Civil War Profiles: A confiscated gray mare finds her way home


In the category of “truth is stranger than fiction,” Jeanne Golibart Rogers, who lives in the local community of Bethany West, tells the story of her great grandfather Thomas Randolph Jarboe during the 19th century. Jarboe owned a farm known as “Gayfield” near Buckeystown, Md., and the Monocacy River just south of Frederick.


According to the “History of Frederick County, Maryland, Vol. 1” by Williams and McKinsey (2016 reprint edited by Marian O’Brien), Jarboe’s ancestors, who emigrated from France in the mid-17th century, were among the earliest settlers in St. Mary’s County. Thomas was born on Columbia farm in Middletown Valley in 1828 and attended St. John’s College in Frederick.

Thomas’ marriage to Margaret Lauretta Eagle in 1850 led to the purchase of the 185-acre Gayfield farm. He worked hard cultivating and improving the property, including construction of a two-story brick dwelling, a bank barn and several outbuildings.

Not content with the size of his farm, Jarboe acquired additional property. Initially, he added an adjoining 200-acre farm, followed by the purchase of the Bushey farm of 148 acres to the north, near Lime Kiln.

Being one of the most prominent farmers in Frederick County, Thomas Jarboe was a stockholder and director of the Central National Bank. In addition, he became a charter member and president of the Buckeystown Turnpike Company.

Jarboe, a Democrat in a strongly Republican area, managed to get elected as county commissioner. This was quite a feat, since there was only one other Democrat who held elective office in the entire county.

To celebrate his election, the Jarboe family held a “jollification” at Gayfield. It included a torchlight procession led by a band and an estimated 1,000 people joining in the celebration.

Although his wife, Margaret, had grown up on a farm with more than 100 slaves to perform all the chores, the slaves had since received their freedom. Therefore, she was on her own in preparing food for the festivities, with the help of “a bevy of pretty Southern girls.”

Jarboe had two barrels of rye whisky on hand, from Horsey’s distillery, to quench the thirst of the guests. Thomas also had a reputation for making fine wine and cider, which was in abundance at this event.

When Abraham Lincoln became the newly-elected president of the United States in 1860, causing a number of Southern states to secede from the Union, life in Maryland was affected, as it was throughout the country. The Confederate army invaded the state in 1862, which led to the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, the bloodiest day of the Civil War.

Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army returned to Maryland in June and July 1863, on its way to Pennsylvania, where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War took place at Gettysburg. A corps of Lee’s army under Lt. Gen. Jubal Early entered Maryland once again in July 1864, posing a threat to the Union capital at Washington, D.C.

As Early’s army marched eastward from the Shenandoah Valley toward Frederick and the Monocacy River, they passed through the area of Gayfield. Thomas Jarboe, a lover of fine horses, had since purchased a gray filly he paradoxically named Andrew Jackson in honor of the seventh president of the country.

Although Jarboe was a Southern sympathizer, the Rebels needed all the available horseflesh they could find along their route of march. Arriving at the farm, they immediately went to the barn and confiscated horses, including Andrew Jackson.

The Rebels were under orders not to take stock from the farmers without compensation. They “paid” Jarboe several hundred essentially worthless Confederate dollars, which met the official requirements and salved the consciences of the commanding generals.

The soldiers saddled the horse, and one of them rode it away as cannonading resounded from a battle erupting with Union troops fortified on the opposite side of the Monocacy. Some three hours later, the horse returned to the vicinity of Gayfield, with its saddle and bridle still on, but without the rider, who had been shot and killed.

Andrew Jackson had instinctively come back across the river and was on her way home. However, soldiers who had followed her captured the mare again along the nearby railroad.

Thomas Jarboe had lost his prized filly. Yet he could be grateful that Early’s corps moved away from his area toward the nation’s capital, where Union troops barely arrived in time to prevent an attack.

Thomas J. Ryan is the author of the award-winning “Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign,” available at Bethany Beach Books and Browseabout Books in Rehoboth. Contact him at pennmardel@mchsi.com, or visit his website at www.tomryan-civilwar.com.