History of Corbit's ChargeMany 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 today’s 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 27, with 3 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 p.m. on June 29, 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. 2 union troopers died and 11 were wounded. 2 prominent Confederate officers were killed, of which one - Lt. John William Murray, Co. E, 4th Virginia cavalry, C.S.A. - still remains buried in Westminster's Ascension Church cemetery today. 10 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 2.