Confederate Colonel Harry Gilmor The Raider Telling How He Did Not Come Back As A Conquering Hero; Of The Sword He Never Received; Of His Capture
Colonel Harry Gilmor, who commanded a regiment of cavalry in the
Confederate service, was a Baltimorean. He was the beau ideal of its
"blue blood" ladies, or many of them; he was their hero who was to
ultimately capture the Monumental City, who was to march down Charles
Street Avenue as conquerors only return. He had earnestly tried to
produce the closing scene of his drama in July, but failed; when, to
cheer him to re
ew his efforts, they proposed to present him with a
magnificent sabre. They purchased the best to be found from Messrs.
Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, arms dealers, then in Maiden Lane, New York
(now on Broadway), paying for it one hundred and twenty-five dollars in
I was told the dainty creatures were so anxious for the safe custody of
their token of war, that they placed it under the British flag, pending
the opportunity to get it to the Colonel; that is, they left it with
Mrs. Frederick Bernal, wife of the British Consul at Baltimore. The
sympathies of many of the Britishers were decidedly with the South.
Gilmor was a born raider. He used to raid the hearts of these Blue
Belles "befo de wah," on Charles Street Avenue. His command was made up
largely of Marylanders, and Maryland was frequently the victim of his
incursions. Our desire to "possess" him was perhaps as great as that of
any of his lady admirers.
On November 1st, 1864, I intercepted the sword on its way to Harry. From
the person of the messenger I got a letter which was to make him "solid"
when he should arrive in the Confederate territory. Gilmor was
understood to have been wounded, and as being then laid up at the
Inglenby Mansion, three or four miles from Duffield Station, Virginia,
on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (the Inglenby family were descendants
of one of the original colonists).
The letter was somewhat blindly framed, it did not mention the bearer,
except to say that "he is perfectly reliable" or something to that
I proposed to General Wallace that I would be the messenger, using this
letter, and would thus locate Gilmor, so that he might be captured.
With one man, Mr. Kraft, I started for Harper's Ferry, reported to
General Stevenson, engaged one of his scouts, Corporal George R. Redman
(who at one time was of my corps) to go with me and equipped with the
below described pass, I started out on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
for Duffield Station.
Office Provost Marshal,
Military District of Harper's Ferry.
Nov. 5, 1864.
Guards and Pickets will pass bearer in and around this
Military District. Good for three days.
By order of
Brigadier General STEVENSON,
A. D. PRATT,
Capt. & Provost Marshal.
It was my custom never to have about me anything to indicate my name or
identity. And to conceal my passes, I frequently hammered them down into
a small wad in the finger of a glove. This pass shows such an
appearance. The pass did not indicate Duffield, because that destination
was a secret.
Duffield was a small way station, and any stranger alighting there,
especially in those days, would be noted. Many of the employees of the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were Confederate sympathizers (some were
quite active). To give no chance for warning, we waited until just after
the train started up, and then we dropped off, on the far side,
covering view of us until the train was again under headway.
We separated and I went ahead, across fields, until I was so far away as
to apparently have no connection with my men, who were following; we had
about three or four miles to go thus. Finally, when I reached the
Inglenby house, my boys were near enough to be in sight, yet concealed.
At the house I introduced myself and presented my letter. For the
purpose, I represented myself as a Baltimorean, of course--a "hack
driver at Barnum's Hotel," I learned that Gilmor had been there, but
only recently had gone down the valley. I told them of the sword, that
the donors wanted to learn how to reach Colonel Gilmor, accurately;
hence my trip. They treated me very nicely, prepared a good meal for me
with true Virginia hospitality; finally I departed.
When I arrived where the boys were concealed, I found them extremely
anxious to get away from that section. While they were laying there a
man had approached them, saying that he knew they were "deserters from
the Yanks"; the boys admitted it. He asked them if they wanted to go
South. They told him "yes." He told them he knew it, and after it got
dark he would take them. He told them that some of Mosby's men were just
over on the road. My boys were not really hungry to go South, but wanted
to start across the country for Harper's Ferry without delay, which we
did, arriving there late in the evening, in the custody of our own
pickets, who had captured us at Halltown.
