On July 8, 1864 Major General Lew Wallace had stationed his Union troops on the west side of Frederick City. He says of that day, “think I have had the best little battle of the war.” Federal troops had been able to keep Confederates at bay, but when Wallace heard reports that a rebel regiment was marching up Buckeystown Pike – about to cut him off - he retreated and abandoned the city, reforming his battle line. Wallace secured the eastern and southern Monocacy River banks and bridges from the Baltimore Pike (now route 144) to south of the Worthington Farm.
Confederate troops invaded Frederick.
On the morning of July 9, Confederate Lt. General Jubal Early ransomed Frederick City: $200,000 or the city would be burned! While city bankers scrambled to come up with that amount, Early took troops south towards the Monocacy Junction Bridge (now route 355) and ran into Union skirmishers.
Meanwhile, bankers took their time, in hopes the Confederates would be defeated!
If John Trout had not already been captured as I discussed in an earlier blog (6/10/13), then he most likely served on July 9 as part of the combined forces under Major Charles A. Wells, a mixed cavalry group of 256 men. Major Wells’ group appears to have been attached to the 8th Illinois Cavalry under Lt. Col. David Clendenin – “Clendenin’s Cavalry.”
The 8th Illinois Cavalry targeted several objectives throughout the battle. Within the regiment each company had different orders. Some engaged enemy forces early in the morning north of the Monocacy Bridge. They eventually drew back as Confederates marched south from Frederick towards the Monocacy Bridge and the Best Farm.
Around 8:30 a.m., as the battle began near the Monocacy Junction Bridge and the Best Farm, Confederates decided that facing a frontal assault would prove fruitless. Confederate snipers stationed themselves in one of the Best barns and slowly picked off Union soldiers on the east bank. Union artillery targeted the snipers and eventually burned the barn down, eliminating the sniper threat.
A Barn at the Best Farm
Around 10:30 a.m. rebels searched for another route across the river and found the Worthington-McKinney Ford. After the Confederates crossed the Monocacy just west of the Worthington farm (near Ballenger Creek), other companies of the 8th Illinois cavalry fended off the initial rebel advance, but again, they were eventually pushed back.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Confederates kept pushing forward, unsuccessfully attacking the Union line between the Worthington and Thomas farms. Finally, rebels found a cover in Brooks Hill, to the south of the Worthington Farm.
I like to call Brooks Hill the enchanted forest. When hiking this and other trails, evidence of Osage-orange tree lines are present. In the 1860s farmers used these trees for their natural brambles to create pasture barriers. Today they resemble a doorway into a delightful forest path.
Doorway through Osage Orange Tree Fence Line along the Brooks Hill Trail
The Brooks Hill Trail is the most vigorous hike of all the Monocacy Battlefield trails. A steep incline takes you to a spot where you can see what Confederate Brigadier General Evans saw: a route to the Thomas farm hidden from Union view. It’s easy to see how the Confederates gained the upper hand from this vantage point.
View of Thomas Farm from Brooks Hill
By mid-afternoon, much of Clendenin’s Cavalry had re-established a defensive position south of Baker Valley Road to support the Union’s left flank. Wallace had also ordered the destruction of the Monocacy Bridge to stall a rebel crossing.
For the final Confederate advance around 3:30 p.m., rebels divided into a three-pronged attack from the Worthington Farm towards the Thomas farm.
Confederate Brigadier General Evan’s troops - hidden from view by Brooks Hill - formed the southern end of the attack. Eventually, chaos broke out and Union troops felt the full force of the Confederate charge. During this final advance the heaviest fighting of the day took place. As an example, among the 900 Confederate soldiers who died that day, 698 died between 3:30 and 5:00pm.
Monocacy Battlefield Map; Image courtesy of fold3.com
Returning to the bankers, by 4:00 p.m., it was apparent the Confederates had the upper hand. In the end, a combination of five banks assembled the ransom. It amazed me to learn that the federal government never reimbursed the banks. City government took responsibility, but it was 1951 before all the money had been repaid with interest!
By 5:00 p.m. on the battlefield, realizing they were overpowered, Wallace ordered the retreat. One Union soldier wrote, “It was every man for himself.”
In the final chaos, 600 Union troops were captured and approximately 700 lay wounded or dead. Regardless of where John Trout had been during the melee of the day, he was captured by the end of the day. The worst of his service was yet to come as a prisoner of war!
In memory of the Battle of Monocacy, July 9, 1864
Information for this blog was primarily taken from Last Chance for Victory: Jubal Early’s 1864 Maryland Invasion and Fighting for Time. I don’t try to capture the battle in its entirety but only those pieces that might pertain to John Trout within the context of the day. Any mistakes in my summary are my own.