Many students of the Gettysburg campaign mark the close of fighting with the Confederate withdrawal from Cemetery Ridge following Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. However, that high water mark was soon followed by the high waters of the Potomac and an opportunity to trap Lee’s army and allow General George Meade’s victorious troops to finish the job. On April 1st fifteen resolute members of the round table traveled to western Maryland to join George Franks on a journey to discover the real end to the Gettysburg campaign on the banks of the Potomac River. The first stop of the tour took us to Williamsport, along the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Here George related the pursuit by Union forces and the rebel preparations for defense. Meade decided to consult his corps commanders before pushing forward and this slight delay allowed Ewell’s 2nd Corps to ford the Potomac at its confluence with the Conococheague Creek.
Not far from Williamsport we joined Bob Harsh, a local farmer and preservationist, who gave us a tour of his recently acquired property. He discussed the history of the area and plans to protect some of the surrounding countryside. The highlight was the presence of remnants of rifle pits and entrenchments. We then proceeded to the home of George Franks, built in 1830 and situated on a hill that witnessed the largest rearguard action of Lee’s retreat. Our small company braved the chill winds as George described the cavalry charge of 100 troopers from the 6th Michigan against a line of surprised Confederates from A.P. Hill’s 3rd Corps. Here, literally in George’s backyard, we heard the story surrounding the mortal wounding of Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew and the fate of his Union assailant, who was killed by a rebel using a boulder as his weapon of choice. The final leg of the tour took us, after a healthy hike, to the banks of the Potomac at Falling Waters. The last of the rebel forces escaped on a pontoon bridge and the Gettysburg campaign concluded just as it began, with John Buford’s Union cavalry facing off against Heth’s Confederates. At this point we expressed our gratitude to George Franks for an outstanding tour and decided to make another donation to his foundation to encourage future excursions. The tour was a great success and we all agreed to plan another day trip next spring.
Thanks to those who contributed the pictures shown below.