Historical Markers
Gettysburg Campaign [Fulton County] Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Gettysburg Campaign [Fulton County]

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
SR 1006 (old US 30) at east end of McConnellsburg

Dedication Date:
October 23, 1947

Behind the Marker

Full length photo of Harry Gilmor.
Major Harry Gilmor
In 1863, Fulton County, Pennsylvania was sparsely populated and rural. Since the outbreak of the Civil War, only a few hundred men had volunteered to fight for the Union; and the county had no organized militia companies. McConnellsburg, the county seat, was a small village even by standards of the 1860s. Located west of South Mountain from Lee's invasion route, it nonetheless witnessed several raids by detachments of Confederates during the Gettysburg Campaign.

On June 18, Confederate General Albert G. Jenkins, whose brigade of horsemen had retreated from markerChambersburg sent Colonel Milton J. Ferguson and his 16th Virginia Cavalry on a raid westward from Greencastle into Fulton County. Riding northwest through Mercersburg and up over Cove Mountain, Ferguson's men reached McConnellsburg at four in the morning of June 19, completely surprising the inhabitants, whom the Rebel cavalrymen awoke by pounding on their doors.

Ferguson ordered the stores in town opened so his men could purchase whatever they needed, paying for it, of course, in Confederate money. The colonel then sent out foraging expeditions into the surrounding countryside. They returned with $12,000 worth of cattle, 120 horses, and a few young African American males who were sent south for sale into slavery. The pickings had been easy. Believing that the enemy would not come their way, local residents had not bothered to hide their stock.

Before leaving for Greencastle, Ferguson invited owners of property confiscated by his men to submit to him claims for return of such property in case of a special need. He then rejected just about all these claims, except for those submitted by a few of the town's female population who professed Southern-leaning sentiments.
Full length black and white photograph of General George Steuart, in uniform.
General George H. Steuart

After Ferguson's brief raid, three separate detachments of Union militia hurried to Fulton County to protect it from further assault. Those under Colonel Jacob Szink deployed atop Blue Mountain between the roads from Mercersburg and Fort Loudon (the latter on present-day US 30). A company from Huntingdon County, under the command of Captain William W. Wallace, a veteran of a nine-month Pennsylvania regiment recently discharged, encamped in McConnellsburg. Finally, a portion of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry from Bloody Run (present-day Everett) went into camp just east of town.

And indeed the Rebels were again on their way. Perhaps encouraged by reports of the success of Ferguson's brief foray across the mountain, General Edward Johnson dispatched Brigadier General George H. Steuart's Brigade of Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia infantry, along with an artillery battery and Major Harry Gilmor's 1st Maryland Cavalry Battalion-more than 2,500 men in all–to raid across the mountain and gather supplies.

On June 24, Steuart's men left the main column of Johnson's Division at Greencastle and marched west to Mercersburg, then headed west over the pass at Cove Gap. Late that afternoon, Colonel Szink's militia, stretched along the crest of the mountain, could easily see the oncoming Confederates when they were still quite a distance off.

As arranged beforehand, Szink fired a signal gun to alert Wallace's company and the Pennsylvania cavalry. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. Moss, commanding the horsemen, then told Wallace that he would take his men on ahead and make a stand to halt the enemy's advance. Wallace promised to hasten his march and support the cavalry with his company, but his men had covered only a fraction of the distance to the mountain when Moss and his troopers came riding back in their direction. "The enemy is too strong to attack successfully, and I am going with my men to Bloody Run," shouted Moss as his command rode off to the west.

Shortly thereafter, Szink's infantry also passed Wallace on their way to the rear. Undeterred, Wallace decided to press ahead. When he asked for volunteers to go with him, twenty-seven of his men stepped forward. (The rest joined Szink's men in their retreat.) The brave captain then spread his men out along the road and waited as the afternoon shadows lengthened.

Soon they were joined by a lieutenant and four men from the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry, who had been dismayed by their colonel's retreat. These five went ahead to scout, but quickly returned, pursued by Gilmor's Marylanders. Firing broke out, and as the retreating blue-clad horsemen raced past, Wallace's concealed men opened fire.

Surprised by the ambush, Gilmor halted his pursuit and deployed his men, trying to locate the Yanks as the shadows continued to lengthen. When the Confederate artillery opened fire, Wallace told his men to scatter and save themselves. All got away safely, including three men who got lost and spent several days hiding in the woods. Only one Yankee was slightly wounded; there are no reports of any Confederate casualties in this skirmish.

By nine o'clock that evening, Gilmor's horsemen had occupied McConnellsburg. The few citizens who ventured outside were arrested and detained briefly. The brigade remained there for two days, sending out detachments to forage the countryside for food and fodder. Finally, on June 26, Steuart left for Chambersburg. At Fort Loudon, a band of local citizens captured and shot two Confederate stragglers who were looting a building. They were then buried in the local cemetery.

For the next two days Fulton County remained quiet. Then, on June 29th, Confederate units again headed west toward markerMcConnellsburg.
Back to Top