The following are excerpts from a family letter dated January 12, 1928 recounting a story shared by my great-grandmother Mary Rogers Thomas Summers.
My (great-great grandfather), Charles Green Summers, spent his summers at a farm on “My Lady’s Manor” owned by his great-aunt in Harford County, Maryland. It was situated about seven miles from Monkton on the Northern Central Railroad and about thirty miles from Baltimore. His love for the country was inborn as all of his ancestors were country-bred. He grew from boyhood to early manhood gaining vitality for his arduous work at his studies though the winter months.
When war clouds began to gather in the early (1860’s) he longed to join the men who were drilling and talking of “going south to aid in the impending struggle (the Civil War). (Charles) has often told of the boyish part he tried to take in this terrible struggle, though young and unfitted as were all of the boys of the South, who left Colleges and Universities, Farms and paid truly the greatest sacrifice.
Harry Gilmor, a name still revered in the South, was a Baltimore man who espoused the Southern Cause and his deeds of valor are told in song and story today. When the northern troops burned Governor Letcher’s home in Virginia, his ire flamed into the deeds of destruction and the air rang with the cry “Gilmore is on his way to Baltimore to burn the home of Governor Bradford” which is situated on Charles Street Avenue, a short way out of Baltimore. Mary Rogers Thomas related how, as a girl of sixteen, (I) sat up awaiting his coming, arrayed as if for a ball in (my) Southern RED and WHITE. Many other were ready to welcome the valiant hero’s coming, but older and wiser heads were alarmed at his nearness and his acts of retribution. He burned bridges and the (railroad) cars on his approach to our city, leavening destruction in his wake along the Northern Central Railroad. Soon Governor Bradford’s home was a mass of flames and their hearts began to quake as he neared the city. But he did not molest us further, once his appointed task was completed, as he loved Baltimore, the city of his adoption.
(Charles, about age 17) on his great aunt’s prize horse, stole from the farm and pursued them, hoping to join the “Johnny Rebels” as they were called. But all pursuit was cut off by the wise raider Harry Gilmore, and (Charles) returned, a disappointed boy to the farm, where his father (Joseph Griffin Summers) ordered him “locked up in the meat house” until he could come out from the city and get him home again.
(Charles) came of fighting stock, though, and was forgiven, as his grandfather, Charles Bosley Green, when a boy of eighteen, joined the hurriedly assembled troops who rallied to the defense of Baltimore after (the British) General Ross had ordered the burning of the Capitol at Washington and was marching on Baltimore (War of 1812).
(Charles) great grandfather (Nathan Griffin) was a soldier in the “Smallwood Brigade” and followed Washington in the Battle of Long Island and afterwards in South Carolina until the close of the Revolutionary War.
Notes: By Bruce Summers, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales. I recently shared parts of this story with my father. He had never heard this story about how his great-grandfather had tried ride off and join Harry Gilmor and Southern Calvary during the Civil War. It was fascinating to learn first-hand from a family story about the split Southern and Northern sympathies of family members and their friends in and around Baltimore, MD during the Civil War. I grew up just over the Pennsylvania line not too far from the sites of these Southern raids in Baltimore County. The Northern Central Railroad that was attacked by the raiders ran through my home town of New Freedom, Pennsylvania.