Germantown Then & Now: A Lone Gravestone at St. Rose of Lima
Germantown didn’t see any major battles during the Civil War, but many troops moved through here. Though they didn’t stay for long, their presence was remembered.
This article was written ... By Susan Soderberg.
Imagine 20,000 soldiers marching north on Rt. 355, with 2,000 mounted cavalry racing up the road toward Clarksburg. Picture 5,000 men camped along Brink Road between Seneca Creek and Goshen Road with cannons placed on the high ground above the creek. This is just what you would have seen if you had been in Germantown from Sept. 6 through Sept. 10, 1862.
Germantown may not have experienced any major battles, but a whole lot of troops moved through here during the American Civil War, filling the roads and mucking up the streams. They didn’t stay for long, but they were not soon forgotten.
The Confederate army had crossed the Potomac River into Maryland from Sept. 4 through 6, 1862, at White's Ford, a few miles below the Monocacy River, and had moved on to Frederick with cavalry fanning out to camp as close as Hyattstown. The invasion would be stopped at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, but Gen. George McClellan, in command of the Union Army of the Potomac, did not know that at the time. Fearing the invading rebel army was intent on attacking the nation’s capitol, he immediately sent troops north to defend the major roads and bridges that the enemy might use.
The main north-south road in Montgomery County at that time was Frederick Road (Rt. 355), and the main east-west road was the Baltimore Road, now West Old Baltimore Road and Brink Road. Major bridge crossings were over Seneca Creek at Frederick Road and at the Baltimore Road (now Brink Road). On Sept. 6, the 1stU.S. Cavalry was sent to defend these bridges, going on to Clarksburg on Sept. 8 when the IX Corps under Gen. Ambrose Burnside reached Seneca Bridge from Brookeville and camped between the bridge and Goshen until Sept. 10, when they went on to Damascus. Meanwhile, the II Corps under Gen. Edwin Sumner and the XII Corps under Gen. Alpheus Williams --- each corps numbering about 10,000 men --- marched up Rt. 355 from Rockville and camped at Middlebrook on Sept. 9 before moving north.
When they were gone, local residents picked up the trash and got on with their lives, thanking God that the Confederate army had not come south to attack Washington, and that a battle had not been fought here.
A year and a half later, however, the Confederate army did march south down Rt. 355 intent on attacking Washington. Not as strong as before, and with only about 14,000 troops instead of 35,000, they still posed an enormous threat to the undefended capital, and still managed to create havoc among the local citizenry.
After getting a $200,000 ransom from the City of Frederick, sending the main body of cavalry off toward Baltimore to destroy railroad bridges and telegraph lines, and fighting a battle at the Monocacy River on July 9, 1864, Gen.Jubal Early led his army down Rt. 355 toward Washington. They would camp at Rockville on July 10, menace the capital at Fort Stevens on July 11 and 12, and retreat across White’s Ford on July 14.
A lone gravestone sits in front of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Clopper Road like a sentinel, a reminder of this final invasion. Pvt. William Scott of Company D, 14th Virginia Cavalry, was riding with his unit in front of the advancing Confederate army when they skirmished with a retreating federal cavalry unit. Scott was wounded and he made his way to the nearest farmhouse, which was owned by Francis C. Clopper (where the visitor center for Seneca Creek State Park is now). The Clopper daughters, being kind of heart, nursed the injured soldier, sending for a doctor from the Confederate army passing by, but nothing could be done to save him.
As he lay dying they sent for a priest and the young man converted to the Catholic faith. They did not want it to be known that they had helped an enemy. Many of their friends and neighbors had been arrested for such acts. So they buried him under the hedge in front of the church in the middle of the night, making sure that he rested in hallowed ground, undisturbed. Many years later a stone was erected to mark the grave.