21 January 2008 by Published in: General musings 12 comments

One of the reasons why the Battle of Monocacy fascinates me is that it represents one of the only instances during the Civil War where militia not only stood and fought, but did so quite effectively. The northernmost portion of the battle occurred at the stone “jug” bridge, which carried the National Road across the Monocacy River.

Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace’s Federal command consisted of three brigades. Two of those brigades belonged to Brig. Gen. James Ricketts’ Third Division, Sixth Corps. These two brigades did the bulk of the fighting, on the main battlefield. The third brigade, consisting of troops from the Eighth Corps, a hodgepodge command based in Baltimore, was made up largely of 100 days’ militiamen raised as emergency troops. The better part of two regiments of Ohio troops made up the bulk of this command. These men were completely untried, and they had very little in the way training.

Col. Allison L. Brown commanded these men. There were also a regiment and a half of the Maryland Potomac Home Guard, the 11th Maryland, and 6 guns of a Baltimore battery. These men were not the sort of men one would expect to stand and fight long and hard against Confederate veterans, but that’s exactly what they did. They stood and fought all day long against Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes’ veterans, and were the last men to leave the battlefield, even after Ricketts’ troops had been driven from the field by Early’s men. They were left to their own devices and to get away, each man for himself.

The courageous and unexpected stand of these militiamen at the Jug Bridge ensured that the bulk of Wallace’s command escaped from the battlefield and lived to fight another day. It was one of the few instances of the Civil War when militiamen not only stood and fought in the face of the enemy, but did so effectively and bravely.

We’re going to tell their story in detail in our tactical study of the Battle of Monocacy, hopefully, in greater detail than it’s ever been told previously. I hope to do these forgotten soldiers justice in the process.

Scridb filter


  1. Bill Shepherd
    Mon 21st Jan 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Eric : sounds like another very interesting project where you likely are making use of primary source material previuosly overlooked or simply ignored by others. What is your sense of what letters, diaries or other first hand accounts were left by participants ? And Lew Wallace has always seemed like a fascinating character with the Shiloh controversy and the Ben Hur book as his purported ‘redemption’.

  2. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 10:12 am

    Don’t forget the activities at Riech’s Ford and Crum’s Ford. The PHG was employed there also.

    One aspect of the campaign that I don’t think has gotten much play is how the presence of the Federal garrison (and fortifications) at Harpers Ferry affected Early’s line of march. If you subscribe to the “got there a day late” theory, then the wide ranging march from Harpers Ferry to Frederick cost Early a day if not more. The more direct route, through the Potomac water gaps, had been used in September ’62, but in reverse, by Walker’s Division. But after mid-1863 the batteries on Maryland Heights obstructed that route for any potential invader.

  3. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 10:40 am


    Not yet. We are just getting started.

    I can tell you that there are some manuscript materials on the two Ohio national guard regiments that fought at the Jug Bridge that have not been used by anyone else, and I intend to track them down.


  4. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 10:41 am


    Excellent points, and we will definitely keep those in mind–thanks for passing them along.


  5. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 12:32 pm

    The best overview of the OHNG troops is Jim Leek’s HUNDRED DAYS TO RICHMOND. I’m sure there’s more to be found, as he seems to have been the only one who’s looked.

    As far as the Jug bridge action, well, Rodes engaged only his Division Sharpshooters, who numbered 600 men or so. Brown had at the bridge about 750 men, and barely held off Rodes’ men before his position collapsed at the end of the day.

    The real hero, IMO, is Captain Edward Leib, a regular cavalryman who was scrounged from recruiting duty in Baltimore and given a detachment of mounted infantry from the 159th OHNG. He, more than anyone else, held things together and he deserves a closer look.

    The real question is why Rodes held off his 4 infantry brigades, who could have smashed thru at any time. Doing so would have threatened Baltimore and cut off Ricketts’ retreat. I think it was on orders from Early, but that merits a look also.

    BTW this is one of those battles that you just have to see the ground — very unusual situation.

  6. Mike Clem
    Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 1:00 pm


    You’re absolutely right that the story of these Maryland and Ohio “hundred-days men” deserves to be told. I think their stand at the Monocacy against veteran troops is even more courageous when you realize many of those same boys had been involved in the brisk skirmishing near Middletown and the western outskirts of Frederick during the two days prior to the July 9 battle.

    Another interesting and often overlooked militia contingent that contributed to the scouting and skirmishing that first week of July are two companies of the loyalist Loudoun Rangers. These anti-slavery Virginians, mainly of German and Scotch/Irish stock from the northwest county that borders the Potomac below Maryland, organized a local mounted unit in June 1862 by the authority of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. As Unionist cavalry scouts charged with patrolling the river and countering guerilla activity in their home territory, they earned the label of “traitor” and the scorn of their neighbors. Mosby’s men considered them bitter enemies and held them in contempt (wrongly) as warriors.

