Author traces march of the Blue and Gray to Gettysburg CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

February 24, 1993|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

Warren D. Wenger loves history. He also likes to write. So, he put the two together, and the result was several books.

Most of the books aren't in bookstores because they deal with such esoteric subjects as his work in Nicaragua as a missionary and Moravian Church history.

But his latest work, "Western Maryland: Springboard of the Union Army to Gettysburg," is available at Locust Books at 15 E. Main St., Westminster, where the retired Moravian minister will autograph copies from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday. The book, which sells for $10.95, is also available in Thurmont, and Mr. Wenger hopes to see it marketed in the Gettysburg Visitors Center as well as Frederick stores.

Unlike so many Civil War treatises that are sweeping narratives with hundreds of pages, Mr. Wenger's 40-page paperback focuses on one aspect of one battle of the four-year war.

In pictures, maps and easy-to-read text, "Western Maryland" explains how the Battle of Gettysburg came to be in the small southern Pennsylvania town, instead of somewhere else.

"Actually, Gen. George G. Meade was planning to fight along the Pipe Creek line and told his men to fall back to the south side of the creek if they were attacked," said Mr. Wenger, 71, of Westminster.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was planning to fight at Harrisburg, hoping that if he captured the Pennsylvania capital, Great Britain and France would come to the support of the South.

But fate had other plans for both armies.

"Lee was expecting Jeb Stuart to keep him informed where the Union Army was, but on the way to Harrisburg to meet Lee, three things slowed Stuart down," Mr. Wenger said.

"First, Stuart captured 125 supply wagons in Rockville on their way to Frederick, and he could go only as fast as those slow mules would go.

"When he got to Westminster, the Union Delaware cavalry had already arrived, and when Stuart went to enter the town, Capt. Charles Corbit attacked them as they came up Washington Road toward Main Street," Mr. Wenger continued. "Two men on each side got killed.

"When Stuart got to Union Mills, he learned that the Union Army was already in Littlestown, [Pa.] so he took a back road to Hanover, caught up with the tail end of Union Gen. Judson Kilpatrick's division and had another skirmish."

Stuart arrived in Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, and the scene was set for the battle that is considered the turning point of the Civil War.

"So, instead of the Battle of Big Pipe Creek or Taneytown, we got the Battle of Gettysburg," Mr. Wenger said.

How the Union and Confederate troops arrived in Gettysburg from various other sites is described in detail, accompanied by ,, nine maps showing the movements of the divisions through Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties.

Both Union and Confederate troops camped at sites throughout Carroll County.

Units of both armies camped at the Union Mills Shriver Homestead, which, like other families, had split its loyalties.

But it was another campsite that sparked Mr. Wenger's interest in the troop movements.

"My daughter Lola married Ed Noll Jr. of Taneytown, and one army [had] camped on the farm. But they didn't know which one, so I did a little research on it," he said. "I found out it was Daniel Edgar Sickles' Third Corps Union Army that camped on the Edgar Noll farm, John Thompson farm and Benjamin Shunk farm.

"They parked there overnight on June 29, 1863, then went to Bridgeport on their way to Gettysburg," Mr. Wenger said. "They had 11,929 men, and General Meade had a tent on the Shunk farm."

From answering his initial question, Mr. Wenger's interest in the movements of troops from Maryland to Gettysburg snowballed into the book, published in December by Standard Publishing Co. of Vineland, N.J.

Already, Mr. Wenger has moved on to other projects. He is writing a history of his family and a history of the Graceham Moravian Church in Thurmont, where he is an active member.

"I'm working on the Graceham Church history from 1912 to the present, and I've got about half the years done," he said. "And the family thing is just about written up."

During his 40 years in the ministry, Mr. Wenger spent 15 years in Nicaragua as a missionary, then another three years as director of the Moravian Bible Institute and Seminary in Honduras. He has written about both.

He was also pastor of Moravian churches in several Eastern states. When he retired in 1986, he and wife, Doris, moved to Carroll County to be near their family.

The couple lives in the house that Doris grew up in, he noted. They have four children and six grandchildren, though Lola is the only one in Carroll County.

Age hasn't slowed Mr. Wenger. He is an active member of the American Association of Retired Persons in Carroll County.

He makes a 50-mile round trip every Sunday to his church, since there are no Moravian churches in Carroll County, he said.

Mr. Wenger said he likes to attend nearby community concerts and to ski and sled in winter on his two-acre farm south of Westminster.

"What more can you ask?" he said. "I'm a 10-minute walk to town, but still in the country."

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