Though his area of command was the Shenandoah Valley and parts of western Virginia, Confederate Maj. Harry Gilmor was ordered to destroy communication lines into and out of his hometown, Baltimore, during Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early's 1864 invasion of Maryland.
On July 8, 1864, Confederate Maj. Gen. Bradley T. Johnson met with Early and was told that he was to lead his brigade toward Baltimore. North of the city, Johnson would have to interrupt railroad movement. Along the way, he would also have to sever telegraph lines.
Johnson was ordered to cover more than 200 miles in 72 hours, while severing telegraph lines, demolishing railroad bridges and ripping up tracks along the way.
Heading east toward Westminster, Johnson and his cavalrymen moved swiftly to carry out their orders. According to the Carroll Record, the town of New Windsor didn't "suffer greatly" even though the troops didn't bother to keep an eye on fires they had set.
In New Windsor, Johnson met Gilmor and instructed him and a small group of soldiers to secure Westminster. Along the way, Gilmor and his men were to assist in destroying communication lines.
Harry Gilmor was born at Glen Ellen, his family's estate in Baltimore County. He worked in business until the beginning of the Civil War, when he joined the Confederate Army under then-Col. Ashby Turner.
Gilmor moved quickly through the ranks, from private to sergeant major in a matter of months. In less than three years, Gilmor was promoted to major just before the Gettysburg campaign. Only months before, Gilmore had been court-martialed for allowing his troops to rob passengers on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. He was, however, acquitted.
On Johnson's order, Gilmor and his men set off, approaching Westminster by nightfall. Noting the Union troops occupying Westminster, Gilmor prepared his men to charge the town. The Confederates fired their guns in the air and made a loud commotion on their way in. The Union troops fled.
Gilmor and his men then destroyed communications with Baltimore.
About five hours ahead of Johnson's troops, Gilmor and his troops relaxed. "Gilmor dallied in the town, meeting with many old friends," wrote Gary Baker, author of Gilmor's Ride Around Baltimore.
Johnson sent a courier ordering Gilmor to demand clothing for his troops from the mayor. By the time Gilmor arrived, the mayor unsuccessfully scrambled to meet the order. However, Gilmor managed to persuade Johnson to disregard the order.
Johnson and Gilmor's troops advanced to Cockeysville, destroying railroad tracks and cars as they continued south toward Baltimore.
Johnson then ordered Gilmor to lead a squad to a main railroad bridge of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. Gilmor needed about 500 men for the task, but was forced to make do with about 100.
Riding into Towsontown, Gilmor and his soldiers were pleased to be so close to home. Residents stopped to chat with Gilmor and his men because many of the men were from Maryland's 1st Calvary, also a Confederate unit.
The troops expected to meet resistance in Towson but found none. According to historian David Marks of the Perry Hall Improvement Association, Gilmor and his men marched into an inn, "set their feet up on the tables, and enjoyed a round of ale." Gilmor brought some of his officers back to his family home where they visited with friends and family.
On leaving Glen Ellen, a relative of Gilmor observed that he might not return alive because he had so few men. Gilmor's friends informed him that a cavalry force was rumored to be waiting in Baltimore for the arrival of his troops. Gilmor decided to go into the city anyway to scare off the Union defenders.
Successfully pushing the troops back, Gilmor returned to Towson. He and his men were exhausted from the demands of that long day. Falling in and out of sleep, Gilmor awoke separated from his men and near a Union detachment. The men were looking for Maj. Harry Gilmor.
But Gilmor managed to convince the Union picket that he was not the man they were looking for and continued along his way. He continued traveling until he was reunited with his men.
Gilmor and his forces continued through Baltimore County, destroying railroad cars, tracks, bridges, telegraph lines and completed their task in a little more than four days.
On July 10, 1864, Gilmor and his raiders crossed the Little Gunpowder Falls into Harford County, camping overnight on the estate of Joshua Price at Joppa and Mountain roads.
In Harford County
According to C. Milton Wright in Our Harford Heritage, published in 1967:
"The next day he and his men proceeded to Magnolia station on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad near the Little Gunpowder. The first train that arrived from Baltimore was captured and burned. Soon a second express was seized. This one was set on fire and sent blazing down to the center of the Gunpowder bridge. The central portion of the bridge was destroyed. They took five Union officers as prisoners, including Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin of Cockeysville. After razing the railroad station at Gunpowder Neck, Gilmor headed toward Towson and continued his destructive tour through western Maryland and Pennsylvania."
Gilmor and his men participated in the burning of Chambersburg, Pa., July 30, 1864, before being chased back into Virginia by Union cavalry.
Kewannah Wallace is a junior majoring in communications at Loyola College in Baltimore. This article was written as part of an academic internship at The Sun.