Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 1862: 2nd PA Emergency Militia (L. Richards)

Read the previous day here.
150 years ago today, while the Battle of Antietam raged...

Drilled in the morning in the adjoining fields, and while thus engaged observed a renewal of the reports of artillery towards the south, heard on the day previous, and with still greater distinctness.  These proceeded, as we afterwards learned, from the battle-field of Antietam, some thirty miles off.  A dull gruff belch, at irregular intervals, accompanied by a sense of concussion, told the story of the distant conflict.  This inspired strange and solemn feelings.  Human lives were being offered up as a sacrifice upon the altar of our country, and thousands of homes would sit in dread suspense until it should be known upon whom the fatal blows had fallen.  The result, too, was of great concern to us, who were auxiliaries in reserve against an untoward crisis.  The evolution now assumed a significance they had not heretofore possessed.  Their object seemed no longer to be skill merely, but preparation.  The zeal for duty was quickened, and it was the idea of responsibility which was uppermost in the minds of all.  Additional regiments meanwhile arrived, among others two of the Gray Reserves and Home Guards of Philadelphia, which left Harrisburg yesterday.  With drilling, guard mounting, and the usual routine of camp duties, the day wore slowly away.  Another picturesque scene at night.  After roll-call crawled again into our comfortable domicil [sic] of cornstalks, with every reason to expect another good night's sleep.
About 11 o'clock...the beating of the ominous long roll aroused us from our peaceful slumbers, and the word quickly passed that we had received marching orders for Hagerstown, and were to be ready to leave at 12. The accouterments having been collected by the light of the fires, the regiment marched to the railroad, a mile off, where it was expected a train would be waiting for us. Alas! we here received our first practical lesson of the great uncertainty of military movements, and the mechanical nature of the duties of the soldier, who must obey orders, simply, without inquiring for reasons. In the quality of civilians, which we could not altogether consent to drop, our sense of individual importance was frequently infringed upon in our new capacity. Each in his turn felt disposed to divide with his superiors the responsibility of command. After waiting several hours in the crisp cool air of the autumn night without and train appearing, we lost all patience and lay down on our blankets for temporary repose. As the dews of heavens gently distilled upon our unprotected forms, the memory of the comfortable quarters we had just left did not add to the feelings of reconciliation to our present miserable situation. Morning broke at length and breakfast was improvised by the cooks.

- Louis Richards

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