John Hamilton Higgins, resident of Rockville, Maryland.
Captured by Confederate Soldiers on June 28, 1863.
One of the most peculiar experiences of my life happened in the summer of 2009 when I was keeping up with the local news. Here, in Rockville, Maryland, we have a weekly, local newspaper called the Gazette. It arrives, every Wednesday, delivered to our doorstep, or close enough, thrown onto the driveway.
One Wednesday, I was sitting on the back porch slowly turning the Gazette pages, when I realized I was eyeball to eyeball with a photograph of my great, great grandfather, John Hamilton Higgins in a display ad for a new on-line exhibit, Montgomery Connections. There he was, employed as a spokesperson from beyond the grave for the Montgomery County Historical Society located over a couple streets on West Montgomery Avenue.
Great, great grandfather Higgins was part of the Historical Society’s fantastic multilingual outreach program, Montgomery Connections. The story of his capture by Confederate soldiers when they marched through Rockville on their way to Gettysburg was being profiled by the Historical Society. What was really amusing was a phone number in the Gazette’s display ad that said I could call up the Society and listen to Sophia Barnard Higgins, who was John Higgins’ wife and my great, great grandmother. As we had never spoken, I hurried to the phone to see what she had to say. Dialing in to the Historical Society, I heard a reenactor reading a letter my great, great grandmother had written. She wrote her mother after her husband, John Higgins, was captured, then released and after she knew he had lived to tell the story.
You see, my great, great grandmother, Sophia “Dora” Barnard Higgins, wrote a letter to her mother, Sophia Cropley Barnard who lived in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., telling her about John’s capture and forced march out of Rockville to Brookeville, Maryland, twelve miles away. “Dora” didn’t know John’s fate until he came walking back through the gate at their home on Adams Street, but she had had her hands full herself, guarding their Higgins Hardware Store in town center Rockville. She stood out front and kept soldiers from raiding their store for supplies for six hours, all by herself. All of this real time action is told in Dora’s letter to her mother and you can listen to ‘Dora” read her letter by going here.
The Confederates soldiers that went through Rockville on June 28, 1863 were on their way to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in preparation for what would become the Battle of Gettysburg, fought just days later on July 1, 2 & 3, 1863. If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Gettysburg, you can do your research by clicking here.