Maryland in the Civil War
Marylanders in the Campaigns of 1861
Source: Confederate Military History, Vol. 2
When Virginia became one of the Confederate States by the vote of her people, May 24, 1861, the Confederate government, Mr. Jefferson Davis being President, removed to Richmond from Montgomery, Ala., and assumed the charge of military operations all over the Confederacy. The fixed idea of President Davis was that the first necessity was to save the Confederate States from invasion; for invasion, he argued, would demoralize the negro population and make inefficient the labor of the South behind the armies, which must rely on slave labor for food and clothes. Therefore the Confederate government undertook to cover the entire front, from the Chesapeake bay to the western frontier. In carrying out this strategy, armies were collected in Virginia at Norfolk; at Aquia Creek on the Potomac; at Manassas Junction, thirty miles from Alexandria; at Harper's Ferry, the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac and the mouth or entrance of the valley of Virginia; and at Grafton, west of the mountains on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. At Harper's Ferry the Potomac and Shenandoah break through the Blue Ridge and form a gorge of surpassing grandeur and picturesqueness. Mr. Jefferson once said in his notes of Virginia that the view from Loudoun heights on the Virginia side was worth a voyage across the Atlantic to see. The Virginians never got over it. Harper's Ferry was Thermopylae and Mont Blanc combined. It was an impregnable fortress of nature. John Brown agreed with them--about the only thing he did agree with them about--and seized Harper's Ferry as the base of his proposed negro insurrection in I859. So the very first step taken in Virginia, after secession was agreed to, was the seizure of Harper's Ferry. Governor Letcher ordered the volunteers of the valley there within five hours after the convention passed the ordinance of secession on April 17th, and about dusk on the 18th, the Second Virginia regiment, Colonel Allen, with several detached companies and with James Ashby's and Welby Carter's troops of cavalry from Fauquier and Loudoun, took possession of the place, with its workshops and machinery. The Union officer that was posted there as the regular guard with a detachment of half a hundred infantry, retired after having set fire to the armory, where a large number of muskets were stored, and to the storehouses and machine shops. The Virginians got in in time to save most of the buildings and the machinery, and a large lot of gunstocks was afterwards shipped to Fayetteville, N. C., for the Confederate armory at that place.
Col. Thomas J. Jackson, a professor of the Virginia military institute, was assigned to command the post, which the Virginia authorities considered the one of greatest importance, responsibility and danger; for it was to protect the valley of Virginia from the Potomac to the North Carolina and Tennessee line. Virginia troops were poured into the place. Captain Johnson, as we have seen, procured from Colonel Jackson permission to rendezvous the Marylanders there and at the Point of Rocks, and by June had collected about five hundred men. As soon as Virginia had joined the Confederacy, President Davis, equally impressed with the value and importance of this Thermopylae, assigned to command it Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston, the second in rank of the generals of the Confederate army. Johnston ranked next to Lee, but was his equal in experience in war. He was a Virginian by birth and blood, and knew all about the Virginia fetish about Harper's Ferry.
While the President was pouring troops from Arkansas, from Mississippi, from Alabama, from South Carolina, into Harper's Ferry, Johnston knew that it was a trap, a deadfall, for the soldier who attempted to hold it. It was commanded on the east by the Maryland heights beyond the Potomac, and on the south by heights on the other side of the Shenandoah.
