Let’s return from hiatus and get back to the Civil War with a visit to one of my “must see” historic sites – Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, MD. I touched on the cemetery briefly in one of my earlier posts about Frederick’s cemeteries. Chartered in 1854 the cemetery was Frederick’s premier “garden cemetery” and anyone who’s anyone in Frederick history is there. Francis Scott Key, author of the Star-Spangled Banner. Barbara Fritchie, the feisty unionist immortalized in verse by John Greenleaf Whittier. Thomas Johnson, delegate to the Continental Congress and Maryland’s first post-independence governor. Soldiers and statesmen, athletes and actors – a trip to Mt. Olivet is a trip through Frederick’s rich history.
With nearly 40,000 gravestones it’s easy to get lost for the day. Thankfully those looking for a specific grave can use the cemetery’s computer database, located at a kiosk near the entrance. Another great option for a first time visitor are the guided tours occasionally offered by staff. These tours touch on the highlights of the cemetery, including “Confederate Row” – a long row along the western edge of the cemetery that contains the graves of hundreds of Confederate dead killed at Antietam, South Mountain, and Monocacy.
Although not as visible as Confederate Row, the cemetery holds it’s fair share of Union dead as well. Unlike their southern counterparts most are scattered through the cemetery, and I don’t have an exact count. Some died during the war in Frederick’s many hospitals, while others were local veterans interred long after the guns ceased firing. Since so many notable locals are buried at Mt. Olivet it should come as no surprise that many veterans of the Potomac Home Brigade are there.
One of the easiest PHB graves to find in the cemetery is that of Colonel William P. Maulsby, commander of the 1st PHB Infantry. You can find my short biography of the Colonel here.
Not far from his father lies the grave of William P. Maulsby, jr. The younger Maulsby also served in the 1st PHB Infantry, holding the rank of 1st Lieutenant and serving as his father’s adjutant.
Among the other PHB notables interred here is Colonel Henry Cole, commander and namesake of Cole’s Maryland Cavalry.
Not too far away lies one of Colonel Cole’s most trusted subordinates (and someone who has come up on this blog quite a bit), Colonel George Vernon. Vernon survived the horrific eye injury that he suffered at Loudoun Heights and died in 1921, at the ripe old age of 78.
The cemetery contains the remains of many of the enlisted men who fought under these officers as well. I haven’t gotten around to figuring out just how many, since many were buried after the war and don’t have military gravestones. One of notable Home Brigaders that I did happen across at Mt. Olivet is Sergeant John A. Hudson.
Hudson was a native of Frederick City, born around 1820. In 1840 he married Julianne Marmon, with whom he had two daughters. Unfortunately for John nothing seemed to go right after that.
In December of 1851 his wife Julianne died, leaving him with alone with the children. Things went from bad to worse three years later, as Hudson found himself embroiled in a grisly crime.
Francis Lamb, a 32 year old laborer from Frederick was found beaten and convulsing in a city stable and the manhunt was on for a suspect. That man seen quarreling with was John Hudson and it wasn’t long before the law caught up to John:
Hudson’s trial was held later that fall. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to five years and ten months in the penitentiary (1). I’m not sure if he served his full sentence, but if he did then he’d be getting out sometime around September 1860…just in time for the election and the subsequent secession crisis.
In the summer of 1861 Hudson became one of the early enlistees in the Potomac Home Brigade cavalry when he joined Company A (Cole’s) on August 10th. He served with Cole’s through the following year. Misfortune struck again for Hudson on September 2, 1862, when he was among those captured in the fight at Mile Hill, outside of Leesburg. The Confederates paroled him and he traveled to Camp Parole, on the outskirts of Annapolis.
The sprawling camp came about as a result of the exchange system then in place. Paroled northern prisoners were held there until they were officially exchanged. While there they were free to travel through the area but were on their honor to not take up arms until properly exchanged. There were several camps in the vicinity of Annapolis, and the suburb of Parole, Maryland still bears the name today (much of which is under a mall today). When Hudson arrived at Camp Parole he was one of several men in Cole’s Battalion who were sent there following Mile Hill. By the end of the year, however, Private Hudson was “the only cavalryman of said battn. remaining in Camp Parole” (2).
Now, you’d think that Hudson would have a hard time getting himself into trouble at Camp Parole, but that wasn’t the case. During his time in the camp he came into contact with none other than Colonel William Maulsby, commander of the 1st PHB Infantry. Maulsby and his men were paroled in September 1862 following their capture at Harper’s Ferry and, like Private Hudson, were stuck waiting for their exchange. Before Hudson’s exchange came through Colonel Maulsby decided to detail the cavalryman as his personal groom and orderly. Being that Hudson belonged to a completely different unit this seems to me as a gross overstepping of Maulsby’s authority.
Captain George Vernon (now commanding Company A) certainly thought that Maulsby overstepped his bounds. When Hudson’s exchange finally came through in February 1863 Vernon was furious that the wayward cavalryman had left Camp Parole and made his way with Maulsby to Frederick. Vernon dispatched a squad from Bolivar, WV to ride up to Frederick and collect Private Hudson, along with any other exchanged prisoners in town. Upon their arrival the cavalrymen tried to take Hudson with but Colonel Maulsby stepped in and wouldn’t allow it. Incensed, Captain Vernon “concluded to go myself and arrest him, When again, although a paroled prisoner himself, Col. Wm. Maulsby interfered, He having no authority over myself or my men, released him from my custody”(3). It took Vernon going over Maulsby’s head and directly to 8th Corps headquarters to finally get Private Hudson back.
