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Misery lasts long after Antietam battle
Each stop had its own heart-sickening sights, leading to a withering letter to the Maine agency for delaying vital rations for Antietam survivors: “You no doubt think your ladies in Washington are doing a great work. But I can assure you if they were here, they would find the stern reality of want, privation and extreme suffering.”
Making good her word, Isabella Fogg and associates returned late in November to the valley of the Antietam. Frustration and despair were evident in her report: “Again we went to Smoketown, hoping to find them in a more comfortable condition than when we were last there, but how sadly were we disappointed. How I wish I could introduce you, and the Washington [Commission]. To Smoketown [Hospital]. In the midst of this driving snow storm!”
The dispatch gave a description of what once resembled a hospital: “You could have seen the poor fellows huddled together, with their pallets of straw on the ground, their tents with no stoves. Those who were able to creep out of their tents were crouched over fires, built in the woods, their heads covered with snow.”
What few provisions they had gathered along the way were distributed — amounting to a single drop in an empty bucket. Once again, the Maine agency in Washington failed to respond to Fogg’s urgent requests.
The procession of three then made the second trip to Bakersville school. “We found the industrious steward, William Noyes of Saco [Maine] grating corn on a grater he had made from an old canteen, to furnish meal wherewith to make gruel for his sick men.”
Fogg added: “This is only a sample of his expediments for his men, give his name a place in your report … for he is worthy.”
William S. Noyes had enlisted at Saco, Maine, in Company C, 5th Maine Infantry on June 24, 1861. Following First Bull Run, the 20-year-old private was captured and listed as a prisoner of war confined at Richmond. Noyes was released (date unknown) and after returning to his regiment was promoted to hospital steward. The 5th Maine was held mostly in reserve at Antietam but received heavy losses from Confederate long-range artillery while holding a position in Mumma’s Lane.
Apparently, Pvt. Noyes at Bakersville had taken a canteen (or half) and with a bayonet or other pointed object, had punched it full of holes, making a “rough grater” to produce cornmeal. In November, this would have been the same corn as fed to livestock, stirred with water to form a mixture called “gruel.”
Cattle feed was not much sustenance for men burning up with fever, but with all foodstuffs gone, what choice did they have? Later, Fogg was successful in collecting close to 100 flannel shirts from the good residents of Hagerstown. She would always remember “expressions of gratitude” received while personally handing them out to “my boys.”
Long winter ahead
The people of Antietam Valley found it hard to find something for which to be grateful on Thanksgiving in 1862. Their meat houses were empty; fruit cellars lay bare. In plain words, all provisions prepared to sustain them through coming frigid months, including livestock, had been devoured by hungry, if not starving, soldiers.
Times could have been worse, considering the Sam Mumma family just down the road. The Mummas lost their home, barn and all personal belongings to fire, results of the battle. However, praise still could be offered to the Almighty, for by His grace the people of Smoketown and Bakersville still had roofs over their heads and a place to sleep.
The Maine Soldiers Relief Agency and Isabella Fogg separated for unclear reasons in 1863. Still wanting to help others, she volunteered with the U.S. Christian Commission. In 1865, while working aboard a hospital ship on the Ohio River, she accidentally fell through an open hatch, permanently injuring her spine. Officers of the Army of the Potomac, including Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, Gen. George Meade and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant were instrumental in seeing that Fogg received a federal pension for her dedicated service during the war.
When the National Cemetery at Sharpsburg was dedicated in 1867, Smoketown had contributed more than its share of Federal dead. An untold number of bodies from this hospital also were taken home.
Why such hatred toward America's freedom of religion?
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