The Battle of South Mountain—known in several early Southern accounts as the Battle of Boonsboro Gap—was fought September 14, 1862, as part of the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War. Three pitched battles were fought for possession of three South Mountain passes: Crampton's, Turner's, and Fox's Gaps. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac, needed to pass through these gaps in his pursuit of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's precariously divided Army of Northern Virginia. Although the delay bought at South Mountain would allow him to reunite his army and forestall defeat in detail, Lee considered termination of the Maryland Campaign at nightfall.
South Mountain is the name given to the continuation of the Blue Ridge Mountains after they enter Maryland. It is a natural obstacle that separates the Hagerstown Valley and Cumberland Valley from the eastern part of Maryland.
After Lee invaded Maryland, a copy of an order, known as Special Order 191, detailing troop movements that he wrote fell into the hands of McClellan. From this, McClellan learned that Lee had split his forces, sending one wing under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson to lay siege to Harper's Ferry. The rest of Lee's army was posted at Boonsboro under command of Maj. Gen. James Longstreet. Lee hoped that after taking Harper's Ferry to secure his rear, he could carry out an invasion of the Union, wrecking the Monocacy aqueduct, before turning his attention to Baltimore, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. itself.
To counter the Confederate invasion, McClellan led the Army of the Potomac west in an effort to force battle on the isolated parts of Lee's divided force.
McClellan temporarily organized his army into three wings for the attacks on the passes. Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, the Right Wing, commanded the I Corps (Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker) and IX Corps (Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno). The Right Wing was sent to Turner's Gap and Fox's Gap in the north. The Left Wing, commanded by Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin, consisting of his own VI Corps and Maj. Gen. Darius N. Couch's division of the IV Corps, was sent to Crampton's Gap in the south. The Center Wing (II Corps and XII Corps), under Maj. Gen. Edwin Vose Sumner, was in reserve.
From Boonsboro, Lee had sent a column under Maj Gen. James Longstreet northward to respond to a perceived threat from Pennsylvania. After learning of McClellan's intelligence coup, Lee quickly recalled Longstreet's forces to reinforce the South Mountain passes and thus attempt to block McClellan's advance. On the day of the battle, the only Confederate force posted around Boonsboro was a five-brigade division under Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill.
At the southernmost point of the battle, near Burkittsville, Confederate cavalry and a small portion of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws's division defended Brownsville Pass and Crampton's Gap. McLaws was unaware of the approach of 12,000 Federals and had only 500 men under Col. William A. Parham thinly deployed behind a three quarter-mile-long stone wall at the eastern base of Crampton's Gap. Franklin spent three hours deploying his forces. A Confederate later wrote of a "lion making exceedingly careful preparations to spring on a plucky little mouse." Franklin deployed the division of Maj. Gen. Henry Warner Slocum on the right and Maj. Gen. William F. "Baldy" Smith on the left. They seized the gap and captured 400 prisoners, mostly men who were arriving as late reinforcements from Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb's brigade.
Confederate Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill, deploying 5,000 men over more than 2 miles, defended both Turner's Gap and Fox's Gap. Burnside sent Hooker's I Corps to the right and Turner's Gap. The Union Iron Brigade attacked Colonel Alfred H. Colquitt's brigade along the National Road, driving it back up the mountain, but it refused to yield the pass. Hooker positioned three divisions opposite two peaks located one mile north of the gap. The Alabama Brigade of Brig. Gen. Robert E. Rodes was forced to withdraw because of his isolated position, despite the arrival of reinforcements from Brig. Gen. David R. Jones's division and Brig. Gen. Nathan G. Evans's brigade. Darkness and the difficult terrain prevented the complete collapse of Lee's line. At nightfall, the Federals held the high ground while the Confederates still held the gap.
