to Kilpatrick until he reached the railroad at Tunstall's Station, where he was received by an escort sent up for him by Major-General Butler from Fortress Monroe. General Hampton reported that the exploits of the Maryland Line had saved Richmond, for, he said, Kilpatrick would certainly have ridden into Richmond if Colonel Johnson's attack in his rear had not paralyzed and delayed him so much that an infantry division could be brought up from the lines and set out to confront him. He complimented Colonel Johnson by presenting him with a saber, the only other patterns of which were borne by Lieutenant-General Hampton and President Jefferson Davis. Major-General Elzey, commanding the district of Richmond, reported that Colonel Johnson and his command, the Maryland Line, had saved the city of Richmond, and issued a general order complimenting him and them.
On the 9th of May, 1864, Maj.-Gen. Phil. Sheridan passed by the right flank of the army of Northern Virginia. Colonel Johnson was absent from the headquarters of the Maryland Line at the Junction, on a scout down the peninsula, leaving Colonel Brown in command. In the afternoon Colonel Brown had information of the Federal movement and proceeded promptly to put himself in front of it, and before Richmond, with one hundred and fifty sabers. He came in contact with the enemy at about eleven o'clock that night about a mile from Beaver Dam Station on the Virginia Central railroad, now the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad. The enemy was tearing up and destroying the railroad ties. Colonel Brown dismounted his command, about ninety men, the rest left as horse holders and as reserve. He himself got up close to them and saw their position. Returning to his command, he attacked and moved forward, driving in pickets and skirmishers sent out to stop him. He pressed them back on the line of Sheridan's command formed to receive him. Thirteen thousand to one hundred and fifty was odds. The Marylander was obliged to decline and Brown withdrew. The next morning, in obedience to a dispatch from Gen. J. E. B. Stuart to attack and delay them until he could get up, he stood against this overwhelming force all the morning, constantly forcing them to form line of battle and move forward in order. Stuart was thus able to get to Yellow Tavern just after Sheridan had passed that point and was about to attack Richmond. The Maryland Line paid dearly for the honor won that day. Capt. Schwartz, Company F, and Lieut. J. A. Ventris Pue, Company A, were badly wounded, and died on being carried off by the Federals to Washington. They did not die from wounds, but from maltreatment in being borne over bad roads in a rough ambulance. The ride killed them, not the bullets.
In the latter part of May Lee's army fell back to the line of the North Anna, and Grant as usual moved by his right and crossed the Pamunkey at Dabney's Ferry. Colonel Johnson and the cavalry of the Line happened to be near there watching for such a movement. Colonel Baker of North Carolina was there with Gordon's North Carolina brigade, and he attacked the party which had crossed the river and driven off the Confederate pickets. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, to whom Colonel Johnson was temporarily reporting, directed him to go to the assistance of Baker. After a conference Johnson agreed that if Baker could hold the Federals while he, Johnson, could get around them, they two would capture the whole party. So Baker kept up a brisk skirmish, and Johnson moved up a side road to the right. He had not gone a mile when he met Baker's pickets coming back with the Federals at their heels, pressing so close that Johnson hardly had time to leave the narrow road and deploy in an open field before the enemy was on him. They killed Colonel Johnson's horse and shot his saber clean from his side. By the time he got out into the field a column of blue cavalry was going by his left flank and into his rear. So he attempted to withdraw decently and in order. But this was impossible. The Marylanders made repeated charges to get relief, to be as frequently driven back, until at last the only order of going was "sauve qui peut." Out of two hundred and fifty men carried in they left seventy killed, wounded or missing. There was a larger percentage of killed than is usual in battle, for the fighting, as Jackson said about the Bucktail fight, "was close and bloody." Some of the finest young men of the Maryland Line lost their lives that day. Alexander Young, private in Company D, son of a former comptroller of the treasury of the United States under Buchanan's administration, was a model of manly beauty, of chivalry and grace, of courage and accomplishment. Beautiful as he was brave, refined as highly educated; intellectually, physically and morally he was a pattern gentleman. He died in his tracks, dismounted on the skirmish line, holding his place against a charge of mounted cavalry. This was known in the traditions of the Maryland Line as the fight at Pollard's Farm on May 27, 1864.