The Confederate States government was then offering every inducement for Maryland to join it. It exempted Maryland from its declaration of war against the United States, and it was tender of her territory and her feelings. When, therefore, Johnston saw the absolute necessity of holding Maryland heights, he saved the invasion of Maryland by sending Marylanders to occupy the position. He ordered Captain Johnson with his eight companies, and Col. Blanton Duncan with his First Kentucky regiment, to take the Maryland heights, fortify and hold them. They did so while Johnston strained every nerve to strip Harper's Ferry of everything that could be made of use to the Confederacy. By June 15th he had cleared out the place, brought the Marylanders and the Kentuckians from the mountains and evacuated Harper's Ferry. A large Federal army had been collected at Chambersburg, Pa., thirty miles to the north of Johnston, under command of Major-General Patterson. For several days Patterson had given signs of restlessness unmistakable to an old soldier of Johnston's caliber, and the very day Johnston moved out of Harper's Ferry, Patterson marched south from Chambersburg. The former moved to Charlestown, Va., the latter to Hagerstown, Md. On June 17th, Patterson crossed the Potomac at Williamsport and Johnston went into line of battle at Bunker Hill, a place halfway between Martinsburg and Winchester. The Confederates were delighted at the prospects of another battle of Bunker Hill on the 17th of June. But a large portion of Patterson's army were sixty-day men, and when their time expired they marched home, General Patterson and the remnant of his troops following in such temper as they might to the Maryland side. Patterson having recrossed the Potomac, Johnston fell back to Winchester, where he proceeded to organize his incongruous troops into brigades and divisions. One brigade, the Fourth, was formed of the First Maryland, the Tenth and the Thirteenth Virginia and the Third Tennessee, and Col. Arnold Elzey of the First Maryland was assigned to command it. The Fourth and Third brigades constituted a division under the command of Brig.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith. The field officers of the First Maryland were commissioned to date from June 17, 1861. The first duty the regiment was set to perform under its new field officers was on the day after the arrival at Winchester. On June 19th, Lieutenant Colonel Steuart was directed to return to Harper's Ferry by railroad train and complete the destruction of the shops and Federal property left on the evacuation of the 15th. This duty Colonel Steuart executed with great intelligence. Instead of burning up a great magazine of seasoned and shaped gunstocks, which he found abandoned, he loaded the whole outfit on a train of cars and hauled them back with his command to Winchester. The service was so valuable and so exceedingly sensible that the commanding general rewarded it with a special order of approbation. Steuart and the Marylanders enjoyed the unique distinction of being probably the only command that was ever decorated by a special order for disobedience of orders. General Johnston had sent them on this detail with distinct and positive orders to burn everything burnable. They brought off a trainload of most valuable plunder, and the commanding general honored them thus:
"Headquarters, Winchester, June 22, 1861. Special Order.
The commanding general thanks Lieutenant-Colonel Steuart and the Maryland regiment for the faithful and exact manner in which they carried out his orders of the 19th instant at Harper's Ferry.
He is glad to learn that owing to their discipline, no private property was injured, and no unoffending citizen disturbed. The soldierly qualities of the Maryland regiment will not be forgotten in the day of action.
By order of Gen. JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON."
The Confederate strategy in the early part of 1861 was to hold armies, or army corps, within supporting distance of each other along the exposed frontier of Virginia. If one army was attacked the corps to the right and left of it was to move promptly to its assistance. Patterson, after retiring beyond the Potomac, was heavily reinforced and recrossed the river, threatening Johnston at Winchester. Johnston, on the other hand, covered his front so thoroughly with cavalry patrols and pickets as to interpose an impenetrable veil between Patterson and himself.
On July 18, 1861, General McDowell moved out of Alexandria on Beauregard at Fairfax Court House. Beauregard retired behind Bull Run. McDowell on the 19th made a heavy reconnoissance in force and found Beauregard's position. The latter called on Johnston for help. He left Winchester in the morning of the 18th and marched to Piedmont, on the Manassas Gap railroad, whence his troops were hurried by rail to Manassas Junction. In the meantime McDowell had thrown his right around Beauregard's left, turned his position, and at daylight of the 21st attacked him, driving everything before him as he marched down the right bank of Bull Run. By midday the Confederates were in retreat, their line broken and their position forced. About noon, the Fourth brigade, Colonel Elzey, arrived at the junction of the Manassas Gap and Orange & Alexandria railroads. The command was at once disembarked. McDowell's heavy guns were pounding away toward the east, the first hostile fire the men had ever heard. They were formed: First Maryland on the right, Third Tennessee, Tenth Virginia, Thirteenth Virginia. By the time they were ready to move, Kirby Smith rode up in a strain of tense excitement. He assumed charge of the brigade. The other part of his division was not up---"The watchword is Sumter, the signal is this," throwing his right hand to his forehead, palm outwards. "Go where the fire is hottest; forward march !"
