Battle of Monterey Pass

Battle of Monterey Pass

On the evening of July 4th, 1863, one of the most confusing battles of the Civil War occurred during the retreat from Gettysburg known as the battle of Monterey Pass. General Robert E. Lee had given the order to retreat from Gettysburg.  During this retreat General Ewell’s Confederate wagon train took the road leading over Jack’s Mountain from Fairfield.

Around 9:00 p.m. near Fountain Dale, Pa. the Union cavalry under the command of General Kilpatrick came in contact with the Confederate 1st Maryland cavalry under Captain George Emack, who had a small detail guarding the approach to Monterey, re-enforced by one cannon that was loaded with two rounds of ammunition.

Darkness set in during a blinding rainstorm.  The Confederates wearing gum blankets were mistaken as Union troops by Kilpatrick’s cavalry as they made their way from Fountain Dale.  Knowing that their identity was withheld, the order came from Emack to fire the cannon.  As the confusion subsided, the Confederates charged, pushing the Federals back until they reached the Federal artillery that was at Fountain Dale.

General Kilpatrick gained the mountain summit of Monterey six hours later.  At the Monterey House, a Union battery deployed and began shelling the enemy’s wagons.  By 3:30 a.m. the Union Cavalry reached the road where Ewell’s wagon train was located, capturing and destroying 9 miles worth of wagons, taking 1,360 prisoners and a large number of horses and mules as they moved on to Waterloo.

During this same morning, General Jeb Stuart was traveling to Emmitsburg.  There a sharp skirmish developed and seventy Union soldiers were taken prisoner.  Stuart learned of the action at Monterey, traveled to Creagerstown, then met up with the rest of his column in Mechanicstown.  He learned that the road needed to get across the Catoctin Mountain was guarded by General Wesley Merritt’s troops at Harman’s Pass.

Stuart’s men traveled back toward Emmitsburg capturing Captain Fisher’s Signal Corp at Indian Lookout.  Cutting his way through the mountain, Stuart traveled through Sabillasville making his way toward Lietersburg.

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