Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 03/March/Maryland Troops in the Confederate Service

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Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 3  (1877)  by [[Author:Lamar Hollyday|Lamar Hollyday]]
Maryland Troops in the Confederate Service
March 1877

Maryland Troops in the Confederate Service.

By Lamar Hollyday.

The July (1876) number of the Southern Historical Society Papers contains a letter from General J. A. Early on the "Relative Strength of the Armies of Generals Lee and Grant," in which he says "that State (Maryland) furnished to the Confederate army only one organized regiment of infantry for one year, and several, companies of artillery and cavalry which served through the whole war."

The Confederate roster, also published in the October number of same Papers, gives credit for only one regiment of infantry, and makes no mention whatever of either cavalry or artillery.

These statements, coming from such high authority, are calculated to do great injustice to as gallant soldiers of the Confederate army as either shouldered a musket, straddled a horse or rode on a caisson. Maryland was represented during the whole war, except probably for a few months, by an organized infantry command, which won a name for gallantry and discipline second to none in the army, and proved themselves worthy descendants of the Maryland line of Revolutionary fame.

The following comprise the Maryland organizations in the Confederate service, independent of several companies of infantry and several companies of cavalry, merged into regiments of other States:

First infantry—Colonel Arnold Elzey, promoted to Brigadier and Major-General; Colonel George H. Steuart, promoted to Brigadier-General; Colonel Bradley T. Johnson, promoted to Brigadier-General.

Second infantry—Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph R. Herbert.

First cavalry—Lieutenant-Colonel Ridgeley Brown, killed; Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. Dorsey.

Second cavalry—Major Harry Gilmore.

First battery—Captain R. Snowden Andrews, promoted Lieutenant-Colonel; Captain W. F. Dernent.

Second battery—Captain J. B. Brockenborough, promoted Major; Captain W. H. Griffin.

Third battery—Captain H. B. Latrobe, promoted March 1st, 1863; killed at Vicksburg, Mississippi, June 22d, 1863; Captain John B. Rowan, promoted June 30th, 1863; killed before Nashville, Tennessee, December 16th, 1864; Captain William L. Hitter, promoted December 16th, 1864, on the battle-field before Nashville, Tennessee.

Fourth battery—Captain William Brown, killed; Captain W. S. Chew.

First Maryland infantry—The First Maryland infantry was organized in June, 1861, and shortly after their organization were complimented by General J. E. Johnston, in the following special order:

Headquarters, Winchester, June 22, 1861.

Special Order.

The Commanding (general thanks Lieutenant-Colonel Steuart and the Maryland regiment for the faithful and exact manner in which they carried out his orders of the 19th instant at Harper's Ferry. He is glad to learn that, owing to their discipline, no private property was injured and no unoffending citizen disturbed. The soldierly qualities of the Maryland regiment will not be forgotten in the day of action.

By order of General Joseph E. Johnston.

W. H. Whiting, 
Inspector-General.

General G. T. Beauregard, in his letter to Mr. J. Thomas Scharf, under date of November 5th, 1873, published in the Baltimore Chronicle, thus speaks of the First Maryland's participation in the battle of the first Manassas:

"At the battle of the first Manassas the First Maryland regiment contributed greatly to the success of that battle, by checking the flanking movement of the Federals until Early's brigade could get into position to outflank them. The officers and men of that Maryland regiment behaved with much gallantry on that occasion; and afterwards, while on duty in front of Munson's Hill, near Alexandria, and while in winter quarters about Centreville, they were noted for their discipline and good behavior."

The regiment served under General Jackson in his ever-memorable Valley campaign, and were thus spoken of by that General in his official report:

"In a short time the Fifty-eighth Virginia regiment became engaged with a Pennsylvania regiment called the Bucktails, when Colonel Johnson, of the First Maryland regiment, coming up in the hottest period of the fire, charged gallantly into his flank and drove the enemy, with heavy loss, from the field, capturing Lieutenant-Colonel Kane, commanding."

