Continual March of Confederate Prisoners to Westminster, Maryland

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
Over the course of the four-day battle, more than 7,600 captured Confederates who were unhurt (or sustained wounds that did not prevent them from walking), were assembled into groups and periodically marched to the rear by their Federal captors. The vast majority were escorted approximately 26 miles to Westminster, Maryland, where they boarded trains bound for various prison camps in the North. An estimated 417 officers and 7,244 enlisted men made this particular journey, according to a count submitted by the Union army’s provost marshal, Brig. Gen. Marsena R. Patrick. Lt. James I. Sale from the 53rd Virginia recorded the arrival of 430 officers to Johnson’s Island, Ohio, which corroborates Patrick’s calculations. John Inglis of the 9th New York Cavalry recalled that 4,800 Confederate prisoners arrived in Westminster on July 3 alone.

Below list details some of these distinct groups, as recorded by participants.

June 30

-During the night of June 30, Union cavalry turned over a number of Confederate prisoners captured near York, Pennsylvania to the Twelfth Corps headquarters guard at Littlestown. (Major John M. Gould, Tenth Maine Battalion, Maine at Gettysburg)

July 1

-About 300 prisoners marched away from Gettysburg shortly after noon and passed through Two Taverns on the Baltimore Pike at 2:30 p.m. There they passed the Union Twelfth Corps, who identified them as being from Archer’s brigade. Private William H. Moon, Company I, 13th Alabama was in the group. Just a few hours earlier, a detail from the Iron Brigade had escorted them into town along Chambersburg Street, and handed them over to Lieutenant Walter Caldwell of the 9th New York Cavalry. They were initially enrolled as prisoners near Meade’s headquarters. (Sources: William Henry Moon, Confederate Veteran, vol. 33, pp. 449-450; G. W. Blanchard, Company G, 2nd Wisconsin, National Tribune, March 20, 1890, p. 3; Sgt. Frederick C. Waterman, Company A, 2nd Wisconsin; Days of Uncertainty and Dread; Account by Corporal J. A. Lumbard, Company G, 147th Pennsylvania; Personal Recollections of the Civil War, by Captain William L. Stork, Company I, 29th Pennsylvania; William L. Stork, National Tribune, Sep. 10, 1891)

-A dozen prisoners were captured near Adamstown, Pennsylvania. (George R. Crosby, 1st Vermont Cavalry)

-Between 4-5 p.m., Federal cavalry “double-quicked” to the rear a batch of Confederate prisoners, which included Captain L. G. Woolard, Company G, 42nd Mississippi. Halting to rest in a field after several miles, they resumed their march at 9 p.m. and arrived at their destination the following morning (either Taneytown or Westminster), where they joined another group of prisoners already assembled, making a total of 52 officers and 788 enlisted men. (Journal of Capt. L. G. Woolard)

-At nightfall, a Federal escort led by Lt. Libby of the 10th Maine Battalion, headquarters guard for the Twelfth Corps, marched 27 prisoners some 18 miles to the rear, where they were turned over to the provost guard. (Major John M. Gould, Tenth Maine Battalion, Maine at Gettysburg)

-At dark (about 8 p.m.), a group of Confederate prisoners marched away from their holding area behind Cemetery Hill, arriving in Westminster around 11 a.m. on July 2. Among the group was Pvt. William B. Murphy, Company A, 2nd Mississippi, who was captured at the Railroad Cut the morning of the first day. (June 29, 1800 letter of W. B. Murphy, State Historical Society of Wisconsin)

July 2

-A reporter wrote that 1,600 Confederate prisoners had been sent to the rear after two days of fighting, but the bulk of that number probably represented those taken on July 1. The available sources indicate or suggest that the many Confederate prisoners collected during the attacks of the late afternoon and evening of July 2 were held overnight near the battlefield. (Wilkeson, Harrisburg Telegraph, printed in Clearfield [Pennsylvania] Republican, July 8, 1863)

July 3

-In the morning, Company D of the 13th New Jersey took upwards of 30 prisoners, captured the previous evening near Spangler’s Spring, to Two Taverns and handed them over to the provost guard before hastening back to the front. (Historical Sketch of Co. “D,” 13th Regiment N. J. Vols.)

