Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 1862: Byers' Independent Cavalry Co.

Read the previous day here.

Windy, signs of rain.  Left Spriggle's [Farm] at 7 A.M., for [Hagerstown], where we reported to Gen. Reynolds at 8 to 9.  Received orders to proceed to Jones' Cross Roads [modern day intersection of MD65 & MD68], six miles on the Sharpesburg Pike or road, where we arrived about 10 to 11 A.M.  Found great  bustle.  large numbers of the Anderson Cavalry about, riding back and forth as orderlies to and from the scene of the terrible fight there and all day going on in the neighborhood of Sharpsburg. 
We have been within very distinct hearing of the rapid and incessant discharges of artillery at the fight the whole day since daylight this morning.  Saw some secesh prisoners from the fight brought in while we were at the Cross Roads.  We reported there, as ordered, to Captain Palmer who is by no means of unassuming appearance a man of some 30 years of age, about 5 feet 10 inches high, quite thin, reddish face, quick and firm looking, but evidently...feeling and thinking himself to be some considerable [?], and that he was making that impression upon observers.  He inquired our force and how we were armed; said we would do very well, and ordered us to proceed to Williamsport, some four miles distant, by way of Manor Cross Roads to relieve, as I at finish understood him, a cavalry company there.  We started off and when within a mile or two [of] Williamsport were met by him coming from that direction.  How he had got round or ahead of us I cannot say, as we had left him at the Cross Roads.  He hurried us in on the gallop and sharp trot to Williamsport, and ordered us through Capt. [Byers], and his aid, one Samborn or Sambent, to proceed to the burning of the ware-houses, canal boats, board yards, etc. to prevent and obstruct the passage of the retreating rebels across the river into Virginia at that point.  Our fellows unhorsed and went into it with a will, and in a very short time - say from 10 to 15 minutes the ware-house, planning mill and lumber yards were in full and terrible conflagration.  Many of the leading citizens cursed and swore at what they chose to designate as a wanton useless and unauthorized destruction of property, calculated in no way to retard the progress of the rebels across the [Potomac] river.  They got up a great excitement against us, and for a time it seemed as if they had determined to make an attack upon us.  Capt. Palmer was there until the flams was fully going, and left there to direct us the aid above named.  There were no Union troops of any kind in Williamsport or nearer than one to two miles.  A brick dwelling house, said by the man who lived in it to belong to "dam rebel or secesh", was burned from the were heat of the burning warehouses nearest it, which were some 20 or 30 yards off, and the wind blowing parallel with and not toward the house any part of the time.  We got there about the middle of the day, and had our work accomplished, including the undermining of and preparation to blow up the wall of the aqueduct across the creek, and despositing a heavy amount of powder in it, awhile before sun set.  We had orders to remain there until notified by our pickets or by Union picket firing that the enemy was approaching, and then to leave on the Hagerstown road.  Our horses were tied round a certain warehouse on the main street, or near it and around a coal yard fenced in, not unsaddled, but with bridles off, eating hay.  We had laid down to sleep about 9 to 10 o'clock - myself and the bugler together.  He went to sleep soon.  I had not gone to sleep, when about 10 1/2 to 11, four picket shots followed by Captain's order, "Up men!" roused us, and in less than five minutes we were in our saddles and on the way out of Williamsport.  When out about 1 to 1 1/2 miles, we encountered a heavy picket of cavalry, which we at first took for rebels, drawn up along the side of the road.  They were uncertain of  our character and purpose for a time as we were of theirs.  Questions were hurriedly exchanged an "who are you?" and a shot fired on their side, (a warning shot, I suppose) I drew my right pistol and the Captain and I Leut Boyed advanced slowly.  Explanations took place and we turned out to be friends - they a picket of New York cavalry encamped near by where we encountered them.  We pass on and made our camp that night at Spriggle's [Farm], east of Hagarstown and some seven miles from Williamsport, an hour or two after mid-night. 

- Charles Rawn

"The Militia Journal of Charles Rawn, September 9 to 23, 1862". ed. by Darin Smith. available from; Internet.

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