A member of the 1st Delaware Calvary on horseback along Main Street in Westminster, MD - before engaging in combat with Confederate cavalry on June 29, 1863. Possibly taken by local photographer Henry B. Grammer.
A member of the 1st Delaware Calvary on horseback along Main Street in Westminster, MD - before engaging in combat with Confederate cavalry on June 29, 1863. Possibly taken by local photographer Henry B. Grammer. (Photo courtesy Thomas S. Gordon family)

Last weekend, the Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table commemorated Corbit’s Charge in Westminster. Corbit’s Charge was a military engagement that occurred in Westminster on June 29, 1863.

Capt. Charles Corbit led Companies C and D, First Delaware Cavalry, against General J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry Division. The engagement began on Washington Road, in the vicinity of its intersection with East Green Street and continued through town.

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Though repelled by overwhelming force, the attack delayed Stuart, and was a factor in his failure to reach Gettysburg Battlefield before July 2, 1863 which many historians feel was consequential to the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg.

In a June 25 article in the Carroll County Times by my writing colleague Lois Szymanski, she explained the Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table “set up their annual Corbit's Charge Civil War Encampment at Emerald Hill, at 1838 Emerald Hill Lane… [To] commemorate … the tragedy of war that took place on Westminster’s streets and honor those who fell during the battle… [The] event … focusing on the 1863 Battle of Westminster, but also [covers] Rosser’s Raid in 1862, the Johnson/Gilmor Raid in 1864, and other notable Civil War history within Carroll County.”

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Much attention is given to the events leading up to 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. I have written about Corbit’s Charge a number of times since the 100th anniversary in 1963 and portions of this discussion have been published before.

The late Civil War historian Tom LeGore, reported in a May 5, 2003 interview that Westminster during the American Civil War 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 American Civil War in the minutes of the Westminster Common Council was a notation for July 6th and 7th, 1863 that, “Army Wagons were in town.”

LeGore further elaborated that Westminster, at the time, 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 Westminster’s Main Street — on their way to Gettysburg.

According to a definitive historical account of Carroll County’s Civil War experience, “Just South of Gettysburg,” by Frederick Shriver Klein, Harold Redcay and LeGore, “… 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.

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On June 29-30, 1863, General John Sedgwick’s Sixth Army Corps moved 18,000 troops from New Windsor to Manchester and later on to Gettysburg in “one of the longest, and fastest marches in Civil War History.” The Sixth Corps stretched 10 miles long – through a Westminster community that was less than 2 miles long in June of 1863. At the time, the Sixth Corps “was in itself a larger army than was ever marshaled on American soil prior to 1861.”

During and after the Battle of Gettysburg, Westminster was a major freight and supply terminus for the Union effort. LeGore reported that immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, the infield of Fairground Hill, in Westminster, was turned into a prison camp in which 7,000 Confederate soldiers were held.

Corbit’s Charge lasted only 45 minutes. There were four cavalrymen killed. They were 4th Virginia Cavalry Lt. John W. Murray and Lt. St. Pierre Gibson, and Pvts. William Vandergrift and Daniel Welch from the 1st Delaware Cavalry.

Francis A. Sharrer, Sr., a native of Carroll County, established a thriving cabinet shop and undertaking parlor at 300 East Main Street in 1848. According to his daily account ledger, found in the archives of the Carroll County Historical Society, Sharrer was a contractor for the Commissioners of Carroll County to supply furniture for the Court House chambers and coffins for the Almshouse. For these services, Sharrer periodically billed the Commissioners and received prompt payment. Routinely, coffins built for and delivered to, the Almshouse were invoiced at $4.00 to $5.50 each.

Sharrer's daily account ledger entry for June 30, 1863 notes that he invoiced the Commissioners at only $3.00 each for the soldier's coffins: "coffins for Solyers [sic] ---$9.00.” The fourth coffin needed, Lt. Murray's, was paid for by a resident of the City who recognized Murray as a friend from Virginia. Sharrer's invoice to the Commissioners for the period of December 14, 1862 through December 8, 1863 shows a total of $21.00. The $9.00 for the "Solyers coffins" was not paid.

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