Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Monterey Pass Battlefield Association

One Continuous Fight; The Monterey Pass Battlefield Association; & The 'Other' Regiment.

Lee's Retreat from Gettysburg
Even people with little interest in the Civil War have heard of Gettysburg and the great battle that happened there.  But has anyone heard of the midnight Battle at Monterey Pass that directly followed?

Until 1999, Lee's retreat from Gettysburg was given little attention.  That's when Ted Alexander, Chief Historian at Antietam National Battlefield edited a special issue of North & South magazine on the subject.  Historians Eric Wittenberg, Steve French, and Kent Masterson Brown contributed detailed pieces on the fighting that followed Gettysburg as General Meade's Union Cavalry pursued the retreating Rebel Army to Williamsport, Md.  Some of these historians have since collaborated on a scholarly study of the retreat in detail, with analysis; "One Continuous Fight, The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863; by Eric Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent; published by Savas-Beati; 2008.

Ted wrote the forward.  I'm reading the book now.  There were so many actions that took place in this ten day period that one trooper described it as 'one continuous fight,' hence the title of the book.

The Midnight Battle at Monterey Pass; July 4-5, 1863
Picture a midnight fight on a dark mountain top; a violent thunderstorm is raging; Yankee troopers and horse artillery are slowly advancing to capture a long Confederate wagon train of supplies and wounded, jamming narrow mountain roads and trying to cross the mountain before the Federals capture them.  A very small band of Confederates assisted with a battery of light artillery are blasting away at the Yankees trying to delay their advance.  It's so dark the soldiers can barely see their own hands in front of them.  Lightening and canon blasts point the way forward and define enemy targets.   Panicked teams drag wagons over the mountain cliffs, carrying with them screaming wounded.  Picture a wild Cavalry charge down the mountain. The troopers feel as if they are flying because they can't see the road below them.  This is the drama of the battle.

The Battlefield Association
I turned to the internet to see if I could find the route taken to Leitersburg by the 1st Vermont Cavarly the morning of July 5th.  The flanking ride is detailed in the book but the route was left off the accompanying map.  My search led me to John Miller and the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association.

John and several others are trying to preserve the history of Emmitsburg by conducting tours, raising awareness and purchasing land.  I found the map I needed at this site and I wrote to John.  I told him my ancestor participated in some of the fighting during the retreat.

3rd U.S. Artillery
William Henry Forbush transferred out of the 13th Mass while in the hospital recovering from a wound received in the Battle of 2nd Bull Run, Aug. 30, 1862. He enlisted in 'Flying Battery C,' 3rd U.S. Artillery on Dec. 11, 1862.  He joined the unit in January, 1863 and started a diary.   (I've done so much research on the 13th Mass that I refer to this unit as the 'other' regiment.  It's been difficult to learn much about them.)  The battery was in reserve at Westminster, Md. during the battle of Gettysburg, but participated in the cavalry pursuit afterward.  William wasn't at Monterey Pass, but he mentions it.  He did participate in the engagement at Smithburg the next day.  Smithburg? you ask, what's that?  Boonsboro?  Jones Crossroads?  These engagements are hardly known today.

John Miller responded to my email with a color photo of Gardenhour's Hill where Williams battery was positioned July 5th.  Diary entries for the week read:

Saturday [July] 4.  Left Westminster Md. and came through Emmetsburg Md. and laid on the road all Night.  The Cavalry burnt a train of wagons and took the wagon Guard prisernors.

Sunday 5.  Came to within 1/2 mile of Smithsburg Md. and we came on the Rebels.  We opened on them with our whole Battery and they with a Battery.  Their Shells struck in the Town but done us no harm.

Monday 6. We came to Boonsboro Md. and the left Section went to a Rebel train of wagons and burnt them about 4.esn [dozen] number and charged through Hagerstown.  Hung a spy and then Laid in the woods that Night.

Tuesday 7.  The Section came back here.  Laid in Camp at Boonsborough Md. all Day. At Night had Orders to get ready to march but the Order was countermanded. Pleasant Day but Rainy Night.

Wednesday 8.  Started about 12 A.M. and Skirmeshed with the Rebels until dark then came back to the other side of Boonsboro and halted for the Night.

The Region Today
Much of the area is unchanged.  This is documented in 'One Continuous Fight' which features a section on touring the battlefield sites, complete with photos and GPS co-ordinates.  But time marches on and some of the sites are slowly disappearing.  After nearly150 years these little known areas are beginning to disappear, just as they are beginning to receive attention.  Gardenhour's Hill is marked for development and will soon be gone.  I'm hoping to get there to see it before that happens.  You might want to do the same. Check out the association and read about the Battle at Monterey Pass!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. I take that route every time I go to Gettysburg and it is simply beautiful. And it still looks very much like it did in, not that I was there.