Monday, September 10, 2012

Havoc in Hagerstown, 1860's Style!

On this day, Thursday September 10th, 150 years ago, it was no secret that the Army of Northern Virginia was roaming the Maryland landscape. Although their exact location might yet remain elusive to some, it was no longer a mystery for the citizens of Hagerstown. The reality of the situation came crashing through the streets in the form of the 1st VA Cavalry. It was on this day that the local newspaper, Herald of Freedom and Torch Light (phew, what a name!) smartly packed up and relocated to Chambersburg for the next two weeks. The staff was in the process of setting the typeset for the September 10th edition when it was decided that it was time to go! The next day hundreds more also fled into Pennsylvania as Longstreet’s Division poured into Hagerstown. For those who stayed behind, they found themselves up to their ears in worthless Confederate money or certificates of indebtedness used to pay for every type of good imaginable. The rebels were described as “not only badly clothed and unclean in person, but in a half-starving condition... hundreds are weakened by diarrhea, and worn out by their long march...many express an ardent desire to lay down their arms”.
It was noted that the army had two camps, on the southeast and southwest of town, and remained there until the morning of Sunday the 14th when it began a retrograde movement. By Monday morning all rebels had vacated Hagerstown but the citizens were left in a state of uncertainty. Where did the rebels go and were they coming back? Who could tell? It was an 1860’s edge of the seat nail-biter! And just when the tension became absolutely unbearable “a company of U. S. Regular Cavalry, under Lieut. Tarleton, came charging into town and were received with wild and enthusiastic applause and our town was restored to the shadow of the Stars and Stripes, and to comparative quiet and security. In a very few minutes the Star Spangled Banner which had for days been hidden was thrown flaunting to the breeze, and hearts grew glad and voices loud, amid the exultant joy which filled the public breast”. Happy Hagerstown citizens!
The editors and staff returned to Hagerstown on September 24th and continued on with the typeset and finished pages 2, 3, and 4 of the September 10th edition. What’s remarkable is the change in tone from page 1 to page 2-3. Pre-invasion vs post-invasion mentality. Page 1 has war news which includes an article on Bragg’s army and an interesting op-ed from  ‘A Union Man Who Loves TRUTH’ about how the media distorts the war. Hmm, sound familiar?  Pages 2-3 include lengthy pieces about the rebel slumber party in Hagerstown as well as the battles of Harper’s Ferry, South Mountain and Antietam. Other than the small segment about an escaped boa constrictor, I think the best part of the the September 10-24th edition is from the editors, who wrote-----

When the rebels approached Hagerstown we, in company with hundreds of other Union men, sought refuge in Pennsylvania, and consequently the publication of the Herald and Torch was suspended for two weeks. It was the first time during the twenty-three years we have had control of this paper, that we failed to issue it upon the regular day of publication, and under the circumstances, we presume no subscriber will be ungenerous enough to censure us for deserting our post. We can print no paper under rebel rule, and this is our apology for printing none while that rule extended over Washington County. We have again returned to our sanctum, but being short of hands, and having passed through a week of intense anxiety and excitement, we are unable to do justice to this number of the paper. It was, indeed, with great difficulty that we managed to issue a paper at all, and we must therefore ask the forbearance of our patrons until we can get fairly under way again.

The September 10-24th edition of the Herald of Freedom & Torch Light can be found at (Western Maryland's Historical Library).
*Any factual errors are based on what the editors knew then rather than what I know now.

No comments:

Post a Comment