Civil War Trails: Gaithersburg

Summit Hall Farm

On Sunday, June 28, 1863, Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and an estimated 5,000 cavalrymen arrived in Rockville en route to Gettysburg. Armed with a list of Union supporters, Stuart’s men planned to arrest John T. DeSellum as he left Presbyterian services, but shopkeeper Dora Higgins warned him in time to escape. Stuart’s cavalrymen seized new mounts and supplies around Rockville, including some of Summit Hall’s horses, forage, and foodstuffs. Though a slaveholder, John T. DeSellum was an outspoken Unionist and Federal enrollment officer. He wrote: “...Sister and myself rode to church at Rockville. Ominious looks and gestures prepared me for the comeing storm. And soon [Confederate Gen. JEB] Stewart’s cavaldry rode into Rockville, aresting offesnive Union men. And pursued a splendid train of mules, and wagons, capturing them.”

In the last Confederate invasion in 1864, Gen. Jubal A. Early’s army camped here the night before attacking Ft. Stevens on July 11-12. Early commandeered the house for his headquarters, and DeSellum lost his remaining livestock, crops, and fencing. When he protested, Early left him two barrels of corn. Soldiers searching the house for weapons missed $3,000 hurriedly concealed under his sister Sarah’s voluminous skirts. DeSellum, Sarah, and their parents are buried nearby


Confederate resources were limited. Cavalrymen provided their own horses and tack, receiving horseshoes, feed, a per diem of 40 cents per horse, and compensation if a mount was killed (none if injured or captured). Units became undermanned when troopers left to search for replacement mounts. As shortages increased, cavalrymen cut hooves from dead horses for horseshoes. Many men impoverished their families to stay in the prestigious cavalry.

Union quartermasters had more resources, deploying rations, horses, and equipment by rail or wagon. Still, Federals and Confederates stole livestock to supplement rations. While both sides issued reimbursement receipts for supplies requisitioned from civilians, Confederate money was soon shunned and gold demanded.

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