The Civil War Returns
This week, our area and the nation paused to remember the tragic events of 150-years ago. Today marks the end of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Fought over the first three days of July in 1863, the battle proved to be both climatic and one of the most cataclysmic events in American history.
The Gettysburg campaign was Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's bold offensive into the north in an attempt to provide a knock-out blow to the 95,000-strong Union Army of the Potomac.
Following close on the heels of the southern victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May that year, General Lee had received the approval of the government in Richmond, to invade the north and take the fight to an area that had remained unscathed by the ravages of the war.
By this time much of the South had been devastated by the war, especially as a result of the scorched-earth warfare conducted by the North against both the property and non-combatant citizens of the South.
It was hoped by the Confederate government that General Lee’s efforts might result in England, Prussia, and France either entering the war on behalf of the South or providing more help to that government. It was hoped that such a turn of events would fuel the growing peace movement in the North that had grown weary of the casualties – and especial the cost of the conflict.
Before the war, the South, with its agrarian economy and international trade, had provided as much as 80 percent of the revenue that flowed into the federal government coffers and the North was tired of borrowing and paying its own bills. The war effort had progressed badly for the North and after two years of endless fighting, President Abraham Lincoln had yet to find a northern general with the appropriate skill-set and competence to prosecute the war.
Shortly after the May 10, 1863, death of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, one of the South’s more gifted commanders, General Lee had reformulated the 75,000-strong Army of Northern Virginia into three army corps under commanders James Longstreet, Richard Ewell, and A.P. Hill, with a cavalry division under J.E.B. Stuart.
On June 3, 1863, the northern invasion campaign began in earnest with advance troops of the Confederate army leaving their camps near Fredericksburg and marching northwest through the Shenandoah Valley and fatefully through the north-central area of Maryland – Frederick and Carroll Counties.
The Confederate campaign into northern territory ultimately resulted in the haphazard – but nevertheless horrific – clash of as many as 175,000 soldiers, tens of thousands of horses and mules, more than 600 cannons, and hundreds upon hundreds of supply wagons.
With temperatures in the 70s and 80s, more than 51,000 men were killed or wounded. In the end, the results were not in General Lee’s favor for reasons that will be argued and debated for many more years to come.
Frederick and Carroll County observed the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War last weekend with a series of well-coordinated commemorations, encampments and ceremonies with Civil War re-enactors, musical celebrations, and living history displays.
After years of careful planning, the ceremonies observing the 150th anniversary of the fateful events in Carroll County were orchestrated by the Corbit's Charge Commemorative Committee, Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table, Carroll Community College, the Historical Society of Carroll County and the Union Mills Homestead Foundation.
The historic events 150-years ago in Westminster and Union Mills on June 28-30, 1863, later proved to be pivotal to what eventually became the Battle of Gettysburg, arguably the turning point in the outcome of the war.
This past weekend in Westminster, the ceremonies to pay our respects to the events of 150-years ago, began on Friday evening with services at the Corbit’s Charge monument on Court Street and the Ascension Church cemetery.
On Saturday and Sunday, the historic commemorations moved north of Westminster and closer to Gettysburg and appointment with immortality – to a living history event, “Citizen Meets Soldier,” at the Shriver family Union Mills Homestead.
For several days in June, just before the Battle of Gettysburg, thousands of Confederate and Union troops camped at the Union Mills Homestead. Like much of our nation, the Shriver family had divided loyalties during the war which pitted brother against brother.
Last weekend the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg held a three-day event to commemorate the role that the Sisters of Charity and Daughters of Charity played at the Battle of Gettysburg.
In 1860, as the events which caused the Civil War unfolded, rural Frederick and Carroll counties was certainly aware of national and international events.
However the specter of violence and warfare in Frederick and Carroll counties had not been a concern for the area for 100 years – not since the end of the French and Indian War, 1756-1763.
When historians peel away the layers of the onion that is the study of history, several dynamics stand out. History is written by the victorious and the result is the sanitized, romanticized recitation of events that ought not to have happened.
It has been written that the Civil War cost $6.6 billion in 1860 dollars to fight. Yet the dollar cost on a young nation not yet even a century old is immaterial compared to the human toll.
More Americans died in the Civil War than in all U.S. wars combined. Although the numbers of the Civil War are passionately debated, estimates range from 600,000 to 1.4 million civilians died – compared to the 620,000 deaths of soldiers.
The day-to-day reality of the American Civil War was gruesome, horrific and the stuff of unparalleled brutality and crimes against humanity.
Frederick and Carroll counties should be proud of our thoughtful and sensitive approach of paying the proper homage and respects to a horrible conflict 150 years ago, when citizens met soldiers in a fateful and pivotal rendezvous with history.
. . . . .I’m just saying…