General Ewell, also, in his official report of the Valley campaign, speaks of them in the following highly complimentary language:

"The history of the Maryland regiment, gallantly commanded by Colonel Bradley T. Johnson, during the campaign of the Valley would be the history of every action from Front Royal to Cross Keys. On the 6th, near Harrisonburg, the Fifty-eighth Virginia regiment was engaged with the Pennsylvania Bucktails, the fighting being close and bloody. Colonel Johnson came up with his regiment in the hottest period, and, by a dashing charge in flank, drove the enemy off with heavy loss, capturing Lieutenant-Colonel Kane, commanding. In commemoration of this gallant conduct, I ordered one of the captured bucktails to be appended, as a trophy, to their flag. The action is worthy of acknowledgment from a higher source, more particularly as they avenged the death of the gallant General Ashby, who fell at the same time. Four color-bearers were shot down in succession, but each time the colors were caught before reaching the ground; and were finally borne by Corporal Daniel Shanks to the close of the action. On the 8th instant, at Cross Keys, they were opposed to three of the enemy's regiments in succession."

The order of General Ewell, directing that one of the bucktails captured by the regiment should be appended to their colors, is as follows:

Headquarters Third Division.

General Orders,
No. 30.
\Big\}

In commemoration of the gallant conduct of the First Maryland regiment on the 6th of June, when, led by Colonel Bradley T. Johnson, they drove back, with loss, the Pennsylvania Bucktail Rifles, in the engagement near Harrisonburg, Rockingham county, Va., authority is given to have one of the bucktails (the insignia of the Federal regiment) appended to the color-staff of the First Maryland regiment.

By order of Major-General Ewell.

James Barbour, 
Assistant Adjutant-General.

As soon as the Valley campaign was over the regiment was ordered to Staunton, to muster out two companies whose term of service had expired, and to receive a new company. They had not been there long before they were ordered to again join the main army, and took an active part in the Seven Days' fights before Richmond; after which they went to Charlottesville; from thence to Gordonsville, where, in August, 1862, they were mustered out of the service, some of the men joining new infantry companies which were then forming, while others entered the cavalry and artillery. The total length of service of the First regiment was fourteen to sixteen months.

SECOND MARYLAND INFANTRY.

The Second Maryland infantry was organized in the fall of 1862, and numbered six companies. Two other companies joined them afterward, one in about two months and the other about a year after their organization. They were in service up to the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox.

During the fall and winter of 1862-3 they were attached to General Jones' cavalry brigade, and were on duty in the Valley of Virginia; being constantly on the move, and made two very severe marches to Moorefield in West Virginia. In June, 1863, they joined General Early at Kernstown, and opened the battle at that point preparatory to attacking Winchester. That General, in his official report of the Gettysburg campaign, thus mentions this fact:

"I found Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert, of the Maryland line, with his battalion of infantry, the battery of Maryland artillery, and a portion of the battalion of Maryland cavalry, occupying the ridge between Bartonsville and Kernstown, and engaged in occasional skirmishing with a portion of the enemy, who had taken position near Kernstown.   *   *   *   I will here state that when our skirmishers had advanced to Bower's Hill, Major Goldsborough, of the Maryland battalion, with the skirmishers of the battalion had advanced into the outskirts of the town of Winchester; but fearing that the enemy would shell the town from the main fort, I ordered him back.   *   *   I must also commend the gallantry of Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert and Major Goldsborough, of the Maryland line, and their troops."

General Ewell also, in his official report of the Gettysburg campaign, gives additional evidence of the existence of the command. He says: "On the 13th, I sent Early's division and Colonel Brown's artillery battalion (under Captain Dance) to Newtown, on the Valley pike, where they were joined by the Maryland battalion of infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert, and the Baltimore light artillery, Captain Griffin."

Immediately after the battle of Winchester, the Second Maryland joined General George H. Steuart's brigade, and took an active and distinguished part in the battle of Gettysburg, assisted in the capture of the Federal breastworks at Culp's Hill, which they held all of the night of 2d July and a part of the next day, losing in killed and wounded during the engagement more than half their number.