On the 1st of June following a force of Federal cavalry drove the First Maryland out of Hanover Court House over the Richmond & Fredericksburg railroad at Wickham's Crossing, back to the Virginia Central railroad not far north of Ashland. The bridges of the first road had ceased to be important, for Lee had fallen back between them and Richmond, but the Virginia Central bridges were very valuable, for they gave the only way by rail to the valley of Virginia. Colonel Johnson with his forces fought the enemy from hill-top to hill-top all the way from Wickham's back to the Virginia Central bridges, in hopes that reinforcements would be sent and thus the bridges saved, for he kept General Lee advised of his movements all day and he knew the conditions accurately. But no reinforcements came. At the very last effort, a desperate charge, Ridgely Brown was shot through the middle of the forehead and died without speaking a word. He was the bravest, the purest, the gentlest man from Maryland who died for liberty in that four years' war. His commanding officer recorded the estimation in which he was held by officers and men in these appropriate terms:
"Headquarters Maryland Line, June 6, 1864.
General Order No. 26.
Lieut.-Col. Ridgely Brown, commanding First Maryland cavalry, fell in battle on the 1st instant near the South Anna. He died as a soldier prefers to die, leading a victorious charge.
As an officer, kind and careful; as a soldier, brave and true; as a gentleman, chivalrous; as a Christian, gentle and modest; no one in the Confederate army surpassed him in the hold he had on the hearts of his men and the place in the esteem of his superiors. Of the rich blood that Maryland has lavished on every battle field, none is more precious than his and that of our other brave comrades in arms who fell in the four days previous, on the hill sides of Hanover. His command has lost a friend most steadfast, but his commanding officer is deprived of an assistant invaluable. To the first he was ever as careful as a father, to the latter as true as a brother.
In token of respect for his memory the colors of the different regiments of this command will be draped and the officers wear the usual badge of military mourning for thirty days.
By order of Col. Bradley T. Johnson,
GEORGE W. BOOTH, A. A. G."
The Maryland cavalry under Colonel Johnson took a conspicuous and useful part in the battle at Trevilian's on June 12th between the Confederate cavalry, 4,500 sabers under Hampton, and the Federal cavalry, 13,000 sabers under Sheridan. When Custer in a dashing charge rode through a vacant place in Hampton's center, Rosser from the left with his own brigade and the Maryland Line cavalry charged Custer's flank, and in turn rode through him, cutting him in two. The Marylanders captured over one hundred good horses and men completely armed and equipped.
After this engagement at Trevilian's, Colonel Johnson obtained permission from General Hampton to undertake an expedition he had been preparing for all the preceding winter at Hanover Junction. He proposed to pick two hundred men and horses, proceed by roads he knew well on the east foot of the Blue Ridge to the Potomac, within twenty miles of Washington, cross at a well-known ford and ride swiftly to the Soldiers' Home, twelve miles off, where Lincoln was in the habit of spending the summer nights, guarded by a small picket of cavalry, disperse that, mount the President on a strong horse behind an officer, and send him back into Virginia with five men. Johnson with the rest of the command was to strike west for Frederick, cut the way between Washington and Baltimore, isolate Frederick east and west, and try to cross the Potomac at Point of Rocks, at Shepherdstown or Williamsport, whichever should be found most practicable, or if pressed get beyond Cumberland and escape to the Virginia mountains by that route. But if they should be cut off entirely from Virginia, he intended to ride through Pennsylvania to Niagara and cross then into the British possessions. He believed that everything would be in such confusion on the disappearance of the President, who could not be heard of in less than two or three days, that he would have that much start and would easily get off. At any rate the prize was worth the risk, and the game the candle. So he left Hampton to ride his raid and was busily engaged near Gordonsville shoeing his horses and getting up his disunited men.
