Crossing Over

The Confederates were moving further north and the Union troops had to quickly prepare for them. Battles were quickly happening in close proximately to each other. The Confederates were on the offensive but the Union needed to regain the upper hand when possible.

"More than two thirds of the people are Union...I don't want to stop in Maryland five minutes longer than I can help." Thomas Garber, 12th Virginia


Sketch of Jackson's men over the Potomac
Sketch of Jackson's men over the Potomac

Library of Congress

Early in the war many bridges over the Potomac, such as the Shepherdstown Bridge, were burned by soldiers to limit troop movements of the opposing army. Throughout the war, river fords were heavily used along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal were used by advancing and retreating troops, and by Confederate raiders such as Mosby and McNeill.

Whites Ferry was two miles north of Leesburg, Virginia. This is where much of Lee's advancing army crossed north on September 4th, 1862, at the start of the Maryland Campaign.

The Confederates sang, "Maryland, My Maryland," as they splashed ashore, finally taking the fight to Union soil. With brimming confidence, they anticipated strong support from civilians and gladly followed Gen. Lee, sure that he would bring them victory.

"As soon as we came in sight of the Potomac the boys gave one of the loudest and most protracted & glorious shouts you ever heard. We crossed by moonlight and the whole scene was one of the most inspiring I have ever witnessed."
-William Deloney, Cobb's Legion

The Two Occupations of Frederick

Sketch of General McClellan riding through Frederick
Sketch of General McClellan riding through Frederick

Library of Congress

As the Confederate Army approached Frederick, Gen. D.H. Hill attempted to destroy the Monocacy Aqueduct on the C& O Canal, burned the Covered Wooden Bridge over the Monocacy River, and damaged the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Bridge over the Monocacy to disrupt Union infrastructure. Meanwhile, Bradley Johnson and his cavalry, all natives of Frederick rode into town shouting, "Jeff Davis," and "The time of your delivery has come!" One soldier, Alexander Hunter, commented, "We were rather disappointed at our reception, which was decidedly cool, this wasn't what we expected." Only 130 men rallied to the Confederate flag, a much smaller recruitment than Lee and Davis had hoped for.

A large part of the army camped at the Best Farm, just a few miles south of Frederick. When word reached the town of the approaching invaders, some staunch Unionists left town, others however, remained to protect their property and help with the hospitals. Frederick was split in its loyalties; however, Unionists and Confederates alike went set to the Confederate Camp out of curiosity to see generals Lee, Longstreet, Jackson, and Stuart, who had become famous for their actions in the war.

The legend of Barbara Fritchie famously waving a Union flag at Confederate soldiers as they marched out of Frederick on September 10th is unlikely; however, Mary Quantrell did. For her defiance, a Confederate soldier knocked the flag from Mary's hand and broke the staff in pieces.

On September 9th, Lee issued Special Orders 191 from his headquarters on the farm, advising his generals of his intention to divide the army and what their specific orders were for the next several days. One copy of the orders was lost in a field and picked up by Union soldiers on the 13th as the army made its way into Frederick. Once authenticated and sent up the chain of command, the document provided McClellan with a better understanding of Lee's movements and plan. The normally slow McClellan deployed his men quickly and hoped to trap the Confederates while they were vulnerable. With the clock ticking, a chain of events forced commanders to adapt and improvise their plans, bringing unimagined destruction on a formally peaceful landscape, and altering the momentum and meaning of the war.

Last updated: August 14, 2017