Early’s Invasion, July 1864

by Sarah Webb. 0 Comments

In the spring of 1864 Cole’s new recruits were outfitted at Camp Stoneman. Based on the information I have so far, I believe John Trout was with this group. After acquiring provisions, the new battalions along with a detachment of the original crew were called to ride with Colonel Mulligan of the 10th West Virginia Infantry Regiment to help transport supplies to Union forces in Virginia. They met Confederate resistance and turned back.

In the meantime, the remainder of Cole’s Cavalry (the old battalion) could be found assisting Major General Hunter’s expedition into Virginia. While Grant laid siege to Petersburg and Richmond, his orders to Hunter were to confiscate Confederate supply centers - especially at Lynchburg. Hunter’s army attacked Confederates at Lynchburg; they were repulsed. With ammunition at a low, Hunter retreated through the Kanawha River Valley to the Ohio River. Drought conditions impeded boat travel, and Hunter’s return to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia was slow. 

This separation of Cole’s Cavalry became important to me as I learned more about Early’s invasion to the North. I will get to that later.

Meanwhile, in a bold move, Lee sent Lieutenant General Jubal Early from Lynchburg on daring raid to the North. Lee hoped putting pressure on the North in Maryland would force Grant to release some Union forces in Virginia and give the South some relief.

As Early’s troops approached the Potomac he divided his corps. A division of Confederates routed Martinsburg, West Virginia, but not before facing Mulligan’s Brigade in Leetown on July 3. This is where Newcomer claims Cole’s new recruits “behaved most admirably.” In the end, the entire Union command in Martinsburg under Major General Sigel retreated to Maryland Heights.

Other Confederate forces headed towards Harper’s Ferry via Charlestown. Hunter’s command had still not yet returned to Harper’s Ferry and could not reinforce Union Brigadier General Weber’s troops stationed there. Weber retreated under duress across the Potomac to Maryland Heights and met up with Sigel’s command.

Rebel troops were then free to cross the Potomac without much Union resistance in successive waves on July 4, 5, 6, and 7 at Boteler’s Ford, very near the Antietam Battlefield and Sharpsburg. Mosby’s Rangers – a nemesis of Cole’s Cavalry - were part of these troops.

Union troops now based at Maryland Heights engaged the Confederate invaders to ascertain their numbers. Much misinformation abounded and reports came back that Early had anywhere from 5,000-30,000 troops.

There were many other skirmishes and counter-attacks between Union and Confederate forces between July 4 and July 9 from Hagerstown to Middletown and the western edge of Frederick City as the Confederates pushed further into Maryland. Cannonading could be heard up to eight miles away from any of these mini-battles.

It is worth noting that John Trout’s compiled military service records initially listed him as “deserted” on July 5, 1864 in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This location is where confederate troops first crossed the Potomac and where Union skirmishers met the invasion in Maryland. For details I referred to Brett Spaulding’s meticulous descriptions of troop movements in Last Chance for Victory: Jubal Early’s 1864 Maryland Invasion. I then returned to Newcomer’s account, who stated:

During Early’s invasion of Maryland Cole’s Cavalry was not idle; a number of the men of the new Battalions had secured horses and had been in several minor skirmishes.” 

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Image courtesy of fold3.com

Is it possible John Trout was actually captured during this time and not at the Battle of Monocacy?

As I had already discovered, later records indicate he was captured at the Battle of Monocacy, but I now wondered if the “Battle of Monocacy” label was accurately applied. There was a reference to a detachment of Cole’s Cavalry participating in a skirmish in Keedysville, Maryland on July 5, again in the vicinity of Sharpsburg, but I have found no other specifics of that fight.

Wanting to get my head out of books and records, I took it upon myself to hike the trails around the Monocacy Battlefield this past weekend. Spaulding’s book gave me some new information to ponder. I hadn’t been aware of how much fighting occurred in Frederick County prior to the actual battle. 

My hiking weather was cool and clammy, but it was opposite of what I knew July of1864 to be: stifling, hot, and humid. Frederick City residents were on tense notice having heard rumors and exaggerated information about the invasion. Sounds and scenes of battle had come perilously close to their city. The mood surrounding the county was as heavy and oppressive as the weather.

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