Again, at the battle of Cold Harbor, June 3d, 1864, they covered themselves with glory. On the afternoon of the day the fight took place General Lee telegraphed the Secretary of War as follows: "General Finnegan's brigade of Mahone's division and the Maryland battalion of Breckinridge's command immediately drove the enemy out with severe loss." General Breckinridge also, in a letter dated January 6th, 1874, and published in Scharf's "Chronicles of Baltimore," thus mentions the Second Maryland's participation in the battle of Cold Harbor: "When I crossed over from the Shenandoah Valley in May, 1864, and joined General Lee on the North Anna, near Hanover Junction, a battalion of Maryland infantry was sent to me, and it remained under my command until I returned to the Valley in the following month. It had seen rough service, and I think all the field officers were absent from disabling wounds. While with me it was commanded by Captain Crane. I had occasion to observe this battalion along the North Anna, on the Tottopotomy, and in a series of other engagements of greater or less importance, ending with the battle of Cold Harbor early in June, and I take pleasure in saying that its conduct throughout was not merely creditable, but distinguished. Not being incorporated in any brigade, it came more frequently under my eye, and I presently fell into the habit of holding it in hand for occasions of special need. For instance, at Cold Harbor, where a point in my line was very weak, and was actually broken for a time by General Hancock's troops, the Maryland battalion and Finnegan's Florida brigade (the latter borrowed from General Hoke for the occasion) aided decisively to restore the situation, and behaved with the greatest intrepidity.   *   *   Not in courage only, but also in discipline, tone and all soldierly qualities they were equal to any troops I saw during the war."

The following appeared in the Richmond Sentinel a few days after the battle of Cold Harbor:

Near Richmond, June 6th, 1864.

Mr. Editor—The public have already been informed, through the columns of the public journals, of the great results of the late engagements between the forces of General Lee and General Grant; but they have not yet learned the particulars, which are always most interesting, and in some instances, owing to the confusion which generally attends large battles, they have been misinformed on some points. It is now known by the public that the enemy were momentarily successful in one of their assaults on the lines held by Major-General Breckinridge's division, which might have resulted in disaster to our cause. It will be interesting to all to know what turned disaster into victory, and converted a triumphant column into a flying rabble. The successful assault of the enemy was made under cover of darkness. Before the morning star had been hid by the light of the sun, they came gallantly forward in spite of a severe fire from General Echols' brigade, and in spite of the loss of many of their men who fell like autumn leaves, until the ground was almost blue and red with their uniforms and blood. They rushed in heavy masses over our breastworks. Our men, confused by the suddenness of the charge, and borne down by the rush of the enemy, retreated, and all now seemed to be lost. At this juncture the Second Maryland infantry, of Colonel Bradley T. Johnson's command, now in charge of Captain J. Parrar Crane, were roused from their sleep. Springing to their arms, they formed in a moment and, rushing gallantly forward, poured a deadly fire into the enemy and then charged bayonets. The enemy were, in turn, surprised at the suddenness and vim of this assault. They gave back, they became confused, and General Finnegan's forces coming up, they took to flight; but not until nearly a hundred men were stretched on the plain, from the fire of the Second Maryland infantry, and many others captured. Lieutenant Charles B. Wise, of Company B, now took possession of the guns which had been abandoned by our forces, and with the assistance of some of his own men and some of General Finnegan's command, poured a deadly fire into the retreating column of the enemy. Thus was the tide of battle turned, and this disaster converted into a success. I am informed that the whole force of the enemy which came within our lines would have been captured, had it not been for the mistake of an officer who took the enemy for our own men and thus checked for a few moments the charge of the Second Maryland infantry. I take pleasure in narrating these deeds of our Maryland brethren, and doubt not you will join in the feeling.

A Virginian.

The following letter from Brigadier-General William McComb will give a general outline of the history of the Second Maryland from Cold Harbor to Appomattox, and show the part they took in the closing scenes of our struggle for independence:

Gordonsville, Virginia, December 16, 1876.

Mr. Lamar Hollyday:

Dear Sir—I am glad to learn you propose writing an article for the Southern Historical Papers on the Maryland soldiers of the Confederate States Army.

