History comes to life at Corbit's Charge

Shots cracked and cannons were fired across a hill near North Center Street in Westminster Sunday. As the smoke cleared, spectators watched men in blue and in gray faced off, bringing history came to life.

The spectacle was a brief, but poignant, reminder of the actual skirmish — known to some as Corbit's Charge and to some as the Battle of Westminster — which was fought June 29, 1863 in the same spot. The City of Westminster, along with the Pipe Creek Round Table and the Corbit's Charge Committee, hosted a commemoration of the event over the weekend.


"This was Americans fighting each other. We want to bring that lesson home," said John Houck of Bel Air. Houck portrays a North Carolina major general during reenactments.

Houck explained the actual battle involved 150 members of the Union First Delaware Cavalry, led by Capt. Charles Corbit. They engaged a contingent of approximately 5,000 from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia's cavalry division, led by Major General J.E.B. Stuart, in a 45 minute fight.

"It was a suicide attack on Corbit's part. Gen. Stuart thought they were the federal army. He didn't realize it was so few men," said Dennis Duerbeck, a reenactor from Finksburg.

Duerbeck said four soldiers were wounded during the battle, two on each side. He said one of the soldiers is buried in the cemetery of the Ascension Episcopal Church in Westminster.

"We try to get people together and represent both sides… we're all teachers of history," Duerbeck said.

Reenactor Steven Carney, of Taneytown, said he was glad to bring the battle back to the site after the observance had been held in Union Mills since 2012.

"In spite of the rain and everything, we had a successful event. Every person around here is educating people on different aspects of the Civil War," Carney said.

Ron Kuene, who portrayed Westminster mayor William Baughman, said the event commemorates a battle that affected the outcome of the Civil War.

"Because of this little battle in Westminster, it delayed Stuart from getting to Lee in Gettysburg. Stewart was considered the eyes of the Confederate Army. Lee was blind because Stuart was not there," Kuene said.

Harry Sonntag, president of Civil War Historical Impressions, said he participates because he enjoys educating the public.

"I personally do this to educate the public about how both sides were involved. It's important to remember it and learn from it," Sonntag said.

Mel Joy and her husband Dean, of Queensland, Australia, stopped by after hearing about the reenactment on the news.

"We're on a road trip from Washington D.C. to Gettysburg…we've never seen a Civil War reenactment before," said Joy.

Erin McNatt and her husband Joe, of Seaford, Del., traveled to Westminster because they wanted to see history in action.


"These people have a fire in their hearts and they want to teach people where they came from. It's amazing," McNatt said.

Jay Moore, of Taylorsville, brought his family to learn more about the Civil War.

"I like watching history come alive," Moore said.