Civil War News Review

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Buford's Route from Middletown, Maryland to Fountain Dale, Pennsylvania June 29, 1863

On June 29, 1863, between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., after spending the previous day getting his mounts re-shod, Brigadier General John Buford, commanding the First Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac left Middletown, Maryland with his First and Second Brigades and Battery A, 2nd U.S. artillery. His objective was to cross to the western side of South Mountain and to proceed north to Chewsville, at which point he was to turn east and pass over the mountain again. He would continue east to Emmitsburg before turning north toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His orders directed him to arrive in Gettysburg by dark, June 30. He had 36 hours to cover 55 miles, a daunting task to say the least.

The purpose of this entry is to trace his probable route from Middletown, Maryland to his bivouac on the evening of June 29 at Fountain Dale, Pennsylvania. To accomplish this I have found four contemporary maps which show the roads the column would have taken in 1863. Thank goodness the men who traveled the route noted the towns through which they passed: in Maryland - Boonsboro, Mount Pleasant (Mapleville), Chewsville, Cavetown, and Smithsburg: in Pennsylvania - Monterey Pass, and Fountain Dale. In the process of reconstructing the route, I also included: in Maryland - Ringgold, and in, Pennsylvania - Waterloo (Rouzerville). As I explain the route, bear in mind that Buford allowed no straggling. At no point in the accounts does anyone mention stopping at anytime during the march to dismount and walk their horses or to halt to rest themselves and their horses. Based on the distance covered in the first day, the brigades averaged about 3 miles/ hour- about the speed of a horse when at "the Walk." 

Going east on the National Pike (alternate Route 40) from Middletown, the column crossed South Mountain at Turner's Gap, a climb and descent of about 1200 feet on each side on macadamized but twisting highway. Boonsboro, lay at the base of the mountain. Five roads intersected the pike in the vicinity of the town - Pleasant Valley Road to Harpers Ferry, the Boonsboro Pike, which ran south through Keedysville to Sharpsburg, and an unnamed road which branched of the National Pike just west of the town. Unnamed at the time, this road, now known as the Mapleville Road ran through Mount Pleasant past the Chewsville Road, about seven or so miles north of Boonsboro.  These roads, though modernized and straightened, either parallel or follow the original road tracks.

(1859 Thomas Taggert Washington County Plat Map)

Buford's brigades took the Mapleville Road north toward the Chewsville Road, it being the only straight route to Chewsville. from Chewsville, Buford would have turned east on the Cavetown Road for another two miles.
(1859 Thomas Taggert Washington County Plat Map)

Cavetown Road runs about another two mile into Smithsburg (Smith Town in 1859) where it picks up the Smithsburg Pike. (Bear in mind that pikes, as opposed to roads, were paved with crushed limestone, called macadam.) From Smithsburg, the pike continued another 4.29 miles north into Ringgold where it intersects the Ringold Pike northeast into Pennsylvania. Buford was traveling the best roads on the most direct roads toward his objective.

(1868 Map of Washington Township, Franklin County, PA)

The bottom left of the map shows where the Ringgold Pike intersects the modern Harbaugh Church Road which wends east then north into Waterloo (Rouzerville).  Where you see the buildings, the road today becomes the Waterloo Road. Follow the Waterloo Road to the "E" in Pikesville. Where it makes the 90 degree turn to the right (east) that is now the Old Route 16 State. The road from the "W" in Waterloo to the "E" at the turn is a steep climb, even today with a very steep drop off on the left into the valley below. I believe at the time of the War this was the Waynesboro Road, Waynesboro being several miles to the left. In 1863 it was not much more than a country road. Once the road turns east it winds and twists over a series of of ridges and ravines.

Buford did not get into Waterloo until around 4:00 p.m.. He had only 4 hours until dark and needed to get across Monterey Gap, some 4 miles away. Ascending a hill on horseback on a narrow road can be a challenge, particularly if the horse is already tired and easily spooked. Climbing the hill took time and had to be done very carefully. 

(1858 Map of Hamiltonban Township, Adams County, PA)

The column reached the gap a few hours later, probably near dark. At the top of South Mountain the Old Route 16 State intersects the current Route 16 (Sunshine Trail). At this point (Monterey Pass) the road becomes what is now called the Charmian Road. It continues northeast to become the "Old" Waynesboro Road. The column descended the eastern side of the mountain on a road more tortuous, winding, and rolling than the one outside of Waterloo. They reached Fountain Dale around 10:00 p.m. The men said they covered somewhere between 30 - 40 miles that day. It turned out to be 38 miles. Buford had achieved his objective. A march of several hours awaited he and his men the following morning.

The great thing about this study is that a person can still drive those roads or ones paralleling the original roads and retrace the route of one of the hardest cavalry marches in history.


  1. Wow. That's cool. I am always curious regarding the roads available and in use during the war; things that existed then that can still be seen now.

    I'd like to get some maps like that for where I live. Just to see what roads existed then and now. I know there was a confederate camp in 1861 near me, a skirmish after gettysburg and an action involving JEB Stuart and some federal infantry he captured if all the civil war trail plaques are accurate.

  2. Wrong! Buford was in Middletown, Md the night of June 27. Also alt route 40 does not go through Emmittsburg . Please read with discernment

    1. Thanks. I have corrected those glitches. Happy Saint Patrick's Day.