Court House Square
"Burning with Enthusiasm"
— Gettysburg Campaign —
Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and an estimated 5,000 cavalrymen arrived in Rockville, the Montgomery County seat, on June 28, 1863, to a boisterous reception. One soldier described “a spectacle which was truly pleasing . . . It was Sunday, and the beautiful girls [from the Female Seminary] in their fresh gaily colored dresses, low necks, bare arms, and wildernesses of braids and curls, were . . . burning with enthusiasm to welcome the Southerner, waving handkerchiefs and soliciting uniform buttons as favors.” Pro-Southern citizens like George Peter called for fair treatment of townspeople arrested by Stuart. Union supporters likewise defended their “Seccesh” neighbors when periodically arrested by Federal forces. Although divided by political loyalties, Rockvillians were united by community.
Prisoners were interned at the courthouse throughout the day. When Stuart left that evening for Brookville via the Baltimore Road, he had an estimated 400 prisoners, including Rockville residents, 150 U.S. Colored Troops with their white officers from Edwards Ferry, and blacks from surrounding farms. (Stuart usually marched prisoners a sufficient distance to prevent them from providing intelligence to the Federals, then paroled them.) He also had $40,000 in soldiers’ wages liberated from the U.S. Quartermaster’s store, 900 mules, and 125 wagons full of supplies including oats for horses and whiskey for troopers. The seemingly good fortune of abundant captured supplies soon became an impediment as slowly marching prisoners and reticent Union teamsters slowed Stuart’s advance.