When Early was late

Monocacy National Battlefield, cannon. (Photo by CW Brown)
We've been exploring the history of the region in recent months. So, we visited a nearby Civil War site and learned more about the Battle of Monocacy, the "Battle That Saved Washington."

Some of the events of that Civil War battle inspire me.

In July 1864, Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace commanded the irregular Union forces that positioned themselves in Frederick, Md. when Lt. Gen. Jubal Early's hardened soldiers marched toward Washington, D.C. Wallace was outnumbered, but his inexperienced troops battled through the day.

Technically, the Battle of Monocacy was recorded as a Confederate victory since the Confederates eventually overran the Union forces and pushed them into a retreat to Baltimore. In a longer view, the battle helped to achieve a victory days later at Fort Stevens.

Hours mattered.

The hours that Early and his forces fought in Frederick gave General Ulysses S. Grant time to reinforce defenses around Washington, D.C. So, by the time Early's straggling and exhausted forces finally prepared for a unified assault on Fort Stevens on July 12th, Washington was prepared and successfully repelled the attack.

Although Lew Wallace's defense in Frederick couldn't keep the Confederate troops from advancing on Washington in 1864, the delay contributed to Fort Steven's success. Efforts in in the short run, even though they resulted in failure, aided a later success.

If Early had arrived at Fort Stevens a day earlier the story may have had a different ending. The fort was poorly defended by boys, elderly men and wounded from Washington hospitals, who hopped, hobbled and crawled on dirt roads to defend the capital. Late on July 11th and through the night, reinforcements arrived to defend Washington.

On the morning of July 12th, Early saw the reinforcements positioned on Fort Stevens. Although he decided to attack, the Confederate forces eventually withdrew.

If Early's forces had defeated Fort Stevens and advanced into Washington that July, the Confederate attack may have had a demoralizing affect on the nation in an election year. Abraham Lincoln had many enemies and people were weary of the war. Lincoln needed decisive wins on the battlefield that summer and fall to buttress his leadership and his campaign for reelection.

This story inspires me to think differently about failure.

Failure on a single day needn't mean a lasting failure. A battle may have been lost but not the war. Persistence matters.

Perspectives matter. A different perspective may alter unrealistic expectations. If failure fills a close-up lens, will a wider view of the situation reveal a different significance and a future hope?

What are you battling today? What can keep you fighting toward your goals -- beyond failure and past resistance?

For more information:

Battle of Monocacy
Battle of Fort Stevens

Photo Credits: Monocacy National Battle Field, cannon at Gambrill Mill, Md. Photo by C.W. Brown.


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