It’s sad how we travel from Point A to Point B these days, our eyes focused on the road ahead, with no thought of the landscape surrounding us.
But as I drove to a mall to do some Christmas shopping last weekend I paid attention to the landscape. My shortcut route took me across a mountain pass where a little known battle occurred on July 4, 1863. Though I saw little to suggest the history that had been made there, I tried to imagine the events that had occurred along that very route.
It’s called the Battle of Monterey Pass and is actually the second largest battle to take place in Pennsylvania (next to Gettysburg, of course). It also holds the record for being the only battle fought on both sides of the Mason and Dixon Line – and it is called the most confusing battle of the war because it occurred at night during a violent thunderstorm on narrow mountain paths.
A brief account
After the Battle of Gettsyburg, as the Confederates were retreating south toward the Potomac, the Union cavalry under General Kilpatrick came in contact with the Confederate 1st Maryland cavalry under Captain George Emack near Fountaindale (named for the hundreds of springs there and located southwest of Gettysburg).
A blinding rainstorm descended with the darkness, and since the Confederates were wearing gum blankets, they were mistaken for Union troops by Kilpatrick’s cavalry. Knowing that their identity was withheld, the Confederate fired a cannon into the Union forces, and then charged, pushing the Federals back until they reached the Federal artillery that was at Fountaindale.
After six hours of fighting in blinding rain and utter darkness interrupted only by brilliant flashes of lightning, General Kilpatrick gained the mountain summit of Monterey. At the Monterey House, a Union battery began shelling the enemy’s wagons, and by 3:30 a.m. the Union cavalry reached the road where Ewell’s wagon trains were located. They captured and destroyed nine miles of wagons, taking 1,360 prisoners and a large number of horses and mules.
This battlefield is now just part of the landscape. Some of the roads do not exist anymore, and all of the property is privately held. But thanks to the work of John Miller, who established the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association, the history that took place there is not forgotten. I intend to order John’s booklet and intend to try to find the roads and landmarks where the major action took place. I know not everyone gets to come in contact with such history on their way to the mall, but I urge you to visit the website to learn more nonetheless.