I Heart John Trout
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.
I have hiked the Monocacy trails on multiple occasions now.
Since only a detachment of Cole’s Cavalry participated in the Battle of Monocacy, the regiment is not specifically listed in records of the battle. I think I had hoped by hiking the trails that something would seep into my research, a sign post of some kind, which would direct me to a more specific understanding of John Trout’s service during the Battle of Monocacy. Perhaps I would find a tree carving in one of the many gnarled witnesses with the message “John Trout fought here.”
Tree Growth along the Worthington Farm Lane
OK, so that didn’t happen, but the hikes have been enjoyable. Hiking the Worthington Farm trail, in between the edge of a pasture and the river, the knock, knock, knock of the woodpecker in the forested canopy almost sounded like distant rounds of gunfire. The barely perceptible movement in the tall grasses and undergrowth made me turn my head – my wildly active imagination searched for crouched soldiers moving through the forest. I only caught a glimpse of white tails bobbing away. Still, I liked to pretend.
Around 10:30 a.m. on July 9, 1864, Confederates forded the river trying to outflank the Union line at the Worthington Farm. I keep searching for THE spot, despite the National Park Service noting that the river course and undergrowth have changed significantly since 1864. Still, rounding the curve, heading up the old farm lane, I could see how Brooks Hill rises to the right and the gentle slope of the pasture leads up to the farm where Glenn Worthington - who was 6 at the time - waited with his family in their cellar for the impending battle. The slope allowed the Confederates to cross the river undetected.
Along the trail loop I wondered how soldiers dealt with pesky mosquitos which are quite abundant in Maryland in July.
View of Worthington Farm from the Monocacy River
My 4-footed hiking companions, Daisy and Sophie, are most captivated by the largest dogs known to humankind, otherwise known as cows. We have to stop every time we come to the cow pasture and loooooooook. Despite my explanations, they don’t comprehend the real import behind our historical hikes. They’re under the misimpression it’s for their leisure and exercise.
Nevertheless, I’m glad that the land around the Worthington, Thomas and Best farms is still farm-leased – it gives it an air of realism.
I understand that farmers – including the Thomas and Worthington families – would hide farm animals whenever possible so they couldn’t be confiscated by either army. Without good plow horses, farmers were left without a means of making a living. In this area, farmers often took their animals to Sugarloaf Mountain. In his book Fighting for Time Glenn Worthington relates a story that prior to July 9 all their horses were ensconced in this manner except their carriage horse, Davy. Unfortunately, at a later time, Confederate forces eventually found the equine stash and procured them, nearly 200 horses from area farms. Davy, as it turns out, had a brief but heroic role in the Battle, but more about him later.
The Worthington House
I have to mention that I have waited since September on my request for John Trout’s pension records from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. I did receive a letter acknowledging receipt of my request. I was directed to the Baltimore regional office, but despite a few follow up letters and several phone calls I have yet to hear about the status of my request.
I finally tried a generic 800 number to see if I could talk to a live person. And while, yes, I did get through, and the gentleman was very helpful, he relayed information to me from his call center in Phoenix that sent me back to the National Archives Records Administration in DC. According to his electronic database that’s where John Trout’s claim files remain. However, if you recall, I’ve already visited the Archives and they’re telling me the records are still with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
I’m beginning to feel like I’m in the middle of a Shel Silverstein poem where the first letters of every word are reversed, like Runny Babbit. Only mine is the genealogical version along the lines of The Apartment of Deteran’s Vaffairs or the Ational Narchives and Acords Radministration.
But, I digress…back to Monocacy…
Without these records, I can only conjecture about John Trout’s exact whereabouts in July 1864 based on battle records and troop movements.
It has been confusing to dissect Maryland regiments since some going by the same name are Confederate and some are Union. So once again, I returned to Brett Spaulding’s book for clarification.
After it was discovered John Trout had not deserted, a note recorded his capture on July 4,1864 at Sharpsburg:
Courtesy of fold3.com
Later, it was again changed to “captured at Monocacy on July 9.” I wondered if “Monocacy” was written as a generalization because the skirmishes in early July led to the cataclysmic clash on July 9.
