Jubal Early’s 1864 Raid Toward Washington

A BGES Civil War Field University Program

Presented by Gloria Swift

October 12–15, 2023; from Hagerstown, MD

Grant’s multi-pronged offensive stretched Lee’s resources thin, and the brutal fighting in the Overland Campaign bled Lee’s army in greater proportion than Grant suffered. The move of Maj. Gen. David Hunter toward Lee’s depot in Lynchburg compelled him to detach much needed troops from his own pressed army in front of Richmond, under the command of Jubal Early, to Lynchburg. Early beat back Hunter, and when Hunter disappeared in the mountains beyond Big Lick (Roanoke), Early was freed to range within the Shenandoah Valley.

Lee hoped such an operation would help relieve pressure on his own army and, with a Federal Presidential campaign in the offing, military success or the perception of the same might bring large benefits to the Confederacy’s flagging war efforts.

Early was aggressive, and his operations ranged within view of Winchester and spilled into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Having ranged into the Federals’ hollowed-out rear, barely a corporal’s guard could oppose the Confederate wave. Early thought that not only might he extract booty from the rich Pennsylvania countryside, he might even liberate Confederate and political prisoners at Point Lookout. But then, he never counted on Maj. Gen. Lew “What a Guy” Wallace interfering. This is a story rarely told, but it should be, and its relatively new national battlefield park should be on everyone’s list—for at Monocacy the Union was truly saved in July 1864.


Thursday, October 12, 2023

6:00 PM: Gather at our headquarters hotel, the Fairfield Inn in Hagerstown, where Gloria will overview the Summer 1864 Campaign for you while introducing you to both Jubal Early and Lew Wallace. Gloria was the first historian for this national battlefield, and her insights are particularly useful. We will break in time for you to get dinner.

Friday, October 13, 2023

8:00 AM: Today is devoted to the July 9 battle at the Monocacy River for control of Monocacy Railroad depot and the crossing points of the Monocacy River leading to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Having watched the movement of Early’s force into the area around Harpers Ferry and into Maryland, U.S. Grant responded to an urgent call for an augmentation of General Wallace’s Middle Department, which was composed mostly of Hundred Days Men (volunteer regiments serving 100-days service in the Union Army) and militia, by sending elements of the Union VI Corps to D.C. (Wallace’s headquarters was in Baltimore.) Wallace responded to the Confederate incursion and skirmished with the approaching rebels near Middletown. As his advanced guard contacted the advancing graybacks, he assembled what forces he could, including the advanced elements of Grant’s reinforcements, behind the Monocacy River on some naturally high ground. Any advances beyond the Monocacy River would have to pass this naturally strong position.

Early on July 9, the engagement was joined. Rebel effort to force roads and crossings over the Monocacy were contested, and Early sought to turn the Federal left with his cavalry. Significantly outnumbering the Federals, the Confederates were destined to hold the field, which they did but at a bloody cost. As Wallace fell back, the Confederates were stopped in their tracks, and an open route to enter D.C. was closed.

As Early regrouped, he would not press the Federals again until he reached Fort Stevens along the Rockville Pike. That brief fight, witnessed by Abraham Lincoln, will be discussed on Sunday. However, Wallace had redeemed his tarnished reputation hung on him after the disaster at Shiloh in April 1862. As Gloria would say “Lew, What A Guy!”

Lunch is included, but dinner is on your own.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

8:15 AM: Early’s success provided opportunities, and with nearly 20,000 prisoners from Gettysburg and elsewhere at a POW camp at Point Lookout (where the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay come together in southern Maryland), Confederate cavalry were detached on a raid to free the prisoners and arm them for a converging march on D.C. Although the movement was compromised, causing Early to recall the horse under Bradley Johnson and Harry Gilmor, there was a small engagement at Magnolia Station, which we will visit, along with the towns of Westminster and Upper Marlboro. Even though Johnson doesn’t get to Point Lookout—Gloria will, and you will visit the state park at the site of the prison. Ironically, General Johnson will command the prison at Salisbury, North Carolina, later in the war.

This is a really excellent day out doing something most Civil War buffs will never get to do. Lunch is included, dinner is on your own.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

8:15 AM: We return to the battlefield at Monocacy with Jubal Early to evaluate the fruits of a costly victory. He may have controlled the field, but with around 1,000 casualties, he finds the need to recover his forces and prepare for a movement on D.C. Instead of arriving on the 10th, he delays marching until that day and loses the initiative as the remainder of the VI Corps reinforcements flow into D.C. and out to the fortifications in front of Early’s advance. We will follow that advance past the old Walter Reed National Medical Center and the nation’s smallest national cemetery to face Fort Stevens on the capital perimeter.

With his forces straggling, some spirited skirmishing and cannon volleys were exchanged, but Early did not assault until July 12. By then, a well-entrenched Federal force easily turned him back, thus magnifying the significance of the fight at Monocacy. Even Grant praised Wallace in his memoirs, published after his presidency. We will then return with Early along his route to White’s Ford and his return to Virginia, ending back at our rallying point in Frederick.

This is one of those easily overlooked engagements—especially with Harpers Ferry, Gettysburg, South Mountain, and Antietam so close by. However, it is one of those spots where the fate of the nation turned and is well worth this examination. Hope you will come!

Lunch is included.

About the Faculty

Gloria Swift is part of an elite alumni who carried the water for the historical interpretation of Civil War sites in a career at the National Park Service. Here multiple assignments included a stint as the first historian of the new national battlefield at Monocacy, along with being the curator of the Ford’s Theater collection and the historian at Fort Pulaski in Savannah. She is an accomplished interpreter, usually in period character. She served as the BGES Membership coordinator from 2016 to 2019 and is now comfortably retired with her husband, Mark, enjoying many hobbies, including cooking, canning, and nature walks with her menagerie of pets of whom the top of the pecking order is Fred. A wonderfully gregarious presenter whom you will enjoy.

Hotel Information

Your registration fee includes 3 nights hotel starting on October 12 in Hagerstown. The headquarters hotel is the Fairfield Inn, 89 All Star Court, Hagerstown, MD 39208; (240) 420-0089. Our rate there is $119 plus 12% tax. The block rate for Blue and Gray ends on September 22, 2023.


The servicing airports are Baltimore Washington (BWI) or Washington Dulles (IAD). Both will likely command the use of a rental car. The area is bisected by I-270, I-70, and I-81. US 15 comes to the area from Virginia. Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg are serviced by Amtrak.

Recommended Reading

You will be provided with maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. These books are available online:


Registration includes three lunches, maps, commemorative T-shirt, the academic program, support of a professional historian, a tour director, and transportation. We will also provide snacks and cold bottled water.

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Jubal Early’s 1864 Raid Toward Washington

Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.