The 144th and 149th Ohio at the Battle of Monocacy

Today marks the 153rd anniversary of the important Battle of Monocacy, Maryland where a scratch force of 100-days men along with two brigades from the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac under the overall command of General Lew Wallace slowed Confederate General Jubal A. Early's advance on Washington for a crucial day, allowing additional reinforcements to be brought into the capital before Early's arrival. Monocacy proved to be a tactical victory for the Confederates, but Wallace's force comported itself well and ultimately fulfilled its mission. For the three companies of the 144th Ohio and seven companies of the 149th Ohio, they earned the praise of their commander for their steadfast defense of Reich's Ridge and the Jug Bridge on the Union right flank, covering the retreat of the army and suffering heavy losses in covering that retreat.

The 144th and 149th Ohio were part of Gen. Erastus B. Tyler's First Separate Brigade, which consisted of a total of ten companies from these two regiments, a detachment of mounted men from the 159th Ohio, a few companies from the 1st and 3rd Potomac Home Brigades, the 11th Maryland Infantry, and a battery of artillery under Captain Alexander. The three companies of the 144th Ohio (Cos. B,G, and I) served under the command of Colonel Allison L. Brown of the 149th, who had seven companies (Cos. B,C,D, E, G,I, and K) of his own regiment at Monocacy.

A few days after the battle, Private William A. Butler of Co. G, 144th Ohio Infantry penned home the following letter giving a description of the Monocacy campaign:

Having written nothing for your paper since I left with the Marseilles company, I thought I would drop you a few lines about our late campaign, and a brief account of the actions just as they passed under my view. The afternoon of the 4th we received marching orders but were not ordered to leave Camp Parole until the morning of the 7th. About 2 o’clock of that morning, we received orders to be ready to take the cars in 30 minutes with 3 days rations in one haversack. Not having any provisions cooked, we filled our haversacks with hard tack and raw sowbelly and started, we knew not whither. We arrived at Annapolis Junction (I believe that is what it is called) where we changed locomotives and again started for an unknown destination. We stopped for a short time at the Relay House, where Col. Hunt and most of our regiment is stationed, and conversed with some of the members of the Carey Co. (Ed. Note: Co.D-Capt. Brayton), but their names I did not learn.

As soon as the train for which we were waiting had passed, we again started and in a few hours were landed at the Monocacy Junction, the most important station on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. Here was our destination, to assist in protecting the Iron Bridge across the Monocacy River at the Junction.

Our command consisted of three companies of the 144th and three companies of the 149th O.N.G, all under the command of Major Rozelle of the 149th. We were marched to the north of the Junction and ordered to pitch our tents. But scarcely had this been done when the order was countermanded, and we were ordered into line and each man received 100 rounds of cartridges. This bespoke something. We were then ordered to load our pieces, and then await further orders. We remained in this position under a sweating sun for about one hour, during which time horsemen and cannon were se4en hurrying in every direction, when we were ordered to rest at will. We were not long in seeking shade, and thus took our ease until about 4 o’clock when our Co. (Co.G from Marseilles) was ordered to report at headquarters. Capt. Frank reported with his company with his usual promptness and we were sent out ¾ of a mile in the direction of Frederick City, and stationed on picket duty. Soon the booming of the cannon was heard in the direction of Frederick, and for the first time we began to realize the presence of an enemy. The firing continued for about ½ an hour when the roar of musketry was plainly heard to mingle with that of artillery. There was very little intermission in the firing from this until dark, when all became calm and what a short time before that might have been considered a battlefield, now seemed enfolded in the arms of morpheus. The gathering storm seemed to have passed and all around was as calm as a summer morning. But the calm was of short duration, ere the night had half passed away the heavy trundling of artillery wagons was heard reverberating along the hills and the awful sound resembling the far distant roar of a terrible storm as it first burst on the ear of the listener. This noise remained a mystery to us until the next morning, when we ascertained it was the trampling of some 2,000 of our cavalry, passing forward to engage in the hand to hand conflict of the coming day.

Brigadier Erastus B. Tyler commanded First Separate
Brigade of the VIII Corps at the Battle of Monocacy.
Tyler had served as Colonel of the 7th Ohio Volunteer
Infantry, leading the regiment at Kernstown
and earning laurels for his leadership at Port Republic.
Commissioned a general in 1862, Tyler led brigades at
Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville before being assigned
to duty in the Middle Dept. Tyler narrowly avoided capture
at Monocacy and arrived in Baltimore several days later,
his health in tatters. (Library of Congress)
  About 8 a.m. of the 8th, we were ordered off picket duty and again reported at headquarters, we were ordered to stack arms and six of our men were detailed to guard some rebel prisoners just brought in. In the meantime, our detachment had been ordered to Frederick and in a short time our Co. was ordered there also. We were put on the cars with the 11 Md. home guards (100 days men) and run to Frederick where we were marched to the field. Here we found our detachment, which had been joined up by the remainder of the 149th, drawn up in line of battle. Our Co. was ordered to the right of the regiment and formed in line of battle. We were then ordered to cap our pieces and await further orders.

