J.E.B. Stuart’s June 1863 Raid into the North

From Observation Tower at Oak Ridge, Gettysburg Battlefield

Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart left Salem Depot with three brigades on June 25, 1863, at 1 a.m. Brig. General Fitzhugh Lee, Brig. General Wade Hampton, and Colonel John R. Chambliss led the brigades.

Captain John Esten Cooke, Stuart’s chief of ordnance, wrote of his experiences on the raid. Stuart shouted orders to “Ho! for the Valley!” while in the villagers’ hearing. Once out of sight, he changed course to head eastward. They bivouacked under pine trees that night. The following evening, they skirted around Union General Hooker’s rear force in Manassas.

The cavalry passed abandoned cabins and debris near Fairfax Station where they must have found supplies because Captain Cooke laughed to recall that every Southerner wore a white straw hat and snowy cotton gloves. A bale of smoking tobacco or drum of figs rested on the pommel of every soldier’s saddle. They held ginger cakes.

Each cavalry man held aloft a case, shell, or solid shot with fixed cartridge when crossing the Potomac River on June 28th at 3 a.m. to keep the ammunition dry.

As Stuart’s cavalry approached Rockville, Maryland, from the south, a Federal wagon train of nearly 200 wagons entered from the east. The new and freshly painted wagons, each drawn by six sleek mules, stretched out for miles. Stuart’s men chased the fleeing wagons and captured them within sight of Washington D.C. Cooke believed he saw the dome of the Capitol.

Stuart captured Union prisoners, set fire to some of the wagons, and seized the rest of them.

The Southerners reached Brookville that night, where beautiful girls fed them from baskets filled with cakes, meat, and bread. They offered huge pitchers of iced water. Stuart paroled hundreds of the wagon train prisoners at Brookville before riding on.

On June 29th, Stuart’s men arrived at Westminster. They clashed with Union cavalry and chased them along the Baltimore road, causing Baltimore citizens to panic.

They left Westminster and bivouacked in the rain. They reached Pennsylvania the next day.

Stuart’s cavalry scattered Union Brig. General Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry near Hanover. Kilpatrick rallied and drove the Southerners out of town.

Still traveling with a long wagon train they confiscated, Cooke writes that they “rode, rode, rode” perhaps all night because he does not mention them camping. They paroled more prisoners at Dover, which they reached around sunrise.

On the evening of July 1st, Stuart’s cavalry arrived at the Federal army post of Carlisle. A short assault ended when General Lee ordered Stuart to Gettysburg. He arrived there on the afternoon of July 2nd, the second day of the famous battle.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader: An Eyewitness History of The Civil War’s Greatest Battle, Regnery History, 2013.

“J.E.B. Stuart,” A&E Television Networks, LLC, 2017/05/03 http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/j-e-b-stuart.

“J.E.B. Stuart,” Wikipedia, 2017/05/03 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._E._B._Stuart.


This Week in History: Greencastle, Pennsylvania and the Gettysburg Campaign

Monday, June 15, 1863

The fall of Martinsburg, Virginia, (now West Virginia) on June 14th encouraged Confederate Lieutenant Hermann Schuricht, Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry. He was happy that the glorious battle ended with the Southerners in possession of the city and several thousand bushels of grain. It was the first Battle of Martinsburg.

Buglers sounded orders to mount their horses around 2 am. By breakfast time Schuricht and his comrades were in Williamsport, Maryland, where the residents kindly set up tables in the streets stocked with meat, bread, and milk. Schuricht and other hungry troops ate quickly before remounting.

They received an enthusiastic welcome from the ladies in Hagerstown, Maryland, at noon. The women gave flowers to the soldiers. The children shouted, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!”

They rode to Greencastle, Pennsylvania. General Albert G. Jenkins divided his brigade. Schuricht, along with others in the right wing who intimidated locals by waving muskets and pistols, rode his horse over ditches and fences to take the town. Federal cavalry there all escaped except one lieutenant.

The Confederates cut telegraph wires and destroyed the railroad depot in Greencastle.

Their day wasn’t over.

By 11 pm, an exhausted Schuricht entered Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, with his companions. They camped on the eastern outskirts of town.

Confederates occupied Greencastle from mid-June until early July. Federal cavalry led by Captain Ulric Dahlgren rode into the town square on July 2nd. The Union troops captured several Confederate cavalry troops in the square while a bigger battle took place in another part of Pennsylvania.


-Sandra Merville Hart


Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader, Regnery History, 2013.

“Greencastle, Pennsylvania,” Wikipedia, 2017/05/01 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greencastle,_Pennsylvania.