One day General Early came along with his corps to head off Hunter, then rapidly approaching Lynchburg. Colonel Johnson felt himself bound to disclose to General Early his projected raid, for he would unexpectedly be operating within the sphere of Early's movements, and the latter promptly prohibited it. "I want to make that expedition myself, and I want you and your cavalry to assist me in it. You go to Waynesboro in the valley and watch there, guarding my rear until I dispose of Mr. Hunter. As soon as I've Smashed his little tea party, I'll come back and we'll go into Maryland together and see what we can do."
So instead of "riding his raid" Johnson marched to Waynesboro and waited with what patience nature had given him until Early's corps had returned to Staunton. Then Early assigned him to the command of Wm. E. Jones' cavalry brigade, Jones having been killed at New Hope church below Staunton on Hunter's advance up the valley. The First Maryland cavalry and the Baltimore light artillery were added to the command. In a few days Colonel Johnson received his commission of brigadier-general. He made Capt. George W. Booth assistant adjutant-general of brigade, Booth having been his adjutant with the First Maryland infantry and with the Maryland Line at Hanover Junction, and for gallantry, for intelligence, for industry, for zeal, for self control and cool courage being unexcelled by any man high or low in the army of Northern Virginia.
General Johnson, in charge of the advance, moved rapidly through Winchester, marching on Shepherdstown. At Leetown, south of Martinsburg and northwest of Harper's Ferry, he encountered General Mulligan with 3,000 infantry and a six-gun battery to stop him. He promptly attacked Mulligan, and after more than half a day's fight drove him away. Johnson's cavalry brigade consisted of 800 mounted men, one four-gun battery, and a number of dismounted men who had lost their horses in the preceding thirty days, fighting Hunter, and were now following their command to take the chances of a horse turning up. Like the Welshman, if somebody would furnish them with a bridle, they would find a horse. From Leetown Johnson crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown, passed rapidly through Sharpsburg to Boonsboro, on the 4th of July, leaving a large infantry force on Maryland Heights on his right and rear, depending on Early's infantry to take care of them. From Boonsboro he pressed down the National road through Middletown on Frederick. At Middletown he ran into a regiment of Federal cavalry, the Eighth Illinois, and Alexander's Maryland battery. Pushing them back and over the mountain, he drove them to the suburbs of Frederick, where he found a large force of infantry deployed in front of the town. He sent Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn with his Virginia regiment over to the Harper's Ferry road, while he proposed to move by the reservoir road into the opposite end of the town. Frederick was his native place and he was hourly informed of the condition of things and the troops defending the place. He was convinced that a simultaneous charge by Colonel Dunn at one end and by himself at the other would result in the capture of the town and all the troops in it. It was crammed with a wagon train escaping from Harper's Ferry, whence Gordon, of Early's command, had driven them.
Just as he got in motion for this attack, Maj.-Gen. Robert Ransom, commanding Early's cavalry, came up, and being informed of what was proposed, countermanded it and ordered Johnson back to the mountain at Hagan's on the top of it. He said that General Johnson was too enthusiastic and sanguine to get home, and that he would be cut to pieces. That night General Early gave General Johnson his orders, just received from General Lee by Robert E. Lee, his son. General Lee had singular tenacity and persistency of mind. He had formed the plan the preceding winter to send Johnson and the Maryland Line across the Potomac in boats to release the prisoners at Point Lookout. That plan had been frustrated by the movements of Kilpatrick and Sheridan, and now he recurred to it as soon as there was a possibility of accomplishing it. He directed General Early to detach Johnson with orders to move around the north of Baltimore, burn the bridges on the railroads leading north and cut the wires; then, circling round, to break the communication between Washington and Baltimore; then move on Point Lookout and attack at daylight on the 12th of July, when an attack would be made from the water side by Capt. John Taylor Wood, who would run out of Wilmington and by Fortress Monroe in a Confederate gun-boat. When the prisoners, some 15,000, were released, Johnson was to assume command and march them to Bladensburg, where General Early was to wait for them, when Washington was to be carried, communication established across the Potomac, and Grant's army forced to release Richmond and come back to recover Washington.
