Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Unharmed have I passed through where the dead and wounded were falling all around me" – Pvt. George Nickels, 89th NY

In a December 2012 blog post (read here), I shared the fascinating letter of Pvt. George Nickels, of Co. F, 89th New York.  In that letter, written September 30, 1862, Nickels details his regiment's actions late in the afternoon during the Battle of Antietam.  Nickels' regiment, part of Fairchild's Brigade, Rodman's Division, of the Union 9th Corps, had fought bravely, and ferociously that afternoon.  The 89th, and several other regiments, pushed further than any other Union regiments that day; reaching the outskirts of the small town of Sharpsburg.  Eventually, the timely arrival of Confederate reinforcements, lead by General A.P. Hill, arrived at just the right spot.  Hill's men crashed into the left flank of the 9th Corps, and brought an end to the forward movement of the 89th New York.  The 89th was forced to give way back across the killing fields they had struggled over just moments before.  Sundown would finally bring an end to the bloody Battle of Antietam.  Fairchild's Brigade would suffer the highest percent casualty rate of any Union brigade that fought that day; 48%.  Of the 455 casualties in the brigade, the 89th New York would suffer 103 men killed, wounded, and missing during the fight.

In the September 30th letter, Nickels mentions, "I have written one hasty letter since our fight," however, what this "hasty letter" contained, I thought would remain a mystery of history.  Until now. Just in the same unexpected manner as the September 30th letter made its way to me, another one of Nickels' Antietam accounts would appear before me.  This time, an ancestor of 89th NY veteran Oliver Orville, who had read my original post, and who had recently uncovered a copy of the letter written by Nickels, thankfully emailed me a copy.

In this letter, dated September 19, 1862, Nickels hastily takes a few moments to write to loved ones back home.  Letting friends and family know outright of his post battle condition, he goes on to provide updates on several friends and comrades, as well as give readers a glimpse into the chaotic and terrifying moments of the Battle of Antietam.  Aside from being historically fascinating, this 'prequel' letter also helped me identify and annotate a previously unidentified soldier who had been named in Nickels' September 30th letter; William B. [Byron] Livermore.

Another interesting aspect of this letter is that one of Nickels' comrades, James Northrup, takes the opportunity to piggy back off of Nickels' brief letter home, and tell his loved ones of his "close call".

Even 151 years later, you just never know what small pieces of a much larger and scrambled puzzle will emerge.  Each piece helps us see a little more history.  Enjoy!

Battle of Antietam 
Sharpsburg Md 
Sept, 19, 1862 

Dear Friend, 

I am still sound and well. Unharmed have I passed through where the dead and wounded were falling all around me. Our brigade charged up hill, over plowed ground at the enemy behind a wall and rail fence. When we got within 12 rods of the fence we stopped about five minutes and exchanged shots with the rebels and one at least fell dead from my shot and I drew good sight on a number more. Almond [Orville Oliver] they say just gave them a shot and was going to reload when he was struck by a bullet; we think in the thigh and fell disabled. We have not heard from him, but is probably in a hospital of ours or the enemy’s. 

We soon got tired of giving them the advantage of the fence and at the same time stand the fire of their cannon on our flank so we charged over the fence and drove them. We took a good many prisoners. Just then they brought up several thousands on our left. Their fire was terrible and the ground was covered with dead and wounded. We had to fall back or all be taken prisoners. 

When we formed in line we had only about 1/3 of the men who went in with us. The rest were killed, wounded and scattered. 
Byron Livermore had his right arm shattered above the elbow by a musket ball and had to have it taken off. He is doing well. The rest of the Lisle boys are well. Of ten boys at the right of our company where I stood 8 were killed and wounded. There were 23 killed, wounded or missing since the fight of day before yesterday in our company. Most of them are wounded. We had a brisk fight last Sunday [Battle of South Mountain] and have been in reach of the enemy ever since. Burnside gave us the credit Wednesday, of being one of the best fighting regt. In the service. No regt. was ever exposed to a more deadly fire. 

Well good bye, write soon. I have no time to write more.  