Long, E.B with Long, Barbara. The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865, A Da Capo Paperback, 1971.

Noyalas, J. A. “Martinsburg during the Civil War.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 27 Oct. 2015. Web. 1 May. 2017.

This Week in History: Civil War Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia

Tuesday, June 9, 1863

Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to fight the battle above the Mason-Dixon. He began marching his army west from Fredericksburg toward Culpeper Court House. Lee wanted the protection of the Shenandoah Valley and asked General J.E.B. Stuart to mask the army’s movements with his cavalry.

Stuart had about 9,500 cavalry troops at Brandy Station—a small crossroads between the Rappahannock River and Culpeper—on June 8, 1863. Lee ordered Stuart to lead a raid across the river on June 9th to create a diversion.

Federal General Joseph Hooker, having guessed Stuart’s plan, deployed his cavalry under General Alfred Pleasonton to attack on June 9th. His men surprised Confederate pickets at Beverly’s Ford at 4:30 am and chased them back to their camp near St. James Church on the road to Brandy Station.

Confederates suffered until their artillery was ready to fire on Union troops at the church. Union General Buford ordered his troops to charge. They were repulsed.

In the meantime, Union General David Gregg brought his cavalry behind Stuart’s men with Fleetwood Hill blocking them. Union artillery fired on Fleetwood Hill, startling Stuart but he rallied in time to fight the Union’s charge.

After almost five hours of hard fighting, Pleasonton received reports of Confederate reinforcements and withdrew at 5 pm. Union casualties totaled 866 with 81 killed. Confederate casualties were 523.

The infantry used to joke, “Whoever saw a dead cavalryman?”

The fierce battle at Brandy Station ended that.

The Union cavalry was respected after the battle.

And the battle hid the Confederate march northward.

-Sandra Merville Hart



“Brandy Station,” Civil War Trust, 2017/05/01, http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/brandy-station.html?tab=facts.

Long, E.B with Long, Barbara. The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865, A Da Capo Paperback, 1971.


Searight’s Tollhouse on the National Road

The National Road, a federal road, stretched from Cumberland, Maryland, into Ohio by 1831. The heavily trafficked road required maintenance that the federal government wanted to turn over to the states.

Pennsylvania adopted an act to build six toll gates along the National Road—also known as the Cumberland Road—in the Commonwealth.

Built in 1835, Searight’s Tollhouse is one of Pennsylvania’s two remaining toll houses on the National Road. It is five miles northwest of Uniontown.

William Searight was one of the wealthiest men in the area at the time. Searight’s Tavern stood at the junction of Searight’s Crossroads. He owned a general store, wagon shop, blacksmith shop, and a livery stable in addition to running the post office.

Political connections helped Searight to become the Commonwealth’s Commissioner of the Cumberland Road in 1842. Searight bore the responsibility for all operations and received $730 per year.

Pennsylvania’s other toll house still standing is the Petersburg Toll House. Located in Addison, it was the first toll gate after crossing into the Commonwealth. The toll keeper’s annual salary was $200 with free housing.

Toll rates in Pennsylvania were collected for all types of vehicles—chariots, stages, phaetons, chaises, coaches, coachees, carts, wagons, and carriages. Drovers of sheep paid a rate of 6 cents for every score (20).

Anyone who refused or neglected to pay their toll received a fine of $3.

Pennsylvania collected tolls to maintain the road from 1835 to 1905.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Day, Reed B. The Cumberland Road: A History of the National Road, Closson Press, 1996.

Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“National Road Sculpture Tour,” National Road PA, 2017/04/22 http://nationalroadpa.org/touch-of-history/.

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

“Searight’s Tollhouse Historical Marker,” Exporepahistory.com, 2017/04/22 http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-F2.

“Searights Tollhouse, National Road,” Wikipedia, 2017/04/24  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Searights_Tollhouse,_National_Road.


The La Vale Toll House on the National Road

Work on a National Road near the Potomac River in Cumberland, Maryland, to the Ohio River in Wheeling, Virginia (later became part of the newly created state of West Virginia during the Civil War) in 1811. This section of road was completed in 1818 though the road continued into Ohio after that.

High traffic caused lots of wear and tear on the road, making it difficult to maintain. The federal government turned over the maintenance of the road to the states in the early 1830s. To cover the cost, the states built toll houses to collect tolls.

Maryland built its first toll house, the La Vale Toll House, about six miles from Cumberland around 1833. This toll house is the state’s only one still standing on the National Road (also called Cumberland Road.)

Tollkeepers collected tolls there until the early 1900s. Included in their $200 annual salary were free living quarters.