It affords me pleasure to give you some information of a command so worthy of notice in your article as the Second Maryland infantry. The command reported for duty to the commanding officer of Archer's brigade, about the 20th June, 1864. General Archer at that time was a prisoner at Johnson's Island, and from exposure there contracted a disease which resulted in his death in the fall of 1864. In his death the writer lost one of his warmest friends, Maryland one of her most gallant sons, the brigade, the best commander it ever had, and the Confederacy, one of the bravest officers in the army—one competent to fill any position in the corps. He could see, decide and act with as much alacrity as any officer I ever knew. The writer had the honor of commanding the brigade the greater part of the time during his absence and sickness, and was promoted to take his place after his death, and consequently had a good opportunity of observing the conduct of the Second Maryland infantry. Many of the officers and men had been either killed or disabled before their connection with our brigade, and these officers were worthy of much praise for the thorough discipline the command had received. The majority of the rank and file were gentlemen and had the pride necessary for making good soldiers. This was proven by their gallant conduct on many hard fought battlefields, as at "Squirrel Level" the day the gallant General John Pegram was killed, and the morning the lines south of Petersburg were broken, particularly in the latter engagement, when over one half of General Heth's division had been withdrawn from the line the day before to reinforce the line south of Hatcher's Run, leaving our soldiers deployed in the main works at about five paces; yet even under these trying circumstances the Second Maryland and the Tennessee troops composing the brigade held every foot of line entrusted to them until they received orders to evacuate it. A part of said line was broken on the left, but was retaken in less than thirty minutes by the Second Maryland, First, Seventh and Fourteenth Tennessee regiments, and the writer is happy to say that when the order was given (by General Cooke, commanding the division) to retreat, there was not the least confusion, although the only means of escape was to swim the military dam on Hatcher's Run. The entire brigade (except those disabled) swam across or crossed on trees, and were ready for duty in the next engagement, and were ready to fight their way out at Appomattox Courthouse if the word had been given; but there, as elsewhere, they were willing, as they ever had been, to obey to the letter every command given by our great and honored chief, Robert E. Lee.   *   *   *   *   Trusting this communication may be of service to you, I remain, yours truly,

William McComb.


FIRST MARYLAND CAVALRY.

The First Maryland cavalry was organized in November, 1862, with four companies, under the command of Major Ridgely Brown (afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel). Subsequently they were joined by three other companies. They served throughout the war with great honor, and after cutting their way through the Federal lines at Appomattox, finally disbanded about the 28th of April, 1865.

The following letter from Brigadier-General Munford explains itself:

Cloverdale, Botetourt County, Virginia,
April 28th, 1865. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Dorsey,
 Commanding First Maryland Cavalry:

I have just learned from Captain Emack that your gallant band was moving up the Valley in response to my call. I am deeply pained to say that our army cannot be reached, as I have learned that it has capitulated. It is sad, indeed, to think that our country's future is all shrouded in gloom. But for you and your command there is the consolation of having faithfully done your duty.

Three years ago the chivalric Brown joined my old regiment with twenty-three Maryland volunteers, with light hearts and full of fight. I soon learned to admire, respect and love them for all those qualities which endear soldiers to their officers. They recruited rapidly, and as they increased in numbers, so did their reputation and friends increase, and they were soon able to form a command and take a position of their own. Need I say, when I see that position so high and almost alone among soldiers, that my heart swells with pride to think that a record so bright and glorious is in some part linked with mine? Would that I could see the mothers and sisters of every member of your battalion, that I might tell them how nobly you have represented your State and maintained our cause. But you will not be forgotten; the fame you have won will be guarded by Virginia with all the pride she feels in her own true sons, and the ties which have linked us together memory will preserve. You who struck the first blow in Baltimore, and the last in Virginia, have done all that could be asked of you, and had the rest of our officers and men adhered to our cause with the same devotion, to-day we would be free from Yankee thraldom. I have ordered the brigade to return to their homes, and it behooves us now to separate. With my warmest wishes for your welfare, and a hearty God bless you, I bid you farewell.

Thomas T. Munford, 
Brigadier-General commanding Division.

SECOND MARYLAND CAVALRY.

