(aka “Maybe the Best Civil War Story Chapter 12-13”)
Chapterette 12 – The Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg Repurposes the War and Fills Shepherdstown’s Structures with 5,000 Wounded . . . and the Echoes of Indelible Memories.
Chapterette 13 will follow this chapter in the text herein.
Thy Will Be Done – Chapter 12a TRT: 25:54 Video link: https://youtu.be/SQvAkG5I1RM (Images from the video not available on Flickr)
Thy Will Be Done – Chapter 12b TRT: 44:43 Video link: https://youtu.be/cbB2_kUVIUU (Images from the video not available on Flickr)
Thy Will Be Done Chapter 13a – TRT: 1:00:26 https://youtu.be/vAqCNPA4_Tc
Thy Will Be Done Chapter 13b – TRT: 33:22 https://youtu.be/1hoI3hG2DQw
With support from American Public University System (apus.edu). (The sentiments expressed do not in any way reflect modern-day policies of APUS, and are intended to encourage fact-based exchange for a better understanding of our nation’s foundational values.
Just before Antietam, when the Confederate troops passed over into Maryland, Davis Shepherd, Junior rode to Kearneysville to meet them and came into Shepherdstown at the head of the army on his beloved horse – “Jinny” – a soldier among soldiers once more, though armed only a riding whip. The weight of his oath of neutrality seemed for a time lifted from him. – (1).
War ravaged the fields of Virginia harvesting men, remnants strewn as Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson coordinated a series of stunning reversals on the poorly led men fighting for the Union cause.
Then Lee boldly calculated to move his 70,000 men across the Potomac River at White’s and other fords the first week of September into the North. He hoped to carry the momentum to a negotiated separation from the United States for the Confederacy by demoralizing and swaying voters in the Northern states as they planned to vote for new Congressmen in November. Virginia needed to recover and harvest its grain. He may have known that England had already placed on its agenda a decision on whether to throw its weight – and domination of the seas – in favor of a “dis-uniting” of the United States – pending results of fighting on the battlefields of Maryland. The Deciding Stage was set.
But Lee knew grimly that his best fighters who were with him that hot, dry September could not last in a long war against the North’s deep resources and manpower. He played all his cards that September. This, Lee felt, was the last, best chance for the South to strike a winning blow. – (2).
The Dragons Are Approaching:
September, 1862, was in the skies of the almanac, but August still reigned in ours; it was hot and dusty. The railroads in the Shenandoah Valley had been torn up, the bridges had been destroyed, communication had been made difficult, and Shepherdstown, cornered by the bend of the Potomac, lay as if forgotten in the bottom of somebody’s pocket. We were without news or knowledge, except when some chance traveler would repeat the last wild and uncertain rumor that he had heard. We had passed an exciting summer. Winchester had changed hands more than once; we had been “in the Confederacy” and out of it again, and were now waiting, in an exasperated state of ignorance and suspense, for the next move in the great game. – (3).
Surprised that the 12,700-man garrison at Harper’s Ferry was not evacuated to be closer to Washington, Lee daringly decided to capture the garrison, entailing Lee’s breaking-up of up his army, which had dwindled down to just 40,000 from the 70,000 ten days prior. Men were exhausted, filthy, only semi-clad, and would at times, just lay down on grass and die.
Lee sent more than half his army towards Harpers Ferry less than seventeen miles away, but in three very different directions to encircle the garrison commanded by a fusty general named Dixon Miles. Stonewall Jackson led the force of 28,000. – (4).
Some of Jackson’s men coming to Harper’s Ferry from the west passed through Shepherdstown.
We found ourselves on Saturday morning, September 13th, surrounded by a hungry horde of lean, dusty tatterdemalions, who seemed to rise from the ground at our feet. I did not know where they came from, or to whose command they belonged; I have since been informed that General Jackson recrossed into Virginia at Williamsport, and hastened to Harper’s Ferry by the shortest roads. This would take him some four miles south of us, and our haggard apparitions were perhaps a part of his force. They were stragglers, at all events – professionals, some of them, but some worn out by the incessant strain of that summer. When I say that they were hungry, I convey no impression of the gaunt starvation that looked from their cavernous eyes. All day they crowded to the doors of our houses, with always the same drawling complaint: “I’ve been a-marchin’ an’ a-fightin’ for six weeks stiddy, an’ I wish you’d please to gimme a bite to eat.”
Their looks bore out their statements and when they told us they had “clean gin out,” we believed them, and went to get what he had. They could be seen afterward asleep in every fence corner and under every tree, but after a night’s rest they “pulled themselves together” somehow and disappeared as suddenly as they had come. – (5).
If the Federal Commander Gen. George B. McClellan ever knew that Lee – located just a short march to the west from his own 87,000 men encamped around Frederick, Maryland – had scattered his much smaller army across fifty square miles with a river dividing it, Lee would have been doomed. One would think.
But McClellan, in fact, DID learn all about Lee’s situation at just the right time to act, but Lee survived.
The order that Lee shared with three division commanders on September 9th was being read avidly by Gen. McClellan in Frederick’s marketplace by noon on September 13th. Two privates using an abandoned, once-Confederate camp site near Buckeystown, saw in the debris what looked like cigars wrapped in paper. Of course it turned out the paper was far more important than the cigars. – (6).
“At last, now I know what to do! Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.” McClellan famously said to Gen. John Gibbon nearby.
It became one of the most dramatic battles because Jackson’s men had to capture Harper’s Ferry’s 12,700 man garrison in almost no time allowed, and make the daylong march back to Lee’s army fragment at Sharpsburg – before Lee’s fragment army was wiped out by McClellan’s witting, advancing army of 87,000. In fact, hastened by the information from the found lost order, the very first of McClellan’s men to cross the Antietam Creek to Sharpsburg did so a bare three hours after the last of Lee’s men. And the Federals, perhaps surprising the Confederates with their celerity, fought and beat the rear-guard Confederates, all across South Mountain – the north-south ridge separating the two armies as they advanced.
The Confederate wounded began arriving at Pack Horse Ford just below the sleepy Virginia town of Shepherdstown.
Monday afternoon (September 15th) at about two or three o’clock, when we were sitting about in disconsolate fashion, distracted by the contradictory rumors, our negro cook rushed into the room, her face working with excitement. She had been down in the ten-acre lot to pick a few ears of corn and she had seen a long train of wagons coming up from the ford and, (she said) “They are full of wounded men, and the blood is running out of them that deep,” measuring on her outstretched arm to the shoulder. This horrible picture sent us flying to town, where we found the streets already crowded, the people all astir, and the foremost wagons of what seemed an endless line, discharging their piteous burdens. The scene speedily became ghastly, but fortunately we could not stay to look at it. There were no preparations, no accommodations – the men could not be left in the street – what was to be done? . . . Here they were, unannounced, on brick pavements, and the first thing was to find roofs to cover them. Men ran for keys and opened up the shops long empty, and the unused rooms; other people got brooms and stirred up the dust of ages; the swarms of children began to appear with bundles of hay and straw, taken from anybody’s stable. These were hastily disposed in heaps, covered with blankets – the soldiers’ own, or blankets begged or borrowed. – (7).
On the Eve of An Epic Battle
As night drew nearer, whispers of a great battle to be fought the next day grewlouder, and we shuddered at the prospect, for battles had come to mean to us, as they never had before, blood, wounds and death. – (8).
