Lou's Place in Cyberspace



Chapter III


On Wednesday, September l0th, the command moved westerly in the direction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. They moved through the town of Damascus, and on the 11th, were between the towns of New Market and Urbanna, heading toward the city of Frederick, Maryland. The marching was comparatively easy, the weather was a bit cooler, and the men were passing through beautiful early autumn countryside. On Friday, September 12th, the Regiment forded the Monocacy River moving closer to Frederick; expecting to arrive there sometime the next day.

Near noon on Saturday, September 13th, the Regiment halted about one mile outside Frederick, Maryland. It was here that the Regiment heard for the first time the sounds of battle. The fighting was between the Union skirmishers in advance and a rear guard of the Confederate cavalry on the outskirts of the city. Lee's main body of troops had left Frederick just the day before. After a short delay the Regiment was ordered to camp, occupying the same fields the Confederates had used the day previous.

On Saturday afternoon the Regiment was marched into Frederick City. A halt was made on Main Street. When the Regiment received the command to fall out, the soldiers made a dash for the stores. They eagerly purchased such items as fresh bread, pies, sugar, coffee, whisky and other luxuries of home. Considering the experiences of the past few days the troops were willing to pay almost any price for these items. The soldiers were well received by the citizens of Frederick, who tended to be Union sympathizers.

In their conversations with the people of Frederick, the soldiers would usually ask about size of the Rebel army, how the Confederates had conducted themselves while in town, and whatever information they might know regarding the enemies destination or campaign plans. Later that evening, after investigating the town, George and Henry Harrison along with the remainder of Company D, gathered to sing Company D's favorite and popular hymn "Then let the Hurricanes Roar". The sounds of their hymn filled the streets where earlier there had been gunfire. Their march through Frederick would remain a pleasant memory the men would carry the rest of their lives.

At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, September 14th, the command marched out of the Frederick area moving westerly towards a range of mountains known as South Mountain. These mountains are north and east of Harpers Ferry. As the command marched they frequently had to halt, as the main road became jammed with wagons, artillery trains, and troops. It was then decided to move the command off the main roads, and cross-country in order to make better time. The command moved across the fields trampling down acre upon acre of crops. They passed over the Catoctin Mountains west of Frederick and into and through Middletown Valley. The men had marched almost continuously for sixteen hours.

On this same day the battles of Turners and Crampon's Gap had been fought on South Mountain. These gaps were the main passage routes over the mountain though there was several other smaller passes. During the march the Regiment could distinctly hear the sounds of distant artillery as the Union troops battled to gain control over these passes.

It wasn’t until after midnight Monday morning September l5th that the 13th Regiment or what remained of it, halted and bivouacked in a field "fragrant with Pennyroyal" near the town of Bolivar at the base of the South Mountain. It had been another exhausting march, and the men were still not yet used to marching long distances. Of the entire command, only twenty-seven muskets were stacked when Lt. Col. Swords halted for the night. The discipline and physical endurance of the new men left much to be desired.

The reason for this march was due to General McClellan having received a copy of Lee's orders #191 dated September 9th. These were the famous "Lost Orders" which had been found by two soldiers of the 27th Indiana Regiment on the fields they occupied while camped outside of Frederick. These orders disclosed Lee's plan to divide his armies. Lee planned to send Jackson's command and Walker's Division across the Potomac to take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and to capture the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry.

McClellan realized it would be to his advantage to put his forces between Lee's Armies as quickly as possible inflicting severe injury on the Confederates and at the same time relieve the garrison at Harpers Ferry.  McClellan had told General Gibbon: "We will pitch into his center, and if you will only do two good days of marching I Will put Lee in a position he will find hard to get out of."(7)

During the night of September l4th the enemy abandoned their position in the gaps on South Mountain and pulled back moving towards the town of Sharpsburg and the Potomac River.

On Monday morning September l5th at 8am, the Union Arsenal at Harpers Ferry was surrendered. In the afternoon of the l5th the command was ordered to pursue the enemy forces, which had left South Mountain the night before.

The 12th Corps, now under General Mansfield's command along with the 1st and the 2nd Corps, were to follow the Old National Highway to and through Boonsborough. About 1 p.m. Monday afternoon the march resumed. The sun soon burned relentlessly, creating another day of marching in the intense afternoon heat.

The command then crossed South Mountain where they saw the evidence of the struggles of the day before. The 12th Corps crossed the mountain at Turner's Gap and marched towards Boonsborough along the National Highway.(7A) (Now Route 40 alternate).

The Regiment reached Boonsborough and encamped for the night just beyond the town, along the Pike leading southwest from Boonsborough to Keedysville. Evidence of the terrific battle of the day before was everywhere. Human gore, groaning wounded, dead men, and horses. Churches, houses, barns, tents, almost any shelter available were used as a hospital. Surgeons were everywhere dressing wounds and amputating limbs. These wounded were the men of General Hooker's and Reno's Corps who had fought the day before in Turner's Gap. General Reno had been killed in this battle. These sights told a sickening tale of things soon to become familiar to the men of the 13th.

On Tuesday, September l6th, Mansfield's 12th Corps, including the 13th Regiment, moved from Boonsborough to the vicinity of Keedysville, a distance of about 3 miles. The Corps then went into camp near Keedysville for the remainder of the day. The men cooked rations, cleaned their weapons, and spent the day resting in preparation for the clash they knew was soon to follow.

During the night of the 16th the sky became cloudy. It began to drizzle. Near midnight orders were received for the 12th Corps to move forward immediately. Near 12:30 a.m. on September l7th, the command was given specific instructions to cross Antietam Creek moving as quietly as possible. There was to be no loud talking, rattling of tins, or the lighting of a match.

After crossing Antietam Creek at the upper bridge and a ford nearby, the Regiment made a brief march and moved into position with the reserves on the extreme right of the 12th Corps, about a mile in the rear of Hooker's Corps. They arrived in this position near 2 a.m. Here in a piece of woods near the George Line House, on the upper end of the Smoketown Road, the Regiment camped "close column by division". The Regiment lay down in the leaves hoping to get some sleep before the impending battle.

As George Harrison lay there he could hear lively skirmishing in the distance between Hooker's advanced troops as they came upon the enemy hiding in the morning darkness.  To the men of the new 13th N.J. Regiment, the approach of dawn became a dreaded event. Some feared it was to be their last day on Earth. The drizzling rain slowed to a stop. The grayness of the morning began to clear as the sun climbed over the distant mountains. Mists were soon floating over the fields. Morning had come.