Sunday, July 30, 2017

Making Tracks in the Footsteps of the 13th Mass.

Road Trip

The pursuit of General Lee’s army after the battle of Gettysburg, is the subject of the two latest pages  posted at my website.  While assembling the source material, I had the idea to follow part of the route the First Corps took on their march from Maryland, back into Virginia.  My purpose was to take photographs along the way to illustrate the soldiers’ narrative on my website.

Because the road system has changed extensively, I couldn’t be certain I was following the exact route, but I knew the towns the soldiers passed through, and accordingly plotted a trip through those towns of Middleburg, Hamilton, Waterford, and Lovettsville, Virginia to Berlin, Md.

My final destination was the Washington Monument at South Mountain State Park overlooking the town of Boonsboro, MD.   The army camped near there more than one time during their 3 years of service.  Drummer Sam Webster’s journal entry for July 8, 1863 says in part: 

"Camped, high up, to the right side of the Gap, overlooking Boonsboro.  Had to build a stone breastwork before doing anything else."

And, on the next day:

"Went up to top of the mountain with Sawyer, but failed to see much as the fog covered the fort.  Had a good view of the valley in the distance, however."

Boonsboro  was about a three hour drive for us, but close enough to get there and back in one day.

Middleburg, about an hour’s drive from home was my starting point.  From the village I plotted a course north on Foxcroft Road [626] to Goose Creek, where Austin Stearn’s of Company K wrote about his difficulty crossing the creek.

“I remember of fording Goose Creek one hot summers day where the water was three feet deep if you could keep in the right place, but if you turned but a very little to down stream, to four. Some of the boys plunged right in, not caring for the wet; others would take off their pants and, tucking up their shirts, go through dry with the exceptions of their coat tails.  I chose the later way as there was time enough, so strapping my pants and boots on my back and taking a middle course, I got there all right, but when I reached the opposite bank could not climb up, for the banks were steep and so many had gone before that it was only one mass of soft slippery mud. There was nothing to stick to; it all wanted to stick to you.  Others were in the same predicament, and after vainly trying several times and slipping back each time, I got a friendly hand and came out all right at last with dry pants and boots.  The Gen’l sat on his horse and laughed as though he enjoyed it.”
Below is a picture of where Foxcroft Road crosses Goose Creek.  Austin Stearns would have crossed the creek somewhere close to here.

The army marched from North to South, but of course, I was headed in the opposite direction.  From Goose Creek, my wife and I continued on route 626 to route 611 and then to where 611 crosses the ‘Snickersville Turnpike.’  At this junction we took Silcott Springs Road [690] north to Purcellville.

Sam Webster recorded in his journal during the army’s march south, that this portion of Virginia, north of the Snickersville Turnpike, had much more Union sentiment as opposed to those residents south of it.  

Tuesday, July 21st 1863.  The loyalty of the people on the north side of the pike through Snicker’s gap was exemplified yesterday.  A girl 14 or maybe 16 years old on the way to school emptied her dinner basket and gave her dinner to the men - and did it willingly.  A short distance further on, at a house on the right of the road, the lady of the house gave all the bread, etc., she had just taken out of the oven. She said she was a doing this “for her government,” and if she “had only known they were coming, she would have baked more.”  Besides, she had her boys carrying out water to the road.  As an offset Charlie Haas, of 94th N.Y. last evening while waiting at a house for some milk was, with another, surprised by gurerrilas, brought by the man of the house, and carried off to Mosby’s over the Bull Run Mtn. Mosby wished him to join his band, but he refused. He was paroled to go to Alexandria, came into camp instead, and a guard was sent to arrest the man who betrayed him.  He was found upstairs under a bed, where, he said, he was hunting for something.  Said he had never seen Charlie. (This is all from the story as afterward told by Charlie.)

At Purcellville we turned directly east on Main street and kept going the short distance to Hamilton.  The 13th Mass camped at the west end of the village of Hamilton, or Harmony Church, on Sunday, July 19, 1863, arriving as Charles E. Davis, Jr. wrote, “Alas ! too late for church services.”

We didn’t attend church either, but stopped for a rather nice lunch at a place called Lowry’s Crab Shack, just on the west side of the village.

Sgt. Austin C. Stearns and Clarence Bell both mentioned the houses of Hamilton, VA, flying the National flag.

Lots of cars, traffic signs, telephone poles and other signs of modernity cluttered up some of these picturesque towns, making it difficult to get a suitable image to accompany an 1863 narrative, but I made a few attempts regardless.  There was a lot of ground to cover, so we only made the simplest of efforts to that end.

Pictured is a patriotic house in Hamilton.  The electrical wires don't do the house justice, but we were in a bit of a hurry to move on.  Other pictures in Hamilton proved equally obstructed by modernity.

From Hamilton, we wanted to go to Waterford, 5.2 miles distant.  We turned left on route 704 north, Hamilton Station Road, and followed it northeast, to just south of the town of Waterford.

Waterford was the first town the regiment bivouacked at after they crossed the Potomac River into Virginia from Berlin, Md., on July 18, 1863.

Pictured, is a photo of Waterford, taken en route.

We took Milltown road [681] to Lovettesville, Va, then followed route 287, the 3.5 miles from there directly to Brunswick, formerly Berlin, Maryland.

This was as far as I attempted to re-trace the route of the First Corps.  We spent the rest of the afternoon, wandering around Western Maryland, going to places I know the regiment visited.

We followed the Potomac River along the old C & O canal before turning north up Pleasant Valley to Boonsboro, stopping at South Mountain Park.

Along the way we passed through Knoxville, and Sandy Hook, MD, two towns the 13th Mass passed through and camped at, on many occasions early in their service.

On the way back we went a different route, the idea being to get to Berryville, VA, then up into the mountains to Bluemont, in order to drive the Snickersville Turnpike back down to Middleburg.  The 13th Mass also passed this way a few times during their service.

The trip was a lot of fun.  We made a day of it and were able to get home by 9 p.m. after many interesting stops along the way.

Pictured below is a panoramic of Knoxville, Md. near Sandy Hook and Harper's Ferry.  The 13th Mass spent many months in this area in the winter of 1861 - 1862.

You can view these pictures and get more of a feel for the real march by visiting the new pages of my website.  There's lots more there too.  I hope you enjoyed the trip.