Civil War Transcendence, part 148

Shock waves spread in all directions. Two of the locksmen were knocked off their feet. Three of the Union cavalrymen who were nearest to the blast were thrown backwards, but were beginning to sit up. In the early morning light, I could see that two of them had blood running from their ears.

No horses were hurt by the explosion, but the cavalrymen in charge of the dismounted troopers’ horses had dropped the reins when the blast occurred. Now all the horses were scattering to the four winds.

148 warhorseSome of the horses flew over the bridge into Shepherdstown. Others charged up the hill to join the pack animal in its return to home camp somewhere in the environs of Maryland. A few horses even stampeded through the formation of locksmen and took off down the C & O Canal pathway.

It was definitely a madhouse. Cavalrymen, cursing loudly, started scurrying to catch the spooked cayuses, and the demolition of the bridge was all but forgotten.

I scurried back up the hill, utilizing the woods as cover. Two Union troopers were hotfooting up the road that paralleled the woods in pursuit of the horses that took off to their home camp. I reached the top of the hill first and hid in the dense tree line to observe what the troopers were going to do. If they took a left turn and went to Ferry Hill, I was going to keep them from accosting Daphne, the Douglas family and the servants, who were armed and, depending on their mettle, could possibly provide a blocking contingent with me as an attacking force from the rear. However, the point was moot. The Yanks continued east on the Sharpsburg Road.

I turned and went back down the hill, using the woods as cover. At the bottom of the hill I saw that two Yanks still lay in the open area in front of the bridge where they had been shot by the locksmen. I presumed they were dead. Five Yanks had moved to the shelter of the bridge. One of the wounded was being tended by a fellow trooper. Another Yank was kneeling in front of the two troopers that got the worst of the blast. They were sitting with their backs to the wall of the bridge and had their eyes closed. The attending comrade seemed to be cleaning the blood from their ears. That meant that there were three Yanks unaccounted for.

I didn’t see any locksmen and assumed they had retreated to their houses, possibly to nurse any wounds and reload for any Yankee assault.

All of a sudden, I heard a lot of yelling from just across the Potomac in Shepherdstown.

I quickly checked my pistols. I had about three shots per pistol, plus two partially loaded cylinders in my coat pockets. I cocked the pistols and started walking toward the bridge.

About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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