“A Most Delightful and Successful Affair”

Before I get into today’s post I have a quick announcement. This coming Sunday – August 27th – I will be speaking as a part of the Mosby Heritage Area Association/NOVA Parks “Conversations in History” series. I’ll be focusing on the involvement of Virginians within the Potomac Home Brigade, so if you’re interested I encourage you to come on out. I hope to see some folks there! More information can be found at http://mosbyheritagearea.org/events/

Now, on to today’s story. This is one of those examples of how historical research can lead you in unexpected directions. I have a tendency to fall into historic rabbit-holes, particularly when I’m browsing through old newspapers and my latest obsession has drawn me into the world of pre-Civil War militias. Militias were a common fixture throughout communities north and south in the antebellum period. In the 19th century militia organizations often served as social clubs within the community, hosting concerts, parades, and picnics. As the country moved towards disunion, however, service in the militia took on a much more serious tone.

This was certainly the case in western Maryland. In the late 1850s volunteer organizations sprung up throughout the region, and many of them would go on to form the nucleus of Union volunteers when the war began. A few weeks back we looked at the Sharpsburg Rifles, who were just such an organization. They later went on to become Company A of the 1st PHB Infantry. Back in Frederick there were the Frederick Zouaves, who formed Company H of the same regiment. After the secession winter of 1860-1861 these existing militias were further augmented by large numbers of Union volunteer organizations – the McClellan Guards, Catoctin Guards, and Brengle Home Guards in Frederick County, the Boonesboro Guards and Williamsport Guards in Washington County and so on…

The particular tangent I was chasing in this instance was the story of the United Guards, based out of the city of Frederick. The company was formed in 1858, drawing from the “swampers” of Frederick’s United Fire Company. Under the leadership of Captain John Sinn they marched through the streets of the city for the first time on May 24, 1858. Jacob Engelbrecht noted that it was the first military parade in town since the Mexican War, so the sight of 40-50 uniformed men drew quite a crowd (he also noted the cost of a uniform – $4.90)(1). In the coming months the United Guard were joined by two other city militia companies – the Junior Defenders and the Independent Riflemen. The following year all three of these companies would march off to Harper’s Ferry to contain John Brown’s ill-fated slave rebellion (2).

It was while I was delving into the world of Frederick’s militia on the eve of the War that I came across a fun newspaper article in the May 30, 1860 issue of the Frederick Examiner.

The United Guards hosted a well attended picnic that spring – giving us a fascinating look at the social scene in pre-war Frederick.

The militiamen donned their summer uniforms and parade through town, together with the Frederick Cornet Band. They then boarded a train, together with several hundred others, bound for the “Junction.” The location is question was no doubt Frederick Junction – otherwise known as Monocacy Junction – just a few miles south of town. To me there’s a certain sense of eeriness to think that these happy picnic-goers were enjoying a beautiful, peaceful day on the very ground that would see so much bloodshed just four years later. What drives that point home even further is the idea of the Guards having a shooting competition on the west bank of the river that day. Some of those very same men would be there in July 1864, taking aim not at paper targets but at enemy soldiers.

bondmap

Detail of Monocacy Junction from the Isaac Bond Map, 1858 (Library of Congress)

In 1860, though, there would be no bloodshed at the Junction. Instead the winners of the shooting contest earned the right to crown their sweethearts. Twenty year-old Charles Mobley won the competition, naming 16 year-old Fanny Reynolds “Queen of May.” The runners up were Job Rice, Milton McDaniels, and Frederick Engelbrecht, who chose Caroline Dayhoff, Fanny Elkins, and Louisa Leilich as maids of honor, respectively.

Some of you who have been reading the blog might recognize some of the names up there. They certainly jumped out at me, so let’s take a look at that list and break down who these people were and how they fit into our story.

First up are Charles Mobley and Fanny Reynolds. Mobley (sometimes spelled Moberly or Moberley) was a painter in Frederick who would go on to join the Union Army in 1861. He served as a musician in the 1st Maryland Regiment (US) until he was captured by Jackson’s troops during the Battle of Front Royal in May, 1862. After spending several months in Libby Prison he was exchanged and returned home to Frederick. One can only imagine the relief Fanny felt when she saw Charles return from his imprisonment.  In 1863 Charles married his young sweetheart that he had crowned on the day of the picnic, and the two would spend the rest of their days together.