Yours truly, 
Geo L. Nichols [Nickels]

 Please say to our folks that I have no time to write, but I am alright. I was hit once, but my sword turned the ball and I was not injured. George has written all I suppose. I will write as soon as I get a chance to send a letter. 

In haste, James E. Northrup 

New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. Frederick Phisterer. Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912., available from accessed September 12, 2013; Internet.

Rafuse, Ethan S., Antietam, South Mountain, & Harpers Ferry: A Battlefield Guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hodge Podge: lectures, events, and blogs

I want to take a moment to once again thank the Shippensburg Civil War Roundtable, and the Mechanicsburg Museum Association for inviting me to speak to their organizations.  In September, I was invited to speak in Shippensburg about my ongoing research into the Emergency Militia of 1862.  It was a great thrill to not only return to the town of my alma mater, but to speak in the Cumberland Valley where so much of the stories I told took place exactly 150 years earlier.  It was a great honor to be able to tell the often overlooked story of those Keystone men.

Earlier this month, I spoke in Mechanicsburg about the Locust Grove Cemetery (a historic African American burial ground located in Shippensburg), and the preservation project to record, conserve, and commemorate such a priceless historic resource.  I had an opportunity to be a part of this project while studying Public History at Shippensburg University.  Click here to read more.  While it can be nerve wracking to prepare for such public talks, in the end, being able to share local history with others is always extremely rewarding.

In March, the Mechanicsburg Museum Association will be presenting two unique Sunday afternoon presentaions relating to Mechanicsburg during the summer of 1863.  Of course, in 1863, as in 1862, Pennsylvania was on high alert, but this time the Rebel army did indeed invade the Commonwealth.  In June of 1863, they made their way up through the Cumberland Valley, town by town, until finally capturing Mechanicsburg on June 28.  Hoping to use the town as a jump off point for an attack of the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg, less than 10 miles away, the Rebels were instead ordered to march south, and converge on Gettysburg.  Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg were spared.

On March 10, the Mechanicsburg Museum Association will be offering a lecture on Mechanicsburg Civil War era buildings, which are still numerous throughout the borough.  Click here for info. 
On March 17, Mechanicsburg Museum Association will be hosting the Mechanicsburg Main Street Committee as they discuss the many events being planned for the 150th Anniversary of the occupation of Mechanicsburg, this June.  Click here for more info.

Mechanicsburg Museum Association events take place at the historic Cumberland Valley Railroad station.

To stay on top of other Sesqucentenial events taking place in the Cumberland Valley this year be sure to check out the following pages:
Cumberland County 150
PA Civil War 150
Cumberland County Historical Society
Monterey Pass Battlefield
Shippensburg Historical Society
Mechanicsburg Museum Association

And finally, I wanted to take a minute to introduce to you the newly created blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office (PHPO).
Click here.  
As stated on the blog, "The role of the PHPO is to identify and protect the architectural and archaeological resources of Pennsylvania. Our responsibility is to work with individuals, communities, local governments, and state and federal agencies to educate Pennsylvanians about our heritage and its value, to build better communities through preservation tools and strategies, to provide strong leadership, both individually and through partnerships, and to ensure the preservation of Pennsylvania’s heritage."  The PHPO posts a new article every Wednesday on a range of subjects from archaeology to the National Register of Historic Places; from historical markers to preservation planning, and more.  Look for a post from yours truly in mid March.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fredericksburg and the 130th PA monument at Antietam

By September 17, 1862, the men of the 130th Pennsylvania had barely been in the Army for more than a month, and were ill-prepared to face the wholesale slaughter that they would experience that day while attacking the rebel position in the Sunken Road during the Battle of Antietam.  Despite being "green", the 130th  performed as well as could be expected for a group of soldiers who had only been trained to load and fire their weapons in the days leading up to the Battle.