    The Battle of Monocacy offers many fascinating stories that have been little examined by previous Civil War historians. I know that you and J.D. will give such unsung units and individuals their due.

  7. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Regarding Rodes 4 brigades, the same can be asked of Breckinridges (Echols) Division sitting on the road to Buckeystown. I could understand if Echols was waiting his turn at Worthington Ford. But Gordon was already across in the late afternoon. I’ve got my own thoughts but don’t want to expose my ignorance completely!

  8. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Great stuff. And Mike – I’ve studied the Loudoun Rangers for many years now, and have gathered a huge amount of material on them. I’ve always been very, very interested in the tension that existed in northern VA between the LR and Mosby/White’s cavalry.

    Their story at Monocacy will definitely get its due.


  9. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Eric- another dimension of the Monocacy battle I think could use more exploration than has been provided in the past is the artillery dynamic.

    Although Wallace had the terrain advantage, he only had six guns from Frederick Alexander’s Baltimore battery. They also had at least one 24-lb howitzer (some sources say two), but that seemed basically worthless.

    Confederate forces had nine batteries of between 36 and 40 guns, giving them a significant advantage in this area. But they didnt seem to use that advantage effectively, from what I can tell…US batteries drove CS sharpshooters out of Best barn and seemed to keep CS heads down as much as their guns kept US heads down (until towards the end of the battle during the assault by Gordon)…as the six US guns were deployed in two three-gun emplacements, one would think effective CS artillery fire could have made them irrelevant.

    Again, I personally have not seen thorough coverage on this dimension of the Battle of Monocacy, so my comments are based on personal musings.

    Also, there was a clash early in the day at northernmost Hughes Ford where companies of the 149th OH, supported by Leib’s company of the 159th OH mtd inf drove off mounted Confederates…in talking w/NPS folks at battlefield, seems general consensus is that those CS were cavalrymen under Bradley Johnson that were on the Point Lookout mission – but can’t find original source info to back that belief up.


  10. Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 6:26 pm


    Fear not….I had always intended to address the artillery issue, particularly because I have located a published history of Alexander’s battery to use.

    I agree with you about the artillery, and I likewise, want to be sure that we address the Hughes Ford episode. Leib really is the unsung hero on the Union side, and I want to correct that.

    Thanks for the great suggestions. They are much appreciated.


  11. Gail Stephens
    Tue 22nd Jan 2008 at 9:42 pm

    I’ve been a volunteer at Monocacy for over ten years, done a great deal of research, which is in the files there, and I highly recommend that you look at those — there’s some good, new primary source stuff. I’m writing a book on Lew Wallace’s CW career for Indiana Press, but have written articles on the battle and Wallace for North and South. Think you might also contact Brett Spaulding, NPS interpreter at Monocacy, who’s done a lot of research on the battle.

    The guys at the Jug Bridge performed extraordinarily well that day, given their experience level. They did have two veterans in charge; Col Alison Brown of the 149th Ohio and Capt. Leib of the 5th US who was in charge of 100 mounted men of the 159th Ohio that day. Also, I have never believed that Early really wanted that bridge; he wanted the road to Washington. Rodes could have ended it fast if Early really wanted it.

    As for why Early spent that time at Harper’s Ferry — he wanted to take the river road to Washington where he had a quick escape route available, if needed. He got to Harper’s Ferry and found the bridge out, so he crossed the Potomac and tried to drive Sigel off the Heights and down the road, but Sigel wouldn’t budge. So, he had to take the road through the South Mountain gaps. It’s in his “Memoir of the Last Year of the War,” and two new documents I found at the Huntington Library a couple of years ago — which are at Monocacy.

    As for the artillery, Wallace had wonderful advantage of position for his six guns because the bluffs on the south side of the river are so much higher than the level ground on the north side. Confederates had three battalions, Nelson’s Braxton’s and McLaughlin’s with 40 guns. CS artillery really didn’t do much until Gordon’s attack, when they moved in. Then, two batteries, Chapman’s at the Worthington House, and and Lowry’s, placed on a hill near the viaduct bridge over the railroad, wreaked real havoc on the right of Ricketts’ line.

    A point really associated with the artillery. Nothing much happened in the morning when Ramseur came down the Georgetown Pike with his division and some of the artillery. They hit Wallace’s position; river in front, high bluffs on south side and stopped. Early wasn’t there, and I think Ramseur had instructions to hold off; Early needed those men to take Washington, didn’t want to waste men in attack on good position. Then, McCausland found that ford, and the rest, as they say is history.

    I’m very glad that someone is taking a close look at Monocacy. It is needed.


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