The Gettysburg Advance / WV Statehood
As I move around today and this weekend here in Washington County, MD, I am sure my thoughts will at times take me back 150 years to this date where, all over this area, floods of Confederate soldiers were crossing the Potomac and heading north to Pennsylvania – ultimately to that grand Battle of Gettysburg. Some North Carolina troops of Ewell’s Corps were the first to cross at Boteler’s Ford below Shepherdstown on June 18th. The river was running higher than usual, making the crossing best accomplished in the buff with rifles and clothing held overhead. There are a lot of CW history sights that I would have liked to see, but this one I could do without!
But I often tell people whom I meet at Antietam that they can easily see this ford on the satellite view of Google Maps – look just downstream from Shepherdstown. The picture shows the shallow nature of the Potomac at this spot with the appearance of horizontal lines across the river – indicative of rock bottom formations and shallow falls. To see it, click HERE.
On this very date of June 22 in 1863, the weather was apparently rather dreadful – a theme that will be much repeated in the coming weeks of looking back at that wet summer. Robert Park of the 12th Alabama wrote of it as “the hardest rains I ever saw, pouring down during the entire night.” He also wrote of the strange welcome received in the county – the indifference of the men leading him to believe (rightly) that most were Unionist in sympathy, though the women seemed more friendly with waving handkerchiefs, etc.
Private George Harlow of the 23rd Virginia passed through Sharpsburg at this time and wrote this grueling note to his family, “I have been this morning over the old Sharpsburg battle field and have witnessed the most horrible sights that my eyes ever beheld. I saw dead Yankees in any number just lying on the top of the ground with a little dirt throwed over them and the hogs rooting them out of the ground and eating them and others lying on the top of the ground with the flesh picked off and their bones bleaching, and they by the many hundreds! Oh what a horrible sight for human beings to look upon in a civilized Country! When will this horrid war ever end …”
West Virginia Statehood – 150 Years Ago
While thousands of Confederates were strolling through the Shenandoah Valley headed north, West Virginia officially became a state in the Union 150 years ago this past Thursday (20th). The 35th state joined the Union by presidential proclamation.
The process leading to this event had long roots to the days before the onset of the War. The region of the state west of the Shenandoah was markedly different than the eastern portion of Virginia. This was particularly true relative to the much more minimal presence of slavery, hence also a substantially different disposition toward secession.
An excellent article on the backgrounds and details of this may be found HERE.