The roar of cannon was distinctly heard on the other side of the mountain, and we were assured by this that the deadly conflict was not far distant. Everything seemed to be uproar and bustle; artillerymen were urging their horses to the utmost speed, the sounding of bugles was heard in the distance, and horsemen were seen running in every direction. Soon we were ordered to left face, we marched a short distance, then we were marched from the field, while a portion of the 6th Corps took our places. We marched about ½ mile where we found another line of battle formed. We were formed on the left of this, in a hollow, but scarcely was this done when we were ordered off the field to guard the Baltimore Bridge. We arrived at the Bridge just before sundown exhausted by the fatigue of the day, some sick, some given out, and others lagging behind. Sergeant Worley (Ed note: 55-year old Sgt. Cornelius V.D. Worley) of Little Sandusky, Sgt. Brazer (Ed note: 2nd Sgt.Marshall Cozier most likely) of Marseilles, and myself were about gone up we encamped in a pasture field close to the bridge, but scarcely had we got our suppers eaten, when the regiment was again ordered to move. Our officers consulted, and concluded to rest awhile anyhow, and if no further orders came, to stay there all night. We were glad to snatch a minutes rest anywhere, threw ourselves upon the ground, but ere an hour passed away, the detachment from the 144th consisting of Co.B, Capt. Black, of Wood County, Co.I, Capt. McKee, also of Wood, and our company was ordered to march without a moment’s delay to the Junction, a distance of about 2 ½ miles. The 11th Md. was ordered to accompany the detachment. Sergt’s Worley, Brazer, and myself, as we were not able to go (at least we thought so) were joined by three or four others who had given out.
Colonel Allison L. Brown, 149th Ohio Infantry
"Colonel Ally" was well respected by his men and had served
previously in the 73rd Ohio in this same theater. Charged with
holding the crucial line of retreat, Brown's men held against
the pressure of two Confederate brigades long enough for
the two VI Corps brigades to retreat safely. "I stood until I was
flanked on both sides of the river," he wrote. "Then my men broke
and run. I endeavored to keep them in as good order as possible
but the Rebs pressed too hard."
About 2 o’clock A.M. an order came for the 149th to immediately march to the bridge and hold it all hazards; and I was told to take the men left with me to the Junction, where we were put on the wrong road, we did not find out until we arrived at the river. Here we lay down in the rain (for it had commenced raining) and slept soundly until morning. We awoke about daylight and shortly picket firing commenced all around us, but at some distance. We started for the Junction, where we found our company all right. The picket firing soon ceased, and we supposed it was nothing of any importance.

Our detachment was soon ordered to headquarters, where we stacked arms but scarcely was this done when Gen. Tyler arrived with the Adjutant of the 149th, and our detachment was ordered to the support of that regiment as it had already become engaged with the “Johneys.” We started on our back track for the bridge again, but had not gone over ½ mile when we were ordered to leave all encumbrances and double quick to the battlefield. Corporal Clark, J.O. Neal, and myself were left to guard our baggage. This was the last I saw of our Co., or detachment. But I was told by Surgeon Burcison since I came to this place (Frederick City), they arrived on the field just as the 11th Md. and 149th were charging the Rebs and went immediately under fire. They never flinched but went at it like old veterans. They drove the Rebs from their position and held their ground against superior numbers until after the defeat of Wallace, when the Rebs were reinforced, and turning our flank, we were obliged to give way. I saw the retreat for I was driven from my post with the rest, and arrived at the bridge just in time to see our men flying from the host of demons swarming all around them. I will not pretend, at present, to give you even a faint idea of the terrible sight which was presented to the beholder. When I commenced writing, I thought I should, but I cannot. Suffice it to say we were defeated, but not until five times our number were brought against us. We met with some loss, and those to whom we deeply regret. Corporal David Lindsey was shot through the bowels during the charge and died the next day. He was buried near the battlefield. Orderly (Sgt.) Aaron Kennedy received a flesh wound through the left arm, Private Edward H. Rubins was shot through the right arm. His arm was amputated just above the elbow, he is doing well, so is Kennedy. Reuben Willard (Bugler) and Privates John Emmon, J. Crisher (Krisher), and Wm. B. Fisher were known to be taken prisoners. Lieut. H. Kennedy, John McGahey, and myself are all of the company who are not wounded and have arrived here. Where the company is, we cannot tell, but think it has probably gone into Penn., or to Baltimore, but we hope to get together as soon as communication is established.
The Jug Bridge over the Monocacy, named for the large demijohn in the right foreground. The bridge carried the National Road over the Monocacy and was built in 1808. This view from the 1920s after the bridge was paved shows the Toll House at center, with the Reich House nearer the crest of the ridge. The 149th Ohio held this section throughout the morning of July 9th until a Confederate effort to turn the Union left promoted Brown to counterattack with Co. B of the 149th, then with three companies of the 144th. This second charge halted the Confederate attack and restored Brown's line.
Corporal Jonathan Walters, Co. I, 144th Ohio Infantry
Walters was severely wounded in the left leg
when the three companies of the 144th charged against
Cook's Georgians on Reich's Ridge. He was sent to a
general hospital in Frederick where he died from the effects
of his wound July 19, 1864. He is buried at Antietam
Cemetery. (Robert Van Dorn Collection)