The excitement of the first fight, the growing fire, the spreading volleys, braced up the men. At the order "double-quick" they struck out in a trot, down by the junction, past the cluster of huts and houses, thence straight as the crow flies toward "where the fire was hottest." After a run of a few miles the column was halted to breathe and load. Then on again. Wounded men coming back cried, "Go back. We are all cut to pieces. Go back. You'll all get killed!" But the Fourth brigade kept steadily on. As it passed a clump of pines on the right, a sharp volley from a squad of the Brooklyn Zouaves knocked General Smith over the neck of his horse and Elzey resumed command. By that time the day had advanced to three or four o'clock. The field was dotted with retreating men, hurrying ambulances, flying wagons. Just to the right was a squad of cavalry. A shell burst over them and the cavalry scattered. Running over two lines lying in ranks on the ground, still Elzey pressed on to the left. Entering a wood, beyond which was heavy musketry firing, he formed line of battle. Smith at Manassas had detached A. P. Hill with the Thirteenth Virginia to hold one of the fords of Bull Run: With three regiments remaining Elzey pressed straight to the front. Getting nearly through the wood, he halted inside the edge of it. In front were a branch and a worm fence; beyond it an open field gently rising for four hundred yards into a considerable elevation. On the ridge stood a line of battle. Uniforms were no designation, as the line showed no colors. Cried Elzey to his aide-de-camp, Charles Couter, of Prince George's, Maryland: "Couter, give me a glass--give me a glass, quick." Just at that instant the breeze blew out the flag on the hill. It was the stars and stripes. "Fire!" cried Elzey, and the whole line delivered its volley. "Charge!" he shouted. The Marylanders had six companies of Mississippi rifles and three companies of bayonets. But over the fence the whole line went with a yell--up the hill--through the Yankee line, or rather where it had been. It had gone, dissolved into mist. Elzey pressed right on. He was behind McDowell's right and he never stopped to draw breath. The whole Union line crumpled up, and First Manassas was won. As the Maryland colonel rode proudly down on the right of his line, Beauregard dashed up, filled with enthusiasm--"Hail! Elzey, Blucher of the day!" and in a moment President Davis came up with General Johnston. "General Elzey, I congratulate you," said the man who made generals. Elzey was promoted brigadier-general, Steuart colonel, Johnson lieutenant-colonel, and E. R. Dorsey, captain Company C, major--all to date from July 21st, the day of the great victory.
The First Maryland was pushed on in pursuit of the rout over the Stone bridge and along the turnpike until dark, and then hastily recalled to Blackburn's ford to meet an apprehended attack. Next, moving at daylight, it went out with the First Virginia cavalry under Col. J. E. B. Stuart to Fairfax Court House,when, for the first time, the extent of the disaster to the Union army was understood and appreciated. During the night of the 21st no one had any idea of the ruin and rout that overwhelmed the enemy. On the march of the 22nd, J. E. B. Stuart, an Indian fighter, could not believe his eyes, nor the reports his scouts brought him. The roads, the woods, the fields were filled with inconceivable débris--overturned carriages, ambulances, artillery limbers, lunch baskets, champagne, even gold pieces were found, and Stuart suspected it was a ruse to lure him into an ambush. As the morning wore on, however, the thing became too plain to doubt, and Fairfax Court House settled it. The court house and yard were packed full of new tents, new overcoats, new uniforms. The infantry went into camp, and cavalry scouts pursued their way down to the suburbs of Alexandria, and by night Stuart reported to Johnston and Beauregard that there was no organized force south of-the Potomac.
This is no place to discuss the reasons why the Confederates did not take Washington on the 23rd of July, 1861. Two days' march would have brought them to the Long Bridge, J. E. B. Stuart could have occupied it by noon of the 22nd, and the army could have marched comfortably over it. It is easy to see all this now. It was not so apparent on the 22nd of July. The Fourth brigade, Colonel Elzey, reached the Court House the afternoon of the 22nd, where the First Maryland had preceded them, and the command went into camp at Fairfax Station, a few miles distant.