Wrote Federal officer Rufus Dawes the night before Antietam:
We passed over open fields and through orchards and gardens, and the men filled their pockets and empty haversacks with apples. About dusk, sharp musketry and cannonading began in our front. It was nine o clock at night when our brigade reached the position assigned it. The men laid down upon the ground, formed in close column, muskets loaded and lines parallel with the turnpike. Once or twice during the night, heavy volleys of musketry crashed in the dark woods on our left. There was a drizzling rain, and with the certain prospect of deadly conflict on the morrow, the night was dismal. Nothing can be more solemn than a period of silent waiting for the summons to battle, known to be impending. – (9).
The day began overcast, but became later a cloudless, blue-sky, perfect day in the mid-seventies. Col. John Gordon of the 6th Alabama Regiment later wrote: “It was in marked contrast with other battle-grounds. On the open plain, where stood these hosts of long hostile lines listening in silence for the signal summoning them to battle. There were no breastworks, no intervening woodlands, nor abrupt hills, nor hiding-places, nor impassable streams. The space over which the assaulting columns were to march, and on which was soon to occur the tremendous struggle, consisted of smooth and gentle undulations and a narrow valley covered with green grass and growing corn. From the position assigned me near the centre of Lee’s lines, both armies and the entire field were in view. The scene was not only magnificent to look upon, but the realization of what it meant was deeply impressive. Even in times of peace our sensibilities are stirred by the sight of a great army passing
in review. How infinitely more thrilling in the dread moments before the battle to look upon two mighty armies upon the same plain. . .” – (10).
Then the bloodiest day in American military history began in the dew and fog from a night rain.
On the 17th of September, cloudy skies looked down upon the two armies facing each other on the fields of Maryland. It seems to me now that the roar of that day began with the light, and all through its long, dragging hours its thunder formed a background to our pain and terror. If we had been in doubt as to our friends’ whereabouts on Sunday, (possibly referring to Dudley Digges Pendleton, Henry Kyd Douglas, Edwin Gray Lee, among others-JS) – there was no room for doubt now. There was no sitting at the windows now and counting discharges of guns, or watching (as they did during the Harpers Ferry battle) the curling smoke.
We went about our work with pale faces and trembling hands, yet trying to appear composed for the sake of our patients, who were much excited. We could hear the incessant explosions of artillery, the shrieking whistles of the shells, and the sharper, deadlier, more thrilling roll of musketry; while every now and then the echo of some charging cheer would be borne by the wind, and as the human voice pierced the demoniacal clangor we would catch our breath and listen, and try not to sob, and turn back to the forlorn hospitals, to the suffering at our feet and before our eyes, while imagination fainted at the thought of those other scenes hidden from us beyond the Potomac.
On our side of the river there were noise, confusion, dust; throngs of stragglers; horseman galloping about; wagons blocking each other, and teamsters wrangling; and a continued din of shouting, swearing, and rumbling, in the midst of which men were dying, fresh wounded arriving, surgeons amputating limbs and dressing wounds, women going in and out with bandages, lint, medicines, food. An ever-present sense of anguish, dread, pity, and I fear, hatred – these are my recollections of Antietam. – (11).
There was this terrific battle.
The noise was as much
As the limits of possible noise could take.
There were screams higher groans deeper
Than any ear could hold.
Many eardrums burst and some walls
Collapsed to escape the noise.
Everything struggled on its way
Through this tearing deafness
As through a torrent in a dark cave.
The cartridges were banging off, as planned,
The fingers were keeping things going
According to excitement and orders.
The unhurt eyes were full of deadliness.
The bullets pursued their courses
Through clods of stone, earth, and skin,
Through intestines pocket-books, brains, hair, teeth
According to Universal laws
And mouths cried “Mamma”
From sudden traps of calculus,
Theorems wrenched men in two,
Shock-severed eyes watched blood
Squandering as from a drain-pipe
Into the blanks between the stars.
Faces slammed down into clay
As for the making of a life-mask
Knew that even on the sun’s surface
They could not be learning more or more to the point
Reality was giving it’s lesson,
Its mishmash of scripture and physics,
With here, brains in hands, for example,
And there, legs in a treetop.
There was no escape except into death.
And still it went on–it outlasted
Many prayers . . . – (12).
Roughly 40,000 artillery shells were fired that day, some 20-pounders traveling as far as 1900 feet traveling at 1,250 feet per second. Possibly a hundred muskets or rifles fired every second for hours. – (13).
No one ever talks about the sound. It was a day of only thunderous sound in Shepherdstown over two miles away.
Gen. Alpheus Williams wrote his wife in New York City:
The roar of the infantry was beyond anything conceivable. . . Imagine from 8,000 to 10,000 men on one side, with probably a larger number on the other, all at once discharging their muskets. If all the stone and brick houses of Broadway should tumble at once the roar and rattle could hardly be greater, and amidst this, hundreds of pieces of artillery, right and left, were thundering as a sort of bass to the infernal music. – (14).
It is utterly incomprehensible and perfectly inconceivable how mortal men can stand and live under such an infantry fire as I heard today. Judging from the way the musketry roared the whole surrounding air between the lines must have been thick with flying lead. – (15).
Cheated out of a meal by the order, Gen. John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade charged with “a shout as piercing as the blast of a thousand bugles” across a cornfield toward federal positions in the morning – a fierce futile charge that dropped 82 per cent of all the soldiers in one charging regiment. – (16).
Both commanding generals were ill-informed, Lee thinking his army was closer to 70,000 not yet realizing the deep loss to straggling; McClellan, always one to operate on the estimate of the enemy’s forces at what could charitably be called the “maximum possible” number. McClellan acted in a way that reflected his strange conviction that Lee had 100,000 men.
But what enabled Lee to manage the slaughter better than McClellan was where he chose to watch things. The more inexperienced McClellan set up shop in a comfortable home two miles to the north getting his intelligence through the lens of a telescope, eyed by someone other than himself. The concluding written-down orders were then galloped out to the battlefield to the appropriate commander, often long after the orders pertained.
Lee, more experienced and oblivious to personal physical risk it would seem, watched with his hand seriously hurt and bandaged from his horse near the Hagerstown Pike on a knoll. There, he was able to see emerging dangers and lateral off verbal orders directly to the intended commander.
How the two Generals opted to be informed almost determined the outcome.
The whole day – and the war itself – was coming down to a “warm” discussion among Generals McClellan, Sumner and Franklin on whether McClellan should make use of about 20,500 fresh, undeployed men into the battle – right at a time, unbeknownst to them – when Lee had virtually no reserves left and was fighting almost on pride alone. – (17).
Thousands of well-led federals closed in from the Sunken Lane area on what remained of the paltry Confederate position near Hagerstown Pike. Confederate Captain M. B. Miller double-charged his two guns with spherical case and canister causing them to leap ten to twelve inches into the air with each firing. With no time left, these only two brass guns — remarkably – brought down what observing Confederate General Longstreet called “the aggressive spirit of their right column” – Col. Francis Barlow and, another shot brought down the Federal commander of the entire front, Gen. Israel Richardson. The federal advance stalled, saving the Confederates. – (18).
Lee ordered Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart to probe the terrain between the extreme Union right and the riverbank of the Potomac to see if there was room to press the remnants of his army around the end of the Union line, to either escape or turn the Union line. But the prompt, persuasive reply from 42 Union guns quashed that plan.
Moreover, if the advancing, slightly opposed Union forces crossing the Burnside Bridge, totaling 8,600 men, could get to the Main Street of Sharpsburg, then all Confederate escape routes were blocked and the entrapped army of Northern Virginia would be defeated.
