On picket duty

On Tuesday, July 7, another day of rain, the Mississippi Brigade was ordered out on picket duty at Downsville, Maryland, four miles southeast of Williamsport on the swollen Potomac River.

The pontoons over their intended crossing at Falling Waters had been destroyed by Union cavalry from Harpers Ferry and the river was out of its banks at Williamsport making the usual fording impossible, except on a small ferry which couldn’t move men fast enough if the Union attacked. Nevertheless, the ferry began transporting the wounded under Imboden’s care to the Virginia side.

The brigade’s Downsville position was the right end of a 6-mile line on high ground (its left end a bit more than a mile southwest of Hagerstown) facing east to guard the Williamsport crossing.

“We were ordered out here this evening as a support for our cavalry which has been skirmishing with the enemy,” 17th Mississippi Private Robert A. Moore wrote in his diary.

“Had a fine night’s rest last night, the first for a week. We are 8 miles [southwest] of Hagerstown…. The river is two feet above the fording mark & and we could not re-cross the river if we wished. I do not think Gen. Lee has any idea of crossing the river soon.”

Wednesday morning, July 8, it was still raining after a heavy downpour overnight. It finally stopped about noon.

Had an alarm last night,” Moore wrote, “& had to stand in line in the rain for several hours….We were delighted to see the sun this evening. Nothing has transpired to keep up the excitement except distant cannonading to-wards the Mts.”

Thursday, the 9th, was cloudy with some rain, according to the 13th’s Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill. He was with the regiment’s wagon train as it “moved to Downsville where the Brigade is on picket.”

Moore said they were having a fine time. “All has been very quiet in front to-day. We are enjoying ourselves very well out here. Have a fine country to forage in & live very high.”

By Friday, however, things were looking more uncertain. “Our cavalry had a heavy skirmish with the enemy this morning,” Moore wrote. “The weather is very hot & clear.”

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Gettysburg and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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