On June 23 and 24, a steady stream of visitors attended the “155th Anniversary Civil War Encampment” at the historic Westminster City Hall on Longwell Avenue to commemorate the anniversary of the June 29, 1863 Civil War battle, Corbit’s Charge, fought in Westminster.
Hats off to the Westminster officials and the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable for offering another informative glimpse at the tumultuous event in Westminster history.
This year, in addition to the Union and Confederate re-enactor encampments, there were commemorative ceremonies, demonstrations, lectures, and tours. Exhibits filled the rooms of two floors of the historic city hall. The historic building itself was a “witness” to several events during the Civil War. The activities inside included a period medical demonstration, firearms and currency display and presentation by Westminster Mayor Michael Baughman (May 1861 – May 1864) played by Ron Kuehne, an outreach coordinator for the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable.
There was also a display of the uniforms of the Gettysburg Campaign, a fashion display, and sewing and craft station, a display of Civil War books by the Historical Society of Carroll County; and a display and presentation by Andy Gelfert, who portrayed and interpreted the role and function of a Civil War musician and chaplain. Gelfert’s presentation included, in part, an explanation of how the role of a chaplain and musician were often combined during the Civil War. At the event on Sunday, re-enactor “Col.” Steven W. Carney explained many of the complexities of Corbit’s Charge in a far-ranging and comprehensive lecture.
This was the 15th year of the Corbit’s Charge events which began in 2003. Corbit’s Charge has been the topic of quite a number of articles by this writer over the years dating back to an “article” I wrote in high school with the assistance of Daisy Harris, a well-known English teacher from the days of the Robert Moton School.
I grew up in Westminster in the 1950s at the intersection of Washington Road and East Green Street, where the battle began. I was fortunate to have attended the dedication of the historic highway marker in 1963 at the intersection of Washington Road and East Main Street.
At Westminster High School, I wrote a paper for Dahl Drenning’s economics and sociology class on Corbit’s Charge. According to various accounts, the Civil War cost $6.6 billion in 1860 dollars to fight.
Yet the dollar cost on a young nation was immaterial compared to the human toll. The war unleashed a relentless horror and slaughter that involved over 3 million men in uniform and resulted in 1,030,000 casualties — 3 percent of the U.S. population — including over 620,000 soldier deaths, the most casualties of any American war in history.
One of the founders of the event in 2003, Westminster council president Dr. Robert Wack, was one of the many visitors on Sunday. At a meeting of the Westminster Mayor and Common Council on June 25, Wack reported that the opening ceremonies paid tribute to the late historian Tom LeGore, who passed away on Nov. 4, 2017. LeGore was the author of a definitive historic account of Corbit’s Charge, "Just South of Gettysburg.”
Much attention is given to the events leading up and during Corbit’s Charge in Westminster on June 29, 1863 and the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863; however, historians consider the Westminster involvement in the Gettysburg Campaign as lasting from around June 28, 1863 to after July 11, 1863.
In a series of interviews with LeGore from 2002 through 2013, he explained that Westminster during the Civil War was a community of only 1,900 citizens. Juxtapose this with the fact that on June 30, 1863, 24,000 Union Troops passed through Westminster on their way to Gettysburg.
According to LeGore, Westminster was a divided community: “Neither side of this divide wanted the war and both sides hoped that our community might avoid being involved.”
To that end, the only mention of the Civil War in the minutes of the Westminster Common Council was a notation for July 6 and 7, 1863 that, “Army Wagons were in town.”
According to “Just South of Gettysburg,” “a study of the records indicates that [between July 1-3, 1863, there were] estimates of 5,000 wagons, 30,000 mules, and 10,000 men, with at least 20 regiments guarding the trains …” in Westminster.
LeGore said that immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, the infield of Fairground Hill — around what we know today as Fair Avenue in Westminster — was turned into a prison camp in which 7,000 Confederate soldiers were held. Some records indicate that the weather was unseasonably hot during this time period.