Journal of the Kosciusko Guards Company
E 12th Regiment
Written by William S. Hemphill Transcribed
by Marjorie Priser
* * *
Dec. 11th About 10 o'clock a.m. a messenger came
into camp stating that a force of about 5000 men was approaching
the Dam and evidently intended to destroy it and probably make
a short raid into Maryland. A few minutes later the picket stationed
at the dam reported about two regiments on the opposite side.
From the bluff a short distance form camp a large body of men
and several pieces of artillery could be seen moving along a road
some two miles distant in the vicinity of the small village of
Hardscrabble. The two companies stationed at this post, 190 strong
were immediately formed and marched to their positions to protect
the Dam, but no enemy could be seen, the ground in that part of
the country being quite broken with hills and ravines.
After waiting for some time without seeing any sign of the enemy,
Major Hubler ordered Captain Williams to take half a dozen men
and cross the river to ascertain if possible the enemy's whereabouts
and intentions. Taking with him Corporals H. S. Westcott and Robert
S. Richhart and privates Jas. McGuire, S. G. Robbins, Oliver Hubler,
Lem Hazzard of Co. E. and Isaac Hall from Co. K the captain crossed
the river and moved cautiously back towards a house from which
a good view of the road and country beyond could be obtained.
Their progress was watched with a great deal of interest, when
suddenly Sergt Thorne shouted out "Look there, they will
Looking a little to the left, a body of cavalry was discovered
emerging from a ravine which ran to the river in the rear of the
Captain and his little squad. At the same time some dismounted
men made their appearance near the house spoken of. The Captain
discovered the cavalry just as they emerged from the ravine and
began to move back toward the river. A brisk fire was opened upon
the enemy from the Maryland side, which was not without effect
as several saddles were emptied. The captain and his little squad
were not idle, but kept up a lively fire upon their assailants
and being at short range they did considerable execution. But
they were soon entirely surrounded and notwithstanding their plucky
fight, 8 against 100 they were compelled to surrender and were
taken to the rear.
The captain was a general favorite with all the men in camp and
his capture seemed to make them perfectly fearless. They left
their rifle pits and poured volley after volley into the ranks
of the enemy while the frequency with which men were seen carried
to the rear proved that their aim at long range was not defective.
At first the enemy's balls fell short but in a short time they
got the range and the sharp whirring of the balls as they passed
by or the dull thud as they flattened against the rocks, were
not very soothing in their effects. The men, who were under fire
for the first time, stood bravely up to their work, and soon became
cool as veterans, taking as deliberate aim as if hunting squirrels
in their home woods. The enemy soon withdrew to a brick church
about a mile from the river where they planted a section of artillery
and threw over a few shells, doing no harm, however.
When the enemy first made their appearance, Sergt Brower of Company
K was sent with 25 men to the guard-lock about half a mile above
the dam. Soon after he had taken position at that point a detachment
of the rebel force moved down to the river on the opposite side,
with boats, evidently intending, while Major Hubler's attention
was drawn to the force in his front, to cross the river at the
lock, gain his rear and compel the surrender of the entire force.
Sergt Brower, however spoiled this plan by opening such a galling
fire from his position as to cause them to beat a hasty retreat,
with two or three killed and several wounded.
Another detachment before the enemy had moved down a ravine that
opened into the river by a grist mill a short distance below the
dam. A few men from Co. E occupied a small rifle pit directly
opposite the mouth of this ravine and as soon as they discovered
the enemy, they opened fire, killing one man, and making it so
uncomfortable for the balance that they hastily withdrew. In the
meantime messengers had been dispatched to Sharpsburg and Williamsport
for reinforcements and just at dusk Col. Link and Lieut. Col.
Humphreys arrived with Companies B and G and a ten pounder parrot
gun. The men worked cheerfully all night digging rifle pits and
getting the gun into position expecting a lively time on the morrow.
At daylight on the morning of the 12th fire was opened on the
church at which the rebel flag was displayed and after throwing
ten shells, the enemy were seen to fall back behind the hill.
At 10 o'clock, everything being quiet, a flag of truce was sent
over to ascertain the fate of Captain Williams and the men with
him. It was learned that the Captain and all his men were captured
without being injured and were taken to Shepherdstown. It was
also ascertained that the enemy had 2100 men commanded by Col.
Ashby and acknowledged a loss of 5 killed and 7 wounded, while
at one house, the family stated positively that they had counted
12 killed and 30 wounded, the hospital being established at their
house during the fight.
The enemy having moved back towards Martinsburg leaving everything
quiet in front, Companies B and G returned to Sharpsburg and after
detailing a strong picket, the men remaining at this post were
permitted to go to camp for the much needed rest and refreshment
after 24 hours duty. At 2 p.m. a message was received from the
Captain stating that they were at Martinsburg and all well and
in good spirits. At 4 p.m. the enemy again made their appearance
in some force opposite the guard-lock but were repealed with a
lost of two killed.
Dec. 13th A scout who was at Martinsburg when the rebel
force arrived there came in. He had seen the Captain and reported
the boys all well and in good spirits. He was told by a rebel
soldier that when the Captain was taken prisoner he was ordered
to get on a horse behind a rebel cavalryman; as he did so, he
laughingly remarked "I guess they don't need us over there
anyhow; there are plenty there without us and if you want any
more you can get them, probably by going after them." McGuire
who was a Mexican War veteran, remarked as he mounted behind another
man "I have wanted to get into a cavalry company for sometime
and this appears to be a good chance, so here goes!"
A deserter came into camp in the evening who stated that when
they captured the boys they fell back to a log house to be out
of reach of the Yankee guns. Here they planted a gun intending
to "give you'ans thunder" but before they could get
the range the balls from our Springfield rifles had wounded several
of the men and three or four horses and they then fell back to
the church, leaving their gun where it was till after dark, when
they took it away. He stated the rebel loss to be 19 killed and
about 60 wounded and concluded he had had enough of it. From the
distribution of the union force they supposed there was at least
two regiments at this post.
On the 15th the entire force was under arms all night expecting
an attack, as a report was brought into camp that a strong force
was approaching. A sharp lookout was kept up all day on the 16th
but the force reported as approaching the dam, moved on toward
Williamsport, and on the morning of the 18th attempted to cross
the river ten miles above. About day break the firing was quite
heavy. The firing continued all day, at intervals and on the 19th,
it at times sounded as though a heavy engagement was in progress,
but the enemy was beaten off at all points.
The two companies at this place were highly complimented in the
newspapers and by Gen. Abercrombie, for their gallant defense
of the post. The old General christened the 12th Indiana as his
"Pet Lambs." He says they are men after his own nature.
On the 20th the Post was reinforced by the 29th Penn. Infantry,
commanded by Col. Murphy; a section (2 guns) of artillery under
Capt. Carshing, and a company of cavalry. The enemy still continued
to hover around, but kept at a safe distance. Col. Murphy, being
the ranking officer assumed command. On the 24th these reinforcements
were withdrawn, and the "Pet Lambs" were left to take
care of themselves. As they felt abundantly able to do this, they
were not very sorry to be left, to enjoy their ...Christmas
Eve in Camp.