While Confederate soldiers under “Stonewall” Jackson’s command poured across the Potomac River, Federal forces inside Washington’s fortifications continued to sort themselves out. President Lincoln met Ambrose Burnside this morning, offering him command of the army tasked with marching into Maryland and expelling the Rebels from the state. Burnside declined, and Lincoln and Henry Halleck informed George McClellan of his new role commanding “the forces in the field.”
Anxiety continued to build in the capital, and beyond. Rumors spread of a large Confederate incursion into Maryland, their destination at Frederick. Lewis Steiner of the Sanitary Commission hopped on a train this day, going from Washington to his native Frederick. He recorded his thoughts that day:
Friday, September 5.–Left Washington at 6 o’clock, under the impression that the Confederate army had crossed the Potomac the preceding evening and were then in Frederick. Anxiety as to the fate of my friends, as well as to the general treatment my native place would receive at rebel hands, made the trip by no means a pleasant one.
Along the road, at different stopping-places, reports reached us as to the numbers of the Confederates that had crossed into Maryland. The passengers began to entertain fears that the train would not be able to reach Frederick… Arriving at 12 o’clock, I found the town [Frederick] full of surmises and rumors… The citizens were in the greatest trepidation. Invasion by the Southern army was considered equivalent to destruction. Impressment into the ranks as common soldiers; or immurement in a Southern prison–these were not attractive prospects for quiet, Union-loving citizens!
Towards nightfall, it became pretty certain that a force had crossed somewhere about the mouth of the Monocacy. Telegrams were crowding rapidly on the army officers located here, directing that what stores could not be removed should be burned, and that the sick should as far as possible be sent on to Pennsylvania. Here began a scene of terror seldom witnessed in this region. Lieut. Castle, A.Q.M., burned a large quantity of his stores at the depot. Assist. Surg. Weir fired his store-house on the Hospital grounds and burned the most valuable of his surplus bedding contained in Kemp Hall, in Church street near Market. Many of our prominent citizens, fearing impressment, left their families and started for Pennsylvania in carriages, on horseback, and on foot. All the convalescents at the Hospital that could bear the fatigue, were started also for Pennsylvania, in charge of Hospital Steward Cox. The citizens removed their trucks containing private papers and other valuables from the bank-vaults, under the firm belief that an attack would be made on these buildings for the sake of the specie contained in them.
About 1 1/2 o’clock, A.M., it was ascertained that Jackson’s force…would enter Frederick after daylight; for what purpose no one knew. Having possession of this amount of information, I retired about two o’clock, being willing to wait: the sequel, whatever it might be.