The whole army passed the rest of the summer in drills, in marches, in sudden alarms, in being instructed in the duties of a soldier--First and most important of which is to know how to make bread. Bad cooking that summer killed more than Yankee bullets. But the Marylanders were full of spirit. They sang, they yelled, they shouted, they romped like a pack of schoolboys, and they were pets in the army. If a quick march was to be made, the Marylanders were sent on it. If a surprise was planned by J. E. B. Stuart and the cavalry, the Maryland regiment was ordered to support him, and to this day the survivors remember an eighteen-mile march through the rain and mud to catch a regiment of Yankee cavalry at Pohick Church, which had strayed that far into the woods and which Stuart proposed "to lose" with the help of the First Maryland. They mustered seven hundred and twenty rifles and muskets. Their uniform was a French kepi (a little gray cap), a natty gray round-about, collar and sleeves bound with black braid, and a similar stripe down the gray trousers. They were all boys The age of the First Maryland rank and file would not have averaged nineteen, nor their height over five feet eight, nor their weight above one hundred and thirty-five pounds. They were generally beardless boys, with the spirits, the enthusiasm, the devotion of boys. A large per cent were gentlemen by birth and culture. All were gentlemen at heart and principle. Exiles from home, volunteers to help a friend, staking life for love, they must of necessity have been impressed with an ardent sentimentality and a devotion beyond the ordinary standard of humanity. Around the camp-fires, on the lonely picket, on the march, what recollections of home did they not carry with them, the lengthening chain that time nor distance ever breaks. During the summer they became well drilled. They believed they were the best drilled corps in the army--in either army--in any army for that matter, for the Marylander never loses anything by diffidence or self-depreciation. He always thinks as well of himself as any one ever thinks of him. Beauregard said they marched like Frenchmen. This set them up; but more knowledge would have restrained their self-conceit, for no Frenchmen have ever marched or moved as brightly as they did. Beauregard's compliment was to his own people, not to ours.
Joseph E. Johnston's wife was a Maryland woman, and he, tough old soldier as he was, had a tender spot in his heart for Marylanders, and whenever they passed him at review or on the march, he always had a pleasant word to say about them. It is due to the truth of history to say that during the summer and fall of 1861 the first Maryland regiment became as conceited a set of young blades as ever faced a battery or charged a line of battle.
Variety is a virtue in a soldier. Beauregard wanted a line of Yankee posts along the Potomac overlooking Alexandria seized. It required dash, quickness, unfailing nerve. J.E.B. Stuart and some troops of cavalry and the First Maryland were sent to do it. Of course they did it, and for a month or two they watched the dome of the Capitol and the marchings up and down of McClellan, in front of Alexandria. Peaches were ripe. They liked peaches. The Yanks held a fine peach orchard in front, so they drove them out, and ate their peaches. The Yanks had some fine beef cattle. The Marylanders drove in their pickets, went inside their lines and got their cattle out and ate them. There was also an assortment of sows and little pigs over there. They went over and got them and had roast pig. In August and September roasting ears are very fine, but require selection to get the tender kind. Just beyond Mason's hill, between the lines, was a cornfield of probably an hundred acres. The Federals held one side, the Marylanders the other, and every morning when the foragers started out to find chickens, ducks, tomatoes, for their messes, the whole command would turn out, deploy themselves as skirmishers, sweep the cornfield, drive in the gentlemen in blue, and pick their roasting ears at their ease. The picket at Munson's and Mason's hills was a picnic, and when their tour of duty--three days--was out, they would petition to be allowed to take the place of their relief and serve double time. Such a curious request was always granted. But the service was good for them. It taught them alertness, promptness, obedience and coolness, for their little skirmishes were not always bloodless and always were spliced with danger. On a dash on Munson's hill--a mile from their post at Mason's--they struck a more obstinate antagonist than usual, who killed Fountain, of Company I, and wounded Hugh Mitchell, first lieutenant of the same company, like Achilles in the heel, and larned him for life. But the Marylanders, like Colonel Washington at Fort Necessity, thought "there is something charming in the sound of a bullet," and they delighted in that daily music.
After the seizure of Maryland by the Union troops, the process of manacling her went on with celerity and efficiently. A Union regiment, the First Maryland, was recruited with John R. Kenly as colonel. Colonel Kenly had been major of the Maryland-District of Columbia battalion in the Mexican war, and had served with honor to him. self, his command and to his State. At Monterey, where Colonel Watson commanding was killed, Major Kenly brought out the shattered remnants of the battalion with great coolness and courage, and no-man of his rank came out of that war with more reputation than Major Kenly. He had experience, he had gallantry, he had ability, and he was devoted to the Union. But with this devotion he was above narrow bigotry, which refuses to recognize sincerity, honesty, or unselfishness in his opponent. With a heart absolutely devoid of self-seeking, ignorant of dishonor, or dishonesty, Colonel Kenly furnished as pure a character and as high a type of patriotism as served on either side in that war. He believed it his duty to stand by the Union. He did so like a soldier, like a man of honor, like a patriot, but no act of his ever stained his career, and he left no spot on his escutcheon. He was truly "without fear and without stain." But in pressing the policy initiated by Ben Butler toward Maryland, the Federal authorities promptly carried out the latter's ideas. The "State" of Maryland, where religious liberty and free thought were born in this world, was converted by a general order from headquarters at Washington into "the Department of Annapolis" and Gen. N. P. Banks was assigned to command it vice Cadwallader, relieved, with headquarters at Baltimore. Banks assumed command on June 10th. On the 27th he arrested George P. Kane, marshal of police, and confined him in Fort McHenry.
