Maryland Monument
Maryland Monument at Antietam
Photo By John Lamb

The Second Maryland Infantry 1861-1865

A Short History By John Lamb

The Second Maryland Infantry was raised at Baltimore, Maryland from May to October, 1861. Its organization was completed and the unit was mustered in in early October. Colonel John Sommer, a Mexican War veteran was appointed as its first commander.

Training for the men took place at Camp Carroll on the grounds surrounding Mt. Clare mansion (then just outside Baltimore City). The unit guarded various points around the city until spring 1862 when they joined Ambrose Burnside's forces in occupying New Berne, North Carolina. During their stay in New Berne they served guard duty in and around New Berne, and were involved in a skirmish at Pollocksville, N.C. While at New Berne their commanding officer John Sommer resigned, and the governer of Maryland appointed in his place Thomas Allard, over Jacob Eugene Duryee who was more qualified and had the respect of the men.

July, 1862 found the unit and others from Burnside's forces being sent to aid McClellan on the Virginia Peninsula. The Second arrived on the field in Virginia just after the battle of Cedar Mountain.

Just prior to Second Manassas the unit played a part in a series of events surrounding Clark's Mountain, Va. that helped saved John Pope's army from destruction by Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. A spy reported the Confederate's intentions to the Union command on August 18, 1862. The Second Maryland raided a Confederate signal station on Clark's Mountain that morning and discovered the presence of the Confederate army, and several cavalry units captured an order from one of J.E.B. Stuart's staff. The report of the spy arrived at Pope's headquarters followed by that of the Second Maryland. Pope was alerted to his danger and allowing him to pull back in time to avoid destruction by General Lee on the 20th.

The unit suffered its first major casualties at Second Manassas when it, as part of Nagle's Brigade attacked the sunken railroad cut manned by Stonewall Jackson's forces. The unit had reached the cut and was about to move over when Confederate forces turned the left flank of the line of the 48th Pennsylvania, 6th New Hampshire, and 2nd Maryland. After fighting their way through the flanking force the unit was able to return to its inital position.

In the wake of Second Manassas the unit retreated with the rest of the Army of the Potomac to Washington. The Second Maryland camped at Fort Stevens (near present day Silver Springs) before joining in the march to Frederick and South Mountain. During the battle of South Mountain they guarded the flank of Union forces, and so saw no action in that battle. It would not be the same story at Antietam, however.

At Antietam the Second Maryland, along with the 6th New Hampshire made several assaults on Burnside's Bridge. They made an assault along Antietam Creek, and then fell back to the heights directly opposite the bridge, continuing to fire, and then followed in the wake of the rest of their division when it broke through later in the day.

Just after Antietam, the unit's official commander, Thomas Allard who had been appointed months before finally arrived to join the unit. Lt. Colonel Duryee, who had led the men through Second Manassas, and Antietam resigned in disgust at the way he, and the regiment had been treated. At this point the unit was reduced from about 900 to 150 or less fit for duty.

From Antietam the Second moved into Virginia and marched over the countryside for several months before arriving at Fredericksburg. During the battle of Fredericksburg the unit was held in reserve during the early part of the battle, but then was sent in to attack the stone wall. After falling into two railroad cuts, they made an attempt on the wall, but after realizing that they were not accomplishing much, laid down on the ground and continued firing until releived after dark.

Following Fredericksburg the unit was sent to Frankfort, Kentucky for garrisson duty, and to give them a chance to rebuild their tattered ranks. The Second Maryland and several other Union units were left behind in Kentucky to help secure the state, while the Ninth Army Corps went south to aid in the reduction of Vicksburg, Mississippi. While in Kentucky the unit chased Confederate mail carriers and recruiters in Frankfort and several surrounding counties, and served as part of the honor guard at the funeral of "The Great Compromiser" John Crittenden.

After Vicksburg was taken, a campaign to come to the aid of Unionists in East Tennessee, which had been postponed to deal with Vicksburg, was begun. The Second Maryland left Frankfort and marched over the mountains to Knoxville (200 miles of mountainous terrain). During the East Tennessee Campaign they fought in several actions around the region: Blue Springs, Campbell's Station, and the Siege of Knoxville. During the siege, many men from the Second Maryland were captured from picket lines and sent to Andersonville, where a number of them would perish. After the siege was lifted the unit was furloughed, and those who had not reenlisted were attached to the Ninth New Hampshire and fought at Cold Harbor, Spottsylvania, and North Anna before rejoining their comrades who were returning from furlough.

Upon rejoining the army at the front in Virginia, the unit participated in the assault on Petersburg, during which they pushed the Union line forward to the place from which the famous mine would later be dug. They participated in siege operations from the summer of 1864 to April, 1865. At the battle of the Crater in July,1864 their commander, Henry Howard, Jr. (who had taken over when Allard resigned) was killed. A member of the unit Thomas Matthew's (a.k.a. Henry Sivel) was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in action in that battle where he jumped into Confederate works, killing one and taking several prisoners. The unit also participated in the battle of Weldon railroad, the infamous Raid to Hicksford- "The Applejack Raid" as well as numerous skirmishes, and other actions.

Benjamin F. Taylor, who was recovering at Baltimore from a wound would command the unit from Fall 1864 to the end of the war. He would lead the unit in the final asssault on Petersburg, earning himself a brevett to Colonel. Following the final assault the regiment conducted 7000-8000 Confederate prisoners to the rear including Custis Lee and Robert Ewell. They then travelled to Alexandria, where they camped. While there they marched to Washington to participate in the Grand Review. When they were mustered out in July, 1865 they left behind 226 total casualties, including those killed in action, as well as deaths by disease, the second highest casualties of any Maryland Union unit.

Battles of the Second Maryland

Pollocksville

Second Manassas

South Mountain Antietam
Fredericksburg Blue Springs Campbells Station Knoxville
The Wilderness Spottsylvania Tolopotomy (Detachment) Cold Harbor (Detachment)
Assault on Petersburg The Crater Poplar Springs Church Hatcher's Run
Weldon Railroad Ft. Stedman Assault on Petersburg Numerous Skirmishes




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