Just to the south, other elements of Hill's division (most notably Drayton's Brigade ) defended Fox's Gap against Reno's IX Corps. A 9 a.m. attack by Union Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox's Kanawha Division secured much of the land south of the gap. In the movement, Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rd Ohio led a flank attack and was seriously wounded. Cox pushed through the North Carolinians positioned behind a stone wall at the gap's crest, but he failed to capitalize on his gains as his men were exhausted, allowing Confederate reinforcements to deploy in the gap around the Daniel Wise farm. Reno sent forward the rest of his corps, but due to the timely arrival of Southern reinforcements under Confederate Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood, they failed to dislodge the defenders. Union Maj. Gen. Jesse Reno and Confederate Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland, Jr., were killed at Fox's Gap. After Farmer Wise was paid one dollar each to bury the Confederate soldiers who died behind the stone walls on or near his property, sixty (or more) bodies were dumped down his dry well.
By dusk, with Crampton's Gap lost and his position at Fox's and Turner's Gaps precarious, Lee ordered his outnumbered forces to withdraw from South Mountain. McClellan was now in position to destroy Lee's army before it could concentrate. Union casualties of 28,000 engaged were 2,325 (443 killed, 1,807 wounded, and 75 missing); Confederates lost 2,685 (325 killed, 1560 wounded, and 800 missing) of 18,000. The Battle of South Mountain was an important morale booster for the defeat-stricken Army of the Potomac. The New York World wrote that the battle "turn[ed] back the tide of rebel successes" and "the strength of the rebels is hopelessly broken." Lee contemplated the end of his Maryland campaign. However, McClellan's limited activity on September 15 after his victory at South Mountain condemned the garrison at Harpers Ferry to capture and gave Lee time to unite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg for the Battle of Antietam on September 17.
The battlefields are preserved within the South Mountain State Park, Gathland State Park, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Crampton's Gap Historic District and Turner's and Fox's Gaps Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Civil War Trust (a division of the prominent battlefield preservation group American Battlefield Trust) and its partners have acquired and preserved 647 acres of the South Mountain Battlefield. This includes 188 acres of land at the center of where the fighting took place in 1862. Most of the preserved area sits west of Route 40 south of where the old Sharpsburg Road (now known as Reno Monument Road) meets Fox’s Gap Road.
18 acres were originally acquired by the Trust in 1991, to which 8 acres were added in 1995. More gains followed, as 136 acres were preserved in 2000, followed by 26 in 2004. Many of these additions were made with the assistance of the Maryland Environmental Trust.
In January 2011, the South Mountain battlefield gained National Heritage Landmark status and in August 2012, the State of Maryland declared its continued commitment to the preservation of these invaluable lands. The Civil War Trust followed these developments with a campaign to save 14 additional acres at the site. The Civil War Trust followed up with another successful preservation victory in 2013 by saving 298 acres of battlefield land at Turner's Gap.
However, nearby heritage areas in Frederick and Washington counties are still threatened by development and South Mountain was listed as one of the Most Endangered Battlefields in the 2009 and 2010 editions of History Under Siege. Plans to further develop the site of a natural gas plant just south of Fox’s Gap remain a significant threat to portions of the South Mountain battlefield.
Two future presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley, fought at Fox's Gap during the Battle of South Mountain, as part of the 23rd Ohio Infantry—Hayes as its commander, and McKinley a commissary sergeant. Hayes would end the war as a brevet major general and McKinley a brevet major, and they would be elected to the presidency twenty years apart—Hayes in 1876, and McKinley in 1896.
The day has gone against us, and this army will go by Sharpsburg and cross the river.
The 6th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It spent most of the war as a part of the famous Iron Brigade in the Army of the Potomac.Battle of Crampton's Gap
The Battle of Crampton's Gap, or Battle of Burkittsville, was a battle fought between forces under Confederate Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb and Union Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin as part of the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862, at Crampton's Gap in Western Maryland, during the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War.
Franklin's VI Corps attacked a small, hastily assembled Confederate force at Crampton's Gap in South Mountain to protect the rear of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, who was across Pleasant Valley on Maryland Heights taking part in the siege of Harpers Ferry. Despite inferior numbers, the Confederate force held out throughout the day, taking heavy casualties. By the evening the VI Corps broke the Confederate line and proceeded through the gap into Pleasant Valley. Franklin, however, failed to follow up on his success and did not attack McLaws on Maryland Heights.