By 4 PM, McClellan chose to agree with Gen. Sumner, calling off any offensive on the main battlefield and decided to not attack Lee with his thousands of fresh bluecoats, leaving Lee able to fight another day. – (19).
Federal Genls. George Greene, who captured the Dunker plateau earlier in that day, and the wounded Joe Hooker, whose men fought all morning, both volcanically cursed at this premature quitting.
Musing on McClellan’s wayward thought processes to not take action, Lee’s chief of artillery, Edwin Porter Alexander, later wrote:
For Common Sense was just shouting, “Your adversary is back against a river, with no bridge & only one ford, & that the worst one on the whole river. If you whip him now, you destroy him utterly, root and branch and bag and baggage. Not twice in a life time does such a chance come to any general. Lee for once has made a mistake, and given you a chance to ruin him if you can break his lines, and such game is worth great risks. Every man must fight and keep on fighting for all he is worth. – (20).
What about the one last chance for victory for the Federals?
Burnside’s drive was thrown back by the perfect attack by Confederate Gen. A. P. Hill’s 3500 men, arriving on their 17-mile march from Harper’s Ferry – a stunning clash that stilled the carnage at last on that impossible day.
. . .the explosives ran out
And sheer weariness supervened
And what was left looked round at what was left.
Then everybody wept,
Or sat, too exhausted to weep,
Or lay, too hurt to weep.
And when the smoke cleared it became clear
This has happened too often before
And was going to happen too often in the future
And happened too easily
Bones were too like lath and twigs
Blood was too like water
Cries were too like silence
The most terrible grimaces too like footprints in mud. – (21).
After dark, Lee’s commanders drifted automatically back to Lee’s tent and each had a private conference with him.
Henry Kyd Douglas ventured out into the dark mystery of the sodden grounds, where cries inside a haystack faded into meuling – then silence.
The dead and dying lay as thick over the land as harvest sheaves. The pitiable cries for water and appeals for help were much more horrible to listen to than the deadliest sounds of battle. Silent were the dead, but here and there were raised stiffened arms; heads made a last effort to lift themselves from the ground; prayers were mingled with oaths, the oaths of delirium; . . . men were wriggling over the earth; and the midnight hid all distinction between the blue and the gray.
My horse trembled under me in terror, looking down at the ground, sniffing at the scene of blood, stepping falteringly as a horse will, avoiding human flesh; afraid to stand still, hesitating to go on, his animal instinct shuddering at this cruel human mystery. – (22).
Wounded continued to overflow in Shepherdstown.
When night came we could still hear the sullen guns and hoarse, indefinite murmurs that succeeded the days’ turmoil. That night was dark and lowering and the air heavy and dull. Across the river innumerable camp-fires were blazing, and we could but too well imagine the scenes that they were lighting. We sat in silence, and a drawing close together, as if for comfort. We were never hopeless, yet clung with desperation to the thought that we were hoping. But in our hearts we could not believe that anything human could have escaped from that appalling fire. – (23)
On Thursday, September the 18th, the two armies lay idling facing each other, but we could not be idle. The wounded continued to arrive until the town was quite unable to hold all the disabled and suffering. They filled every building and overflowed into the country round, into farm-houses barns, corn-cribs, cabins – wherever four walls and a roof were found together. . . . There were six churches, and they were all full; the Odd Fellows’ Hall, the Freemasons’, the little Town Council room, the barn-like place known as the Drill Room, all the private houses after their capacity, the shops and empty buildings, the school-houses – every inch of space and yet the cry was for (more) room. The unfinished Town Hall had stood in naked ugliness for many a long day. Somebody threw a few rough boards across the beams, placed piles of straw over them, laid down single planks to walk upon, and lo, it was a hospital at once. The stone warehouses down in the ravine and by the river had been passed by, because low and damp and undesirable as sanitariums, but now their doors and windows were thrown wide, and with barely time allowed to sweep them, they were all occupied, even the “old blue factory,” an antiquated, crazy, dismal building of blue stucco that peeled off in great blotches, which had been shut for years, and was in the last stages of dilapidation. – (24).
Late on the 18th was almost moonless. Then, a thunder storm and Lee’s discovery that morning of just how weak his army had become – set cannon wheels rolling quietly down the pike, the soft shuffle of men marching at the double-quick into the water at Boteler’s Ford. 25,000 tattered men, carrying wounded, and getting away. All night Lee and Jackson stood on their horses in the Potomac River, as the often Clogged stream of wagons and men crossed back into Virginia – and home. At ten AM the next morning, Gen. Walker passed Lee at mid-river confirming that he was the last fighting force to which Lee said softly: “Thank God.”
Netta Lee returns to her home of Bedford that rainy evening after caring for wounded all Thursday at Parran House in Shepherdstown (in 2014 on the northeast corner of Mill and German Streets):
When I got back to Bedford that night I found the house, Father’s office, and every vacant space full of soldiers. General Loring (should be “Lawton.”-JS) had been badly wounded and with his doctor and orderlies had Brother Edwin’s room in the eastern wing. In the next room, was young Tom Barlow with a broken leg and his brother Jack to nurse him. Jack came with tears in his eyes and asked us to care for them; they were from Williamsburg, Virginia. My uncle, Colonel Richard Henry Lee, though not wounded was induced by Father to stay with us. Then General Robert E. Lee’s son, “Rooney,” had his horse fall on his leg and sprain it badly; he was in the little room next to General Loring (Lawton) and remained a day or two. In the room next to my own was a poor fellow named Willis, who soon began to develop typhoid fever, was ill for weeks and died there. In my father’s office in the yard, a soldier sat propped in an arm-chair, holding his arm which rested on his knee. There was a puddle of blood between his feet; blood was dropping from a wound, small and not painful, but it had dropped all day; we had tried to get a surgeon to tie the artery; we feared he would die before morning.
At last Mother sent a note to dear old Dr. Quigley, our family physician. It was dark and it was raining, but he came to us, with only a dim lantern to guide his footsteps. He told us he could not see to take up the artery, but thought his medicine would clot the blood and stanch it until morning. It did relieve the patient, who slept quietly all night with a friend beside him. Next day came a report that the yankees were crossing the river and paroling all wounded whom they could not imprison, so before they reached Bedford, our young cavalryman was propped on a horse and with his friend, they hastened to the Confederate lines. They stayed at Dr. Logie’s beyond Kearneysville, until able to travel further.
Oh, those awful days! Houses searched and men arrested without cause. Mr. Davis Shepherd and a company of young men became a home guard. Naturally he was betrayed by Union sympathizers, sent to the Old Capitol Prison, became very ill and returned home to die. – (25).
On Thursday night we heard more than the usual sounds of disturbance and movement, and in the morning we found the Confederate army in full retreat. General Lee crossed the Potomac under cover of the darkness, and when the day broke the greater part of his force – or the more orderly portion of it – had gone on toward Kearneysville and Leetown. (The larger portion with Lee, Jackson, and Stuart actually moved west towards Martinsburg, then encamped at Bunker Hill. Their rearguard defenders under Gen. A. P. Hill went towards Leetown.-JS). – (26).
General McClellan followed to the river on Friday morning, and without crossing got a battery in position on Douglas’s Hill, and began to shell the retreating army, and in consequence, the town. What before was confusion grew worse; the retreat became a stampede. The battery may not have done a very great deal of execution, but it made a fearful noise. It is curious how much louder guns sound when they are pointed at you than when turned the other way! And the shell with its long-drawn screeching, though no doubt less terrifying than the singing minie ball, has a way of making one’s hair stand on end. – (27).
