Today I visited a peaceful mountaintop on a gorgeous autumn day. There I visited an area where Union and Confederate troops clashed on a thunderstorm dominated summer night in 1863.
About six miles from Waynesboro lies the quiet, tranquil setting of Blue Ridge Summit. Forests shade and surround homes, churches, and stores. But on the evening of July 4, 1863, quiet did not prevail. The nearby Monterey Pass would be a center of mass confusion and fighting.
After Lee's loss at Gettysburg, he planned the retreat back to Maryland and across the Potomac River. Early on the morning of July 4, he directed General Richard Ewell and his Second Corps to go with their wagon trains through Fairfield and the mountains around Monterey Pass. This would be the shortest way back to Williamsport, Maryland, and the Potomac River. That evening a terrible thunderstorm drenched the nine mile-long line of wagons, supplies, livestock, and soldiers. Many of the soldiers had been wounded during the three day battle at Gettysburg.
That same night, the Union Calvary led by General H. Judson Kilpatrick met a local 12 year old girl named Hetty Zeilinger who was walking to her home at Monterey Pass. She warned the soldiers that the Confederates were blocking the pass and that she would show them how to get around them. One of the soldiers lifted her onto his saddle so that she could point out the way. She made her way home safely, but...
The Union and Confederate troops (about 10,000 soldiers in total) met and engaged in battle for six hours. With lightning, thunder, heavy rains, and flying ammunition, the scene was one of chaos and confusion. Many of the Confederate wagons crashed down the mountainside and crushed the occupants. The Union captured about 1,500 Confederate prisoners.
The Battle of Monterey Pass was the second greatest battle on Pennsylvania soil. Today Civil War history buffs such as I can visit and read the various markers that tell about the battle.
Tomorrow along with the 4th graders, I will meet a reenactor and learn more about Waynesboro's occupation by the Confederates for 13 days.