Tactically the battle resulted in a Union victory because they broke the Confederate line and drove through the gap. Strategically, the Confederates were successful in stalling the Union advance and were able to protect McLaws' rear.Eastern Iron Brigade
The Eastern Iron Brigade, also known as the Iron Brigade of the East and First Iron Brigade, was a brigade of infantry, that served in the Union Army's Army of the Potomac, during the American Civil War. For much of its service, it was designated as the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps. Among its commanding officers were General John P. Hatch and General Walter Phelps Jr.. Noted for its reliability in battle, the brigade developed a reputation which remained after it was disbanded late in the war, due to its annihilation from extremely high casualties.Fort Reno (Oklahoma)
Fort Reno is a former United States Army cavalry post west of El Reno, Oklahoma. It is named for General Jesse L. Reno, who died at the Battle of South Mountain in the American Civil War.George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan (December 3, 1826 – October 29, 1885) was an American soldier, civil engineer, railroad executive, and politician. A graduate of West Point, McClellan served with distinction during the Mexican War (1846–1848), and later left the Army to work in railroads until the outbreak of the Civil War (1861–1865). Early in the war, McClellan was appointed to the rank of major general and played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army, which would become the Army of the Potomac in the Eastern Theater; he served a brief period (November 1861 to March 1862) as general-in-chief of the Union Army. Although McClellan was meticulous in his planning and preparations, these very characteristics hampered his ability to challenge aggressive opponents in a fast-moving battlefield environment. He chronically overestimated the strength of enemy units and was reluctant to apply principles of mass, frequently leaving large portions of his army unengaged at decisive points.
McClellan organized and led the Union army in the Peninsula Campaign in southeastern Virginia from March through July 1862. It was the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. Making an amphibious clockwise turning movement around the Confederate Army in northern Virginia, McClellan's forces turned west to move up the Virginia Peninsula, between the James and York Rivers landing from the Chesapeake Bay, with the Confederate capital, Richmond, as their objective. Initially, McClellan was somewhat successful against the equally cautious General Joseph E. Johnston, but the military emergence of General Robert E. Lee to command the Army of Northern Virginia turned the subsequent Seven Days Battles into a partial Union defeat.
General McClellan failed to maintain the trust of President Abraham Lincoln. He did not trust his commander-in-chief and was privately derisive of him. He was removed from command in November after failing to decisively pursue Lee's Army following the tactically inconclusive but strategic Union victory at the Battle of Antietam outside Sharpsburg, Maryland, and never received another field command. McClellan went on to become the unsuccessful Democratic Party nominee in the 1864 presidential election against Lincoln's reelection. The effectiveness of his campaign was damaged when he repudiated his party's platform, which promised an end to the war and negotiations with the southern Confederacy. He served as the 24th Governor of New Jersey from 1878 to 1881, and eventually became a writer, and vigorously defended his Civil War conduct.
Most modern authorities have assessed McClellan as a poor battlefield general. Some historians view him as a highly capable commander whose reputation suffered unfairly at the hands of pro-Lincoln partisans who made him a scapegoat for the Union's military setbacks. After the war, subsequent commanding general and 18th President Ulysses S. Grant was asked for his opinion of McClellan as a general; he replied, "McClellan is to me one of the mysteries of the war."George Meade
George Gordon Meade (December 31, 1815 – November 6, 1872) was a career United States Army officer and civil engineer best known for defeating Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. He previously fought with distinction in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican–American War. During the Civil War, he served as a Union general, rising from command of a brigade to command of the Army of the Potomac. Earlier in his career, he was an engineer and was involved in the coastal construction of several lighthouses.
Meade's Civil War combat experience started as a brigade commander in the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles. He was severely wounded while leading his brigade at the Battle of Glendale. As a division commander, he had notable success at the Battle of South Mountain and assumed temporary corps command at the Battle of Antietam. Meade's division was arguably the most successful of any at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December. It was part of a force charged with driving the Confederate troops under Stonewall Jackson back from their position on Prospect Hill. The division made it further than any other, but was forced to turn back due to a lack of reinforcements. Meade was promoted to commander of the V Corps, which he led during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
During the Gettysburg Campaign, he was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Arriving on the field after the first day's action on July 1, Meade organized his army on favorable ground to fight an effective defensive battle against Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, repelling a series of massive assaults throughout the next two days. Lee was forced to retreat to Virginia, ending his hope of winning the war through a successful invasion of the North. This victory was marred by Meade's ineffective pursuit during the retreat, allowing Lee and his army to escape instead of completely destroying them. The Union Army also failed to follow up on its success during the Bristoe Campaign and Battle of Mine Run that fall, which ended inconclusively. Meade suffered from intense political rivalries within the Army, notably with Daniel Sickles, who tried to discredit his role in the victory at Gettysburg.
