Battle of Monterey Pass

Battle of Monterey Pass

Fought during the retreat of Gettysburg, the Battle of Monterey Pass is the second largest Civil War battle fought on Pennsylvania soil with 10,000 from both Union and Confederate forces. The fight took place in the late hours of July 4, 1863 and the early hours of July 5, 1863 during solid darkness and a torrential downpour on a precarious mountainside, spanning two states and four counties.

After the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee was faced with returning troops, supplies, artillery, wagons, and wounded across South Mountain to Virginia. From July 3 to July 6, the retreating Confederate troops moved across South Mountain. There were two routes the Confederate army took.  One was along the Chambersburg Pike to Cashtown, onto Greenwood—today known as Fayetteville—and south to Hagerstown. A shorter route traveled winding mountain roads through Fairfield Gap and across Monterey Pass to Hagerstown.

A twenty-mile train of Conestoga-style wagons retreated on the longer route through Cashtown and was led by Brigadier General John Imboden. With so much rain, there was much mud. The multitude and weight of the wagons made an arduous and long retreat.

The exodus via the shorter route through Fairfield Gap and across Monterey Pass did not escape the terrible impacts of the rain. Men marched on flooded roads and thick mud. In many Confederate soldier’s diaries and letters, it was referred to as Mount Misery or the quagmire. The conditions made night travel even more dangerous because visibility was so limited.

On July 4, Union troops led by General Judson Kirkpatrick removed the Confederate sentries at Fairfield and were able to advance toward Monterey Pass. Brigadier General George Custer charged the Confederates with the 6th Michigan Cavalry, allowing Kilpatrick’s men to reach and attack the wagon train. Ultimately, the Union forces captured more than 1300 Confederate men and destroyed nine miles of wagons.

Today, the site of the battle is along PA Route 16, just east of Waynesboro. The battlefield land is preserved by the local municipality, Washington Township, and houses the Monterey Pass Battlefield Museum, open weekends from April to November. The museum interprets Civil War history, depicts details of the Battle of Monterey Pass, and portrays the historical significance of the region.

Remember Chambersburg

In the early hours of July 30, 1864, as McCausland advanced on Chambersburg, a division of Union cavalry, commanded by General William Averell was camped near Greencastle.  Averell planned to intercept McCausland and expected he would take the route J.E.B. Stuart used in 1862, so Averell moved east. When scouts reported that McCausland’s troops were moving west, Averell changed course and moved toward Chambersburg. Averell’s men had no idea of the destruction they would encounter in Chambersburg.

At 2 P.M (on July 30, 1864), the Union forces advanced through the town. The citizens cheered the dusty and jaded warriors, but no soldierly huzzas came from their parched and suffocated throats, as they rode through smoke and flame and the intense heat of the smoldering ruins. One repeated exclamation of “My God” was all that was heard, and then, as they passed the flag staff, each one shouted “Remember Chambersburg.” And so they exclaimed, and so they shouted, as they dashed at a trot through the town.

– J.K. Shryock in Schneck’s Burning of Chambersburg

As General Averell’s troops entered Chambersburg, the troops of Generals McCausland and Johnson were moving toward McConnellsburg. Upon arriving in the town, the Confederates demanded rations, threatening to fire the town, if they were not provided. The telegraph wires were cut, stores relieved of merchandise, and citizens robbed before the Confederates set camp outside the town with an eye on the road from Chambersburg.  In the morning, the Confederates departed McConnellsburg and headed toward Hancock, where McCausland made another ransom demand –$30,000 and food for the men or Hancock would be left as Chambersburg was.  Johnson did not concur with McCausland’s demand, but the two generals had no time to settle the difference because Union troops led by Averell were advancing and engaging.  Averell drove McCausland and Bradley’s men out of Hancock, and the Confederates headed west toward Cumberland, Maryland.

On August 7, General William Averell caught up with the Chambersburg raiders at Moorefield, West Virginia, where he attacked and took 500-600 prisoners.  Among those captured was General Bradley Johnson, who later escaped. General McCausland was not captured.

The Burning of Norland – Alexander K McClure’s Home

The Burning of Norland – Alexander K McClure’s Home

Alexander K. McClure was active in the Republican party, campaigning and supporting Abraham Lincoln. In addition, McClure was an attorney and editor of the local newspaper, Franklin Repository. He was an outspoken critic of the Confederacy and escaped retaliation on his property or person at the two previous invasions of Chambersburg, but in 1864, he was not so fortunate.  The following is excerpt from Rev. Benjamin Schenck’s account of the burning.

“Colonel McClure’s beautiful residence, one mile from the centre of town, was evidently marked out for destruction, for no other house between it and the burnt potion of the town was fired. The Colonel was known as a prominent man in National and State affairs, and, after the raid of General “Jenkins and the succeeding invasion by General Lee’s army, he had spoken of Jenkins and his men in no complimentary terms in the paper of which Colonel McClure is chief editor. And although no house in the community was more coveted by rebel officers to be quartered in than his, and for the reason, doubtless, that every comfort and luxury could be had in it, and although Mrs. McClure had, with her well known generosity and kindness of heart, ministered to the necessities and comforts of the sick and wounded insurgents, which were left during General Lee’s invasion, for which she has since received the most touching acknowledgments from some of them — yet, his property was doomed, irrevocably doomed to be burnt. Captain Smith, son of Governor Smith of Virginia, with a squad of men, passing by all the intervening houses, entered the devoted mansion with the information to Mrs. McClure, then and for some time before an invalid, that the house must be burned by way of retaliation. Ten minutes were given her in which to leave the house, and in less than ten minutes the flames were doing their work of destruction, and Mrs. McClure and the other members of the family at home, started on foot, in the heat of one of the hottest days I have ever known, in order to escape the vengeance of the chivalry

