Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

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.

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