In 1864–65, Meade continued to command the Army of the Potomac through the Overland Campaign, the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, and the Appomattox Campaign, but he was overshadowed by the direct supervision of the general-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who accompanied him throughout these campaigns. Grant conducted most of the strategy during these campaigns, leaving Meade with significantly less influence than before. His image was harmed by his notoriously short temper and disdain for the press. After the war, he commanded several important departments during Reconstruction.Henry Shoemaker Farmhouse
The Henry Shoemaker Farmhouse is a circa 1810 Federal style farmhouse which was involved in the Battle of South Mountain in 1862. Located near the eastern end of Turner's Gap, the house was the center of a Union encampment and served as a field hospital.The Henry Shoemaker Farmhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.Holcombe Legion
The Holcombe Legion of South Carolina fought in the American Civil War as part of the Confederate States Army. It was a true legion, being made up of different types of units, in this case cavalry (four companies) and infantry (initially eight companies, later expanded to ten).Peter Fayssoux Stevens, former superintendent of the South Carolina Military Academy (and after the war a bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church), was authorized by South Carolina Governor Francis Wilkinson Pickens to raise a legion consisting of an infantry regiment, a cavalry battalion and artillery. When asked to name it, Stevens chose to honor the governor's wife, Lucy Holcombe Pickens, in the couple's presence. The unit's motto was "It is for the brave to die, but not to surrender."The artillery component never materialized, but the legion was organized in fall 1861 and assigned to Evans' Brigade. William Porcher DuBose, later an Episcopal priest and noted theologian, served as its adjutant until 1862. The legion helped defend Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1862. On July 17, Evans was ordered to move his unit to Richmond, Virginia. After reaching the city, the legion's infantry and cavalry were separated, never to be reunited, a common fate for Civil War legions. The cavalry was assigned to bolster the city's defense and eventually became part of the 7th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment. The Holcombe Legion fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run (or Second Manassas), South Mountain and Antietam (or Sharpsburg), all in August and September 1862. The legion suffered 24 dead and 131 wounded at Second Manassas, and DuBose wrote, "The Holcombe Legion was practically destroyed as a regiment; when we gathered up the remains there were about a hundred men." The legion served as skirmishers for a delaying force at the Battle of South Mountain. In September 1863, it mustered 276 men. It participated in the 1864 Siege of Petersburg and the 1865 Appomattox Campaign which ended in Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the war.James Allen (Medal of Honor)
James Allen (May 5, 1843 – August 31, 1913) was an Irish-born Union Army soldier during the American Civil War. He earned the Medal of Honor for bravery at the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862, during the Maryland Campaign.
On April 24, 1861, shortly after the outbreak of the American Civil War, James Allen enlisted in Company F of the 16th New York Infantry.
He earned the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action at the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862. During the battle, Allen singlehandedly captured 14 Confederate soldiers of the 16th Georgia Infantry, who had mistakenly believed they were opposed by a superior force. Allen also captured a Confederate flag in this action.
Allen was discharged along with the rest of the 16th New York in May 1863, but continued to serve the Union cause as a member of the railroad service.
Allen was awarded the Medal of Honor on September 11, 1890.
