A rare instance of Civil War urban combat raged in Hagerstown, as blue and gray troopers fought in the streets and cannon balls flew over the town square.
The first and second battles of Hagerstown were fought on July 6 and July 12, 1863 between Union cavalry commanded by Brig. Gens. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and George A. Custer and Confederate cavalry commanded by Col. John Chambliss and Brig. Gen. Beverly Robertson in Hagerstown, Maryland during the American Civil War. The first engagement was a Confederate victory, but Union forces ultimately prevailed in the second as the Army of Northern Virginia continued its retreat south following the Battle of Gettysburg.
After three bloody days of fighting around Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee retreated southwest toward the Potomac River and Virginia. The main army slowly settled into defensive works around Williamsport, Maryland, while a rearguard was stationed in Hagerstown and nearby Funkstown. Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was tasked with keeping the Union army at bay while Confederate forces found passage across the swollen river.
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