Despite all of the hubbub over his return it doesn’t look like Hudson’s absence hurt his military career much; in April of 1863 he was promoted to sergeant in Company A. For a while it seems that things were on the up and up for him, but of course that wouldn’t last.
The middle of June, 1863 was a chaotic time for the men of Cole’s Cavalry. Lee’s army was moving north and they were among the few bluecoats who were there to stand in their way. The Marylanders skirmished with the advancing Confederates at Winchester, Berryville, and Martinsburg before falling back to their native state. During this time they comprised the rear guard for Milroy’s shattered command and were the last union troops across the Potomac on June 15 (4). In the subsequent days of the Gettysburg campaign Cole and his troopers were seemingly everywhere. They skirmished with rebel cavalry near Sharpsburg, Point of Rocks, Williamsport, and in Frederick itself. Back on their home turf they acted very similar to the southern guerrillas that they sparred with in Virginia. One veteran recalled how “we were now acting as partisans and constantly annoying the enemy, capturing their pickets and picking up stragglers, and were on the move day and night”(5).
Federal high command recognized the usefulness of the locally raised cavalry battalion and soon Cole’s men were not only harassing the Confederate invaders, but were detailed as guides, couriers, and scouts for the Army of the Potomac. A large portion of Cole’s command, numbering approximately 60 men, was held in Frederick in order to preserve law and order and to dissuade any further rebel cavalry raids (6). Sgt. John Hudson was a part of this command.
As part of the provost guard in Frederick it was Sgt. Hudson’s duty to ensure that military discipline was adhered to, despite the chaos that surrounded Lee’s invasion. And it was in the execution of this duty that Hudson had his next brush with the bad luck that seemed to follow him wherever he went. On June 18th Sergeant Hudson attempted to arrest Private John Bechtol, a fellow soldier of Company A, on some violation of military law. A fight ensued and Private Bechtol fired his weapon at close range. Hudson was “shot through the head and seriously wounded”(7).
Now, who was this Private John Bechtol, who would go so far as to shoot his comrade in the face? He was a native of Morgan County, (West) Virginia, and was 20 years junior to Sgt. Hudson. He was a farmer’s son, and he lived with his family near Bath (present day Berkeley Springs) on the eve of the war (8). Like Hudson he was an early recruit to Cole’s Cavalry. In fact the two men enlisted in Frederick on the very same day – August 10, 1861. They had served together in Company A for nearly two years, and now one of them was lying in the street with a gunshot wound to the face. What drove Bechtol to take the shot? More research into this incident is definitely warranted.
Bechtol was arrested for his crime and in August 1863 he was released from Cole’s Cavalry and remanded to the civilian authorities (9). What happens next is murky, but it doesn’t appear that Bechtol ever did any time for shooting Sgt. Hudson. In fact he reenlists in the Union army a few months later, serving as a sergeant with the 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry from February 1864 until the end of the war (10). After the war he returned to Bath and worked as a carpenter until his death in 1901. His gravestone, located in Greenway Cemetery in Berkley Springs, bears the following inscription: “A UNION SOLDIER WHO SERVED IN COLES CAV MD VOL AND CO.D 20 REGT PA MOUNTED VOL IN THE WAR 1861-65.”
But what ever happened to the wounded Sergeant Hudson? He spent the next several months in military hospitals in Frederick before finally being discharged in the summer of 1864 as his enlistment expired. With no real family to turn to he makes his next appearance in the 1870 census, at a familiar place…
Leilich’s Hotel has come up before on this blog. It was a hub of activity during the Civil War, hosting soldiers, officers, and unionist refugees from Virginia. A while back I wrote about the murder of Job Rice, another compatriot of Hudson’s, which took place outside the hotel. It just goes to show how small of a world things are when you study the Potomac Home Brigade.
Less than a year after he appeared in the census, though, Sergeant John Hudson was dead at the age of 51. He made the short journey from the hotel to nearby Mt. Olivet, where he was laid to rest not far from so many of his comrades. In a bit of historical irony he’s not far from both Colonel Maulsby and Colonel Vernon – the two officers who fought over him back in the winter of 1862-1863. Hopefully Sergeant Hudson has heard the last of that argument and can rest peacefully now.
If you visit
The cemetery is located at 515 S Market Street in Frederick. The roads through the cemetery are very spacious, so getting around isn’t a problem. If you want to walk there is parking near the entrance, near Francis Scott Key’s grave. The computer kiosk that contains the cemetery database is also located there. Also, if you’re there in the summer time why not stop next door for some Frederick Keys baseball!
1 “Found Guilty” Baltimore Sun 10 November 1854
2 NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging the State of Maryland. Roll:0023
3 Captain George Vernon to Lt. Colonel William Cheesborough, 23 February 1863. NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging the State of Maryland. Roll:0023
4 Newcomer, Christopher. Cole’s Cavalry, or, Three years in the saddle in the Shenandoah Valley. Cushing &Co. Baltimore. 1895. p 51
5 Ibid p 51
6 Ibid p 53
7 NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging the State of Maryland. Roll:0023
8 1860; Census Place: Bath, Morgan, Virginia; Roll: M653_1364; Page: 375; Family History Library Film: 805364
9 NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging the State of Maryland. Roll:0018