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Maryland's National Register Properties

Tour: Civil War (16 of 17)



Photo credit: Jennifer K. Cosham, 11/10/2003
Monocacy Battlefield
Inventory No.: F-3-42
Date Listed: 11/12/1973
Location: Frederick, Frederick County
Category: Site
Period/Date of Construction: 1864
NHL Date: 12/18/1973

Description: Monocacy Battlefield is just southeast of the City of Frederick and consists of a southwest tract and northeast tract; these are a little over a mile apart. The major tract is the southwest one, and it is bisected and accessible from MD Route 355, and also bisected by I-270. The northeast tract is bisected by and accessible from MD 144, the Old National Pike. Interstate 70 also bisects the tract. Together the two tracts total approximately 1,500 acres--the southwest tract is about 1,200 acres, and the northeast approximately 300 acres. Within the battlefield there are small tracts where Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Vermont have erected monuments and hold title to land, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy have also erected a monument and hold land. Except for the monuments, no markers indicate key actions. Despite construction of Interstates 70 and 270, much of the battlefield is unchanged. Today, as in 1864, the terrain where most of the fighting occurred is either farmed or in woodland. Important landmarks mentioned by the combatants were the Worthington, Thomas, and Best houses and outbuildings, all in the southwest tract. These still stand as a tangible link with the significant battle that was fought in the area. Most of the houses scattered through the farmland are in good condition, but are not open to the public. The road network, except for I-70 and I-270, is similar to what it was at the time. The Monocacy River still winds through a beautiful valley toward the Potomac. Significance: After three years of bitter and bloody civil war, the Confederacy had survived a number of disasters in the Mississippi Valley and still had its two major armies in the field and combat ready. Until the Union crushed these armies the war would continue. President Lincoln placed General Ulysses S. Grant in overall command of Union forces, and he launched his major campaign to destroy General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Grant began his massive move toward Richmond in a series of major engagements. In June General David Hunter made a blunder in the Shenandoah Valley thrust by withdrawing across the mountains into West Virginia in the face of a counterattack by Confederate forces commanded by General Jubal Early. General Lee moved quickly to capitalize on Hunter's blunder and began a dangerous thrust down the Valley toward Washington or Baltimore. Bloody fighting developed along the Monocacy River in the vicinity of Frederick Junction. Three days of savage and fluid battles saw a major threat to the National Capital develop. The Battle of Monocacy, though ending in the retreat of General Lew Wallace's Union forces at heavy costs, bought the necessary time for a successful defense of Washington. Units were pulled from around Petersburg and transported by ship to Washington while other seasoned veterans were rushed from Hampton Roads, Virginia. The timely arrival of these veteran forces halted the Confederates, and on July 14 General Jubal Early's forces recrossed the Potomac into Virginia. The nation's capital had been saved from invasion and possible capture by Confederate forces in the summer of 1864.
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