A Snapshot of Smithsburg History

Smithsburg played a small but important role during the Civil War, having the distinction of involving three prominent cavalry leaders: General Judson Kilpatrick, General George Armstrong Custer, and General Jeb Stuart.

After the 3-day Battle of Gettysburg on 1-3 July 1863, General Robert E. Lee began his retreat back to Virginia on the night of July 4. Close on his trail, Kilpatrick and Custer arrived in Smithsburg around mid-day on the 5th. The town, still enjoying the previous day's 4th of July community festivities, invited the Union generals to a sumptuous meal (probably hastily gathered up picnic leftovers). First carefully placing three US artillery batteries, one each on present-day school ridge, Gardenour Hill on Water Street, and on Goat Hill ( Federal Hill today), to protect the town from surprise attack by the Confederates, the officers then sat down to enjoy their afternoon lunch.

Unsuspected by them, Jeb Stuart, screening Lee's retreating army, approached Smithsburg from Raven Rock Road and sat up hisbattery on Nicodemus Hill in what is now Edgemont Orchard owned by the Jacques family. A terrific artillery duel ensued, with several Rebel shells and cannonballs striking many town homes and businesses.

Realizing he was outgunned, Jeb Stuart sought to reposition his cannons. Thinking the Confederates were in the process of withdrawing, Kilpatrick broke off the engagement and moved on to Boonsboro, missing the opportunity to turn right at Cavetown and drive into Hagerstown, thus cutting into and wreaking havoc among the retreating Confederate forces. Soon after, Jeb Stuart and his troops rode through the streets of Smithsburg, turned right at Cavetown, passed through Chewsville, and reached the outskirts of Hagerstown, thereby effectively shielding Lee's army as it continued on to Williamsport and the Potomac. The Battle of Smithsburg was over.

The town of Smithsburg, Maryland is located in northeastern Washington County. Platted in 1814, the community's development was directly influenced by factors such as migration paths, the arrival of the railroad, and advances in agricultural technology. By 1923, much of the existing village had been erected. Aside from road improvements and the recent construction of suburban-type housing, Smithsburg retains its mid-19th- to early 20th-century architectural character. It is an excellent example of a community relatively untouched by modern, 20th-century architectural trends. Because Washington County has a rich collection of similar communities that appear much as they had at the turn of the century, Smithsburg's significance is important not only unto itself, but as an important contributing member to the greater architectural and cultural character of small towns in Washington County.

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