Whilst the flames were progressing in the house as well as the large and well-filled barn, the Captain helped himself to Mrs. McClure’s gold watch, silver pitcher and other valuables. The gold watch and other articles were easily concealed, but the silver pitcher was rather unwieldy, and could not be secreted from profane eyes as he rode back through town from the scene of his triumph. He resolved, therefore, to give a public display of his generosity. He stopped at the house of the Rev. James Kennedy, and handed the pitcher to his wife, with the request, “Please deliver this to Mrs. Colonel McClure, with the compliments of Captain Smith.”

Great Fire of 1864

Great Fire of 1864

Chambersburg Out of the Ashes

In 1864, Chambersburg’s population was about 5,500. It was a town settled by hard-working Scots-Irish and German immigrants. As is true today, Chambersburg was well-located and, therefore, a transportation hub. Goods and people moved on the roads to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. The Cumberland Valley Railroad was well-established in the community.  The town offered large hotels and taverns to lodge travelers, general stores along its main streets, someone to repair wagons and shoe horses. Chambersburg had barbers, seamstresses, hatmakers, tool-makers, and carriage builders. Industry was located along the Conococheague Creek and included paper mills and metal fabricators.  It was a thriving community, which grew steadily from its founding in the mid-1730s.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter propelled the country to a state of war. Men of Chambersburg and Franklin County enlisted to support Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops, and by 1861 Chambersburg became a military town where Union troops trained. Both supplies and troops were loaded onto the cars of the Cumberland Valley Railroad, and war hovered around the doorsteps of Franklin County communities.

In 1862, Chambersburg had its first Confederate raid when General J.E.B. Stuart took horses, food, and other supplies, burning the railroad shops and cutting the telegraph wires on a hasty foray across the Mason Dixon Line and into Franklin County.  In the summer of 1863, Chambersburg experienced a more intense and lasting incursion as Robert E. Lee headquartered in Chambersburg  and set up camp with 75,000 Confederate soldiers in and around the county seat before moving east towards Gettysburg to engage the Union troops.

Each time Confederates entered Chambersburg, the stakes increased, but on July 30, 1864, no one envisioned such a vast and definitive impact the coming hours would have in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Franklin County Agriculture Mainstay of County History

Franklin County Agriculture Mainstay of County History

Agriculture is the cornerstone of Franklin County’s past and certainly its present. The beauty and the balance of the county’s agricultural land is a prime reason people visit and want to live in Franklin County. It secures the quality of life. Along with the open spaces and forest land, farm lands are the character of the county. To maintain the character, Franklin County needs to retain its agricultural heritage.

The following excerpt from “Old Mercersburg” about Michael Cromer glimpses a piece of the agricultural history and the character of the people, who farmed the land of Franklin County.

The Champion Cradling Feat of the World

It was reported in the harvest of 1857 that an expert cradler in the village of Mercersburg,
Pa., had cut in one day ten acres of wheat. The feat being noised about, some newspapers ridiculed
the idea as being absurdly preposterous.

“In the meantime the report reached the Millard Scythe Company, of Claysville, New York.
The proprietors wrote the cradler to ascertain whether, if they should make and present him a suit-
able cradle, he would undertake with it to beat his former record. Of course with his splendid rec-
ord to sustain, and his splendid pluck to carry him through, he accepted the challenge, but asked the
privilege of having the woodwork built to suit himself, which request the company acceded. In due
time the cradle came, a marvel of strength and beauty. The blade was five inches in width, by sixty-
five in lengfth, and made of silver steel. (more…)

Benjamin Franklin Connections

Benjamin Franklin Connections

Franklin County is proud to be named for Benjamin Franklin, American founding father, writer, printer, diplomat, activist, and scientist. But, to date, proof of a visit from Mr. Franklin to the county has not been found. Yet, besides the name, there is a connection between Benjamin Franklin and Franklin County. The connection is with Benjamin Chambers, who selected Franklin’s Philadelphia Gazette to advertise sale of lots in the town he was prepared to establish.

Public Notice of Land by Benjamin Chambers Advertised in Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia Gazette

Notice is hereby given to the Public, that there is a town is laid out on Conegogig Creek, on both sides of the Great Falling Spring, where is falls into said creek, by Benjamin Chambers, of Cumberland County. Lots may be had on reasonable terms and Firm Deeds granted for them by said Chambers: the day appointed for drawing of said lots is the 28th day of June inst.. which is a Thursday [1764} . The situation of this town is very good for water and stone, both free and marble, and sand all handy to the spot, and a well timbered part of the country adjoining it; within said town is a good Gristmill, Sawmill, and Grindstones going by water. The articles of the Town shall be read on the day appointed for the drawing of the Lots, and the terms of the sale published by me.

Franklin County was the 14th county of Pennsylvania. As the colony of PA grew, the original PA counties of  Bucks, Chester, and Philadelphia Counties were divided into more counties.  Lancaster grew out of Chester, Cumberland grew out of Lancaster, and Franklin grew out of Cumberland. Franklin County came into being on September 9, 1784, and the town laid out on “Conegogig Creek” (Conococheague Creek) was named the county seat in the legislation, forming Franklin County.