The 130th Pennsylvania was sworn into Federal service to serve for a period of nine months.  Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American History, would only be the 130th's first of three battles they would fight in over the coming months.  Their second battle, the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, would continue to test these young soldiers' mettle, and present them with a whole new host of tests of bravery, and horrific sights that they would not soon forget.  Private Edward Spangler, a sixteen year old from York County, would later recall one such sight soon after crossing the Rapahannock River into the City of Fredericksburg: 
There were, "...many dead Confederates along the houses skirting the river.  One dead Confederate especially attracted my attention.  He was in a standing position leaning against the corner of a block-house with his gun in his hands, and all of the head above his mouth was taken off by a shell.  I have read in a magazine an article describing the attitude of soldiers who maintained a life like attitude after death by reason of rigor mortis; but none of these equalled in peculiarity the remarkable standing position of this beheaded soldier."

Pvt. Edward Spangler

"Early the next morning," continued Spangler, "we prepared for battle."  As a regiment in William French's division, the 130th was amongst the very first regiments to charge the strong rebel position on Marye's Heights; the high ground over looking Fredericksburg to the west.  Spangler recalled the events of that day:

"Emerging into the open we were about to deploy in line of battle under a deadly fire, when we encountered a mill-race or canal, from four to six feet deep and fifteen feetwide,which ran clear around the city in the rear."  "It was impassable, except at the few street bridges, some of which had nothing left but stringers over which we had to pass in single file.  It was first discovered in our division by the head of column, and was a most serious and embarassing obstacle, and very disconcerting under a raking storm of projectiles. After crossing, we were compelled for a considerable distance to march by columns of four.  While in this formation a shower of missiles created havoc in our ranks, one of which took off the head of Captain McLaughlin of Company H, scattering the brains over our company. In re-aligning, we had to climb over a rail fence, and as my brother reached the top rail, a cannon ball cut the third rail below, only three feet to my right. A second either way would have been a fatal shot to him, or three feet to the left would have obviated the infliction upon the reader of this common place and unvarnished narrative.  As we came to the slope of the first elevation, we were met with a still more frightful fire of shell, grape and musketry.  The Confederate artillery converged its fire on our hapless division, and our men were stricken down by hundreds.  When we approached the crest of the hill in the immediate front of Marye's Heights we were ordered to lie down. As my haversack was filled to the brother requested me to doff it as it would retard me in charging up the Heights, and I reluctantly complied.  Lying on my left was Eli Myers, formerly a clerk in P. A. & S. Small's store, and on my right was William Clemens, and next to him, Frank.  A bullet knocked off Clements' cap, and a moment later a shell exploded over us, a piece of which violently struck Myers in the back.  I got up to assist in carrying him off the field, but being small, was pushed aside by others equally anxious to get beyond the range of fire, for we all felt that success was a forlorn hope.  The wound proved fatal.  We then moved forward and as we approached the stonewall, rifle pits and redoubts on the Heights, we poured in a heavy volley and charged, but were swept back a short distance by blazing musketry, grape and canister, rising tier after tier, which no troops could withstand.  As we were about to renew the charge the Confederates sprang from their breast works and charged, but were hurled back in confusion. Confederate reinforcements arrived, all veteran marksmen, until  they were four ranks deep and completely sheltered.  These poured forth such an unremitting blast of deadly fire that our regiment again began to waver.  It was then that Colonel Zinn, our heroic commander, seized the regimental flag staff in his left hand, and waving his sword with his right, cried out, "Stick to your standard [flag], boys!  The One Hundred and Thirtieth never abandons its colors; give them another volley!"  The words had scarcely left his lips, when his brain was pierced by a Confederate bullet. He was an intrepid and accomplished officer, a strict disciplinarian, and an adept in tactics, and would, had he lived, have attained high rank." 

130th PA flag

Col. Henry Zinn
Zinn's grave, Mt. Zion Cemetery

Originally from York County, Zinn resided in Churchtown, Cumberland County, with his wife and three children. At the age of 27, Zinn, a teacher, was selected to lead the 130th Pennsylvania.  Zinn became loved and respected by the men of the 130th, and his last brave act would help rally a portion of his regiment, and help them maintain order through the remainder of the hellish fight.  Zinn would leave behind a young wife, Mary, who had already been grieving for the loss of two of her small children, from disease, earlier in the year.  Zinn's final resting place is in the Mt. Zion Cemetery, near Churchtown.

