June 18 Gettysburg Campaign: The Past at our Fingertips.

Franklin Horner writes about the rebels leaving Pennsylvania. Again, his rumor mill is inefficient. Perhaps the most telling thing about his entries is that he is remaining healthy, something he repeats each day for the last several.

Horner had been captured almost a year earlier on June 27, 1862, at Cold Harbor, VA, after the Battle of Gaines Mill, and sent to Belle Isle Prison in Richmond. He spent five weeks as a prisoner. He was exchanged and returned to his regiment on August 6, 1862. His military records show that he was wounded at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, although he doesn’t mention it in his diary entries of that period. His wounding may be the reason why, in the summer of 1863, he was not with Hooker’s army, but outside of Washington working on the defensive forts and rifle pits. His time at Belle Isle and his incapacitation after Antietam may be why he dwells upon his health in his diary.

Horner had been born in Cameron County, Pennsylvania, in 1836 (or 1837—records differ) and had become a carpenter. According to his enlistment papers, he stood five feet eight inches tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair. Three and a half months after Fort Sumter fell, he enlisted in Company H, 12th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Infantry. Unbeknownst to him, on July 21, 1861, the day he was signing his enlistment papers, the first major battle of the war was taking place at Manassas, VA. On August 3, 1861, he was promoted from corporal to first sergeant.

Thomas Ware, after the grueling marches of the past few days has a relatively easy day—only eight miles. They crossed through Ashby’s Gap and he writes about the beautiful view from there, a view that can be observed to this day. From the gap they descended to the Shenandoah River and crossed it at an area where it was about 200 yards wide and waist deep. He mentions that there was a limestone spring on the other side with enough pressure to turn a mill. It was here the ambulances had brought the sick, and where the cooking detail for the division had set up camp and were preparing rations. They march another mile beyond the river and set up camp. Overnight they were besieged by heavy rain, thunder and lightning.

During my field research I was delighted to find the very spring Ware wrote about just after modern Route 50 crosses the river on a road to the right that goes under the bridge. There is a concrete springhouse built around it now. The spring he saw, which supplied the division with cool, fresh water, still pours into the Shenandoah River, a flowing landmark that reminds us that the past is not always that long ago.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote


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