Misery lasts long after Antietam battle

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Three years later, when the Confederate remains were moved to a new cemetery in Hagerstown, a list contained: “Removed from Smoketown — James F. Maxcey — 27th Georgia — died Dec. 12th, 1862.” This Rebel’s date of death shows the pain and misery still being endured at this tent hospital late into the freezing months of winter.

It is believed that by late November or early December, those remaining at Bakersville too incapacitated for the trip home were transferred to Smoketown. The exact closing date of this field hospital has been lost in time. What a shame that a small monument has never been erected on this ground where so many gave their “last full measure of devotion” to a cause greater than themselves.

Family names

On a sunny June afternoon last year, the author had the humbling experience of strolling in Bakersville Cemetery. The old graveyard is located between the stone schoolhouse and the Salem Lutheran Church. Chiseled in the more than 700 marble and granite stones were the names of deceased residents of the Smoketown-Bakersville area. Although worn and moldy, names of those who witnessed the aftermath of the battle at Antietam were still legible. Family names of Stonebreaker, Poffenberger, Line, Baker and Eakle were found in abundance.

In studying dates of death, the increase in local burials following Antietam became evident, a common occurrence after other major engagements during the War Between the States. The reason was that civilians contracted typhoid, diphtheria and scarlet fever while caring for wounded soldiers who carried these highly contagious diseases.

Blood of the folks of Smoketown or Bakersville never dampened the sacred soil of a battlefield to preserve a nation. However, their sacrifices and compassionate care following Antietam to preserve the lives of fellow human beings has earned them a higher reward beyond this life.

Richard E. Clem is a retired cabinetmaker in Hagerstown, Md., and frequent contributor to this page.

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