What caused the "great excitement" in Harford County during the summer of 1864? It was the arrival of a detachment of the Confederate cavalrymen led by partisan Major Harry Gilmor. He and his troopers, mostly Marylanders, were part of a 12,000-man force under General Jubal A. Early that entered their home state from Virginia Shenandoah Valley earlier in July. Their purpose was to threaten the lightly defended city of Washington, D.C., in an attempt to draw off part of the Union army menacing Richmond and Petersburg, Va.
After brushing aside an inferior Federal force at the Battle of Monocacy, near Frederick, Maryland, Early detached his cavalry under General Bradley T. Johnson to ride around Washington eastern defenses and liberate Confederate prisoners at Point Lookout in Southern Maryland. Johnson then detached Gilmor to pass north and east of Baltimore and sever communications with the North. As Gilmor and his men rode, they burned houses and bridges, seized supplies, and on July 11, captured Union Gen. William B. Franklin, who escaped the next day. Arriving here at the village of Jerusalem Mill, they "requisitioned" from David Lee's (now McCourtney's) Store "boots, shoes, and other wearing apparel." They also seized Lee's horses. The Confederates then departed, soon rejoining the main body and returning to Virginia. Early's1864 Maryland campaign failed to breach the capital defenses or free prisoners, but it did lure substantial numbers of Federal troops away from Richmond and Petersburg to strengthen the Washington garrison.