Colonel Allison L. Brown wrote the following report of the fight at Jug Bridge:
At daylight on the 9th I caused my skirmish line to be deployed on the crest of the ridge on the Frederick side of the river, and made every preparation in my power to hold the position as ordered. The enemy made his appearance at 6 a.m. and threw out his skirmishers, who soon became engaged with my men. About 10 a. m. I discovered from a point overlooking the field the rebel cavalry making disposition to turn my right and cross the river at the ford before alluded to. I sent company E, Captain Jenkins, to re-enforce Captain McGinnis, who held the ford; also a company of mounted infantry, commanded by Captain Leib, U. S. Army. The enemy were handsomely repulsed in the attempt to cross the river at the upper ford, and withdrew his forces, leaving only a light skirmish line. I now discovered that an effort was being made to attack my left in force. I sent immediately for re-enforcements. Companies B, I, and G, One hundred and forty-fourth Ohio National Guard, were sent to my relief. I had sent five men of the mounted infantry force to my left, to watch the movements of the enemy and report immediately should he make any demonstration in that quarter. These men I heard nothing of until some hours afterward, having been fired on and retreated, leaving me without information as to the effort that was making against my left. As it was extremely uncertain at what particular point he would make the demonstration, I was compelled to keep three companies in reserve at the bridge in order to be prepared to meet him at any point he might choose.
Action at the Jug Bridge along the Baltimore Pike at Monocacy in the late morning of July 9, 1864. The three companies of the 144th Ohio were pulled from reserve about a mile south at Crum's Ford and sent to reinforce Brown's regiment. A counterattack from Co. B of the 149th Ohio failed to stem the advance of the 4th Georgia; the three companies of the 144th charged uphill and drove the 4th Georgia back across the ridge. The rest of the afternoon was spent skirmishing. (Author's Map)