After the war, Allen lived in St. Paul, Minnesota and was a member of the Garfield Post of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Allen died on August 31, 1913, and was laid to rest in the Oakland Cemetery in St. Paul.Jesse L. Reno
Jesse Lee Reno (April 20, 1823 – September 14, 1862) was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican–American War, in the Utah War, on the western frontier, and as a Union General during the American Civil War. Known as a "soldier's soldier" who fought alongside his men, he was killed while commanding a corps at Fox's Gap during the Battle of South Mountain. Reno, Nevada; Reno County, Kansas; El Reno, Oklahoma; Reno, Pennsylvania; Fort Reno (Oklahoma); and Fort Reno Park in Washington, D.C. were named after him.John Porter Hatch
John Porter Hatch (January 9, 1822 – April 12, 1901) was a career American soldier who served as general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He received a Medal of Honor for gallantry in action at the September 1862 Battle of South Mountain during the Maryland Campaign.Orlando E. Caruana
Private Orlando Emanuel Caruana (June 23, 1844 – September 14, 1917) was a Maltese-born American soldier who fought in the American Civil War. Caruana received the country's highest award for bravery during combat, the Medal of Honor, for his action during the Battle of New Bern in North Carolina on 14 March 1862 and the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland on 14 September 1862. He was honored with the award on 14 November 1890.Paul Jones Semmes
Paul Jones Semmes (June 4, 1815 – July 10, 1863) was a banker, businessman, and a Confederate brigadier general in the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.Reno, Minnesota
Reno is an unincorporated community in Crooked Creek Township, Houston County, Minnesota, United States.
The community is located between La Crescent, Minnesota and New Albin, Iowa on State Highway 26 (MN 26). Reno is located near the junction of Highway 26 and Houston County Road 249.
Clear Creek and Crooked Creek both flow through the community, with the Mississippi River located nearby.
Nearby places include Brownsville, Caledonia, and Eitzen. Reno had a post office from 1880 to 1935. The community was named for Jesse L. Reno, a Union officer killed in the American Civil War at the Battle of South Mountain.Reno, Nevada
Reno ( REE-noh) is a city in the U.S. state of Nevada, located in the western part of the state, approximately 22 miles (35 km) from Lake Tahoe. Known as "The Biggest Little City in the World", Reno is famous for its hotels and casinos. It is the county seat of Washoe County, in the northwestern part of the state. The city sits in a high desert at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and its downtown area (along with Sparks and other suburbs) occupies a valley informally known as the Truckee Meadows. It is named after Union Major General Jesse L. Reno, who was killed in action at the Battle of South Mountain on Fox's Gap.
Reno is the third-most populous city in Nevada after Las Vegas and Henderson and the most populous city in the state outside the Las Vegas Valley, with an estimated population of 248,853 in 2017. Reno is part of the Reno–Sparks metropolitan area, which consists of all of both Washoe and Storey counties and has a 2017 estimated population of 464,593.Samuel Garland Jr.
Samuel Garland Jr. (December 16, 1830 – September 14, 1862) was an American attorney from Virginia and Confederate general during the American Civil War. He was killed in action during the Maryland Campaign while defending Fox's Gap at the Battle of South Mountain.Special Order 191
Special Order 191 (series 1862) (the "Lost Dispatch," and the "Lost Order") was a general movement order issued by Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee on about September 9, 1862 during the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War. A lost copy of this order was recovered in Frederick County, Maryland, by Union Army troops, and the subsequent military intelligence gained by the Union played an important role in the Battle of South Mountain and Battle of Antietam.Thomas T. Munford
Thomas Taylor Munford (March 29, 1831 – February 27, 1918) was an American farmer, iron, steel and mining company executive and Confederate colonel and acting brigadier general during the American Civil War.Turner's and Fox's Gaps Historic District
The Turner's and Fox's Gaps Historic District comprises the Civil War-era battlefield involved in the Battle of South Mountain, which took place on September 14, 1862. The district extends on the west to the slopes of South Mountain in the area of Zittlestown, and to the east beyond the foot of the mountain to the small community of Bolivar. The district is characterized by steep mountain terrain in the west and open farmland in the east, with Turner's Gap to the north and Fox's Gap to the south. The district includes 115 contributing buildings and structures. The most significant contributing buildings are the Mountain House Inn (now the Old South Mountain Inn) and the White House Inn, or Beachley House. Also included in the list is the Reno Monument at Fox's Gap, shown at right. The Old National Pike, now known as U.S. 40 Alternate, passes over South Mountain at Turner's Gap.The district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 12, 2011.