It’s fun to read the toll rates. For example, horse and riders paid 4 cents for ten miles or 14 cents for thirty-five miles. Travelers paid 8 cents for ten miles or 28 cents for thirty-five miles for every sleigh, sled, chaise, or Dearborn “drawn by one horse or pair of oxen.”

Dearborn wagons contained four wheels generally drawn by a single horse. The vehicle usually had one seat, with top curtains and sometimes side curtains. From 1819 to 1850, truck farmers and peddlers used the affordable Dearborn.

Gateposts are all that remain of a second Maryland toll house outside of Frostburg. This one was located thirteen miles from Cumberland. There’s a nice photo of the toll house on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum site.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Day, Reed B. The Cumberland Road: A History of the National Road, Closson Press, 1996.

Dearborn Wagon.” Dictionary of American History.. Encyclopedia.com. 23 Apr. 2017<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“First Toll Gate House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22  http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=442.

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

“The La Vale Toll House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22 http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=443.

“The National Road & Toll House near Frostburg, MD,” Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, 2017/04/22 http://www.eduborail.org/nps-1/image-1-nps-1.aspx.





Colonial Travel with Pack Horses

Magnificent forests lined the hillsides and valleys in Colonial America. Their beauty didn’t make them easier to navigate. Pioneers blazed trails to the west by foot and then by horseback.

Settlers heading westward during this time traveled before roads had been cut. Skinny paths left no room for wagons. They hauled their worldly possessions on pack horses.

By tying each horse to the tail of the one immediately in front, one driver led a line of pack horses. Drivers controlled up to a dozen horses in one line.

Each animal could carry up to two hundred pounds on primitive pack saddles. Pioneers created their own saddles using sturdy, forked limbs, trimmed to fit a particular load. Some frontiersmen made a living by selling their pack saddles in the back woods.

Once these courageous souls settled in Western Pennsylvania or the Ohio country, they made yearly trips back east to sell their produce and replenish supplies. Traveling in caravans, they took ginseng, rye, bear’s grease, snakeroot, and hides back east. They returned with such goods as gunpowder, salt, nails, and iron.

Early U.S. military operations utilized pack horse trains in traveling to confront Native Americans. Captain Robert Benham served as Conductor General of pack horses in the late 1700s, taking part in expeditions with Wayne, Harmar, St. Clair, and Wilkinson.

While at Fort Harmar (near present-day Marietta, Ohio) in June of 1787, Colonel Harmar wrote that the cheapest cost of hiring pack horses was fifty cents a day.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Fort Harmar,” Ohio History Central, 2017/04/22  http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Fort_Harmar.

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

Venable, W.H., LL. D. Westward by Hoof, Wheel, and Keel. Extracted from Footprints of the Pioneers in the Ohio Valley, originally published in 1888.


George Washington’s Vision for a National Road

George Washington’s vision for a major road westward likely built over time.

The Ohio Company of Virginia owned a trading post on the Monongahela River, which is now Brownsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1750s. George and his half-brother Lawrence were members of this organization that hired Colonel Thomas Cresap to oversee the blazing of a trail from Cumberland, Maryland, to its trading post in 1752. Cresap hired Delaware Indian Nemacolin who performed the task. The new trail was called Nemacolin’s Path.

The following year, the French occupied Fort Le Boeuf (currently Waterford, Pennyslvania), an area in British territory. Major George Washington, sent by Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie to order them to leave, rode his horse over the future National Road. The French ignored the warning.

In 1754, Washington commanded a small army with orders to remove the French from Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh.) Washington’s small army traveled over ground that would become the National Road. He was ambushed and eventually surrendered.

As aide to British General Edward Braddock, Washington again found himself traveling toward the French at Fort Duquesne in 1755. Braddock ordered 500 axmen to clear a road for his supply wagons and infantry. The army was ambushed again and Braddock was killed.

The road his army blazed, marked by stumps and brush, was called Braddock’s Road. It ends near Pittsburgh. Early pioneers preferred packhorse trails over the rough road.

After the Revolutionary War in 1784, Washington focused on his western holdings. He took the same difficult route westward as he’d taken in 1754. Then he called a meeting at a land agent’s cabin on the Cheat River (currently Morgantown, West Virginia) in September of 1784. He asked for opinions on the best route between the upper Potomac to an Ohio River tributary.

A young surveyor, Albert Gallatin, was present at that meeting. He surprised Washington by agreeing that a passage through the mountains of northwestern Virginia (now West Virginia) was the best route. Washington agreed.

