Visiting John Brown’s Cave
Chapter 4 (November 26, 1862 – December 14, 1862)
Thus we started out for three years active campaigning with a full determination to do our humble share in blotting out secession.
Harpers’ Ferry, on the south side of the Potomac River, is situated on Bolivar Heights, West Va. East of the town the Shenandoah River breaks into the Potomac. Just across the Shenandoah River is Louden Heights in Louden County, Virginia. North and across the Potomac River is Maryland Heights is Maryland.
A large fort had been erected thereon. Batteries placed upon either height can easily throw their projectiles from each to the other.
We reached Harpers’ Ferry by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The bridge across the Potomac had been burned and we crossed on a pontoon bridge. The first sight greeting our eyes was the ruins of the old United States arsenal which had contained from 100,000 to 200,000 stand of arms, destroyed by John Brown.
Later we visited John Brown’s cave, along the river, just above Harpers’ Ferry. Here Brown had with him 17 white men and five blacks, when he began hostilities. I think that a great majority of Company G entered the cave at different times, and explored it thoroughly.
The opening of the cave was made secure by two massive doors, made of railroad sills and fastened with large pieces of iron and huge hinges. Thru these sills holes were cut so that the muzzle of the guns would pass thru in case of attack and those inside could protect themselves.
While at camp here our duty was heavy. When not on picket or camp duty we were fortifying on Louden Heights. Here we drew our Springfield rifles and drill was the order of the day. The boys were all happy. Some of the company never fired off a gun before they entered the army, and therefore they thought that when the Johnnies learned that Company G had enlisted for the war, the Confederate army would scatter to the four winds. We learned different later on.
The old 28th Pennsylvania Regiment was mustered into service on June 28, 1861, composed of fifteen companies, with John W. Geary as the colonel. In 1862 an order was issued by the War Department that regiments should consist of ten companies only. Therefore companies L, M, N, O and P were detached from the 28th and became A, B, C, D and E of the 147th regiment with Ario Pardee, Jr., Lieut. Colonel, and John Craig, Major. This organization took place October 21, 1862 at Bolivar Heights. Three new companies were added, namely F, G, and H, the regiment consisting of only eight companies instead of the full quota of 10. We had the advantage of being with soldiers who had seen considerable service in the 28th regiment.
We were awakened bright and early the morning of December 10 by the bugles of the different regiments of our division. Breakfast over, roll was called, and everything was in readiness to move. We started out with knapsacks well packed, all our household goods on our backs.
We crossed the Shenandoah River on a wire bridge, marched to Hillsboro and encamped for the night, traveling 10 miles. We were a very tired set of boys, but after a good night’s rest we were up early and ready for another day.
By this time our knapsacks were considerably lightened. We agreed that we were carrying a surplus of goods, with which we could dispense. It was said that some of the boys even threw away their postage stamps.
Freddie Ulrich carried an extra pair of boots, hung on his knapsack. The boys quietly, whenever a chance afforded, dropped a stone into his boots until finally poor Fred, as he says, stopped at a tree to wait for Will McFall. Freddie says he never played-out and we agreed to let him have his own way about it. Had not the stones in his boots rattled when he lay down to rest, I do not think he would have been able to go with us the next day.
On December 13, 1862, we left Gum Springs and marched to Fairfax Court House and encamped, traveling 17 miles.
On the 14th we broke camp, passing Fair Station, encamping at Wolf Run Shoals, near Occoquan Creek. Marched seven miles.