In the vanguard of the Confederate army's march toward Gettysburg was a cavalry brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins. Serving with this brigade was the Confederate 1st Maryland Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Maj. Harry Gilmor of Baltimore County, who was picked to scout the Union positions in Winchester before the attack. The story of his mission is related by Richard Wheeler in "Witness to Gettysburg," published in 1987:
"A major of cavalry, venturesome Harry Gilmor, was given a few picked men and sent ahead through the Blue Ridge, his orders specifying that he undertake the needed reconnaisance after reporting to Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins, a trooper who commanded one of the Valley outposts maintained in opposition to Milroy."
As Gilmor tells it, "On my way down the Valley, ... I met at Woodstock my old acquaintance, Miss Belle Boyd [the celebrated Southern spy], whom I had known since the autumn of '61. Miss Belle begged to accompany me on my expedition. I got off by telling her she must first have General Jenkins' permission.
"Jenkins was at Strasburg, ten miles farther down the Valley. With night approaching, Gilmor and Boyd took rooms at a Woodstock hotel. Gilmor continues: 'I rose before the sun, and was ready to start, when I discovered she had carried my saber and pistols to her room to prevent my slipping off without her, as she was shrewd enough to know I would do.
"Down came Miss Belle, dressed in her neat-fitting habit, with a pretty little belt around her waist, from which the butts of two small pistols were peeping, cased in patent leather holsters. She rode with me to the quarters of General Jenkins, to whom I had to report before passing out through his lines. We found him sitting before his tent, and after dispatching my business Miss Belle presented her request. I fixed myself rather behind her, that I might give a signal to the general not to consent.
"The fact is, I did not care to be accompanied by a woman on so perilous an enterprise; for, though she was a splendid and reckless rider, of unflinching courage, and her whole soul bound up in the Southern cause, yet she was a little - mark you, only a little - headstrong and wilful, and I thought it best, both for her sake and mine, that she should not go. ... The general, of course, refused, which made her furious, but I rode off without her.
"I was gone three days, and returned without even having drawn my revolvers, though I had several chances; but I was on special business, and so I let the various opportunities pass.
"The enemy's picket line being only a mile out of Winchester, made easily the entire circuit of that town, as well as Martinsburg, ... in which I learned the exact position of every stationary force, large and small, in the Lower Valley, with an accurate account of their numbers."
Pub date: 6/14/98