A daring, Federal scouting party rides into Confederate-held Berryville

Posted on November 24, 2013 by


As I promised, yesterday, there is this one Sesqui moment tied to another that came and went last month without observation. While many of the men in Col. Simpson’s 9th Maryland Infantry were captured at Charles Town, on October 18, 1863, others took extreme risks to make sure Simpson, as well as the Harpers Ferry garrison, had good intelligence. Regretfully, the risks don’t appear to have been of benefit. That’s not to say, however, that they don’t warrant being remembered, as the men involved showed some incredible courage.

The incident took place in the middle of October, coming in the wake of Maj. Henry Cole’s battalion, et al (with the 21st Pa. Cavalry and 1st New York “Lincoln” Cavalry) raid, deep into the central Shenandoah Valley, to New Market, Virginia. C. Armour Newcomer (Cole’s Cavalry; Or Three Years in the Saddle in the Shenandoah Valley) wrote:

Our scout informed us he had left the enemy’s camp several hours before, near Berryville. The rain had ceased falling, but heavy clouds still continued to hang over the Valley… Major Cole informed the men of the true condition of affairs and said it was necessary to have a detachment of the command visit Berryville, and have the men mingle with the enemy…

Yes… “mingle”.

… if any should be in the town, and if possible ascertain the strength of the Confederates reported there by our scout. We should get all information possible, at the same time to use the utmost caution not to disclose our identity. Captain Frank Gallagher was to be in charge of the squad. Major Cole informed the men it was a hazardous undertaking, he would not have any one detailed, but wanted five men from each one of the four Companies to volunteer. It is useless to say that a majority of the men int he command rode to the front; and as but twenty men were wanted it was decided to take the first five men in each Company’s file. The writer made one of the number from his Company. Our orders were to go to Charlestown, after leaving Berryville, providing we were fortunate enough to get out of town. Captain Gallagher gave to the order to “fall in” and we moved off by “twos”. It was night and very dark, but we were familiar with the road, and felt easy on that point. It would take two hours before we could reach Berryville, and the Captain would have ample time to explain to each man his plans and what to do in the event of being discovered that we were Union troops. A word was agreed upon and given to us, and an answer to the same to be used in the event we became scattered and should come across one-another. It had now become intensely dark and the frequent flashed of lightning were blinding. We had gotten to within one mile of the town and had not yet come upon the enemy’s picket post. It was decided if any one inquired to what command we belonged, we were to tell them a detachment of Gilmor’s. The edge of Berryville was now reached, many houses were lit up, and whilst we did not come upon the enemy’s pickets, we soon discovered that the town was full of Rebel soldiers, many of them no doubt visiting their friends in the town; the side-walks were lined with armed men. In front of the Union Hotel and in the building, there could not have been less than one hundred Confederates, some with their muskets on their shoulders and others with their sabres clanking by their sides; naturally, when we rode up and halted, they were not dreaming we were any but their friends, commenced talking and asking the prospects of meeting the “Yanks”. We soon learned from their conversation that we were talking to Imboden’s men, and they were moving on Charlestown, and perhaps Harper’s Ferry.  Captain Gallagher had dismounted and entered the hotel, and it was impossible to see his blue uniform as the poncho he had on covered him almost to his heels. The proprietress of the hotel was in the dining room, in the back part of the house, and when the Captain entered the room she looked up and at once recognized him, and as she remarked afterwards, she came near fainting, as she at first supposed he had been captured and his captors were bringing him in to get something to eat. The tables in the room were crowded with Confederate officers eating their supper, and the landlady, whose name I regret I have forgotten, but suffice to say, she was a loyal woman and had frequently given Cole’s men information on former occasions. She took in the situation and informed the Captain she had room for just one more if he did not object to eating in the kitchen; the Captain kindly thanked the lady and accepted her invitation, and in the far corner of the room, at a small table, she placed a plate for the Captain, and at the same time remarked she would sit down for a few minutes and rest herself, as she was most tired to death. It was a ruse of hers to have an opportunity to speak to Captain Gallagher privately. She gave him all the information he desired to know and let him out of a side door where he joined his men who had been waiting on the outside, and had become very impatient at his long absence; myself, with one of the men who had been waiting on the outside, had gone to the farther end of the town and we inquired from a Rebel soldiers who was coming up the sidewalk where the camp was located, he gruffly replied “damn the camp, but do you know where I can get a canteen full of apple jack?” I informed him I thought General Imboden might have some at headquarters. The “Johnnie” mumbled a reply and continued on up the street. Captain Gallagher had remounted his horse as I come up and the column moved slowly through the town…

No doubt… a real story of daring… yet tucked-away and playing second fiddle to the bigger stories, on bigger fields.

As I indicated yesterday, Gallagher’s column rode on to Charles Town to give warning to the 9th Maryland, but Col. Simpson, acting not so daring, but foolishly (at least my take on it… and that of Gen. B.F. Kelley), didn’t take the warning. In short, on October 18, Simpson’s command was bagged.

Descriptive card from the Gallagher's record.

Descriptive card from the Gallagher’s record.

As for Capt. Frank (aka, “Francis”) Gallagher, though I wish I could say I know his full story, I’ve learned scant little. Muster rolls indicate he was in his mid 40s, born in Donegal, Ireland, and by occupation a lawyer. One newspaper article noted that he was “of Baltimore City, who is well known through out the State as a talented and distinguished Democrat.” As the war opened and Maryland geared-up to become involved, he was among a couple of the men responsible for forming the “Union Rangers” (what would become Co. D, of Cole’s Cavalry), from Frederick, Maryland. By November, 1861, the company had enrolled the required complement for organization, and Gallagher was commissioned to 2nd lieutenant. The rank of 1st lieutenant followed just under a year later, and then, by June, 1863, he received his captaincy and command of the company. Following Gallagher’s ride into Berryville (and after informing Simpson that he needed to withdraw from Charles Town), Gallagher fractured his leg and spent a good deal of time convalescing. He was listed as absent sick for most of the balance of his term of service, and was discharged on December 2, 1864.

Advertisement for the Union Hotel, from the mid-1850s

Advertisement for the Union Hotel, from the mid-1850s

In the case of the Union Hotel and the mysterious Unionist proprietress… I think I’ve got the scoop. The hotel was built before the war, and was originally under the ownership of George Glaize (1798-1855). With his death in 1855, however, ownership fell to his wife, Lucinda (1811-1879). Nonetheless, Lucinda appears to have hired New York-born Andrew J. Harford, who had married L.A. Glaize’s daughter, Regina. With the coming of the war, Harford enlisted… and no, not in the Union army, but in the 1st Virginia Cavalry (later transferred to the 6th Virginia). Though discharged on a surgeon’s certificate, in October 1861, he was, at some point, taken by Federal soldiers and sent as a prisoner (yes, as a civilian) to Ft. McHenry… at which place he may have been in October, 1863, when Gallagher visited the hotel. So, it would seem, Lucinda A. Glaize was the proprietress that Newcomer noted. It might seem of little significance, but… yet another example (since her son-in-law… and manager of her hotel… wore gray) of nuclear family units being divided over loyalties. 

Modern view of the Union Hotel, just one week ago.

Modern view of the Union Hotel, just one week ago.