The stream of fleeing soldiers on the Kearneysville Pike went by Poplar Grove, the home of the Bedingers just south of Shepherdstown and the family soon had about a hundred men on the lawn, in the house or in their barn. Described by descendant Serena Dandridge as “the intelligent devoted angel,” 48-year-old freedman Abram Dixon helped the family with the overwhelming need.
When Poplar Grove was the center of such artillery shelling, and when the rest of the family was safely ensconced in the cellar, little Danske stayed behind despite the family’s pleadings to join them in the room above. Finally she closed her reading matter, R. M. Ballantyne’s ‘Coral Island’ and remarked: ‘Now I can tell my descendants that I finished a book during a battle!’- (28).
(This popular book is considered by literary scholars as a model for the 1954 book by William Golding “Lord of the Flies.”) – (29).
Someone suggested that yellow was the hospital color, and immediately everybody who could lay hands upon a yellow rag hoisted it over the house. (But) when the firing commenced, the hospitals began to empty. All who were able to pull one foot after another, or could bribe or beg comrades to carry them, left in haste. – (30).
The men were described by one of their numbers as: sun-burnt, gaunt, ragged, scarcely at all shod, specters and caricatures of their (our) former selves. . . they (we) had fed on half-cooked dough, often raw bacon as well as raw beef, had devoured green corn and green apples; they (we) had contracted diarrhea and dysentery of the most malignant type, and, lastly, they (we) were covered with vermin . . . (31).
In vain we implored them to stay; in vain we showed them the folly, the suicide, of the attempt; in vain we argued, cajoled, threatened, ridiculed; pointing out that we were remaining and that there was less danger here than on the road. . . The cannon were bellowing upon Douglas’s Hill, the shells whistling and shrieking, the air full of shouts and cries; we had to scream to make ourselves heard. The men replied that the “yankees” were crossing; that the town was to be burned; that we could not be made prisoners, but they could; and that anyhow, they were going as far as they could walk, or be carried. And go they did. Men with clothes about their heads went hatless in the sun, men with cloths about their feet limped shoeless on the stony road; men with arms in slings, without arms, with one leg, with bandaged sides and backs; men in ambulances, wagons, carts, wheelbarrows, men carried on stretchers or supported on the shoulder of some self-denying comrade – all who could crawl went, and went to almost certain death. They could not go far, they dropped off into the country houses, where they were received with as much kindness as it was possible to ask for; but their wounds had become inflamed, their frames were weakened by fright and over-exertion; erysipelas, mortification, gangrene set in; and long rows of nameless graves still bear witness to the results.
Our hospitals did not remain empty. It was but a portion who could get off in any manner, and their places were soon taken by others, who had remained nearer the battlefield, had attempted to follow the retreat, but having reached Shepherdstown, could go no farther. We had plenty to do, but all that day we went about with hearts bursting with rage and shame, and breaking with pity and grief for the needless, needless waste of life. – (32).
Among the new arrivals from battle, Edward Moore of the First Rockbridge Artillery, apparently with George Bedinger and Steve Dandridge made his way to the Bedinger home in Shepherdstown. If Dandridge was indeed present at Poplar Grove, he would not have known that within fifteen years he would marry one of its inhabitants and spend the balance of his life at this home, as it become his own.
On the following day at our hospital the heap of amputated legs and arms increased in size until it became several feet in height, while the two armies lay face-to-face, like two exhausted monsters, each waiting for the other to strike. About sundown that afternoon I was put in an ambulance with S. E. Moore, of the College company, who was in a semi-conscious state, having been struck on the brow, the ball passing out back of the ear. The distance to Shepherdstown was only three miles, but the slow progress of innumerable trains of wagons and impedimenta generally, converging at the one ford of the Potomac, delayed our arrival until dawn the next morning. About sunrise we were carried into an old deserted frame house and assigned to the bare floor for beds. My brother David, whose gun had remained on picket duty on this side of the river, soon found me, and at once set about finding means to get me away.
The only conveyance available was George Bedinger’s (NOTE: A step-son to Carrie Bedinger from the first marriage of Henry Bedinger.-ED) mother’s carriage, but my brother’s horse — the same brute that had robbed me of my bedding at Leesburg — now refused to work. The booming of cannon and bursting of shells along the river at the lower end of the town admonished us that our stay in the desolate old house must be short, and, as brigade after brigade marched by the door, the apprehension that ‘they in whose wars I had borne my part’ would soon ‘have all passed by,’ made me very wretched. As a last resort, I was lifted upon the back of this same, obstreperous horse and, in great pain, rode to the battery, which was camped a short distance from the town. S. E. Moore was afterward taken to the Bedingers’ residence, where he remained in the enemy’s lines until, with their permission, he was taken home by his father some weeks later. – (33).
With so many starving soldiers begging, food became scarce at the Grove and the family, like many, lived largely on cornbread and dried apples. – (34).
We presently passed into debatable land, when we were in the Confederacy in the morning, in the Union after dinner, and on neutral ground at night. We lived through a disturbed and eventful autumn, subject to continual “alarms and excursions,” but when this Saturday (September 20, 1862) came to an end, the most trying and tempestuous week of the war for Shepherdstown was over. – (35).
Some wounded rebels did not got back to Virginia soil:
The innovative Medical Director of the Federal army, Jonathan Letterman reported afterward:
In addition to our own wounded, we had to care for two thousand five hundred Confederate wounded from the battle of South Mountain, Crampton’s Gap and Antietam. . . Those in houses progressed less favorably than those in barns, those in barns less favorably than those in the open air, although all were in other respects treated alike. – (36).
With wounded from both sides on both sides of the river, Dr. Abner Hard, lead a covert advance with an Illinois regiment that surrounded Shepherdstown and its surprised inhabitants. Confederate officers were taken prisoner and Dr. Hard also recovered Federal wounded to bring back to Maryland. They also rounded up Edwin Gray Lee who was visiting his parents at Bedford. He was released a few days later in early October in a prisoner exchange.
Friday, September 26, 1862 – Ascending the hill through a deep ravine the body of a soldier was discovered, too much decomposed to be recognized. Near the village we encountered the rebel pickets who beat a hasty retreat, but our movements were ordered and executed so quickly and with such celerity, that the village was surrounded and occupied before many were aware of our presence. The place had the appearance of one immense hospital, nearly every house being filled with wounded, which had been taken from the battle of Antietam. Among them were some union prisoners, which we provided for with great pleasure. . .
We drove the enemy some three miles beyond the town, and took about thirty prisoners, among them Lieutenant Colonel Lee of the Thirty-third Virginia Infantry. He was finely mounted and equipped, and expressed himself greatly chagrined at being captured. Toward evening the regiment returned to camp with their prisoners, proud of their day’s work.
On (Sunday) the 28th, our newly appointed Chaplain, Rev. Philo Judson, arrived and preached his first sermon.
Monday, September 29th, a reconnaissance in force was made, General Pleasanton commanding. Colonel Farnsworth being unwell our brigade was under the command of Colonel Williams, of the First Massachusetts Cavalry. Halting for a short time at Shepherdstown, our wounded men, found there, were conveyed across the river in small boats and sent to Sharpsburg.
While engaged in the discharge of this duty we observed those in charge of a hospital near the river, took especial pains to prevent our going around a certain house. Our suspicions were aroused, and thinking there might be some soldiers secreted there, one of the officers of the regiment was made aware of the facts. He at once instituted a search, though strenuously opposed by the family. No soldier was found but a fine cavalry horse with full equipments was discovered in a cave in the hill, which made an excellent addition to our own animals.