-Also in the morning, between 40-50 officers and 50-600 enlisted men, representing the divisions of Hood, McLaws and Anderson at least, departed for Westminster under supervision of a captain from the 5th New York Cavalry. The march was conducted in the regulation style – marching 50 minutes and resting for 10. They arrived at Westminster at sundown, bedding down for the night in an enclosed pen. The next morning, July 4, they were loaded onto rail cars for the journey to Baltimore. At the head of the column were placed the two tallest men: Corporal John W. Stevens of Company K, 5th Texas (captured the previous evening by the 20th Maine on Little Round Top) and Lt. Colonel William H. Luse of the 18th Mississippi. Further back in the column was Lt. Edmund DeWitt Patterson of Company D, 9th Alabama, who was joined by about 60 other members from his regiment. (War Reminiscences of John W. Stevens; Yankee Rebel, The Civil War Journal of Edmund D. Patterson)

-At 1 p.m. another batch of prisoners moved out and made four miles before being halted. Awakened at midnight, they reached Westminster at 9 a.m. on July 4, but were not put on railcars until the next day. At Baltimore, they detrained and were marched to Fort McHenry, where their names were recorded. Among this group was Capt. Givens B. Strickler, Company I, 4th Virginia, who was gathered up with several dozen others at Culp’s Hill just before noon on July 3. Strickler subsequently boarded the “Kennybeck,” a large ocean steamer, arriving at Fort Delaware on the evening of July 8. Ten days later he was ordered to Johnson’s Island. (Journal of Givens Brown Strickler)

-At midnight a group of prisoners that included veterans of Pickett’s division, like Sgt. Levin C. “Kit” Gayle, Company G, 9th Virginia, stepped off for Westminster, which they reached at 1 p.m. on July 4. At 2 p.m. on July 5, they boarded railcars for Baltimore/Fort McHenry, and started for Fort Delaware on July 6.

July 4

-Before sunrise, a large gathering of about 1,500 prisoners embarked on the journey to Westminster, which they entered just as darkness was descending. They would depart in railcars the next day, July 5, and arrive in Baltimore before sunset. Another group followed in their footsteps at 9 a.m. The vast majority evidently comprised survivors of the grand charge made the previous afternoon, July 3, to include Sgt. Joseph E. Purvis, Company G, 19th Virginia; Capt. Benjamin L. Farinholt, Company E, 53rd Virginia; 1st Sgt. Warren D. Reid, Company H, 11th Mississippi; Lt. James H. Wentworth, Company D, 5th Florida; Capt. J. B. “Jake” Turney, Company K, 1st Tennessee; and Col. John A. Fite, 7th Tennessee. Wentworth recalled being among 225 fellow officers onboard steamer “Kennelhee” when it arrived at Fort Delaware at 2 a.m. on July 8, in the midst of a driving rain. (Diary of Joseph E. Purvis; Benjamin L. Farinholt, Confederate Veteran, vol. 5, 1897, p. 469; W. D. Reid, Escape from Fort Delaware, Confederate Veteran, vol. 25 (1917), p. 512; Andrew H. Ramsay, Confederate Reminiscences and Letters 1861-1865, vol. XV, Georgia Division, UDC; Diary of James Wentworth; Capt. J. B. Turney, Confederate Veteran, vol. 8, 1900, p. 537; James A. Fite, Gettysburg Magazine, issue 2, p. 107)

-An estimated 290 Confederates were collected in and around Gettysburg after the Federals reentered the town around 6 a.m., many of them representing Early’s division, including not a few who had overslept and awoke to find themselves prisoners. It is supposed the latter were sent on to Westminster no earlier than mid-morning. (The Volunteer’s Manual, by William Simmers and Paul Bachschmid, 153rd Pennsylvania)