Battle of Monocacy
Location: Frederick County, MD
(near Frederick, MD)
Dates: July 9, 1864
Lew Wallace, Major General
Jubal Early, Lieutenant General
In early July, 1864, Lieutenant General
Jubal Early's 2nd Corps was
detached from the Army of Northern Virginia.
Robert E. Lee believed
that by weakening his army, at Petersburg, and Richmond, by detaching Early's corps, and sending them north, that
U.S. Grant would be forced to weaken
his Army of the Potomac, to protect Washington, D.C. Lee hoped that
this action would pave the way to a Confederate breakthrough at Petersburg.
Moving north, through the Shenandoah Valley in early July,
Early's, Army of
the Valley (Army of Northern Virginia's 2nd Corps) cleared the lower
Shenandoah of Federal troops. Early proceeded across the Potomac River
in early July, desiring to hit Washington in the rear.
U.S. Grant, directing all the Union forces, dispatched
Lew Wallace, with a
division sized force, to get between Early and Washington D.C. Wallace
was instructed to hold
Early in central Maryland, until Grant could get
additional troops to the Washington D.C. defenses.
On the morning of July
Early had split his army, sending a division under Major General
Robert Rodes east, from Frederick, on the National Road, towards Baltimore and
another division under Major General
Stephen Ramseur on the Georgetown Pike,
towards Washington D.C. Two additional divisions, and cavalry, were
sent down the Buckeystown Road.
Lew Wallace, not knowing
Early's target was Baltimore, or Washington, D.C., deployed his two
Federal divisions where the National Road and the Georgetown Pike crossed
the Monocacy River. This would allow him flexibility in reinforcing
whichever division came under attack.
The order of battle for
Rodes on the far left, on the National Road, Ramseur at the Georgetown
Pike and B & O Railroad bridge, Major General
John C. Breckinridge and Major
John B. Gordon, were the army's right flank.
The order of battle,
as deployed by
Wallace were: home guards under Brigadier General
Rodes' division on the far right, with
James B. Ricketts veteran VI Corps division facing
Gordon near the
After an early morning skirmishing and artillery duals,
over the river,
Ramseur determined that he could not storm the covered
bridge on the Georgetown Pike. Finding a place downstream, Confederate
cavalry under McCausland forded the river near the Worthington Farm.
Union infantry, hidden by a fence, pushed McCausland's dismounted cavalry
back to the Worthington-McKinney Ford. After regrouping his cavalry,
McCausland hit the Union forces, further to the right, gaining ground all
the way to the Thomas Farm.
Both commanding generals recognized the
strategic importance of the area McCausland was attacking. To protect
his left, from collapse,
Wallace sent the rest of
Rickett's division to hold
that part of the field, after burning the covered bridge on the Georgetown
John B. Gordon's division to assist McCausland.
By 4:00 PM, with
Rodes continuing to pressure the
National Road and Monocacy Junction,
Gordon's three brigades assaulted
Rickett's division at the Worthington Farm. Bitter fighting took place
in Worthington's wheat field and at the Thomas farm.
increased pressure from
Gordon's additional brigades (Brigadier General
Zebulon York and Brigadier General
William Terry) on their front, and
enfilading fire from across the Monocacy,
Rickett retired his division past
the Georgetown Pike, north of the Thomas farm. Sheltered by a
natural breastwork, the Union army held its ground. According to
B. Gordon, "Nearly one half of my men and a large number of Federals fell
Wallace, understanding that the Confederates had a sizeable
numeric advantage, ordered a withdrawal to the National Road, to unit with
Tyler. It was 4:30 PM. With Wallace retiring north, the
Ramseur, were able to cross the railroad bridge at Monocacy Junction and harass
Rickett's rear guard. This allowed
and Ramseur to join forces facing the Wallace's army.
Inexplicably, at this time,
Early could have pursued
Wallace - perhaps
all the way to outer defenses of Washington - but he chose not to. In
post battle reports, Early claimed that he did not wish to be burdened with
so many troops.
While the battle was clearly a Confederate victory, it was
a strategic win for
Wallace. With roughly 1/3 the troops
fielded, he held the Army of the Valley near Frederick, MD. This
Ulysses S. Grant an extra day to send reinforcements to the outer
works of Washington, D.C.
Campaign: Early's Valley Campaign
Outcome: Confederate victory
Union: 1,294 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 700-900 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Jubal Early continued to harass Washington D.C., bringing battle at
Fort Stevens on July 11-12. Early's weary rebels were pushed from Fort
Stevens, losing 500 troops. Fort Stevens was the "high water" mark for
his campaign, after which he retreated into northern Virginia, pursued by
Horatio Wright's, recently arrived, 6th Corps. Wright would bring
battle, against Early, at Cool Spring, VA before being beaten back.