Many encounters preceded the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. However, a small but extremely important cavalry skirmish took place in Westminster on June 29, 1863. The clash on the edge of town, near todayís intersection of East Main Street and Washington Road, between General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry and a small unit of the 1st Delaware cavalry was a significant factor in slowing Stuart's march to Gettysburg. The skirmish is commonly known as "Corbit's Charge" or "The Battle of Westminster."
On June 28, 1863, Companies C and D of the 1st Delaware Cavalry arrived in Westminster from Baltimore to guard the important rail and road junction in town. Commanded by Major Napoleon B. Knight, with Captain Charles Corbit and Lieutenant Caleb Churchman as company commanders, they numbered less than 100 men. Meanwhile, General J.E.B. Stuart, who crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on June 27th, with three brigades of Confederate cavalry, numbering nearly 6,000 men, was moving north towards Westminster after capturing a large Union supply train in Rockville.
Westminster remained quiet until about 4:00 p.m. on June 29th, when the report of approaching Confederates was brought to the Union troops. In Major Knight's absence, Captain Corbit led a charge of his men through the streets of Westminster to Washington Road. Expecting to overcome a small unit of Confederates, they found themselves facing a large body of General Stuart's veteran cavalry. A fierce skirmish ensued, but the Delaware unit was quickly overpowered. Many were captured, including Captain Corbit and Lieutenant Churchman. Two Union troopers died and eleven were wounded. Two prominent Confederate officers were killed, of which one Ė Lt. John William Murray, Co. E, 4th Virginia cavalry, C.S.A. - still remains buried in Westminster's Ascension Church cemetery today. Ten other Confederates were badly wounded. Instead of proceeding into Pennsylvania to inform General Robert E. Lee about the major Union troop movements, Stuart's cavalry was delayed long enough, as the result of the skirmish, to make it advisable to spend the night in the Westminster area. Historians have often wondered whether the results of the Battle of Gettysburg might have been different if Stuart arrived before July 2nd.
To commemorate the 140th Anniversary of the Battle of Westminster and provide local recognition of that historic skirmish, The Mayor and Common Council of Westminster established the Corbitís Charge Commemoration Committee in 2003. Committee members represented the Mayor & Common Council, various departments in City government and the Cityís partners in presenting the event Ė The Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table and the Historical Society of Carroll County, along with interested citizens. From the first low-key ceremonial event in 2003 that drew approximately 200 attendees on a Sunday afternoon, the Commemoration of Corbitís Charge has steadily grown into a weekend event that draws more than 2,000 annually. In the fall of 2007, the Corbitís Charge Commemoration Committee became a component fund under the auspices of the Community Foundation of Carroll County to provide it with IRS Section 501 (c) (3) status and to provide more flexibility in its operation of the event.
The Corbit's Charge Commemorative Weekend occurs the last full weekend in June. The event provides a quality educational experience for visitors of all ages through a Civil War encampment; military demonstrations of artillery, small arms, drilling, and horsemanship; performances of period music; participation of authentic Civil War living historians and traditional artisans, such as blacksmiths, tinsmiths and caners; guided tours and the presentations of published authors, speakers and museum displays relating to the Civil War period. It also remembers those who fought bravely in this city in 1863 with wreath laying ceremonies at the Corbit's Charge monument that was dedicated in 2006 and the burial site of Lt. Murray. The encampment and most of the major activities are held on the grounds of the Carroll County Multi-Service Center Building at 224 North Center Street.
For more information on this year's Corbit's Charge Commemorative Weekend, check out the Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table's website