About 11.30 a. m. the attack came; a heavy force of infantry had been deployed on the extension of my line of skirmishers and marched by the flank to within range of my extreme left. All this had been done under cover of the ground, which at that point was very favorable to the enemy for that purpose. The superiority of his numbers enabled him to push back my left and take position so as to enfilade my line. In order to dislodge the enemy from this position and restore my line it was necessary to have recourse to the bayonet, which in this instance proved very effective. I ordered Company B, One hundred and forty-ninth, to charge the enemy's position, which it did, but was repulsed. I then took Companies B, I, and G, One hundred and forty-fourth, re-enforced, drove the rebels from their position and re-established my lines.
Reich's Ridge adjacent to the Jug Bridge (Author's Photo)
During this charge my loss was quite severe, owing to the fact that the enemy was posted behind the fence, while my men were compelled to charge across an open field, up the hill in fair view, and within short range of his guns. We took 2 prisoners, and the enemy left 2 dead on the field. I now extended my line so as to command this position, which I held throughout the day, until my force was withdrawn. Between 4 and 5 p. m. I received an order from Major-General Wallace to hold the bridge over the Monocacy at that point to the last extremity, and when I was pressed to hard that nothing more could be done, to command my men to disperse and to take care of themselves. At this time the firing had ceased at the Monocacy Junction, and being satisfied that the enemy would make a desperate effort to obtain possession of the bridge, and thus cut off my retreat as well a gain the rear of the army, I made such disposition of the forces under my command as I thought would enable me to hold out as long as possible. I contracted my skirmish line, thus strengthening me center, and covered all the commanding points I could with my forces. I ordered the officer in command of the cavalry to take such position with his men as would protect my left flank on the east side of the river and prevent the enemy from getting possession of my rear.
Captain Luther Black, Co. B, 144th Ohio Infantry.
Black led his company in their charge up Reich's Ridge but
was later captured during the Berryville Wagon Raid. After
being exchanged, he recruited Co. K, 185th Ohio, having served
in a total of three regiments (21st, 144th, and 185th) by the
end of the war. (Author's Collection)
Immediately after this, and about 6 p. m., a heavy attack was made along my entire front, and at the same time my left flank was turned. I now discovered that the enemy had gained a position in the woods, on the east side of the river in my rear, and was preparing to take possession of the brigade, thus cutting off my retreat entirely. My command in front was withdrawn in confusion, owing to the extent of my lines and the knowledge that the enemy had gained possession of the woods in the rear and was attempting to cut off retreat. I attempted to rally my men, who were well deposed to obey orders under the circumstances, when the enemy brought his artillery to bear on the bridge and threw several shells, one of which struck it while my men were crossing it I rallied a portion of the men in the orchard overlooking the bridge, and fired several rounds at the enemy, who were pressing from the west side, and also those in the woods and wheat-field south of my position. This checked the pursuit, and enabled the main part of the command to gain the road on the hill. The enemy now opened fire on my flank from his skirmishers on the east side of the river, which added to the confusion. This fire was returned by a portion of the men stationed in the orchard, and the enemy's progress was checked. The men now learned from citizens that the main body of the army had moved out some two hours  before, and this, with the increasing fire of the enemy on my flank, produced considerable confusion, during which the men broke and threw away their guns and accouterments and attempted to save themselves. This information received and that they were surrounded and would be made prisoners, caused them to break their guns to prevent them falling into the enemy's hands. I succeeded, however, in bringing off about 300 of my command, with which I joined the main body at New Market about 8 p. m.
I feel justly proud of the manner in which the men conducted themselves during this first engagement, holding, as they did, an extended skirmish line for twelve hours in the face of vastly superior numbers of experienced troops. They exhibited a coolness and determination which gives promise of great usefulness in the service of the country.
The retreat from Reich's Ridge turned into a rout when Confederate flanked Brown's line south of the Baltimore Pike and effected a crossing of the Monocacy at Hughes' Ford north of the bridge. Confederate cavalry pursued the retreating Federals and "gobbled" scores of prisoners. A private in the 144th Ohio remembered that the Confederate infantry clashed with the despised 'Buttermilk Rangers' over possession of the captured Federals. "The cavalry who captured us met the infantry who demanded of them that they turn over the prisoners to them because they had done all the fighting and were entitled to take charge of the prisoner," Private William Browning wrote. "A fierce quarrel arose, they drew guns on each, and a fight was about to take place when a cavalry officer rode up, ordered the infantry march on, and the cavalry to take us to the rear." The Confederates marched them a short distance, then searched them for valuables, and turned over the prisoners to the infantry within Frederick itself. "But they did not get rich for we did not have much for them to get." (Author's Map)
General Tyler was also caught up in this retreat, as he related a few days later to a reporter from the Baltimore Telegram. "On Saturday (July 9) after the troops had passed the Monocacy bridge, Gen. Tyler and his staff made a stand on the hill on the east side of the bridge, but were not here long before they discovered themselves to be surrounded by Rebels. The general and his party succeeded in making their escape on the north side closely pursued by the enemy, who fired upon them rapidly, killing one of the general’s orderlies, a German whose name we could not ascertain. So the fact the General attributes to his escape, as when the soldier fell from his saddle in the road, the pursuers stopped to see who it was and to investigate if General Tyler was not of the party. During this time, the general reached a clump of woods and there the officers secreted themselves from their pursuers."
 "Another who was endeavoring to make his escape from the rebel lines pointed out the way to the house of a well known and patriotic citizen of Frederick County, whose family were unremitting in their attentions to the fugitives, concealing them until Tuesday, when they took their departure for Frederick, which was reached only in the morning. The general left Frederick yesterday, at which time our forces had held undisputed possession since Sunday. He came down the Frederick road as far as Ceresville and from there to the Relay House, where the headquarters of Tyler’s Brigade are situated. Gen. Tyler speaks in the highest terms of the bravery and endurance of our forces generally in the battle of Monocacy. One general officer was killed, the Rebels said, and many officers. The punishment the enemy received was very great.”

Reich's Ridge in the distance; the three companies of the 144th Ohio held the ridge on the left side of the road, the 149th Ohio held the center and right of the road. This image from the turn of the century closely resembles how this area looked at the time of the battle (excepting the telephone poles). The open ground did not provide much cover for the defenders.
 For further reading, I suggest purchasing a copy of my regimental history of the 144th Ohio entitled "No Greater Glory: The 144th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War" which is available here:

Joseph V. Collins' book "Battle for Jug Bridge" explores this sector of the field in depth and is available through Amazon at:


  1. Thanks for an interesting article on the Battle of Monocacy. I had several family members (three briothers of my great, great grandmother) who were in the 138th PA VOL INF at Monocacy. Two of them were wounded. I plan to visit there this week .


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