Johnson showed the commanding general that the time allowed was entirely insufficient. It was then the 8th of July and he was ordered to be at Point Lookout on the morning of the 12th, three days and three nights to make a march of two hundred and fifty miles. Horse flesh couldn't do it. However, it was orders, and no more was to be said. The explanation was made to account for the inevitable result. The next morning at daylight he started, rode through Westminster to Reisterstown and Cockeysville, where he arrived on the morning of Sunday, July 10th. At that point he detached Lieut.-Col. Harry Gilmor, who with the Second Maryland cavalry had been attached to his command on the march down the valley, with orders to move on to the railroad connecting Baltimore and Philadelphia, burn the bridges over the Gunpowder and Bush rivers and then report to him in the neighborhood of Washington, where he would be by the 14th. Gilmor accomplished the object of his expedition, burned the bridges, captured a passenger train on which was Major-General Franklin of the Federal army, who subsequently escaped during the night, and reported as per orders on the 14th, at Poolesville. Johnson, after burning the bridge at Cockeysville, turned round and rode rapidly around north of Baltimore. When five miles from that city, it was reported to him that the home of Governor Bradford, governor of Maryland, was only a short distance down the road. He at once detailed Lieutenant Blackstone, Company B, First Maryland cavalry, with a detail of a few men and written orders to burn the house, in retaliation for the burning of the home of Governor Letcher of Virginia by General Hunter at Lexington within the preceding thirty days. Such debts require prompt payment, and this was paid in thirty days without grace.
From Cockeysville he had dispatched a friend into Baltimore to find out the condition of the transportation on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, and he left two men at Hayfields, John Merryman's place, to bring him the report of his scout about midnight. He stopped at the Caves, the place of John Canon, Esq., about midnight, to feed. While there his couriers from Hayfields got up and reported that the Nineteenth corps, General Emory, had arrived in transports and was at Locust Point and was being landed on the trains of the Baltimore & Ohio and hurried to Washington. Johnson sent this information to Early by an officer and five men, with orders to ride at speed, seizing horses as fast as theirs gave out. Thence he rode across Montgomery and Howard counties to Beltsville on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad to Washington, where he struck a thousand Federal cavalry and drove them helter-skelter into Bladensburg. After cutting the railroad he started for Point Lookout, distant eighty miles, with seventeen hours to make it. He sent couriers ahead to tell the people he was coming, and that they must have their horses on the roadside ready to be exchanged for his broken-down ones. They would have done it, for they were all ardent Southerners. Just as his column got in motion, he received an order from General Early to report to him at once. Turning the head of the column toward Washington, he caught Early that night near Blair's house at Silver Spring and, as usual, took the rear guard. At Rockville there was a halt to feed, when a regiment of Federal cavalry charged them, but was driven back with loss. The Marylanders, however, did not escape unscathed. Capt. Wilson Carey Nicholas, acting inspector-general of the Maryland Line, leading the charge of the first squadron, had his horse shot and was himself shot and taken prisoner. He was as good a soldier and as gallant a gentleman as ever rode a horse in that war.
From Rockville, still covering the rear, Johnson's brigade followed the army to Poolesville, where during half the day it covered Early, recrossing the Potomac. His trains were long, piled with plunder, and his herds of cattle and horses very large. The Federals pressed down on the rear guard with pertinacity and in force, but the cavalry held them until dark, and the Baltimore light artillery fired the last shots, as the First cavalry were the last troops that crossed the Potomac, on Early's withdrawal from Maryland in 1864. He had received Johnson's dispatch from the Caves, reporting the arrival of the Nineteenth corps, just in time to countermand the order for an assault at daylight next morning on the apparently deserted Federal fortification. The morning revealed those same works crammed with troops, and Johnson's dispatch, therefore, probably saved him from a great disaster, for the works were impregnable to assault when fully manned. This ride from July 9th to July 13th was probably the longest ride taken during the war. It was one hundred and twenty hours in which the men never dismounted except to unsaddle and feed once every twenty-four hours, and of course they ate what they could pick up on the roadside, and slept in their saddles.
