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THREE REBELS. summit the completion of the diabolical work. The whirlwind of fire and smoke that went roaring up into the calm, blue heavens, soon overcanopied by one vast cloud, was indescribably appalling. Fortunately the day was still, otherwise not a house would have been left standing. As it was, three hundred and forty houses were burned, comprising about two thirds of the entire town.
The raiders were evidently afraid of being caught at the work. The smoke, which could be seen thirty or forty miles away, would doubtless prove a pillar of cloud to guide our cavalry to the spot. Having hastily accomplished their task, therefore, with equal haste they decamped.
Three of their number, however, paid the penalty of the crime on the spot. Two, plundering a cellar, were shot by a redoubtable apothecary, - a choleric but conscientious man, who was much troubled in his mind afterwards for what he had done; for it is an awful thing to take human life even under circumstances the most justifiable. “He was down-hearted all the next day about it,” said one. In the meanwhile the dead marauders were roasted and broiled, and reduced to indistinguishable ashes, in the pyre they had themselves prepared.
A major of the party, who had become intoxicated plundering the liquor-shops, lingered behind his companions. He was surrounded by the incensed populace and ordered to surrender. Refusing, and drawing his sword with maudlin threats, he was shot down. He was then buried to his breast outside of the town, and left with just his shoulders protruding from the ground, with his horrible lolling head drooping over them. Having been exhibited in this state to the multitude, many of whom, no doubt, found some comfort in the sight, he was granted a more thorough sepulture. A few weeks before my visit to the place, a gentle-faced female from the South came to claim his body; for he, too, was a human being, and no mere monster, as many supposed, and there were those that did love him.
The distress and suffering of the burnt-out inhabitants of Chambersburg can never be told. “ For six weeks they were jeest kept alive by the prowisions sent by other towns, which we dealt out here to every one that asked," said my landlord. “ And I declare to fortune,” he added, “ there was scoundrels from the outside that had n't lost a thing, that would come in here and share with our starving people.” These scoundrels, he said, were Germans, and he was very severe upon them, although he himself had a German name, and a German accent which three generations of his race in this country had not entirely eradicated.
Besides the charity of the towns, the State granted one hundred thousand dollars for the relief of the sufferers. This was but as a drop to them. Those who had property remaining got nothing. The appropriation was intended for those who had lost everything, — and there were hundreds of such ; some of whom had been stopped in the streets and robbed even of their shoes, after their houses had been fired.
“ This was jeest how it worked. Some got more than they had before the fire. A boarding-house girl that had lost say eight dollars, would come and say she had lost fifty, and she'd get fifty. But men like me, that happened to have a little property outside, never got a cent.”
It will always remain a matter of astonishment that the great and prosperous State of Pennsylvania did not make a more generous appropriation. The tax necessary for the purpose would scarcely have been felt by any one, while it would have been but a just indemnification to those who had suffered in a cause which the whole loyal North was bound to uphold. Families enjoying a small competency had been at once reduced to poverty ; men doing a modest and comfortable business were unable to resume it. Those who could obtain credit before could now obtain none. Insurance was void. Householders were unable to rebuild, and at the time of my visit many were still living in shanties. Nearly all the rebuilding that was in progress was done on borrowed capital.
But there is no loss without gain. Chambersburg will in
the end be greatly benefited by the fire, inasmuch as the old two-story buildings, of which the town was originally composed, are being replaced by three-story houses, much finer and more commodious. So let it be with our country ; fearful as our loss has been, we shall build better anew.
The next day I took the cars for Hagerstown; passed Sunday in that slow and ancient burg ; and early on Monday morning set out by stage for Boonsboro'. '
Our course lay down the valley of the Antietam. We crossed the stream at Funk's Town, a little over two miles from Hagerstown. “Stop at two miles and you won't be here,” said the driver. The morning was fine; the air fresh and inspiring; and the fact that the country through which we passed had been fought over repeatedly during the war, added interest to the ride. A fertile valley: on each side were fields of tall and stalwart corn. Lusty milkweeds stood by the fences; the driver called them “wild cotton.” And here the Jamestown-weed, with its pointed leaves, and flower resembling the bell of a morning-glory, became abundant. " That's jimson,” said the driver; and he proceeded to extol its medicinal qualities. “Makes a good sa'v'. Rub that over a hoss, and I bet ye no fly lights on him!”
At Boonsboro' some time was consumed in finding a conveyance and a guide to take me over the battle-fields. At length I encountered Lewy Smith, light and jaunty Lewy Smith, with his light and jaunty covered carryall, — whom I would recommend to travellers. I engaged him for the afternoon of that day and for the day following; and immediately after dinner he was at the tavern-door, snapping his whip.
The traveller's most pleasant experience of Boonsboro' is leaving it. The town contains about nine hundred inhabitants; and the wonder is how so many human souls can rest
content to live in such a mouldy, lonesome place. But once outside of it, you find Nature as busy in making the world beautiful, as man inside has been in making it as ugly as possible. A country village carries with it the idea of something pleasant, shady, green; therefore do not think of Boonsboro' as a country village. Leave it behind you as soon as convenient, and turn your face to the mountain.
That is the famed South Mountain, where the prologue to the Antietam fight was enacted. “I never heard it called South Mountain till after the battle,” said Lewy Smith. “It was always the Blue Ridge with us." He had never heard of Turner's Gap, or Frog Gap, either. “We always called it just the gap in the mountain.” The road to the gap runs southeast from Boonsboro', then turns easterly up the hills. It stretched long and pleasant before us. “The night before the battle,” said Lewy Smith, “this road was lined with Rebels, I tell ye! Both sides were covered with them about as thick as they could lie. It was a great sight to see so many soldiers; and it did n't seem to us.there were men enough in the Union army to fight them. We thought the Rebels had got possession of Maryland, sure. They just went into our stores and took what they pleased, and paid in Confederate money; they had come to stay, they said, and their money would be better than ours in a little while. Some who got plenty of it did well; for when the Rebels slaughtered a drove of cattle, they would sell the hides and take their own currency for pay.”
The mountain rose before us, leopard-colored, spotted with sun and cloud. A few mean log houses were scattered along the road, near the summit of which we came to the Mountain House, a place of summer resort. Here again man had done his best to defeat the aim of Nature; the house and everything about it looked dreary and forbidding, while all around lay the beautiful mountain in its wild forest-shades.
Lewy left his horse at the stable, and we entered the woods, parsuing a mountain-road which runs south along the crest. A tramp of twenty minutes brought us to the scene of General Reno's brilliant achievement and heroic death. A rude