Journal of the Kosciusko Guards • Company E • 12th Regiment

 Written by William S. Hemphill • Transcribed by Marjorie Priser

 Chapter 5

Williams Captured

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 be captured!"

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.

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