Voices of the Maryland Campaign–September 7, 1862

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles

The gathering Confederate army resting along the Monocacy River outside of Frederick used Sunday, September 7 to relax peacefully in their new camps, preparing for the next campaign. Robert E. Lee believed his army safely ensconced in western Maryland, with no threat from the enemy in sight. “As far as I can learn, the enemy are in their intrenchments around Washington,” Lee informed Jefferson Davis. In reality, George B. McClellan had parts of the Army of the Potomac moving towards Frederick, feeling for the enemy.

McClellan himself decided to take the field this day. He left his Washington headquarters this evening and took his first night’s stay outside the city at the home of a Rockville Unionist. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles walked about Washington the night of September 7, longing for solace amidst the chaos in the city.

When taking a walk this Sunday evening with my son Edgar, we met on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the junction of H Street, what I thought at first sight a squad of cavalry or mounted men, some twenty or thirty in number. I remarked as they approached that they seemed better mounted than usual, but E. said the cavalcade was General McClellan and his staff. I raised my hand to salute him as they were dashing past, but the General, recognizing us, halted the troop and rode up to me by the sidewalk, to shake hands, he said, and bid me farewell. I asked which way. He said he was proceeding to take command of the onward movement.

“onward, General, is now the word”

“Then,” I added, “you go up the river.” He said yes, he had just started to take charge of the army and of the operations above. “Well,” said I, “onward, General, is now the word; the country will expect you to go forward.” 

“That,” he answered, “is my intention.”

“Success to you, then, General, with all my heart.” With a mutual farewell we parted. 

McClellan’s first headquarters in the field in the Maryland Campaign is now home to the Montgomery County Historical Society

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