Talking History

... with Brett Spaulding

By Scott Grove | Posted on 07.10.14 – History, People & Places

In a third attempt to secure a victory in the North, Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early was on a mission in July of 1864 to capture Washington, D.C., which was largely unprotected due to the extensive number of Union troops in Virginia at Richmond and Petersburg. Frederick, under the protection of Union Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace, learned of Early’s approaching army of some 15,000 troops—vastly outmatching Wallace’s 6,500 soldiers. Beginning July 3, Wallace was faced with the daunting task of evacuating supplies and the Union’s many convalescing soldiers from the City of Frederick. As his legion of healthy soldiers marched four miles south to Monocacy Junction, more than a few northern sympathizing residents of Frederick anxiously fled by any means possible, fearing a second Confederate occupation.

Scott: What was involved in Union Gen. Lew Wallace’s evacuation of federal soldiers, patients and supplies in Frederick?
Brett: The soldiers stationed in the area could have marched out within a moment’s notice, but the patients in the hospitals took a much larger effort, which required logistical support. With the assistance of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, about 1,000 patients who were not considered to have life-threatening wounds or sicknesses were evacuated from Frederick, along with supplies. This endeavor began on July 3 and was finished on July 8.

Scott: Gen. Jubal Early’s ransom request of $200,000 was made and delivered on July 9. How difficult was it for the City of Frederick to have raised this money and what would have been the ramifications had the money not been paid?
Brett: For the city of Frederick, it was much easier to raise the money when compared to nearby towns like Middletown, which was ransomed for $5,000. There were several banks in Frederick, but the difficulty would have been in getting them to loan the city the money and possibly in locating bank leaders who might have already fled. Frederick’s municipal government was able to raise the money only after five banks were assured that they would be repaid.
As for the ramifications, it is difficult to say what would have happened if the city didn’t pay. Westminster was unable to meet its demand for clothing on July 9 and the commanding officer was persuaded to forget the matter by one of his officers. Of course, most famous was Chambersburg, Pa., which did not pay and was burned on July 30.

Scott: What is known of the mood in Frederick as the battle took place four miles away along the Monocacy River on July 9?
Brett: I would say that all citizens, whether they were secessionists or not, were worried. I imagine that by 1864 most hoped that Wallace would defeat Early (and the war would end). As the daylong battle raged on, the citizens could hear the artillery and rifle fire and if their curiosity was piqued, could venture out to watch the battle.

Scott: How involved were the people of Frederick in caring for the Union and Confederate soldiers after the battle?
Brett: The citizens of Frederick were extremely important in caring for both Confederate and Union soldiers. As Early’s army marched on Frederick, a number of the hospital’s resident nurses fled the area. With more than 1,000 wounded soldiers arriving after the battle, caregivers were desperately needed. The citizens stepped up to this challenge and as a result, a few love interests grew out of the carnage.

Scott: The Battle of Monocacy is known as the Battle that Saved Washington. Did this battle really live up to this reputation?
Brett: Yes. At the time the capital was poorly defended and there were no reinforcements in motion from the Richmond area. By the evening of July 9, Early had given the Confederacy its only victory in Union territory and remained at Monocacy until morning. This delay gave Grant time to send reinforcements by steamship to Washington. Both armies arrived on July 11, with Union forces disembarking from the vessels and marching to the fortifications while the Confederates dealt with severe straggling as a result of the heat. A Confederate attack was delayed until the next morning, but by then the fortifications were reinforced, ending the threat to Washington.

Park Ranger Brett Spaulding has worked at Monocacy National Battlefield for 13 years. Born in Pennsylvania, he served in the U.S. Army and graduated from Pennsylvania State University. Spaulding is the author of Last Chance for Victory: Jubal Early’s 1864 Maryland Invasion and also appeared as a historian in the Maryland Public Television documentary Heart of the Civil War. Scott Grove is a marketing consultant and owner of Grove Public Relations, LLC, an advertising and marketing firm he founded in 1986. A former reporter, Grove is a lifelong student of history and coowner of iTour, creator of the Frederick Maryland Walking Tour, produced both as a mobile app and a DVD. For more information, visit itourfrederick.com or grovepr.com.