After crossing the river, Johnson's brigade followed Early to Winchester, and in a short time to Martinsburg. From that point General Early dispatched Gen. John McCausland with his own and Johnson's brigade to demand a contribution from Chambersburg, Pa., in retaliation for the burning of the houses of Hon. Alexander R. Boteler, Andrew Hunter and Edmund Lee at Shepherdstown and Charlestown a short time before. He sent a written demand on the authorities of Chambersburg for $100,000 in gold and $500,000 in greenbacks for the purpose of indemnifying these losers from Hunter's barbarities, or, in default of payment, he ordered the town to be burned. The expedition started on July 29th and reached Chambersburg on the 30th. McCausland then sought the town authorities, but they had fled. He then caused the court house bell to be rung to call together a town meeting to make his demand known to them. But the panic-stricken people would trust themselves in no conference with the "rebels." They did not believe, and they were not chary in saying so, that the rebels would never dare to burn their town; they were afraid to do so. This was really the tone assumed by the people of Chambersburg that morning. Finding delay useless and dangerous, McCausland set fire to the court house, which made a flaming beacon of fast-com-ing disaster, and in five minutes the whole town was in a blaze from twenty different points.
The Confederates were withdrawn from the burning town and started for Virginia. They moved up to Cumberland, but finding General Kelly there with a force too strong for them, turned off and recrossed the Potomac at Old Town, in Hampshire county, now West Virginia. Thence they moved on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad at New Creek, and finding that heavily fortified and defended, proceeded to Moorefield in Hardy county, where they camped on the 6th of August. The First and Second Maryland had been placed under command of Lieut.-Col. Harry Gilmor and were camped up the Romney road. The lines were made, the camps pitched and the pickets posted according to the orders of Brigadier-General McCausland, the commanding officer of the expedition, and Brigadier-General Johnson obeyed his orders. Next morning before day Averell surprised Johnson's picket on the Romney road, captured the reserve, and then rode over the camps of the two Maryland battalions. Johnson just escaped capture and endeavored to rally his brigade. But the surprise was too nerve-shattering. The Twenty-first Virginia, Col. William E. Peters, was the only regiment that could be held in hand. Peters was a man of iron resolution and imperturbable courage. He couldn't be shaken. Earthquakes, tornadoes, electric storms couldn't move him. He would have stopped and asked, "What next?" if the earth were opening beneath him and the mountains falling on him. Johnson set him to hold Averell, while he brought the rest of the brigade to his support. But the Federal rush, the élan of success, was too strong. It carried off the Twenty-first Virginia like chaff before the whirlwind, leaving Peters shot through the body, mortally wounded, if any wound can be mortal. But human will triumphs over human anatomy and surgical skill, and Peters survives to this day as indomitable in his Latin professorship as he was that drear morning at Moorefield.
After the return from Chambersburg, the Maryland Line in Johnson's cavalry brigade was actively engaged in all the operations of Early in the valley. There was not a fight in which the Marylanders were not in front. Like the clan McDonald, which refused to charge at Culloden because it had been placed on the left of the line of battle, and McDonald since Bannockburn had always held the right of the clans, they always were in front, whether posted there or not. They took it, and held it!
After Early was expelled from the valley by the overwhelming force of Sheridan, the Maryland Line cavalry and artillery were attached to Davidson's brigade, afterward commanded by Gen. Wm. L. Jackson. There they served in Lomax's cavalry division during the winter until March, 1865, when the remnant of Early's command was dispersed by Sheridan at Waynesboro. As Sheridan pursued Early across the mountains toward Richmond, the Marylanders hung on his flank and annoyed him as flies worry a horse, but could do no harm.