The story of Job Rice and Caroline Dayhoff doesn’t have such a happy ending, unfortunately. When the war began Job enlisted in Company A of Cole’s Cavalry and he served with that unit until 1864. On April 23, 1864 Rice was in Frederick on leave when he was murdered by a civilian following an altercation at Leilich’s Hotel. I wrote about the incident a while back, but one lingering question I had was how did Rice get fatally mixed up in a fight over a horse race. The answer may lay in his connection to Caroline Dayhoff.

In 1860 – the year he picked Caroline as his Maid of Honor at the picnic – Rice was actually living with Caroline’s family while working as a baggage master.

Capture

1860 Federal Census (Ancestry.com)

Just above Rice and Caroline (but listed in the same residence) is Joshua Dayhoff, a restaurant keeper. This is the same Joshua Dayhoff who started the whole incident that led to Rice’s murder in 1864, as covered in the earlier blog post. His attack on George Alexander drove the latter to acquire the pistol that he would later use to take Job Rice’s life. When Alexander and Rice ran into one another at Leilich’s Hotel that fateful day it’s possible they were arguing over Dayhoff’s arrest, since it appears that Rice and Dayhoff were well acquainted before the war.

Next on the list is Milton McDaniel, a 27 year-old carpenter who chose 23 year-old Frances “Fannie” Elkins. When the war came Milton remained in Frederick, where he and Fanny were married in 1862. The only real item of interest I could dig up on these two was that Milton was one of the carpenters who worked on the steeples of Frederick’s beautiful German Reformed Church.

Lastly we have Frederick Engelbrecht and Louisa Leilich. Frederick, as you may have guessed, was a relative of the famous Frederick diarist Jacob Engelbrecht. His chosen lady, Louisa Leilich, has connections to the whole Job Rice story as well. Her father, Jacob Leilich, was the proprietor of the hotel which bore his name – the same hotel where Rice had lived and where he was when the fatal altercation began. What’s more Joshua Dayhoff was her brother in law, married to her older sister Ann.

During the war Louisa met and fell in love with Lt. George Rollins, an officer of the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry. His regiment was garrisoned in Frederick during the winter of 1861-1862, so they no doubt met during that time. It’s possible they met at her father’s hotel, given its reputation as a hangout for Union officers and soldiers. The 3rd marched of of Frederick in the spring of 1862 as part of Gen. Banks’s drive into the Shenandoah Valley. Illness would force Rollins out of the army, but he returned to Frederick to marry Louisa in in 1863. The couple would move west, eventually settling in Iowa.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, for one it helped to shed a little bit of light on the murder of Job Rice. With his connections to the Dayhoff family it makes more sense that he would get caught up in Dayhoff’s scrap with Alexander. It never ceases to amaze me how closely connected many of the folks in Frederick County were, particularly in the city itself. The United Fire Company, the United Guard militia company, Leilich’s Hotel – they all represent overlapping social circles that seem to have defined life on South Market Street.

In the wider view of things an article like this provides a snapshot of life on the verge of catastrophe. By following up with the people involved we get a sense of how the war affected people on an individual level. For some like Louisa Leilich or Fanny Reynolds the story would have a happy ending. For many, like Job Rice and Caroline Dayhoff that wouldn’t be the case. Less than a year after this picnic took place the nation was tearing itself apart and the men of the United Guard would be caught up in the conflict. The same went for Frederick’s other militia companies. The Junior Defenders would disband in June 1861 and reform as the Union Defenders, and the company became Company B of the 1st PHB Infantry (3). Likewise the Independent Rifles joined the 1st PHB Infantry as Company I. Other Unionist militias poured into Frederick, Hagerstown, Cumberland, and elsewhere to bolster the ranks of the Home Brigade. For these nineteenth century “weekend warriors” the time for playing at war was over.

 

  1. Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht p. 826
  2. http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/speccol/sc2200/sc2221/000030/html/readiness1.html
  3. “Union Defenders” Frederick Examiner 5 June 1861

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