Monocacy National Battlefield

Location: Frederick, Maryland

Webpage: National Park Service

General Description: During the summer of 1864, General Grant had General Lee trapped near Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.  To secure the trap he stripped Washington D.C. of most of the Union troops defending the city.  Knowing this General Lee sent General Early with approximately 15,000 Confederate soldiers to sweep the Shenandoah Valley of Union forces, make their way into Maryland, and attempt to take Washington D.C. from the north.  By July 8 they had reached the outskirts of Frederick, Maryland.  Agents of the B&O railroad alerted the President of the railroad who informed General Wallace in time to dispatch 6,550 Union soldiers to delay the advance on Washington D.C. until reinforcements from Virginia could arrive in the capital.  On the morning of July 9, the two forces met along the banks of the Monocacy River.  After a small skirmish at the Worthington-McKinney ford, the Confederates advanced towards the Union positions in front of the river.  To make the crossing more difficult, Wallace ordered the covered bridge over the river burned, leaving only the railroad bridge.  Fighting continued on the Union left flank with two major attempts by the Confederates to break through the line.  By the end of the day, the Confederates had succeeded in crossing the river, but the Union forces had managed to delay them an entire day, which turned into a couple of days since the Confederates had to regroup and rest before the advance to Washington D.C.  Although the Battle of Monocacy River was a victory for the Confederates, it was considered a victory for the Union since the delay allowed the reinforcements to arrive and save Washington D.C.  It is known as the “Battle that saved Washington.”



1) We really enjoy visiting battlefields and attempting to figure out how the battle progressed across the landscape.  I remember the confusion that was Gettysburg as it waxed and waned across the same territory over a number of days.  By comparison the Battle of Monocacy all occurred on a single day with a fairly constant advance by the Confederates and was easy to visualize.  We were fortunate to be just in time to hear a Ranger’s presentation of the battle from outside the Visitor Center where we could see most of the battlefield.  This in addition to the film presentation in the Visitor Center made the battlefield very clear.


2) The battle covered quite a lot of ground with skirmishes on 2 different farms on either side of the river.  Most of the land is still privately owned, but the National Park Service does own and operate the principal areas around each of the significant skirmishes.  The automobile tour was well designed which was greatly enhanced by the inexpensive CD that provided more information about each stop on the tour.  I especially liked the barn on the Worthington farm that Confederate sharpshooters used to harass the Union soldiers at the covered bridge.


3) There was a monument at the site of the covered bridge that was burned during the conflict, although the actual location of the bridge was upstream from where the current bridge is.


4)  We took a long hike along the Monocacy river to try and find the ford the Confederates used to attach the left flank of the Union line at the Thomas Farm.  Although we were never certain of where the actual ford was, it was an easy hike along the river and added significantly to our enjoyment of the battlefield.ThomasFarm

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