Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

September 14, 2012

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L Castleman.

14th.—At 9 o’clock last night we took up our march across Catochtin Mountain. At 9 1-2, as we climbed the mountain side, the moon rose beautifully lighting up hill and valley, and shrub, and tree. ‘Twas all beautiful. The mountain air was brisk and cool. A march of four miles carried us over the mountain, and we bivouaced in Middletown Valley, one of the prettiest countries I ever saw, in the suburbs of the pleasant and flourishing little village of Jefferson. Here we got varied and various estimates of the strength of the enemy, who had passed through. We found here much evidence of loyalty, and were confirmed in the belief that Lee would be disappointed in his expectation of receiving fifty thousand recruits by his raid into Maryland.

Of all the States I have yet seen, Maryland bears off the palm. Its people, its hills, its valleys, its soil, its climate— all bespeak it one of the most favored States of the Union. The loyalty of its people, too, is intense, for whilst the sympathies of nine-tenths of them are with the people of the South, and opposed to our Administration, they positively refuse to join the insurgents in any illegal step. They would like to go out legally, but will fight for execution of the laws which confine them to the Union. The very limited success of Lee, in adding to his already large army in Maryland, is the strongest evidence of their sincerity. May God preserve this beautiful and loyal State from the ravages of actual war, and its people in their horror of treason and rebellion.

‘Tis again Sunday, and again we are fighting all around. How strange that so many of our big fights should occur on Sunday. Six miles to our right, and in full view, Generals Burnside and Sumner are fighting, in an attempt to force a strongly defended mountain pass, one mile and a half in our front, the advance of our own corps are trying to force another pass, (Crampton’s,) whilst seven miles to our left, the fight at Harper’s Ferry is raging. How much hangs on this day.

4 P. M.—Hurrah! Burnside has forced the pass at South Mountain, has crossed and is following up the retreating enemy. He has had a severe fight, with heavy loss on both sides. General Reno, I hear, is killed; another of our best men gone. Some are so uncharitable as to accuse General McClellan of wilfully and unnecessarily ordering him to a position from which escape from death was almost impossible. I will not believe it.

7 P. M.—Hurrah again! General Slocum, from our corps, has forced Crampton’s pass in our front, and is in pursuit. The enemy’s loss is heavy; ours comparatively slight. This is a terrible pass, and it seems wonderful that any army could force it against an opposing foe. It is in the shape of a triangle, the base being at the top of the mountain, the apex at the bottom. Into this narrow point our army had to crowd its way, up a mountain almost perpendicular, whilst musketry and artillery enfiladed our advancing lines at every point. Yet our men, with the cool determination of veterans, forced their way steadily through the Gap, up the precipitous sides of the mountain, and drove the enemy from his stronghold.

Again am I separated from my regiment. Sent for at 8 o’clock, to organize and take charge of another hospital for the wounded; but this time I do not complain. My regiment was not in the fight, and will not suffer by my absence, although I leave it without an Assistant Surgeon. How strange, that in no instance, since the battle of Williamsburg, have I had an assistant in the time of battle. Always sick or out of the way. Could I thus be absent without reproach? Not without self-reproach, at least.

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