“[They] fully sustained the enviable reputation they had won” The Potomac Home Brigade at Monocacy

We’ll pick up where we left off last time with the role of the Home Brigade regiments during Jubal Early’s 1864 invasion of Maryland. We ended on the evening of July 8th. Early’s advance forces had been checked on the western outskirts of Frederick the previous evening, and much of the 8th was spent in desultory skirmishing. The last Union defenders of Frederick slipped through the town under the cover of darkness as the few remaining military stores were loaded up and evacuated.

As the sun came up on July 9th Early had concentrated his forces -numbering some 16,000 or so veterans – and was finally ready to make his push eastward. Arrayed against him was Lew Wallace’s hastily assembled force, numbering less than half of the rebel army. It was a mixed bag in terms of quality and experience – there were some Ohio National Guardsmen, 100-days troops, and the 1st and 3rd PHB Infantry. The delaying actions of the last two days had bought time enough to rush two brigades of hardened veterans of the VI Corps to Maryland as well. Still, many of the Union men had never heard a shot fired in anger. That would change before the day was through.

Outnumbered, Wallace used the terrain to his advantage. He arrayed his forces along the high ground east of the Monocacy River. Unsure of whether Early intended to attack Washington or Baltimore he spread his troops in a wide arch from the Georgetown Pike in the south to the Baltimore Pike in the north.

4-loc-planofthebattleofmonocacymap-e1328126245203

Union positions are shown in blue (Library of Congress)

Wallace entrusted the southern portion of the field – overlooking the B&O Railroad and the Georgetown Pike – to General Ricketts and his VI Corps veterans. Running north from the railroad for approximately two miles were the men of General Erastus Tyler’s Independent Brigade. These were the mostly untested men, but they had a huge task before them. They had to cover the Baltimore Pike and also the Crum Ford that lay equidistant between the railroad and Pike.

The 3rd PHB Infantry and the five companies of the 1st PHB Infantry were part of Tyler’s command and were spread along this thin line. Companies A and B of the 3rd were stationed “at the base of the mountain north of the railroad.” Companies C, D, E, H, and K supported Alexander’s Baltimore Battery near Crum’s ford “one mile north of railroad.” Companies F and G supported the blockhouse located on the east bank of the river, while Company I was mounted to serve as scouts (1).

The companies of the 1st PHB Infantry were also spread out across the northern part of the battlefield. Companies B, G, and H – under the command of Captain Robert C. Bamford of Washington County – were positioned near the bulk to the 3rd PHB overlooking Crum’s Ford. Companies C and K occupied the blockhouse on the west bank of the river near the rail junction (2). Let’s take a look at some modern aerials to orient ourselves…

Capture

As the battle unfolded that day the men of both Home Brigade regiments would see some action, though they were not as heavily engaged as Ricketts’ men to the south. The first Home Brigaders to be engaged were the men of the 1st inside the western blockhouse. The rebel attack came around noon, but the defenders of the blockhouse held their position well into the afternoon (2). Captain Brown related how his men held the blockhouse until “in obedience to orders from the General Commanding, [the blockhouse was] evacuated and burned” (3). After evacuating the blockhouse they continued to hold out on the west bank of the river, bolstered by men from the 10th Vermont and the 9th New York Heavy Artillery. Captain Brown related how they held “until the left of our army fell back, when, having received a discretionary order to fall back while I could do so with safety I left my position, fell back across the railroad bridge, and occupied the rifle pits on the east side of the Monocacy” (4). From there they joined with the remaining Home Brigade companies around the east blockhouse, helping to cover the Wallace’s withdrawal towards Baltimore. Further north towards Crum’s Ford the remainder of the 1st PHB and the 3rd PHB were involved in some skirmishing with rebels across the river, but the fighting along that portion of the line was mostly limited to artillery fire (5). With the exception of a cavalry probe, the rebels didn’t make a serious push to take the ford, and the Home Brigade regiments withdrew in good order when the rest of the Union force started for Baltimore.

Capture

The positions of the Home Brigade Regiments can be clearly seen near the center, by Reich’s Ford (Crum’s Ford). National Tribune 13 April 1893

Losses among the Home Brigade regiments were comparatively light, as they had been spared the brutal fighting which took place on the southern portion of the field. The 1st suffered 1 killed, 13 wounded, and 4 captured. Most of the casualties occurred in Companies C and K, as they were the ones fighting around the blockhouse. The remainder were in Companies G and H, who joined their comrades in defending the railroad bridge from the east bank.

Capture

The Rebellion Record Volume 11 (Google Books)

Moses Gosnell, the one man killed in action, was a 24 year old farm laborer originally from Howard County, Maryland. He is now buried in the National Cemetery in Sharpsburg.

The 3rd PHB Infantry suffered 2 killed, 7 wounded, 4 missing, and 10 captured.

Capture.JPG

The Rebellion Record Volume 11 (Google Books)

Corporal John Barker of Company E was killed outright by a gunshot wound that day. The 30 year old from Littlestown, PA had been a farmer before the war; after Monocacy his body was carried home for burial. Daniel McAllister, a 57 year old Irish immigrant in Company E, was mortally wounded. He died in a hospital in Frederick on the 12th, following an amputation for a compound fracture of the thigh. Pennsylvania native Abraham Powell of Company B died the 22nd of wounds sustained in the shoulder and chest. It looks like missing men were among those captured. The compiled service records account for at least 15 men captured at Monocacy – 8 of whom died in southern prisons.

Despite not being in the heart of the action the men of the Home Brigade won a great deal of praise for their defense of the Monocacy. General Wallace singled out Captain Brown of the 1st PHB in a list of officers conspicuous for their “excellent behavior in action” (6). General Tyler stated that “The conduct of Captain Brown, of the First Maryland Potomac Home Brigade, and his command merit special notice; they successfully maintained their skirmish line against a superior force, to the close, and resisted several charges of the enemy” (7). Likewise Colonel Gilpin of the 3rd was commended by General Tyler for maintaining good order. Tyler concluded that the 3rd PHB Infantry “fully sustained the enviable reputation they had won on Thursday [the 7th]” (8).

 

  1. Moore, Frank ed.The Rebellion Record Volume 11. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1868. p 625
  2. “Early’s Great Raid” National Tribune 13 April 1893
  3. Moore p 626
  4. Ibid p 626
  5. Ibid p 626
  6. Ibid p 620
  7. Ibid p 617
  8. Ibid p 620
  9. Ibid p 619-620
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