The police commissioners "protested" against this violation of law, and Banks arrested them and sent them to join Kane. They sent a memorial to Congress and Congress laid it on the table. They applied to the President, and Banks put them on a steamer July 28th and sent them to Fort Lafayette in the harbor of New York. On August 6th Judge Garrison, of a State court in Brooklyn, issued his habeas corpus to Colonel Burke, then commandant of the fort, to produce them in court. Colonel Burke defied the writ, under the orders of Lieutenant-General Scott. Attachment for contempt was then issued against him, and he snapped his fingers at that and booted the marshal out of his presence. Judge Garrison dismissed the proceedings, "submitting to inevitable necessity." So habeas corpus was suspended in the loyal State of New York as well as in the "Department of Annapolis." General Banks appointed Col. John R. Kenly marshal of police, who promptly assumed command of the force in the city of Baltimore, the Union thus assuming control of a city police. The Congress subsequently appropriated money to pay their wages.
On August 7th the legislature passed more eloquent resolutions, protesting against the unconstitutional and illegal acts of President Lincoln, but they are not worth the room it would take to record them. The time for "protests" was past, if it ever had existed, and as the scolding of the Maryland legislature became annoying to the authorities, they determined to suppress the one and thus silence the other. On September 12, 1861, Major-General Dix, commanding in Baltimore, ordered the arrest of the members of the legislature from Baltimore City and the mayor and other obnoxious persons who annoyed him with talk, to-wit: George William Brown, Coleman Yellott, Senator Stephen P. Dennis, Charles H. Pitts, Andrew A. Lynch, Lawrence Langston, H. M. Morfit, Ross Winans, J. Hanson Thomas, W. G. Harrison, John C. Brune, Robert M. Denison, Leonard D. Quinlan, Thomas W. Renshaw, Henry May, member of Congress from the Fourth congressional district, Frank Key Howard, editor of the "Baltimore Exchange," and Thomas W. Hall, editor of the "South." The arrests were made with great secrecy, and it was intended to send them to the Dry Tortugas, but there being no steamer fit for the voyage in Hampton Roads, they were dispatched to Fort Warren in Boston harbor. Liberty of the press as well as free speech had gone after the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
On the 11th of September Simon Cameron, secretary of war, had issued an order to General Banks that the passage of an ordinance of secession by the legislature, which was to assemble at Frederick on September 17th, must be prevented, even if the arrest of the legislature was necessary to accomplish this end. Maj.-Gen. George B. McClellan, then commanding the army of the Potomac, issued his order to General Banks to have everything prepared to arrest the whole party when they assembled. General Banks sent his aide, R. Morris Copeland, to attend to this business, and he accomplished it very successfully, "greatly assisted by several citizens of the place," says the chronicler. Both houses were called to order on the 17th, at 1 p.m., but no quorum appearing, they adjourned until the next day. The climate of Frederick was disagreeable to many of the protesters at that particular season. But Major Copeland was equal to the emergency. He closely picketed the town and held everybody in who was in, and took everybody in who wanted to go out. On the 18th he arrested Milton Y. Kidd, the chief clerk of the house, and his assistant, Thomas H. Moore; William Kilgour, secretary of the senate, and his assistant, L. P. Carmark, and John M. Brewer, reading clerk of the senate, and William E. Salmon, Elbridge G. Kilbourne, Thomas J. Claggett, Philip F. Raisin, Andrew Kessler, Josiah H. Gordon, James W. Maxwell, R. C. McCubbin, George W. Landing, Dr. Bernard Mills, William R. Miller, Clark J. Durant, John I. Heckart and J. Lawrence Jones, members of the house; E. Riley, printer of the house and editor of the "Annapolis Republican," and a number of citizens of Frederick pointed out by the "citizens of the place who were greatly assisting."
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