A narrative of service with the Third Wisconsin Infantry/Moving toward the enemy

Moving Toward the Enemy

On September 5 it was definitely rumored in camp that the enemy had crossed into Maryland by way of Edward's Ferry. All of the Army of the Potomac were soon after moving up the river toward Darnestown, where a defensive position was taken and the enemy's movements awaited. There were no further developments until the 10th, when an order came from General McClellan to store in Washington all of the officers' baggage and the company tents and property, and turn over the teams to be used in hauling provisions and ammunition. This looked more like business than anything we had yet seen.

The next morning we began to move in earnest, passing through Darnestown, and on toward Frederick City. On the 12th we made a long march to Ijamsville, where we heard from one party of citizens that the enemy were evacuating Frederick City, and from another that they were preparing to fight us at the crossing of the Monocacy River. In the morning, we were early on the road, marching rapidly to the ford of the Monocacy, and crossing without trouble. As we approached Frederick, we could hear the firing of the advance of Burnside's Corps, as they were driving the rear guard of the retreating enemy from the passes of the Catoctin Mountains, about five miles west of the city. Over 800 prisoners were sent back that day, mostly stragglers and deserters, who had soldiered as long as they wished.

That night we camped near Frederick City, a large portion of our Regiment taking advantage of the opportunity to visit old friends and acquaintances in that place. We had been there so long during the past year that it seemed to us almost like home. The Confederates had been in possession for nearly a week, and many stories were told of the good people who had displayed their loyalty under adverse circumstances. The real heroine of the town was old Barbara Fritchie, who had kept a Union flag waving from her window during all the time of the Confederate occupation. Her name has been immortalized by Whittier. I know that in recent years it has been said that no such person ever lived, and that the flag was not displayed. But I heard the story told within twenty-four hours after the Confederate army had left Frederick, from persons who knew the circumstances, and I am going to believe it until there is more positive proof than I have yet seen, that it is not true.