Rocky Springs School House 

As Confederate forces approached the City of Frederick in July 1864, small detachments from the United States Army were ordered to delay their advance. In a series of small skirmishes, US forces clashed with Confederates.

One of those small battles preceding the larger Battle of Monocacy took place around the Rocky Springs School House, a public school located at the foot of Catoctin Mountain northwest of Downtown Frederick. 

The History 

On July 8, 1864, US and Confederate cavalry forces met in a series of clashes along the base of Catoctin Mountain west of Frederick, Maryland. One of the larger skirmishes took place here in the vicinity of Rocky Springs School, a public school building that was constructed in 1839 for children growing up on the farms in the vicinity. 

Cavalry Skirmishing during the Civil WarExample of cavalry skirmishing during the Civil War - Harper's Weekly (University of Michigan) 

Confederate cavalry engaged with a force from the 8th Illinois Cavalry near the schoolhouse. The battle was described by numerous participants: 

"Our cavalry skirmished with the rebel cavalry during the day (Friday, July 8th), along Catoctin Mountain, near Rocky Springs School House, and the artillery stationed near the city limits on the north side of the road had a spirited fight with a rebel battery on Hagan's Hill, about a mile west of the city, on the south side of the Hagerstown road,...killing a number of their men and horses, with a loss on our side of one officer and one man killed and seven men wounded.” 

E. Y. Goldsborough, US Army 

Civil War cavalry officer from Frederick, MarylandEdward Y. Goldsborough was a US Army officer and native of Frederick - Library of Congress

"Crossed the Potomac and marched to Frederick City, Maryland, the regiment leading the advance.  On July 8th we found the 8th Illinois Cavalry drawn up in line of battle.  Formed for a charge when the Illinois regiment left the field.  We followed them, their battery shelling us, our regiment losing 14 men and several horses by an explosion of a shell in our ranks.  Among the number was Harvey Wilson who was a conscientious Christian soldier from our county, and as gallant a man as ever drew a saber.” 

James Sedinger, 8th Virginia Cavalry 

By July 9, most Union forces had retreated south through the City of Frederick to the south bank of the Monocacy River. There, General Lew Wallace prepared US forces to block the roads south towards Washington and fight a delaying action to allow forts guarding the nation's capital at Washington to be reinforced. The stage was set for the Battle of Monocacy.


Rocky Springs School House and Civil War Trails in 2023

Historic Rocky Springs Chapel preserves the Rocky Springs School site and an adjacent church. The group organizes Civil War era church services through the summer months. The school site is undergoing a number of historic preservation efforts to stabilize the surviving structure dating back to 1839. In addition to the Civil War Trails marker, additional historical markers provide information about the school's history and the history public education in rural Frederick County. 

What's Nearby

Located at the base of Catoctin Mountain, a stop at Rocky Springs School House pairs well with a visit to Gambrill State Park, providing great hiking, biking, and stunning views of Frederick and the Middletown Valley. Rocky Springs School House is also close to the Golden Mile neighborhood of Frederick, with a wide variety of dining options and attractions. 

An overlook view over the City of FrederickThe Frederick Overlook at Gambrill State Park 


More Resources 

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

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

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


"Rocky Springs and the Civil War" - Historic Rocky Springs Chapel 

"Skirmish Near Rocky Springs School House - July 8, 1864" - Historic Rocky Springs Chapel