Hurrah, for Thomas Walter! A Sesqui reflection.

Posted on September 15, 2012 by


I had hoped to have this posted on the anniversary of the event, but six days later… can’t be too bad with a “live” blog post from the actual site!

So… 150 years ago, six days ago… Thomas Walter saved what is one of the most attractive features of the old C&O Canal… the Monocacy Aqueduct.

Monocacy Aqueduct during the Civil War. From an issue of Harper’s Weekly.

Once again, the Confederates had a prime opportunity to put a halt to the shipping of coal, flour, and many other things made possible by the C&O Canal, to Washington, D.C. As the historical marker at the aqueduct points out, by September 9, 1862, D.H. Hill’s men had already breached and drained the C & O at several places, “burned canal boats, and damaged the Spinks Ferry Lock (Lock 27)…” and had also “breached the Little Monocacy Culvert.”

Tasked with the biggest bust, with the Monacacy Aqueduct, Gen. John G. Walker wasn’t having much luck, finding the “extreme solidity and massiveness” difficult to breach.

What I find most interesting, however, is the determination of civilian Thomas Walter in saving the aqueduct.

Walter’s affiliation with the C&O went back to 1839. As a lockkeeper at Spinks Ferry, he had been paid $150 per year (with little perks, such as a lockhouse in which to live and the ability to farm an acre near the house).

I just got back from a quick walk from the aqueduct to his “home” at Lock 27…


When Hill’s division arrived, Walters pleaded with Gen. D.H. Hill not to destroy the aqueduct or lock, arguing that the
Confederates could more effectively disable the canal by breaching earthen banks rather than masonry structures. Witnesses reported Walter became so heated they feared his arrest.

Walters’ efforts spared the aqueduct, which is just to my right… as I write this. Well, at least the restored aqueduct…


As in December 1861 and January 1862, the impact of the Confederates on the C&O Canal was minor. The breaching of the canal did lower the water in it, and inconvenienced the folks in D.C. for a bit, as they had to wait for normal shipping to resume, but canal traffic was restored before too long.

I wonder if this stranded Cyrus Moore at some point along the canal… miles away from his pregnant wife, Catharine…

Anyway, I’m also left with another question… would the time spent by the Confederates, in damaging the canal, been better spent in other endeavors related to the campaign? We’ll never know, but… perhaps…