July 6, 1864: Ransom of Hagerstown, Maryland

Brigadier General John McCausland, Jr.

On July 5, 1864, Early’s Corps marched into Maryland in an attempt to take the pressure off Lee.  As part of this invasion Early sent Brigadier General John McCausland, Jr. to occupy Hagerstown, Maryland and demand a ransom from the town of $200,000.00 in recompense for the destruction wreaked in the Valley by Union General Hunter.  McCausland took the town without fighting early in the morning of July 6.

For some unknown reason McCausland demanded only $20,000.00 and 1500 suits of clothes for the ragged Confederates.  The dismayed citizens of Hagerstown raised the sum from three local banks and the clothes were provided.  McCausland and his men rode off at 1:00 AM on July 7.

Hagerstown got off lightly.  Frederick, Maryland during this campaign paid a ransom of $200,000.00.  The city of Frederick would be paying off this debt to local banks for almost a century, with the last payment made in 1951.

The threats to the cities were not idle bluffs, as Chambersburg, Pennsylvania would fight out on July 30, 1864 when the city failed to raise a half million ransom and the city was put to the torch by General McCausland with 1.2 million dollars of damage resulting.  Go here to read all about it.  The War was getting very harsh indeed by the summer of 1864.

After the War McCausland spent two years in Europe and Mexico before returning to the US.  He faced arson charges in Chambersburg, but President Grant pardoned him.  He would live until 1927, the last Confederate general to die.

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  1. He was fortunate to get off with a pardon. I’m sure Frederick and Chambersburg wanted revenge.

  2. Don’t forget that half of Maryland’s sons were off fighting in the CSA. Not as heavily from the Frederick/Hagerstown area which was (still is) somewhat Pennsylvania influenced. After the war, influential officers returned home to Baltimore, and I suspect Frederick.

  3. From Frederick west, I suspect support for the CSA in Maryland was weak at best. I worked in DC for six years. West of Frederick, it seems like a different world from the rest of Maryland. The weather isn’t as hot, it’s more mountainous and towns such as Cumberland and Frostburg are closer to Pittsburgh than DC or Baltimore.

  4. PF, Maryland was known as “America in miniature”, (before our recent decent into “USSR in miniature”). Historian Daniel Carroll Toomey used to say “bet your house on it”.
    Western MD is mountainous and much like PA. Central MD was a bit urban; leader in railroading. The eastern shore was heavily Confederate but with some development. Southern MD, (strongly Catholic), was basically Louisiana. (Also strongly Catholic, of course). Probably not a bluecoat to be found in all of Charles or St. Mary’s counties. Not much RR; totally rural.

    In 1861, when the Lincoln administration arrested the MD legislature, they did it from Frederick. They had met there because it was unlikely the state would remain in the Union if they stayed in Annapolis.

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