The spring would see the 130th Pennsylvania go into action once again at the Battle of  Chancellorsville, in May of 1863.  By mid June, the regiment's nine month enlistment was over, and many of the men returned home, while others quickly reenlisted with other regiments, to return to the front for the remainder of the war.  Either way, the 130th Pennsylvania had officially completed it's chapter in the history of the American Civil War.   

Forty two years after their "baptism of fire, on September 17, 1904, the surviving veterans of the 130th would return to the Antietam Battlefield to dedicate a monument to their regiment's memory.  It is the regiment's only monument on any of it's three battlefields, so creating a memorable and fitting design would have been very important to the veterans.  Other than a carved stone figure of a young soldier standing at 'parade rest', the veterans chose to adorn their monument with the bronze face of their beloved Colonel Zinn, who had lead them so bravely through Antietam, and who had fallen so tragically at Fredericksburg.  His likeness forever stoically faces forward, toward the enemy lines. 

130th PA monument at Antietam

Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5 : prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

Spangler, Edward W. My Little War Experience. York, PA: York Daily Publishing Co., 1904.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

“Our brigade made itself gloriously conspicuous…” – Pvt. George Nickels, 89th NY

Sometimes being known around the office as "the Civil War guy" has its perks.  Recently, a colleague came to me with a copy of a letter written on September 30, 1862 by Pvt. George Nickels of the 89th New York.  During the Maryland Campaign, the 89th New York was, along with the 9th and 103rd New York Regts., a part of Col. Harrison Fairchild's 9th Corps brigade.  At the Battle of Antietam, Fairchild's brigade would suffer the highest casualty percentage of any Union brigade; nearly 50%.  Of the 368 men in the 89th New York, 103 were killed, wounded, or missing.

Nickels' letter not only offers us colorful descriptions of Burnside's push toward Sharpsburg late in the afternoon on September 17th, but also information on the condition of the troops, observations of the countryside in western Maryland, and invaluable information on a comrade who would later be buried in Antietam National Cemetery; Charles Courtney.

As you might imagine, I was pretty excited to read and transcribe the letter, especially since it probably has not been shared anywhere before.  I took the opportunity to annotate many of the names that Nickels mentions also.

Antietam, Md. Sep, 30 1862
Dear Friends:

            I have written one hasty letter since our fight, and you will have probably read a full description of the great battle of Antietam and the brilliant dash of Burnsides troops.  Our brigade made itself gloriously conspicuous and the rebels were scattered before it like sheep, but we were then flanked by a heavy force on our left and were cut down by artillery on the right and front, and to save ourselves from complete destruction we had to fall back, and we did it without running too, and the rebels did not dare to follow us.  We had caused many of them to bite the dust and many, also, of our brave boys were laid low.  I don’t know but Almon[i] and Byron[ii] will get home before you see this, and they will give you the incidents of our march.  Almon, I got a chance to see but I was not able to see Byron, and I can’t find out where they are now, but I think they have got furloughs.  I am very sorry to lose them, it is lonesome in camp with them gone.  I am sorry too for Byron’s great misfortune.  Our first Lieut[iii] and, C Courtney[iv], who had legs amputated, have since died.  Since the battle we have had a little easier times, but having left our knapsacks with our things at Washington we are getting pretty dirty and ragged.  We cannot get papers to write on so you must excuse us and tell friends to excuse us till we can get our pay, or things which we expect soon.  I got Moses[v] letter of the 10th last Sunday and want you all to write after.  I also got a letter from Sarah F.  I should write to Charles now if I had paper.  Orville J. Oliver[vi] has a bad looking flesh wound in the thigh but is now in camp with the rest of the boys, he will, probably, get a furlough for 30 days.  Capt Brown[vii] has resigned and been honorably discharged from the service.  He is going home in a few days.  James[viii] is now doing the duty of Orderly and is kept quite busy.  He stands a good chance of promotion to first seargent [sp].  This is a fine country and there is the most corn, and the best I ever saw.  The farms are large and well cultivated.  The farmers owning from 500 to 1000 acres, and plow large portions of it for corn and wheat.  But wherever we stop the corn, apples poultry are cleaned for miles, and we burn up all the fences.  The government will have to pay the damage.  It makes the country look desolate.  I don’t know whether the enemy will give us a chance to fight him again or not And I don’t care.  We have heard no firing for a number of days.  They say the pickets are only a few miles from us.  But they will have to retire before long.  We will soon be after them If they don’t.  Well I can’t think of anything more to write so Good bye 