A few miles further on at a farm-house we found Colonel Magill and other rebel officers, suffering from severe wounds. The Colonel had an arm amputated at the shoulder, which, for want of proper care, was alive with maggots. After dressing their wounds we learned that the Colonel had been educated at West Point, and was a classmate of General Pleasanton. – (37).
Friday, October 3, 1862 – Henrietta Bedinger Lee writes her daughter, Ida Rust in Loudoun County:
Your dear letter came safely yesterday, it was a balm and comfort to my tired mind and weary body. Your dear father returned from his exile about two weeks since, when our army passed into Maryland. Oh, what a time we have had with that army. The fight near Sharpsburg filled our town to overflowing with wounded and dying men. Every vacant house, every church and nearly all the private homes have been full. I had eleven, and with their attendants, sixteen. Now I am sitting by your father’s sick bed. For a week he has been quite ill with typhoid; yesterday his fever left him, but in spite of all our entreaties he would get up and he would eat some cheese; the consequences were a horrid night and more fever. I am very nearly worn out with anxiety and watching. Added to this is a sad case upstairs: a young man who has been ill since the battle; he was badly wounded, then typhoid set in, and now, for several days, he has been in a dying condition; he cannot survive this day. I have another young man in Eddie’s room, who is doing well, though he was badly wounded. The others were removed to Winchester, though many were utterly unfit to go.
(Referring to the federal shelling from Ferry Hill) . . . the shells passed over the east wing of Bedford, trimming the trees in the garden and scaring old Kizia who was digging the cabbage bed, out of her senses. Seven of the shells were picked up unexploded. Oh, how many desolate homes, orphan children and widowed mothers has this vile cruel and oppressive war has caused.
Your dear brother (Edwin Gray Lee) came from a bed of sickness in Lexington to see us last Thursday. I had not seen him since last spring. The yankees were informed of his visit by this vile old Abram Snyder, whom he met in the road; they surrounded the house, captured him and his pet horse, which had been stolen, and to recover which, he had that day paid $75. – (38).
Dr. Hard’s regiment came looking for officers, while Edwin Gray Lee was sitting on the portico of Bedford using field glasses. His younger sister, Netta Lee, was about to go to town to buy some hops to make a hops pillow for her sick father. Getting word of approaching yankees, Edwin rushed to the stables, saddled his horse and fled across the fields in the direction of Morgan’s Grove. Unfortunately he got into the swamp, where the federals surrounded him and captured him. – (39).
Henrietta Lee continues:
Edwin was paroled, but his horse, revolver and saddle were taken from him. He is with us now but expects to leave tomorrow in order to be exchanged. Poor fellow! Old Ginny, which he hired as a cavalry horse, was also stolen the night before last, or rather captured, as his rider was in a house in town and a yankee came along and took the horse off.
I have not been in Town for nearly two weeks. Two wounded men died at The Rectory last week and Lila has been sick – but is recovering. Annie did not get (illegible) to stay those days with me. The days she arranged to come, all the wounded were brought in. She is well and her little children very sweet. Tippie spent the day here on Wednesday. She is as precious and lovely as she can be and I think the young Captain she has taken a fancy to, thinks far more of himself and his promotion, than of her – he is very full of himself, that is certain. Tippie always speaks most lovingly of you and wishes she could see you and be near you as who does not. . .
(Referring to the Federal Provost Marshal in Sharpsburg) she writes: No tyrant of the old world ever displayed greater despotism. Is it not sad that so many of our poor wounded should be in such hands. Heaven shield us from their grasp. Sue (Mrs. Lee’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. Edwin Lee-JS) writes as if she hoped you would come and spend the winter with her – but there is still so much uncertainty. I supposed you have not yet decided. It is thought that (Mary) Dare Parran has made a conquest of a Dr. Tinsley who is here attending the sick and wounded. I can’t say much for her taste. He is staying at her Mothers, is from Williamsburg and an acquaintance of Edwin’s, he dined with us, but he did not take my eye.
I could fill several sheets with interesting accounts of our wounded and sick soldiers, and I do say if we have had a specimen of the way the Physicians treat those poor men through out our southern land, it is no wonder they die in scores. It seems to me this war has crushed our humanity from the hearts of men. O that it might please God to end it and give us back our loved ones to our homes and hearts again. I could amuse you by the hour with some items, especially I wish I could transcribe a note I got from a gentleman during our season of confusion & nursing, It was a rare note to send a lady. The last of Carrie’s (Caroline Bedinger, widow of Henry Bedinger and mother of Danske, Henry, Mary, Virginia and George at Poplar Grove.-JS) wounded left a week ago. Col. Calhoun of South Carolina and like the one who left us, he parted with tears and sobs. Poor fellow. I could have wept with him. But darling my paper is nearly exhausted, I fear I will find this rather bulky for my envelope. I will squeeze it in. Thank dear A. (Ida’s husband Armistead) for his kind sweet letter, this must answer his and yours as I have a scarcity of paper & envelopes. Kiss him and the precious boy & little Beckie, My heart is pining to see you all. God our Father bless and keep you all for Jesus sake. Ever your loving Mother. PS I have no strength or wish to read this over, let no eye see it; destroy as soon as read. – (40).
Earlier on Monday, September 22nd, President Lincoln had given the bloodbath that was here a reason with his most lasting action, the announcement and later signing into law of the Emancipation Proclamation, making the carnage at Antietam part of a war for the freedom of the enslaved. A young nation would continue killing itself for issues so divided and hopeless, many entrusted solutions to Providence alone. The war would rage down its long dusty path for thirty more months, leaving this nation with a deep, everlasting, contemplative scar; and some were nobly saved, to the last best hope of earth.
Elizabeth Stockton Pendleton, “A Wartime Tragedy,” The Shepherdstown Register, September 25, 1924.
Dennis Frye in “Harpers Ferry Under Fire – A Border Town in the American Civil War.”
“A Woman’s Recollections of Antietam” by Mary Blunt (pseudonym for Mary Bedinger Mitchell). Battles & Leaders, Vol. 2, pp. 686-695.
Rufus Dawes in “Service in the Sixth Wisconsin.” p. 87.
John Brown Gordon in “Reminiscences of the Civil War.” pp. 82-83.
“From the Cannon’s Mouth: The Civil War Letters of General Alpheus S. Williams.” p. 127.
George Neese in “Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery.” p. 125.
James Longstreet in “From Manassas to Appomattox; memoirs of the Civil War in America.” pp. 251-252.
Stephen Sears in his “Landscape Turned Red.” pp. 271-272, p. 396 footnote.
Wikipedia.org: “Field Artillery From the Civil War;”
“Battles & Leaders,” Vol. 2 – pp. 465, 512, 561, 576, 630, 561.
Broadway, New York City – New York Public Library
Battle Maps – Baylor Digital Library
Library of Congress: Map of Frederick, Shepherdstown, & Sharpsburg region; Col. Dixon Miles; Harper’s Ferry destroyed bridge; Capitol Building under construction; Sharpsburg, MD Main Street; Francis Barlow.
Paintings of Antietam Battle – Antietam National Historic Battlefield
Images from Wikipedia.org: Israel Richardson; Edward Porter Alexander; Lord Palmerston; R.E. Lee’s horse “Traveller; William B. Franklin; Robert E. Lee; George B. McClellan; Stonewall Jackson; John Bell Hood; Rufus Dawes; Alpheus Williams; Ambrose Burnside.
Second Bull Run – Currier & Ives, (1862?)
Boys in Shepherdstown – detail 1866 photo from Historic Shepherdstown Museum.