In the latter part of March, 1865, they were ordered to report to General Fitz Lee at Stony Creek. Reaching Richmond the evening of April 1st they camped there, and next day, Sunday, April 2d, saw the evacuation of the capital of the Confederacy. The Marylanders had then been reduced to less than one hundred. At Stony Creek they found General Lee had moved, and they received orders to cover the rear of Mahone's division, the rear guard of the army. On the 4th of April, Colonel Dorsey, commanding the First Maryland, joined Gen. Fitzhugh Lee and was assigned to Gen. Wm. H. Payne's brigade. General Payne was wounded at Amelia Springs and was succeeded by Gen. Thos. T. Munford. Under him, the Marylanders, like the McDonalds, always nearest the enemy, kept the enemy pursuing them in check. On the 9th of April a heavy force of the Federal cavalry was seen moving along Munford's front, parallel to it. Dorsey mounted his men and, pulling down a fence in his front, was moving through the gaps in it toward the enemy. As soon as his first section had passed through, they saw the Federals in full charge at them not a hundred yards off. "We must charge them," said Capt. William J. Raisin, "that's our only chance."
"Draw saber, gallop, charge!" was Dorsey's order, and the Marylanders hurled themselves on the advancing foe and drove him back. This was the last cavalry charge made in the army of Northern Virginia. William C. Price, Company E, was killed. His was the last blood shed in the war in Virginia. As General Munford well said in his farewell address to the Marylanders, "You spilled the first blood of the war in Baltimore and you shed the last in Virginia."
Munford did not surrender at Appomattox. None of the cavalry did. They marched away to Lynchburg. In ten days Colonel Dorsey got an order to move up the valley to Salem. When they arrived at Cloverdale in Botetourt county, they received this parting address from Munford, "the bravest of the brave."
"Cloverdale, Botetourt Co., Va., April 28, 1865.
Commanding First Maryland Cavalry:
I have just learned from Captain Emack that your gallant band was moving up the valley in response to my call. I am deeply pained to say that our army cannot be reached, as I have learned it has capitulated. It is sad indeed to think that our country's future is all shrouded in gloom. But for you and your command there is the consolation of having faithfully done your duty. Three years ago the chivalric Brown joined my old regiment with twenty-three Maryland volunteers, with light hearts and full of fight. I soon learned to respect, admire and love them for all those qualities which endear soldiers to their officers. They recruited rapidly, and as they increased in numbers, so did their reputation and friends increase; and they were soon able to take a position of their own.
Need I say when I see that position so high and almost alone among soldiers, that my heart swells with pride to think that a record so bright and glorious is in some part linked with mine? Would that I could see the mothers and sisters of every member of your battalion, that I might tell them how nobly you have represented your State and maintained our cause.
But you will not be forgotten. The fame you have won will be guarded by Virginia with all the pride she feels in her own true sons, and the ties which have linked us together, memory will preserve.
You who struck the first blow in Baltimore and the last in Virginia have done all that could be asked of you. Had the rest of our officers and men adhered to our cause with the same devotion, to-day we should have been free from Yankee thralldom. I have ordered the brigade to return to their homes, and it behooves us now to separate.
With my warmest wishes for your welfare, and a hearty God bless you, I bid you farewell.
THOMAS T. MUNFORD,
Brigadier-General Commanding Division."
And so closes the record of the Maryland Line in the army of the Confederate States. It is inscribed on the pages of the history of the army of Northern Virginia. It fired the first gun in the Seven Days' battles. It fired the first gun in Early's advance into Maryland in 1864, when he crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown, and the last, when he recrossed at Poolesville. It struck the first blow and shed the first blood of the revolution in Baltimore on the 19th of April, I86I, and made the last charge at Appomattox, April 9, 1865. Future generations of Marylanders will be proud of its achievements, and in the South I hope its memory will be honored and loved.
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