Had I reached Gilmor I believe I might have tried to capture him, had I
found the odds favorable. He was a giant in stature. How game he was I
do not know. I will give you a reproduction of his photograph, which I
Upon my return to Baltimore I arrested the representative fair donor of
the sabre, as General Wallace has told. She resided in the ultra
fashionable neighborhood, not far from Monument Square. After I had
searched her house, she accompanied me to the sidewalk, but absolutely
refused to enter my carriage. I informed her that it would be much more
agreeable to ride than to walk, but still she refused. I then told her
that I would be gentlemanly if allowed, but I insisted that she must get
into the carriage. She finally complied.
The lady was tried before a military commission of which Lieut. Colonel
J. H. Barrett was president. She was sentenced to five years
imprisonment at Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and to pay a fine of five
A Mr. William J. Ives, who purchased the sword in New York, was also
tried. He escaped punishment on the plea that he was ignorant of the
purpose for which the sword was purchased.
One of Gilmor's officers I subsequently captured. He had come into our
lines, having one of those "remount" leaves from his command. It was not
proposed to treat him as severely as a spy, but to hold him as a
prisoner of war. I did not make him aware of this, however, but left him
under the stress of the impression that he might fear the worst, and I
proposed to him that we would permit him to return to his command
provided he would agree to make it easy for General Sheridan's scouts to
capture Harry. I knew my man and had confidence he would carry out his
part of the bargain, especially since the stake played for was, as he
supposed, his life. I let him go, and advised General Sheridan of the
arrangement. The following is the acknowledgment of my communication:
Provost Marshal's office,
Headquarters, Middle Military Division.
Winchester, Va., Jany. 25, 1865.
Dear Sir.--I have submitted your communication to General
Sheridan, and he has taken action in the case.
JOHN A. GERNOS.
The expedition connected with the following pass through the pickets at
Harper's Ferry was pertaining to Gilmor's capture:
Office Provost Marshal,
Military District of Harper's Ferry.
Jany. 27, 1865.
Guards and Pickets will pass Capt. H. B. Smith to any place
about the Ferry, Sandy Hook, or Berlin.
Good for two days.
By order of Brigadier General Stevenson.
A. D. PRATT,
Major & Provost Marshal.
On February 6th, 1865, Gilmor was captured by General Sheridan. Major
Young, Chief of his Scouts, brought him to Colonel Woolley's office, on
his way to prison in Fort Warren. Mr. W. G. Woodside, paymaster of the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a mutual (?) friend of Gilmor and myself,
came to my office and invited me to be introduced, saying that Harry
said he knew me. General Woolley's office was crowded. Gilmor was asked
by Mr. Woodside to point me out, but he could not. I had never
advertised my face very much; it better suited my purposes to be
Gilmor said to me, if he had had the sword, he would have killed many a
Yank with it. A safe enough proposition under the circumstances. Gilmor
in appearance was attractive, as a soldier, tall, fairly stout, but he
had one defective eye and was rather coarse in manners.
After the war I saw the officer of Gilmor's regiment who had been our
prisoner and who agreed to surrender Gilmor, or rather make his capture
possible. I was sorry to see that he had become dissipated. He told me
the cause was his social ostracism by the "Blue Bloods." I have never
mentioned his name, and never will. I have, I think a fair amount of
moral tone, and I cannot see that this man's act was low. He supposed
that he was obtaining the privilege to live, in exchange for the mere
incarceration of Gilmor. It was not the trading of a life for a life. I
sincerely trust the young man has not suffered a lifetime for the act.
On June 15th, 1873, I received from Gilmor the following letter:
15th June, 1873.
Lt. H. B. Smith,
My Dear Sir.--I have been trying for some time past to learn
your address, and hope I have at last succeeded, with the
assistance of Major Wiegel.
My object in writing is to know whether or not you still have
in your possession the sword which the ladies of Baltimore
intended for me, but which fell into your hands.
If you have the sword still, and would be willing to dispose
of it, will you say what you will take for it, as I would like
very much to own it, if it did not cost too much.
I have been lately elected to the Command of a Battalion of
Cavalry in this city, composed of men who were on both sides
during the "late unpleasantness," and am very anxious to make
a fine battalion of it.
If you will do me the favor to communicate with me on this
subject I will be very grateful.
Address, very truly yours,
Cor. President & Fawn Streets,
At that time everything was being done to "heal the wound" and I was
disposed to do my little part. I was disposed to present the sword to
him, first getting General Wallace's approval. But on conferring with
Union people of Baltimore, I concluded not to; they thought any
ostentatious display of the sword would help keep the wound open.