Our first President died in 1799 without seeing his vision for a national road realized, but Gallatin didn’t forget. President Thomas Jefferson selected him to become Secretary of the Treasury. One of Gallatin’s duties was the disposition of western public lands.

Gallatin lived in southwestern Pennsylvania. He approved of a road there and assured Jefferson that this type of road was “of primary importance.”

Congress voted on March 29, 1806, to lay a road from Cumberland, Maryland, to Ohio.

Perhaps Gallatin thought of a long-ago meeting in the Virginia wilderness with a famous Revolutionary War general and future President as the National Road was voted into law.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Day, Reed B. The Cumberland Road: A History of the National Road, Closson Press, 1996.

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.


Macadamized Roads

John Loudoun McAdam, a Scottish inventor, traveled almost 19,000 miles from 1798—1814 to form a method of making roads less susceptible to water.

Stagecoaches and wagons got stuck on muddy roads, adding to the difficulty of traveling. As surveyor general, McAdam devised a way to greatly improve roads and wrote of it in his Remarks on the Present System of Road-Making (1816).

To aid in water drainage, McAdam first recommended that roads be higher than the ground beside it. A layer of large broken stones then covered the road. Smaller stones were then laid over them. A fine layer of gravel was the last component.

This design reduced wear and tear on the road. Water drained to ditches on the side.

His recommendation was a great improvement over traveling on muddy roads. His idea spread to the United States.

Construction started in 1811 on the National Road, which began in Cumberland, Maryland, and wound through Pennsylvania and Virginia into Ohio. McAdam’s principles weren’t yet known.

His methods grew in popularity so that road makers used it on a new section of the National Road between Canton and Zanesville, Ohio, in 1825-1830. They broke stones small enough “to pass through a two-inch ring.”

At a width of twenty feet, the road contained the three layers of stone suggested by McAdam. Each layer was compacted with a cast-iron roller. This created the Macadamized road, making travel easier and safer for the pioneers settling in Ohio and farther west.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Bellis, Mary. “John Loudon McAdam – The History of Roads and Asphalt,” About.com, 2017/04/20 http://theinventors.org/library/inventors/blJohnMcAdam.htm.

Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“John Loudon McAdam”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

McAdam, John Loudoun.” The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Apr. 2017<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

“Macadam”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.


Conestoga Wagons

The first major highway built by the United States federal government was the National Road. Construction began in 1811 on the road also known as the Cumberland Road because it began in Cumberland, Maryland. By August 1, 1818, the road reached to Wheeling at the Ohio River. (Wheeling was then in Virginia but is now part of West Virginia.)

Settlers moving westward quickly utilized the road through Pennsylvania and Virginia to the new state of Ohio. Their wagons toted all their worldly goods to a new land.

Conestoga wagons were first built by Mennonite Germans near the Conestoga River area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in the early to mid-eighteenth century. Skilled craftsman created a unique curved bed, designed to prevent freight from shifting while climbing steep hills. Chains held the back gate in place while traveling.

Early wagon covers were hempen homespun. Canvas was used later. They soaked the canvas in linseed oil to waterproof the fabric. This covering was stretched over several wooden hoops.

The builders took great pride in their work. They painted the wagons blue, trimmed with red.

Built with broad wheels, four to six horses pulled five-ton loads over dangerous Pennsylvania roads. Conestoga wagons hauled products from the eastern states to settlers in Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley and returned with frontier goods like flour, tobacco, coal, and whiskey.

Strong Conestoga horses bred in the Conestoga area of Pennsylvania could pull these loads about twelve miles per day.

Wagoners made their living by hauling freight from the east to the western frontier and back again. These colorful characters made a journey of 250 miles in about three weeks.

Drivers of Conestoga wagons didn’t sit on a bench and hold the horses’ reins. Wagoners rode the left rear horse or walked alongside the horses. When the wagoner tired of walking, he pulled out a lazy board—a wooden board attached to the side of the wagon—and sat on it.

Railroads had slowed the heavy traffic on the National Road by the 1850s. Conestoga wagons were no longer in demand. Wagoners found new ways to make a living.

But what stories they had to tell to their children and grandchildren.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Conestoga Wagon,” History.com, 2017/04/19 http://www.history.com/topics/conestoga-wagon.

“Conestoga Wagon,” Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 2017/04/19 http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_842999.

“Conestoga wagon.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/conestoga-wagon.

Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“National Road,” Wikipedia, 2017/04/20 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Road.

White, Roger B. “Covered Wagons and the American Frontier,” Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 2017/04/19 http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2012/10/conestoga-wagons-and-the-american-frontier.html.