In the summer of 1864, the Civil War came once again to the streets of Carroll County.
Confederate General Jubal Early marched into Maryland with the objective of capturing the Union capital at Washington. As part of Early’s campaign, 1,500 Confederate cavalry, under the command of two Marylanders – General Bradley T. Johnson and Major Harry W. Gilmor – split off from Early’s army and headed east with orders to destroy railroad bridges and cut telegraph wires above and below Baltimore to disrupt communication between Washington and the North. Then Johnson and his troops were to move south to Point Lookout where over 14,000 Confederate soldiers were being held prisoner. Johnson was to free the prisoners, arm those healthy enough to fight, and march them to Washington where they would join the ranks of Early’s army.
On July 9, Johnson and Gilmor left Monocacy Junction, eventually arriving in New Windsor. Johnson’s troops arrived in dramatic fashion, giving the fearsome Rebel yell and firing their weapons. A few shots were fired over the heads of some residents making a last-minute attempt to flee the town. As Johnson entered the town, he recognized a local resident, Nettie Stouffer, standing on her porch. Johnson and Nettie had attended school together in Libertytown and he remembered her well. Johnson made his headquarters in Nettie’s home and put her family’s store under his protection, placing it under guard and forbidding his troops from looting its contents. Other storeowners in town were not so lucky and the Confederates relieved them of almost all of their merchandise. Gilmor took the opportunity to enlist new recruits at Calvert College on the edge of town. According to a history of the school, the loss of so many of its students to Gilmor’s troop made it difficult for the school to survive.
Gilmor’s cavalry pushed on, arriving around sunset in Westminster where they drew their sabers and charged through the city. About three hours after his arrival, Gilmor received orders from Johnson to demand 1,500 suits of clothes, including boots and shoes, from the city of Westminster. The Confederates threatened to burn the city if their demands were not met. Mayor Jacob Grove tried desperately, but unsuccessfully, to convene the city council to deal with the situation. When Johnson arrived, he made his headquarters in the Shellman house at 206 East Main Street. In his memoirs Gilmor recalled: “Mayor Grove made every effort to get his council together, but had not succeeded when the general arrived, and I then persuaded him to say nothing more about it.” The Confederates moved on the next day so, luckily, Westminster was spared.
To learn more about the Johnson-Gilmor Raid, watch “Agitated, Frightened, and Crazed by the War: The 1864 Johnson-Gilmore Raid into Carroll County” a Box Lunch Talk presented by Steve Carney. Go to https://vimeo.com/345308633 to watch the one-hour presentation.