            Yours Ever Geo. L. Nickels[ix]

- Read Nickels' previous "hasty letter" from September 19 HERE

[i] REED, ALMON L.—Age, 22 years. Enlisted at Whitneys Point, to serve three years, and mustered in as private, Co. F, October 22, 1861; transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps, no date.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry.
[ii] LIVERMORE, WILLIAM B. --Age, 23 years. Enlisted, October 22, 1861, at Lisle, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, October 23, 1861; wounded, no date; discharged for his wounds in October, 1862, at Pleasant Valley, Md.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry.
[iii] VAN INGEN, GARRETT.—Age, 30 years. Enrolled at Elmira, to serve three years, and mustered in as sergeant-major, December 5, 1861; as first lieutenant, Co. F, May 21, 1862; wounded in action, September 17,1862, at Antietam, Md.; died of his wounds, September 26,1862, at Sharpsburg, Md. Commissioned first lieutenant, October 17, 1862, with rank from May 20, 1862, vice Moses Pieffer [or Puffer] resigned.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry.
[iv] COURTNEY, CHARLES I.—Age, 20 years. Enlisted, September 9, 1861, at Whitneys Point, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, October 1, 1861; wounded in action, September 17, 1862, at Antietam, Md.; died of his wounds, September 29, 1862, at Sharpsburg, Md.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry. 
Courtney is buried in Antietam National Cemetery.
[v] Possibly PUFFER [or PIEFFER], MOSES.—Age, 36 years. Enrolled, September 9, 1861, at Whitneys Point, to serve three years; mustered in as first lieutenant, Co. F, October 1, 1861; discharged, May 20, 1862.  Commissioned first lieutenant, December 18,1861, with rank from October 1,1861, original.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry. 
[vi] OLIVER, ORVILLE P.—Age, 21 years. Enlisted, September 9, 1861, at Whitney's Point, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, October 4, 1861; re-enlisted as a veteran, January 11, 1861; transferred to Co. G, Nineteenth Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps, May 19, 1865; promoted corporal, August 1, 1865; discharged, September 12, 1865, at Buffalo, N. Y.; also borne as Orville T. and Orville T.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry.
[vii] BROWN, ROBERT.—Age, 39 years. Enrolled, September 9, 1861, at Whitney's Point, to serve three years; mustered in as captain, Co. F, October 25, 1861; discharged, September 28, 1862; again mustered in as captain, same company, November 28, 1862; discharged, October 19, 1861; prior service in Eighth Militia.  Commissioned captain, December 18, 1861, with rank from October 1, 1861, original; recommissioned captain, November
7, 1862, with rank from same date, vice himself resigned.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry. 
[viii] NORTHRUP, JAMES E.—Age, 23 years. Enrolled, September 9, 1861, at Whitneys Point, to serve three years; mustered in as sergeant, Co. F, October 22, 1861; promoted first sergeant, no date; re-enlisted as a veteran, January 14, 1864; mustered in as second lieutenant, October 21, 1864; as first lieutenant, January 11, 1865; discharged, June 19, 1865, at Richmond,Va.; also borne as Northrop and Northrupt.  Commissioned second lieutenant, September 16, 1864, with rank from July 13, 1864, vice G. H. Baldwin promoted; first lieutenant, January 27, 1865, with rank from January 11,1865, vice Baldwin mustered out.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry. 
[ix] NICHOLIS [NICKELS], GEORGE L.—Age, 23 years. Enlisted, October 22, 1861, at Lisle, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, October 23, 1861; discharged, May 28, 1863, at Washington, D. C; also borne as Nichols.  From Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901: Registers of the 88th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, & 93rd Regiments of Infantry.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 20-24, 1862: 2nd PA Emergency Militia (J. Witmer)

If you've been following the adventures of some of the Emergency Militiamen that I have been posting over the Sesquicentennial, my apologies for the lack of postings over the past few days.  I just returned from an absolutely unforgettable week of volunteering/working/helping/guiding, etc. at Antietam National Battlefield during the 150th Anniversary events.  In the days leading up, I tried to prepare these posts to go up automatically, but I sadly just ran out of time before I had to hit the road to Maryland.  Throw in a lack of a laptop, and little to no service on my Droid, and there you have the makings for my posting delay.  In the meantime, let's pick back up with John Witmer of the 2nd PA Emergency Militia...

you can read the previous day here.