John Brown Gordon – georgiaencyclopedia.org
Tattered Confederate cavalryman cartoon from “Harper’s Weekly” (October 4, 1862)
Lost Order 191 – Stanford University, Law Library
Cook from David Hunter Strother’s “Virginia Illustrated “Harpers New Monthly.” January, 1856, p. 177.
Excerpt from poem “Crow’s Account of the Battle” by Ted Hughes.
Chapterette 13 – September-October, 1862 – The Bower – “If these walls could talk”
Thy Will Be Done Chapter 13a – TRT: 1:00:26 https://youtu.be/vAqCNPA4_Tc
Images at Flickr 13a (1): 63 (with script captioning)
Images at Flickr 13a (2): 51 (with script captioning) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimsurkamp/albums/72157667221981841
Images at Flickr 13a (3) – 65 (with script captioning)
Images at Flickr 13a (4) – 85 (with script captioning)
Images at Flickr 13a (5) – 99 (with script captioning)
Thy Will Be Done Chapter 13b – TRT: 33:22 https://youtu.be/1hoI3hG2DQw
Images at Flickr 13b (1) – 138 (with script captioning)
Images at Flickr 13b (2) – 88 (with script captioning)
After the Antietam battle, Confederate men crossed at Pack Horse Ford below Shepherdstown while Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry crossed further upriver at the more dangerous Shepherd’s Ford.
After a final battle Saturday, September 20, 1862 at Shepherdstown at Pack Horse Ford, they all went into camp to rest, eat and “de-bug” themselves. Stonewall Jackson’s men encamped at Bunker Hill below Martinsburg with Gen. Lee, then Lee moved further south to near Stephenson’s Depot.
Federal commander, George McClellan, confounded and vexed both the enemy and President Lincoln with the myriad reasons he’d dole out for not restarting the fight with Lee’s recovering but weaker army, choosing instead to “vacation,” as it were, on the Maryland side of the Potomac.
Stuart’s cavalrymen even mocked McClellan’s inertness in early October, taking Gen. Lee’s order to re-cross into Maryland and to Pennsylvania and ride around the entirety of McClellan’s army, grabbing a thousand horses en route. This staged show of strength had the additional purpose of keeping McClellan indecisive. Lee was also, by this show, politically influencing mid-Atlantic voters who would cast votes within a month for a new Congress.
This chapter, however, is about how J.E.B. Stuart’s 36-50 some odd-man staff (and their friends) found paradise at The Bower, and made the most of it for a month. The Bower was the home of Adam Stephen Dandridge, the friend of Alexander Boteler who years before introduced Boteler to his future wife at Princeton College in New Jersey.
The fun and hi-jinks of these men, coming directly from a most horrible scene, have become the stuff of legend. The Bower, looking west from its magisterial perch atop a hill along the Opequon, remains, to this day in the Dandridge family and is protected with a permanent conservation easement. (NOTE: The original main home burned and was rebuilt in the 1890s on the same footprint and brick frame but with the addition of dormers and a wrap-around porch, the style of that period.)
One can only surmise that after the Dandridges extended their hospitality to Stuart’s contingent that upon their departure, left the Dandridge family cleaned out of provisions and extremely vulnerable to retribution by the Federal armies.
The Legend of the Bower
Serena Catherine Dandridge, one of the two eldest, young daughters of the Bower’s owner, wrote:
The host and hostess welcomed not only their friends, but their friend’s friends, to what was merrily nicknamed ‘Liberty Hall.’ The resources of the house were manifest, fat cattle in the pastures, poultry in the surrounding hills, many gardens in the rich bottomlands in front, with fifty servants always at one’s beck and call. Every bit of room availed to hold a guest. In the attic and on vast mattresses thrown down, in lack of other accommodation, the children dreamed sweetly of the morrow. Back of the house lay numerous terraces and plots, planned and planted by the artistic taste of my grandmother. Here amidst the rich shrubberies, we’d look sheer across the Valley, from Blue Ridge to the North Mountains, all over the lovely land . . . We gloated on the Paradisical beauty of the beloved home and loved to put a wealth of flowers about it, and to read its praises written, as they often were in prose or verse. – (1).
Monday Morning, September 29th – Heros Von Borcke first sees The Bower:
Weather: very warm, dry and dusty. – (2).
When I arose from my grassy couch at sunrise on the 29th, I found, indeed, that the half had not been told me of The Bower. Our headquarters were situated on a hill beneath a grove of lofty umbrageous oaks of primitive growth, which extended, on the right, towards the large mansion-house, the thick brick walls of which, in the blush of the early sunlight, were just visible in little patches of red through the rich verdure of the embosoming garden. At the foot of this hill, skirting a main road to which the slope was smooth and gradual, ran the bright little river Opequon, its limpid waters breaking through and tumbling over the hills and rocks, thus forming a cascade of considerable height, with rainbows in its spray as the sun changed every falling drop into a ruby or a diamond.
This lovely entourage was now enlivened and diversified by the white tents of our encampment, the General’s, with its fluttering battle-flag, in the centre, by the smoke of the camp-fires where the negroes were busily engaged in cooking breakfasts, by the picturesque groups of officers and men who were strolling about or cleaning their arms, and by the untethered horses and mules which were quietly grazing all over the ground. One may be pardoned some extravagance of language in attempting to describe a scene which brought a feeling of thankful happiness of the soldier, weary of the excitement, the toil, the hardship, and the anguish of war.
We had now plenty of food for our exhausted animals, which had undergone so much fatigue and privation, and our own commissariat was far more abundant than it had been for many weeks. The long mess-table, at which we dined together in the open air, was loaded with substantials that seemed dainties and luxuries to us, who often for days together had gone without food, and at best could secure only a meagre repast.
Frequently, when the mocha, of which we had captured a large supply from the enemy, was smoking invitingly on our breakfast-table, we had the pleasure of greeting the proprietor as a welcome guest at our morning meal at headquarters; later in the day a lady’s skirt might even be seen in the streets of our encampment; but regularly every night we proceeded with our band to the house, where dancing was kept up till a late hour. – (3).
Evening Wednesday-Very Early Morning Thursday, October 1-2 – Shepherdstown, VA:
Stuart and Von Borcke visit home of Lillie Parran Lee, East German Street, Shepherdstown, VA. and she gives Stuart the silver spurs her husband wore when he died at the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, spurs that Stuart was given years earlier and that he had graciously given to her husband and close friend, William F. Lee. While visiting, Stuart also invited her and many of the town’s young ladies to a Ball at The Bower. – (4).
Thursday Weather: forenoon – quite warm; afternoon – thundering, small clouds passing around; evening fine breeze sprang up. – (5).
Netta Lee recalls how she and a group of older, more sophisticated Shepherdstown ladies rode in a van provided by Confederate General J.E.B.Stuart, visiting her relative Gen. Robert E. Lee and going to an unforgettable night of dancing and festivities at the Bower.
Evening Tuesday, October 7 – The Bower & The Grand Ball:
Netta Lee continues, describing The Bower and the ball, after coming from Gen. Lee:
When we arrived at The Bower, a servant brought up an officer’s card for ‘The Ladies of Shepherdstown.’ At once, Margie (Boteler-JS) said, as she read aloud the card: ‘Major Frank Huger! Oh, I know he has come to call on me; I met his cousin in St. Louis.’ But Eliza (Hamtramck-JS) knew somebody else who knew him and thought he had come to seek her. I modestly remarked: ‘I wonder if he can be my brother’s old chum and schoolmate at Mr. Ben Hallowell’s school in Alexandria?’ Cousin Lily called to us to hurry down and I followed the others to the porch below. The older girls were first to be introduced; then came my turn. When my name was mentioned, he (Frank Huger) came quickly across to me, bowing low and offering his hand, saying: ‘I came here especially to see you, Miss Lee, for I am sure you must be the sister of my old chum, Edwin Lee. Am I not right and may I shake your hand?’ Well, I did feel a little triumphant, for I had been called ‘Bread and Butter’ all along the trip, yet I got three kisses from our General Lee and he called me his ‘sweet little cousin’ when he gave me mine. – (7).
