The Lost Order wayside marker is outside the entrance to the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor Center. Another wayside marker, the 1862 Antietam Campaign, is next to this marker.
The Visitor Center is south of Frederick, Maryland on the east side of Urbana Road (Maryland Route 355) about 1.7 miles south of the Interstate 70 interchange. (39.377195° N, 77.395445° W; map)
The marker shows how the Civil War repeatedly returned to some locations. The Lost Order is from the 1862 campaign which led up to the Battle of Antietam. The armies returned here in 1864 to fight the Battle of Monocacy. A short distance away on the south side of Frederick is a marker from the Gettysburg campaign of 1863.
See more about “The Lost Order”, Robert E. Lee’s Special Orders Number 191, including the full text of the order.
From the marker:
The Lost Order
Shrouded in a Cloak of Mystery
— Antietam Campaign 1862 —
After crossing the Potomac River early in September 1862, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia into three separate wings. On September 9, he promulgated his campaign strategy – to divide his army, send Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to attack Harpers Ferry, and send Gen. James Longstreet toward Hagerstown – was described in Special Orders No. 191, seven copies of which were distributed to his senior subordinates.
A copy intended for Gen. D.H. Hill was accidentally left behind, wrapped around three cigars, when the Confederates marched to South Mountain the next day. On September 13, the 27th Indiana Infantry Regiment moved into Hill’s former camp and a soldier found the bundle. The cigars were a welcome treat; however, another soldier recognized the importance of the wrapper. It soon reached Gen. George B. McClellan, who jubilantly exclaimed that he held the Confederate battle plan in his very hands!
Evidence does not indicate exactly where the lost orders were found but suggests the Hermitage or Best Farm. How effectively McClellan used the information is debatable, but Union forces did follow the Confederates more closely as they marched through Frederick and across South Mountain toward Sharpsburg. From here, the story of the Antietam Campaign changes as McClellan changed his plans to defeat Lee.
Hill, whose name was on the orders, forever after denied having lost them.
From the sidebar:
Frederick Junction was a small community located here, 3 miles south of the city of Frederick, during the war. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, connecting Baltimore with West Virginia, and the main road south to Washington, D.C., crossed the Monocacy River at this point. Union troops were posted here to protect the junction and its bridges. The Federals also crossed the Monocacy here in 1863 on their way north to Gettysburg. In 1864, Union Gen. Lew Wallace delayed Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early’s raid on Washington, D.C., in a pivotal struggle here.