Courtesy of fold3.com
I kept this idea in mind as I continued investigating the events leading up to the Battle of Monocacy.
John W. Garrett, President of the B&O Railroad and a confederate sympathizer, decided early in the war to protect his business interests over his personal ones. He was alarmed that his railroad investments would be damaged with the 1864 invasion and rallied Union support to protect his railway lines. He turned to Lew Wallace, commander of the Middle Department, whose territory included the area from Baltimore up to the east side Monocacy River.
General Lew Wallace, Library of Congress
Wallace shrewdly ascertained the situation and without time for superiors to approve his plan – or barely enough troops to hold a defensive position - he acted on his own volition and set up a defense at Monocacy Junction after Garrett had sounded the alarm about Confederate troop movements.
My first order of business was to hike more of the Monocacy trails. I had not yet seen the Worthington or Thomas farms. I wanted to make sure I understood the timing of the battle and order of events.
I’m not going to recap the entire Battle of Monocacy since experts more versed in it than I have undertaken that study. In general, the battle happened in three stages on July 9. In truth, the fighting overlapped in each of these locations throughout the day, but approximately:
- 8:30-10:30am - an initial skirmish along the Georgetown Pike (now 355) at the Best Farm approaching the Monocacy River – the Confederates were on the north side of the Monocacy and the Union forces on the south and east sides; Wallace wanted the bridge held at all costs.
- 10:30am -2:30pm – downriver to the west, Confederates forded the Monocacy near Bush Creek to try and outflank the Union forces at the Worthington farm; the Union line rallied and beat back the rebels.
- 2:30-5:00pm – still south of the Monocacy rebels pushed in a final attack from the Worthington farm towards the Thomas farm. Union forces retreated in defeat towards Baltimore.
As I am apt to do with mystery or suspense books, I…ahem…read about the end of the battle first. It seemed fitting then to start hiking on the Thomas farm trail.
What a delightful hike it is!
Walking the farmland and forests allowed me to feel how the land undulates; it showed me how the landscape forms natural barriers and defensive positions. What appears from a distance as a slight terrain elevation up close becomes a walk of exertion. It illustrated to me that slight inclines could become monumental in the face of fatigue, battle equipment, or under a barrage of shots and artillery.
A sunset view of the Thomas farm
Nowadays the Thomas farm is a peaceful refuge. During my walk a “pod” of deer bounded through waves of green wheat fields like dolphins. I could only see their heads above the sea of grain curiously turning towards me with each jump like synchronized swimmers. It was so comical I giggled out loud, and I barely got my camera out in time to capture a shot. They disappeared as quickly as they came, a moving wisp of battlefield sentries.
A view of the Thomas farm
The peaceful scene belies the violence hidden in the ground. At one point – during the heaviest part of fighting near the end of the day- so many soldiers lay bleeding in a stream on the Thomas farm that blood trickled down the river bed for a hundred yards. Now, interstate 270 bisects the Thomas and Worthington farms. Cars speed indifferently through this angry spot every day. Where commuters see “Exit 31 Harry Grove Stadium” is where hundreds of soldiers once lost their lives.
A view of 270 exit 31 from the Thomas Farm
Back home, I scoured sources for the record of regiments. I could find no reference to troops or commanders from Cole’s battalions in the records.
As I discovered earlier, the separation of Cole’s regiment – some battalions were stuck with Hunter in the Kanawha Valley while some were with Mulligan’s Brigade in northern Virginia and Maryland – helped me hazard a guess as to why Cole’s Cavalry is not listed as fighting at the Battle of Monocacy. It seems to me under normal circumstances the entire regiment would have been involved given their role in protecting the Potomac River Valley. As it was, only the newest battalions traveling with Colonel Mulligan were available to help form a defense with Lew Wallace. From what I can determine, Cole’s newest recruits– and John Trout – were forced to face the Confederate invasion without many of their veteran comrades. They are listed only in official Monocacy battle records as “a detachment of mixed Cavalry.”
Given that information I tried to piece together where the detachment of Cole’s Cavalry - and John Trout - may have been during the battle.
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.”
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.