Evening Tuesday, October 7 – The Bower and the Grand Ball’s Music Program: – (8).
Grand Overture – Orchestra
Cottage By The Sea – Sweeney.
Lilly, Dear – Sweeney.
When The Swallows Homeward Fly sung by Stuart
Looka Dar Now by Capt. Tiernan Brien
Going Down To Town played by Sweeney
Ever of Thee
I Ain’t Got No Time To Tarry
Sweeney’s “orchestra” as described by William Blackford:
We had at headquarters a capital band of singers who were (p. 162) accompanied by Sweeney on his banjo, Bob, The General’s mulatto servant, on the bones, and occasionally, by a violin, and other instruments. But the main standby was Sweeney and his banjo, and every evening at The Bower this formed a part of the entertainment. – (9).
Blackford gives his account of the Ball’s mysterious – uproarious – couple – “The Pennsylvania Farmer and His Wife” – actually Von Borcke and Brien.
One evening, when there was an invited company and the parlors were all full, Von Borcke and Brien gave us another capital performance. They were to appear as Paddy and his sweetheart. Mr. and Mrs Dandridge were the only two persons in the secret, and Von Borcke and Brien were taken secretly upstairs for preparations under their care. Von Borcke was transformed into a blushing maiden weighing two hundred and fifty pounds and six feet, two and a half inches tall; a riding skirt of one of the girls, supplemented by numerous dainty underskirts and extended by enormous hoops according to the fashion then in vogue, hung in graceful folds to conceal the huge cavalry boots the huge damsel wore.
Her naturally ample bosom palpitated under skillfully arranged pillows, and was gorgeously decorated with the Dandridge family jewelry and ribbons; while ‘a love of a bonnet,’ long braids of hair, and quantities of powder and rouge completed her toilet, and in her hand she flirted coquettishly a fan of huge dimensions. Colonel Brien was admirably disguised as an Irishman dressed in holiday clothes, with a flaming red nose, Billycock hat, a short pipe, and a short, thick stick stuck under his arm. The absences of these two had been accounted for on some plausible pretext, so that when they made their appearance in the ballroom the surprise was complete. Both acted their parts to perfection. Paddy entertained the fair girl on his arm with loud and humorous remarks as they sauntered around the room, to which she replied with simpering affectation that was irresistibly ludicrous. No one had the faintest conception as to who they were, so perfect was the disguise.
Before the company recovered from the surprise of their appearance the music struck up a lively waltz, and ’round and ’round the couple went, faster, and faster went the music, and faster and faster flew the strangers. It was not until in the fury of the whirling dance with hoop skirts flying horizontally, that twinkling amid the white drapery beneath, the well-known boots of Von Borcke betrayed the first suspicion of who the lady was. As suddenly as they had come they vanished, waltzing out through the open door and followed by convulsive roars of laughter from the delighted audience. Nothing would satisfy the company but their reappearance and in they came arm-in-arm to enter into conversation with their friends. The skill of their disguise and their acting was now even more remarkable than at first. It was really difficult to detect their personalities even then. – (10).
Von Borcke gives his own first-hand account of the same masquerade described by Blackford:
On the 7th, a grand ball was to take place at The Bower, to which Mr D. had invited families from Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, and Charlestown, and in the success of which we all felt a great interest. As an exceptional bit of fun, Colonel Brien and I had secretly prepared a little pantomime, ‘The Pennsylvania Farmer and his Wife,’ in which the Colonel was to personate the farmer and I the spouse. Accordingly, when the guests had all assembled and the ball was quite en train, the immense couple entered the brilliantly lighted apartment – Brien enveloped in an ample greatcoat, which had been stuffed with pillows until the form of the wearer had assumed the most enormous proportions; I dressed in an old white ball-dress of Mrs D.’s that had been enlarged in every direction, and sweetly ornamented with half-a-bushel of artificial flowers in my hair. Our success greatly outran our expectations. Stuart, exploding with laughter, scrutinized me closely on all sides, scarcely crediting the fact that within that tall bundle of feminine habiliments dwelt the soul of his Chief of Staff. Again and again we were made to repeat our little play in dumb show, until, getting tired of it and wishing to put a stop to it, I gracefully fainted away and was carried from the room by Brien and three or four assistants, amid the wild applause of the company, who insisted on a repetition of the fainting scene. When, in a few moments, I made my appearance in uniform, the laughter and applause recommenced, and Stuart, throwing his arms around my neck in a burlesque of pathos, said, ‘My dear old Von, if I could ever forget you as I know you on the field of battle, your appearance as a woman would never fade from my memory.’ So the joyous night went on with dancing and merriment, until the sun stole in at the windows, and the reveille sounding from camp reminded us that the hour of separation had arrived. – (11).
Sunday, October 26, 1862 – Stuart’s born-in-the-saddle horsemen play “double-dare-ya” – Von Borck’s Revenge.
Von Borcke challenges Blackford and Stuart to riding derring-do. This occurred two weeks after Blackford and Stuart led 1800 cavalrymen in a madly dangerous ride around Federal Gen. George McClellan’s entire army, driving deep into Pennsylvania and coming back triumphantly to the Bower. Von Borcke was specifically ordered to stay behind at Bower and not join the expedition, possibly due to his reputation for running horses hard to exhaustion with his considerable size and weight. The following might have been Von Borcke’s defiant answer for the subtle insult. – (12).
On Sunday the 26th of October, there was a grand review of Hampton’s brigade, which was attended by the ladies from far and near, and as the day was lovely, it proved a fine military spectacle. When the review was over, the officers of our own and Hampton’s Staff assembled to witness the trial of a diminutive one-pounder gun, which turned out to be of very little account, and afterwards we had some equestrian sports, matches in horse-racing, fence-jumping, &c. Captain Blackford, who, with a thoroughbred chestnut mare, attempted to take a high fence just in advance of Stuart and myself, had a severe fall, which was fortunately unattended with serious consequences.
Remarking upon it, that, in my opinion, the fault lay not so much with the horse as with the rider, Stuart said, “Hear Old Von, how grand he talks!” Then turning to me, he added, in a banter, “Why don’t you jump the fence yourself, if you know how to do it better?” I had never leaped my heavy-built Pennsylvanian as yet, and I was in doubt whether he was equal to the lofty barrier, but as there was no possible escape from Stuart’s challenge, I struck my spurs into his sides, and over he went like a deer, amidst the loud applauses of the General himself and other spectators. I had now the laugh on my side, and very soon afterwards the opportunity of bantering Stuart, when he could say and do nothing in reply. Returning to camp, we took, as a short cut, a road that led through a field of Indian corn; upon getting to the farther end of which, we found that the fence, usually pulled down at this place, had been recently put up, making a formidable barrier to our farther progress. Stuart and others observing this, turned off to the right, towards the main road; but seizing my opportunity, I cried out to him, “General, this is the way;” and clearing the five-barred fence in a splendid leap, I arrived at headquarters several minutes in advance of my comrades, whom I welcomed upon their approach, rallying my chief very much for not having followed my example.