The Second Maryland cavalry was organized in the spring of 1863, under command of Major Harry Gilmore, with three companies, three more joining before the close of the war—making a total of six companies.

ARTILLERY.

The First Maryland Artillery was organized in the summer of 1861, under command of Captain R. Snowden Andrews, and served during the whole war in the Army, of Northern Virginia. After Captain Anderson was promoted, the battery was more generally known as "Dement's battery," Captain W. T. Dement being its commander. The following extract from General Ewell's official report of the Gettysburg campaign will show of what material this battery was composed:

"Lieutenant C. S. Contee's section of Dement's battery was placed in short musket range of the enemy on the 15th June" (at Winchester), "and maintained its position until thirteen of the sixteen men in the two detachments were killed and wounded, when Lieutenant John A. Morgan, of the First North Carolina regiment, and Lieutenant R. H. McKim, A.D.C. to Brigadier-General George H. Steuart, volunteered and helped to work the guns till the surrender of the enemy."

The Second Maryland ("Baltimore Light") Artillery was organized early in the fall of 1861, under the command of Captain J. B. Brockenborough, who was promoted to Major in September, 1862. After this Captain W. H. Griffin had command of it. They served in the Army of Northern Virginia to the close of the war, and were looked upon as one of the best batteries in the service.

The Third Maryland Artillery was organized in January, 1862, at Richmond, Virginia, under command of Captain H. B. Latrobe. They were sent to the Western army, and served till the close of the war. They aided very materially in the capture of the iron-clad Federal steamer Indianola, on the Mississippi river. Major J. L. Brent, who commanded the expedition against the steamer, says, in his official report, a "detachment from the Third Maryland artillery were in the expedition, and acted with courage and discipline when under fire."

The Fourth Maryland ("Chesapeake") Artillery was organized in the spring of 1862, under command of Captain William Brown, who was killed at Gettysburg, after which Captain Chew took command. They served in the Army of Northern Virginia, and took a prominent part in the gallant defence of Fort Gregg, near Petersburg, an account of which is published in the January (1877) number of the Society Papers.

Two-thirds of Breathed's battery were Marylanders, and it was generally spoken of as a Maryland command, but, as a gallant member of the battery says, they were glad to get any recruit "whose nerves were steady and head level." From returns in the Adjutant-General's office, Richmond, in the early part of 1863, there had been mustered into the service in all the States from 19,000 to 21,000 citizens of Maryland. These facts were obtained from the office at that time by Major-General I. R. Trimble. From this time until the close of the war this number was being frequently added to. These men were all volunteers in the highest sense. The difficulties they had to encounter in running the blockade deterred many a stout heart from making the effort; in fact, many who did make the attempt were captured by the Federal forces. At a very early period of the war Maryland was overrun with Federal soldiers, who guarded every avenue to the South, and it was a very hard matter to keep the "underground railway" in operation. Large sums were paid to get through—in some instances one hundred dollars and more. A party who was living in New York when the war broke out was one month in making his way from that city to Richmond; for three days was hid in a swamp on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, sleeping at night in a potato hole or house dug in the ground, and finally, in the attempt to cross the Potomac river, was intercepted and shot at by some Yankees in a launch from a Federal gunboat. He however escaped and reached the Virginia shore in safety, losing all his baggage, and the boat in which he crossed was captured.

Many persons have said if the Marylanders were so anxious to enlist in the Confederate service, why did they not do so when General Lee's army was in their State. It must be remembered that the army only went into the western part of the State, which was to Maryland the same as West Virginia was to Virginia, there being a large Union element in both sections, and the Federal forces took special precaution to prevent recruits coming up from the balance of the State, where the devotion of the people to the Confederate cause was undoubted, as evidenced by the large Federal force which was stationed there during the whole war to keep them in subjection.

If all these facts are carefully looked at and well considered, it will be seen that Maryland did her duty as well as could have been expected with her surroundings, and as Mr. Jefferson Davis in a letter, published in "Scharf's Chronicles of Baltimore," says, "the world will accord to them peculiar credit, as it always has done to those who leave their hearthstones to fight for principle in the land of others."

Lamar Hollyday.


Baltimore, Maryland.