CECIL COUNTY — Much has been written of the Civil War about the greatest battles that come readily to mind, especially considering the close proximity of Cecil County to such well-interpreted historic sites as Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; Antietam Battlefield at Sharpsburg, and, of course, Gettysburg, Pa.
While most such articles focus on the leaders from Cecil Countians and their participation in these various battles, there are other lesser known details about the role Cecil County and its many native sons took during the “War Between the States.”
For example, some 1,500 Cecil County men took up arms for the Union cause in both Army and Navy units, mostly in eastern army operations and south Atlantic coastal activities. Cecil County was able to raise units composed almost entirely of local men including: Companies A and I of the 5th Maryland Regiment; Company A of the 8th Maryland Regiment; Companies E and H of the Purnell Legion; and Company B of the 1st Maryland Light Artillery, known as Snow’s Battery.
Other Cecil men served in Pennsylvania and Delaware regiments with great distinction, including Company C of the 2nd Delaware Regiment, which was raised entirely in Cecil County.
The 6th Maryland, which was called by one Civil War historian, “one of the 300 Fighting Regiments of the Civil War,” contained three companies composed almost entirely of Cecil’s sons, Companies B, E and G. The 6th Maryland earned the distinction of being one of the 300 Fighting Regiments in blood — by sustaining more than 300 casualties during the conflict.
Cecil County also sent respected leaders to answer the call to arms. Brig. Gen. Andrew Wallace Evans, and Cols. George R. Howard and Joseph C. Hill, were the first and last commanders of the 6th Maryland Regiment. Col. I.D. Davis, Lt. Col. E.F.M. Faehtz, Capts. Alonzo Snow, Samuel Ford, Jacob R. Lowery, John G. Simpers and Christopher L. Wingate, as well as Maj. Benjamin Ricketts and Lts. Theodore J. Vanneman, L.A.C. Gerry, Samuel Kidd and Leonard Parker all called Cecil County home.
One learns a great deal about Civil War medicine, including having more than a few myths utterly destroyed, upon visiting Frederick’s National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Amidst the exhibits, one can find tantalizing details on Maryland doctors, including some from Cecil County. A total of 12 surgeons from Cecil County served in the Union Army, with the most prominent being Charles M. Ellis, John H. Jamar, Thomas J. Dunott, William C. Karsner, John E. Owens, and Charles T. Sempers. Indeed, Sempers and Lt. William J. Grant, both of whom served the 6th Maryland Regiment, kept interesting and well-written diaries of their service during the war.
Records are scarce on Cecil Countians who donned the butternut and gray for the Confederacy, but most historians place the number at about 25, with some historians avowing it was “no more than 25,” and others staying “25 or more.” Capt. John B. Rowan was among the men in gray, as was Lt. William T. Patten, William H. May, John Gilpin and George S. Woolley. Elkton’s William Whann Mackall, a West Point graduate, attained the rank of brigadier general when he served in the Army of the Tennessee for the Confederate States of America.