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If “Old Abe” had turned right at Eakles Cross Roads onto Keedysville Road and had gone one mile east, his carriage would have reached Smoketown, where the Union’s largest field hospital was established. However, there is no evidence he journeyed to the remote hamlet.

At the time, Bakersville consisted of fewer than a half-dozen limestone and log homes and a one-room brick schoolhouse; more than a century later, the village remains about the same size. About 70 percent of deaths at Smoketown Hospital resulted from wounds received at Antietam, including shock from amputation. Many of these crude, ugly operations were performed by Chief of Surgery Bernard A. Vanderkieft, who remembered his first week at Smoketown “probing for bullets and sawing off arms and legs.”

Gen. Joseph Hooker’s 1st Corps infantrymen made up most of the 600 convalescents sheltered there in 80 white hospital tents. In the old oak and walnut woods that encompassed the village and hospital, a few 12th Corps casualties along with several wounded and “misplaced” Confederates were fighting their last battle.

An early cold spell on Nov. 7 left Washington County with its first snowfall of 1862. One can only imagine the misery of amputees trying to survive with only a tent for protection against unforgiving winter winds.

In a letter home, surgeon William A. Childs of the 5th New Hampshire Infantry described what he saw at this hospital of horrors: “The dead appear sickening, but they suffer no more. But the poor wounded, mutilated soldiers that yet have life and sensation make a most horrid picture.”

Help from Maine

The first week of November, Isabella Morrison Fogg of Calais, Maine, arrived in the Sharpsburg area. A member of the Maine Soldiers Relief Agency, she had come to help “her boys” from the Pine Tree State who had fallen in what the South calls the Battle of Sharpsburg.

Fogg’s companions from the relief agency were Harriet Eaton and Charles C. Hayes. Fogg had followed her son, Hugh, of the 6th Maine Infantry to Washington in 1861. Realizing the greatest need was not in Washington hospitals but in the field, the agency representatives had started for Sharpsburg after hearing about the bloody encounter.

In a progress report to the Maine agency in Washington sent on Nov. 10, Fogg said: “We then went up to Smoketown, here we found 30 Maine men. This place is in a most miserable condition, the men complain very much. The effluvia (noxious odor) arising from the condition of these grounds is intolerable, quite enough to make a man in perfect health sick, and how men can recover in such a place is a mystery to me.”

The Rev. John B. Kerfoot of St. James College drove a wagonload of supplies to Smoketown on the afternoon of Sept. 17, with hostilities still raging to the south. Kerfoot’s writings reveal this field hospital was being erected before battle smoke had settled. When Fogg and company appeared almost two months later, the hospital grounds had deteriorated to the point that she was “horrified to find sick and wounded soldiers, supposedly long since removed, still languishing all over the area.”

As the Maine women had not expected the great number of people in need, their single wagon carried little that was not depleted within minutes. So, after promising to apply pressure on the agency for more relief stores, Fogg’s team continued on a snow-covered road toward Bakersville — a 20-minute ride by horse and creaking wagon.

Reaching the village, they discovered soldiers of the 5th Maine “left in a school house in care of a steward, without supplies; found him making every effort to keep them comfortable.” Franklin’s 6th Corps had marched from Bakersville a month earlier. The “school house” referred to here was originally a log chapel built around 1800. Burials in an adjacent cemetery date back to 1815. The log structure was removed at an unknown date and rebuilt out of native limestone — possibly on the same foundation.

In 1854, eight years before the battle, the Salem Lutheran congregation had built a new brick church on a higher elevation just yards to the east. Locals say Franklin had his headquarters in the Salem Church while he was camped at Bakersville. Sometime before the Civil War, the old stone church was converted into a schoolhouse. After being used for years as a school and private residence, the historical little dwelling is being restored to its original condition.

‘Poor fellows’

After the Maine women repeated the promise made at Smoketown to contact the agency for much-needed supplies, Bakersville was left in the hands of one lone but determined hospital steward to care for more than 20 badly injured Maine warriors. The journey continued to other field hospitals at Sharpsburg, Berlin (Brunswick today), Harpers Ferry, Keedysville and eventually Hagerstown.

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