1861 - 1865
Troops stationed in Montgomery County did not sit idle while waiting to fight. In addition to preparing for battle, they also had to combat many deprivations, including proper food, clothing and shelter. Life as a soldier was difficult on all counts and frequently led to encounters with local residents.
Theft was rampant during the war and horses were a highly sought-after commodity. Dr. William Palmer of Sandy Spring may have sought to avoid having his stolen. On July 13, 1864, Brigadier General Bradley T. Johnson, CSA ordered that "[a]ll officers and soldiers are forbidden to trouble in any way the property of Dr. Wm. Palmer. His horses must not be touched."
Palmer's neighbors were not so fortunate: "The rebel cavalry made their appearance at numerous points in Montgomery County, Md.? making levies upon horse flesh generally, pouncing with special vim upon the fat animals owned by the Quakers about Sandy Spring."
In most cases, no injuries resulted from thefts. Thomas N. Nelson, however, was not so lucky. According to the Sentinel
, in September 1862 Wilson was killed by a bayonet while attempting to stop three soldiers from stealing pigs from his Colesville farm.
Not all interaction with county civilians was so negative. Prior to the Civil War, the United States only recognized two national holidays: Independence Day and President Washington's Birthday. Union troops stationed in Montgomery County were also accustomed to celebrating the New England tradition of Thanksgiving in November. The New York Times recorded the local festivities witnessed by Marylanders in 1861. Soldiers feasted on an abundance of food, including "turkeys, hams, oyster pies."
In addition, a grand ball was thrown in the vicinity of Poolesville were attendees included "a large number of New-England ladies."
The atmosphere was one of "good cheer and a proper degree of thankfulness."
"Local newspapers reported that soldiers had "robbed poultry roosts, gardens, corn fields and potato patches, orchards and dairies... broke into houses, searched stores, and carried off property which they failed to return even when ordered to do so by their officers. They solicited our negros to leave their owners?"
— Montgomery Sentinel, 16 August 1861