Our long and delightful sojourn now drew rapidly to its close. Guest after guest departed, and every day the indications of a speedy departure became plainer. At length on the 29th of October, a hazy, rainy autumn day, the marching orders came, and the hour arrived for the start. A number of the staff did not fail to indulge in the obvious reflection that nature wept in sympathy with us at the separation.
With heavy hearts indeed, we left the beautiful spot, and bade adieu to its charming, kindly inhabitants. Silently we rode down the hill, and along the margin of the clear Opequon stream, musing on the joyous hours that had passed away – hours which those few of our dashing little band of cavaliers that survived the mournful finale of the great war, will ever hold in grateful remembrance.
General McClellan, the Federal Commander-in-Chief, having largely reinforced his army with regiments from the new levy of 300,000 volunteers called out for nine months, and having brought it to a strength of 140,000 men, well equipped in every respect, had at last determined upon a forward movement, all unknowing at the time that the supreme command was soon to be taken from him by the Government at Washington. The right wing of the Federal forces, by a strong demonstration towards Harper’s Ferry, made a show of invading Virginia from this point, but the great bulk of the army crossed the Potomac about fifteen miles lower down, near the little town of Berlin. General Lee, having been opportunely informed by his vigilant cavalry of the enemy’s operations, had commenced, in the mean time, a movement on the opposite side of the Blue Ridge, in a nearly parallel direction towards Front Royal, being about a day’s march ahead. Longstreet’s corps was in the advance, Jackson’s troops following slowly, covering the rear, and still holding the passes of the Blue Ridge, Snicker’s, Ashby’s and Chester Gaps. The cavalry under Stuart had orders to cross the Ridge at Snicker’s Gap, to watch closely the movements of the enemy, retard him as much as possible, and protect the left flank of our army.
So we rode quietly along in the tracks of our horsemen, who, before the Staff, had left “The Bower,” had proceeded in the direction of Berryville. Our mercurial soldiers were as gay as ever, and even the most sentimental members of the Staff had rallied from the despondence incidental to departure from our late encampment, when during the afternoon we reached en route the little town of Smithfield, where, under Bob Sweeney’s direction as impresario, we managed to get up a serenade for the amiable widow who had entertained me with such hospitality.
Meanwhile the rain, which had been falling when we rode off from “The Bower,” had ceased, a keen north wind had set in, and it had begun to freeze hard, when, late at night, we reached Berryville, chilled, wet, and hungry. The provisions of the country had been more or less consumed by the troops who had preceded us on the march, and it was therefore regarded as exceedingly apropos that we were invited to supper by a prominent citizen, at whose pleasant house we greatly enjoyed a warm cup of tea, a capital old Virginia ham, and afterwards a pipe of Virginia tobacco before a roaring wood-fire.
Our troops bivouacked about two miles from town; and as on a march, for the sake of the example, we never took up our quarters beneath a roof, we left our hospitable entertainer about midnight, and established ourselves in an open field under some old locust-trees, near several large fodder-stacks, which furnished us with abundant food for our horses. It was a clear, cold, starlight night, and as we had no protection from the frost but our blankets, we kept in lively blaze several tremendous fires, the wood for which each and every one of us had assisted in collecting. General and Staff were all fast asleep, when, on a sudden, we were aroused by a loud crash, which startled even the feeding horses and mules. One of the old hollow trees, against the trunk of which our largest fire had been imprudently kindled, after smoldering for hours, had at last yielded to the force of the wind and fallen heavily to the ground, fortunately without doing any damage whatever.
In the early morning, when we awoke to the reveille, the fires had quite burnt out, a white hoar-frost lay thickly over every object around us, and the shivering officers of our military family expressed in every feature their ardent desire for a good warm breakfast. As we were discussing the probabilities of such a thing, we were most agreeably surprised by the kind invitation of a neighboring planter to satisfy ourselves at his hospitable board, an invitation which we did not hesitate to accept. To provide against a future want of breakfast, when a good Samaritan might not be so near at hand, our careful mess-caterer, the portly doctor of our Staff, availed himself of the opportunity of purchasing a quantity of hams and bacon, which, being deposited for safety in an army wagon, were stolen before two hours had elapsed by some of our rascally negro camp-followers.
The sun shone down with the warmth and glory of the soft Indian summer, a season of peculiar loveliness in America, when we reached the Shenandoah, our passage of which was extremely picturesque. The banks of this beautiful stream are often bold, and sometimes even majestic, the current breaking through gigantic cliffs which rise to the height of several hundred feet on either side, or flowing placidly along between wooded shores, whose stately trees, where the river is narrowest, almost intermingle their branches. The forests skirting the course of the Shenandoah were now glowing with the gorgeous hues of the American autumn, which the landscape painter cannot adequately reproduce nor the writer properly describe. The light saffron of the chestnut trees was in effective contrast with the rich crimson of the oaks and maples, while the trailing vines and parasites displayed every tint from the palest pink to the deepest purple. Upon the opposite shore, at a distance of only a few hundred yards from the margin of the river, rose the mountain-range of the Blue Ridge thickly covered with forest, within whose depths the head of our column was just disappearing as we arrived at the bank. The main body was passing the stream, while here and there a single trooper might be seen watering his horse or quietly examining his weapons. – (13).
Up to November 2, 1862 – Rezin Davis Shepherd Jr.’s Final Days
While The Bower was a scene of triumphs other than the fighting kind, quieter, poignant last days came and went for the family of Rezin, Lizzie, Fannie and Alexander Shepherd, as life ebbed away from their dying father’s body. Lizzie was also pregnant with their third child. Rezin’s health was ruined by his imprisonment at Old Capitol Prison, where he was taken for possessing maps given to him by a spy of the federal fortifications of Washington, D.C.
In these last days, the family anxiously travelled the few miles back and forth from Fountain Rock with support from Tippie Boteler and their own smaller abode, called the River Cottage. (located today off Shepherd Grade Road.-JS)
On one of these visits to his children at Fountain Rock, word came hurriedly there that their father, Rezin Davis Shepherd Jr. was dying and wanted to see the children. Then young Aunt Helen (Tippie Boteler), who had devoted herself to little Fanny and Alexander, took them to their father. The night was dark and cold and the drive long and lonely over a rough road. The Confederate sentinels halted the carriage just outside the village; the solemn-eyed and sleepy children leaned against their aunt while she hurriedly explained her errand.
The tragic ending of a brave, good life came the next morning, Sunday November 2, 1862. In the Trinity Episcopal church four miles away, Dr. Andrews and his devoted congregation were at the same hour offering prayer to the Father of Mercies and God of all Comfort that after this painful life ended he might dwell in Life everlasting. – (14).
Chapterette 13: September-October, 1862 – The Bower – “If these walls could talk”
1. “Serena Catherine Dandridge Memoir.” p. 73 – Dandridge Collection – Jefferson County Museum, Charles Town, WV.
2. Hotchkiss, p. 85.
3. Von Borcke pp. 183-186.
4. Von Borcke p. 190.
5. Charles Aglionby’s Farm Journal, p. 34.
6. Netta Lee, p. 12.
8. Peggy Vogtsberger. “This Fine Music.”
9. Blackford, pp. 161-162.
10. Blackford, pp. 158-159.
11. Von Borcke, pp. 202-203.
12. Von Borcke, p. 204.
13. Von Borcke, pp. 221-222.
14. Elizabeth Stockton Pendleton, “A Wartime Tragedy,” The Shepherdstown Register, September 25, 1924.