Battle of Frederick - July 7, 1864

On July 7, 1864, elements of the US and Confederate armies clashed on the high ground west of Downtown Frederick in what became known as the Battle of West Frederick. This skirmish, a short-lived victory for the US forces around Frederick, was a precursor to the larger Battle of Monocacy two days later. 

The History 

The fate of the nation hung in the balance in the fields around Frederick, Maryland on July 7, 8, and 9, 1864.

The primary objective of the Confederate army which arrived outside Frederick on July 7 under the command of General Jubal Early was to capture or threaten the nearby Federal capital of Washington DC. 1864 was an election year. If President Abraham Lincoln did not get reelected, his opponent, George McClellan would have attempted to broker peace resulting in a divided nation. Losing Washington, even temporarily, would likely have been a fatal blow to Lincoln’s campaign and thus the country’s future.

Jubal Early

When the Confederate army appeared outside Frederick on the afternoon of July 7, Union General Lew Wallace began his delaying operation in the fields west of town. With the Union defenders outnumbered 3 to 1, they were forced to retreat when night fell. Wallace’s forces then took up positions along the Monocacy River south of Frederick to block the Confederates’ route to the capital. While the skirmishing on July 7 resulted in few casualties, it paid dividends by allowing the veteran Union VI Corps to arrive on July 8 in time to participate in the Battle of Monocacy on July 9.

While US Army forces were forced to flee the field on July 9 as well, their actions around Frederick on July 7, 8, and 9 truly saved Washington. They bought just enough time for veteran reinforcements to arrive to fend off a Confederate attack on Washington on July 11-12.


In 1864, the terrain west of Frederick was rolling hills dotted with farms stretching to the base of Catoctin Mountain. Today, the site of the Battle of West Frederick is occupied by the shopping area known as "The Golden Mile" that was developed in the mid-to-late 20th century. 

What's Nearby

A wide array of shopping and dining can be found in close proximity to this location. This wayside is located in the parking lot of The Red Horse, a steakhouse with local roots dating back to 1968. Many restaurants operate along this stretch of Route 40, featuring many cuisines from across the world. 

Red Horse RestaurantThe Red Horse Restaurant is located adjacent to the Civil War Trails marker for the Battle of Frederick. 

The western edge of the City of Frederick also runs up to Catoctin Mountain, where you'll find access to numerous parks and outdoor recreation activities. Make a stop at Gambrill State Park for incredible views over Frederick and the Middletown Valley to the west. 

Hiking at Middletown Valley overlook at Gambrill State ParkOverlooks at Gambrill State Park provide breathtaking views over the countryside navigating by thousands of soldiers during the Civil War. 

Head into the City of Frederick for Civil War history at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Heritage Frederick, Rose Hill Manor, and then visit Monocacy National Battlefield to explore the full story and consequences of the 1864 Attack on Washington, including the Battle of Monocacy that took place on July 9, 1864. 

Monocacy National Battlefield


More Resources 

Books (access through and make sure to support Frederick bookseller Curious Iguana

Battle of West Frederick, July 7, 1864: Prelude to Battle Of Monocacy by Joseph Collins

Determined to Stand and Fight: The Battle of Monocacy, July 9, 1864 by Ryan Quint 


"Battle of West Frederick saved the city" - Ike Wilson for the Frederick News-Post 

"The Battle of Monocacy" - National Park Service