Saturday 20 - about daylight, heard a little cannonading. It was quite faint and appeared to be a long way off. I saw Horace Yundt[1] this morning. Our companies had been next to one another all the time and I had not noticed him before. About half past ten o’clock we heard very heavy and rapid artillery firing in the direction of Shepherdstown. It appeared to be across the Potomac, and was the heaviest that I had yet heard. The regiment was now ordered to fall back to Green Castle, most of the men felt chagrined at being sent home before seeing the Potomac, and were quietly listening to the distant cannonading, when two of three heavy reports of cannon, sounded from behind the woods directly in front of us about a mile. It proved to be our own artillery shelling the rebel pickets in the woods, about a mile from Williamsport. You should have seen how the men skedaddled back to where their muskets were stacked, and awaited orders, then scouts began to ride up the road, at a furious rate, and [Kealey’s?] Maryland brigade (2 Regiments of volunteers) a few of whom had suffered at Front Royal were ordered down. They marched out singing “Glory Halleleujah” [sic] and at the same time our orders were countermanded, and we were formed into line and marched down just after the Maryland Brigade, when we got out of the field we commenced likewise to sing and marched on.  Everyone “Eager for the fray” but here again I regret to say, I must stop to tell of others, who instead of proceeding on towards Williamsport, quietly took up their retrograde march for Hagerstown.  Besides the stragglers from the different companies, there was one entire company that declined moving on with the regiment.  So the colonel took their colors and gave them to another company, and thus we moved on, it was now nearly evening and we lay along the turnpike about 1 ½ miles from Williamsport in the rear of our artillery.  While here we had a kettle of coffee brought out, and we feasted on that and crackers for a short time, when we were ordered into line of battle in a field just back of a couple of houses and a barn, where Gen. Reynolds has his headquarters.  From the turnpike at this place Williamsport could be distinctly seen – as well as the course of the river for many miles.  We stacked our arms, and were allowed to build small fires, and then rolled up in our blankets and slept soundly until morning.  Our artillery had been firing at intervals during the evening.  It was said that the rebels had shelled the Anderson Troop out of a woods back of Williamsport.  At any rate they have fallen back toward Hagerstown.

Sunday 21st - Soon after breakfast Genl. Reynolds ordered us back into a woods about half a mile off towards the left.  We now hear that the rebels crossed about 1200 strong (principally cavalry) at Williamsport and it was thought that it was intended to draw off our forces and protect their rear who were crossing into Virginia about Shepherdstown.  It is also reported that our pickets conversed with General McClellan last night, and saved us from being shelled by him.  As he seeing our camp fires mistook us for Rebels, perhaps this not be correct.  A member of the Pottsville Company preached us a sermon this morning  - immediately after which we got dinner and before long were told that the rebels had all recrossed the Potomac, and that Maryland was clear of them.  We now got ordered to march to Green Castle, and about twelve o’clock turned our faces homeward, we stopped a little while at our old camp ground at Hagerstown and got all our effects loaded upon the wagons.  We also sent our knapsacks with the other goods, and before the march was over we were very glad we had done so.  It was very warm, and the dust was almost intolerable.  We halted several times during the afternoon and about nine oclock at night marched into a wood just outside of Green Castle where we lay till morning.  We felt quite ready to halt as we had had a weary march of about 13 miles.

- John Witmer

Now I know this is lazy...but the conclusion of John Witmer's militia adventure was discussed in a previous post that can be read here.  I hope you'll find Witmer's final adventure, before returning home, as fascinating as I did.

[1] A member of Co. E, 2nd Pennsylvania Emergency Militia.