The Journey: On to Pennsylvania

“The Division left camp at 3 a.m. and commenced the march for Maryland,” Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill recorded on Wednesday, June 24, 1863.

“The whole army is in motion for the enemy’s country,” 17th Regiment diarist Robert A. Moore wrote. “Our division is in the rear of the army.”

Barksdale’s Brigade passed through Berryville, and after thirteen miles, they camped at Summit Point Station on the Harpers Ferry and Winchester R.R.

On Thursday, they marched another twenty-one miles and camped near Martinsburg where Moore found “the people…are nearly unanimously for the Union.”

Hill agreed. “The people of this place are strongly tinctured with Unionism. The Army met with cold greetings as they passed through. We camped 1 mile from Martinsburg on the Williamsport Turnpike.”

Friday, the 26th, they awoke to a steady rain that had begun overnight and would continue until late afternoon. Hill said they left camp at 6 a.m. and marched twelve miles northeast, passing through the village of Falling Waters, and by noon had reached the Potomac River at Williamsport and forded it there into Maryland.

“It was but little more than two feet deep,” Moore recorded. “…all the army has crossed and is heading on towards Harrisburg [PA].”

Historian Harry Pfanz, in his Gettysburg, The Second Day, wrote that the Rebels had confiscated a large amount of whiskey in Williamsport and each man crossing the river was authorized a cup full:

General “McLaws remarked that to the credit of his division he had heard of no one’s refusing it, and as a result his men were all in a good humor.”

They camped for the night near the crossing, left at sunrise on Saturday, the 27th, and marched another twenty-one miles, passing through Hagerstown, Md. about 9 a.m.

“The citizens are about equally divided on the war question,” Hill wrote, and added:

“We crossed the Pennsylvania line at 1 p.m. at the village of Middleburg. Passed through Greencastle, Pensylvania at 3 p.m. The people are hiding their property and moving it out of our reach as fast as they can. But our Quartermasters and Commissaries have taken a large number of horses, mules, wagons, beef cattle, sheep, forage, etc. They pay for these things where the people will accept our currency and if they refuse give them a receipt for it to be paid at the end of the war. A large number of citizens have fled, leaving their homes unprotected. We camped at the village of Marion.”

While the quartermasters and commissaries had Gen. Lee’s permission to forage the army on the countryside, the troops were admonished not to plunder, rob or destroy.

“Gen. Lee’s order was read to us,” Moore recorded. “He orders that private property be respected except when taken formally for the use of the army.”

Gen. McLaws, who had written his wife, Emily, that he thought venturing into Pennsylvania was unwise, since it would only damage the Northern peace parties agitating to end the war, had known of the intended order about ten days before it was issued. He understood the need for it, he told her, but favored some sort of formal plundering for revenge for what the Union armies had been doing to Virginia and other parts of the South.

“[I]t could be and should be restricted…to details made daily for the special purpose to do all in their power to retaliate for the many outrages committed against us.”

There were, apparently, no such details appointed but, on Sunday, June 28, as the brigade passed through Chambersburg, Pa, it was evident to Moore and Hill that the troops were not entirely restrained.

“Our Army is living on the countryside and the Quartermasters are taking everything that the Army can use,” Hill recorded. “The people are very much depressed and uneasy on account of our invasion of their state and express their dislike of us on all occasions.”

Despite strict orders against leaving camp, which the brigade made a few miles east of Chambersburg, Moore wrote: “The souldiers are committing some depredations on private property…Have had chicken pie, molasses, buttermilk, pork, etc.”

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Gen. Lafayette McLaws, The Commanders, The Spartan Band, William H. Hill Diary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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