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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The "History At Her Doorstep" Story

Foreword: I am by no means an historian.  I have more of an interest in history now than I ever did when I was a a high school or college student.  I have written a few times that it took me three tries in college before I mastered American History.  Never found it as interesting and exciting as I do when I can actually walk in the same paths as others did when they were making that history.  Today's story will take you on one of those trips when my granddaughter Camille and I traveled to a battlefield near Frederick, Maryland.  I believe I have most of my facts correct in the story, since I used my notes taken when a tour guide at the Welcome Center talked to Camille and me.  But, my notes have been known to be less than accurate when describing history.  Therefore, take my story as just that …  a story, and not actual fact.

Camille takes a photo next to the New
Jersey monument at the Monocacy
Battlefield in Frederick,MD.  Click on any
photo to enlarge it.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing next to the railroad tracks near Frederick, MD taking a few photos with my granddaughter Camille.  She and I are going exploring today to see how much we can learn about one of the battles of the Civil War, "The Battle that Saved Washington, DC".  The last few years when Carol and I visit with our daughter and her family in Maryland, I usually take one of my granddaughters exploring.  A few days ago my older granddaughter, Courtney, and I made a visit to see where Barbara Fritchie lived in Frederick and to learn about the significance she played in our country's history.  
This is a painting inside the Visitor's Center at the Mono- 
cacy Battlefiled depicting the Confederates advance.
 But today Camille and I have decided to learn about the Monocacy Battle- field and how it effected the Civil War.  The battlefield is about 15 minutes from Camille's house in Urbana and our first stop was along Rt. 355 at the monument that was erected by the state of New Jersey to commemorate the heroic services of the 14th Regiment of New Jersey, the New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 6th Army Corps and the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Monocacy on July 9, 1864.  
Camille dressed in full battlefield garb.
 We stood in front of the memorial and looked over the surrounding cornfields where part of the battle was fought.  Camille told me that her scout troop made a trip to this spot recently and she told me where I can get a great photo.  I found my way to the spot and took a photo of Camille as she was standing near the monument also taking a photo.  Our next stop was at the Visitor's Center about 200 yards away.  We got to see some of the equipment and weapons that were used by the soldiers during the battles as well as a better outdoor view of the surrounding area.  The Monocacy National Battlefield is a preserved site of the July 9, 1864 battlefield that is just south of Frederick.  
Monocacy Junction is where the Georgetown Pike, Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad and the Monocacy River converged.  During the Battle
of Monocacy, the Union held the Junction throughout most of the day. 
 It was the third and final Confed- erate invasion of the North and even though it isn't as famous as the battles at Antietam and Gettysburg, it proved to be a crucial battle for it delayed the Confederate forces that had been sent to capture the Nation's Capital and forced them to retreat to Virginia.  
Camille and I traveled this road to reach the battlefields
today.  Naturally it is covered with blacktop today.  This
is the Georgetown Pike and was the main road from Frederick
to Washington, DC.  During the battle the Confederate
troops marched down the Pike toward the waiting Union forces
who were along the Monocacy River.
Shortly before this battle the tide of the Civil War had turned in favor of the North.  Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant began to use his troops that had been defending Washington, DC to force the Southern army farther south.  
This plaque stands along the Georgetown Pike (Rt. 355).
It gives the story of the Monocacy Battle.
This left Washing- ton lightly defended so Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Lt. Gen. Jubal Early with troops to secure the Shenan- doah Valley and then invade Maryland with hopes of moving farther east towards Washington.  Agents from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad informed the company President who then notified Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace who was the Union commander in Baltimore.  
This also stands with the last plaque.  It is a memorial
to all the Southern troops killed in the Monocacy Battle.
He sent troops by railroad to Monocacy Junction, an important trade and transpor- tation center, to protect bridges and fords and delay the southern advance towards Washington until troops could be brought back to protect the city.  Wallace determined that Early's troops were going to head toward Washington so he concentrated his troops on the east side of the river at Monocacy Junction, where the road to Washington crossed.  
Camille and I drove back this road towards the Best Farm.
Rather scary not knowing what we would find at the end
of it.  Probably the same feeling as the troops in 1864.
On the morning of July 9, 1864 the Confed- erates attacked Union troops defend- ing the Mono- cacy River bridges.  The battlefield was at the Best Farm which Camille and I found after traveling a short distance off of Rt. 355 through six-foot high cornfields.  
The home of the John Best family.
It was said that John Best had grown accustomed to seeing soldiers from both sides on his farm, but on July 9 shots were fired.  Confed- erate sharpshooters hid in his barn, picking off the Union troops until puffs of smoke were spotted coming from the barn.
This is the barn where the Confederate sharpshooters
were hidden and was eventually burned by the Union
troops.  The foundation is still the same as it was in 1863.
 Union artillery pounded the barn and set it on fire which destroy- ed both the barn and the harvest- ed hay in it.  More fighting occurred along the wheat and corn fields of the Thomas Farm.  The Union Army had lost 1,300 men and the Confederates had lost 900 men when the Union Army retreated towards Baltimore, but Wallace's troops had held off the Confederates long enough so that Grant could assemble enough troops to protect Washington.  
These are the railroad tracks that I assume were in the
same location years ago and were used to transport the
troops and supplies for the North.  Camille and I are
standing next to them taking photos.
The Union had lost the battle, but delayed the southern advance one extra day and had saved Washing- ton, DC.  This gives you a very brief idea of the Monocacy Battlefield and perhaps with a look at a few of the photos Camille and I took, you will get an idea of how the battlefields appeared on that day in 1864.  It was another extraordinary day in the life an an ordinary guy.
This is the Thomas Farm House where the battle spread after the Best Farm.  When the family heard the shots they moved to the cellar.  After hours of waiting, the looked out on many dead soldiers.
Camille and I made our way back across the Monocacy River after our adventure to explore the Battlefields.

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