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Battles in Washington County

After the fighting in Washington county

War news - Washington county

War news - Beyond Washington County

Newspaper staff flees Hagerstown

Other news - Washington County

Other news - Beyond Washington County

Notices - Marriage and Death

Notices - Legal

Notices - Runaway Slaves

Notices - Other


Ads - Medicine

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Ads - Transportation

Ads - Food & Wine

Ads - Real Estate

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Allegany County
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Washington County
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Civil War in Maryland
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Photographs and Prints

Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, September 1862

The Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, printed in Hagerstown from 1851 to 1863, and the Hagerstown Mail were the principal rival newspapers in Hagerstown during the early years of the Civil War. The Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, published by Mittag and Sneary,  supported the Union cause but was not necessarily anti-slavery, while the Mail supported the Confederate cause. Like many other newspapers these papers had no reporters as we know them today. Editors depended on their subscribers to bring the news, and used stories from larger newspapers. This meant that there was little local news in the newspapers, besides advertisements and announcements.

This edition of the Herald of Freedom and Torch Light is quite different. The Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Catoctin Mountain (now called the Battle of South Mountain) happened in the county, and the newspaper presented their own reporting on these events. Corn and stubble, pasture and fallow contribute their boundaries to the one great charnel house of the nation's host, and on hill, in hollow, through field are strewn the bleeding, mangled bodies of dead and dying humanity. Here our lines stretched over a space of five miles, extending, on the extreme right, from near the intersection of the new and old roads to Sharpsburg, in an easy curve to the south-east, to where the left of Burnside rested at the foot of Elk Ridge Mountain…

Included too are the stories about the devastation caused by the battles, the destruction of property, the death and injuries of the participants, for example:

The whole lower portion of our county has been stripped of every description of subsistence, and what our people in that section of the county will do to obtain food for man and beast during the approaching winter, God alone knows.

The Union and the Rebel soldiers, in many instances, lay close side by side, cold in death. Many were deprived of an arm, leg, and eye, still surviving, impatiently awaiting their turn for medical assistance.

A Vast Hospital.—From Hagerstown to the Southern limits of the county wounded and dying soldiers are to be found in every neighborhood and in nearly every house. The whole region of country between Boonsboro' and Sharpsburg is one vast hospital.

This particular newspaper itself had an interesting history. In September 1862 when the Confederate army came into Washington County and there was fighting near Boonsboro, the editors and staff of The Herald of Freedom and Torch Light fled across the border to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The September 10th issue was just being typeset. Upon their return, the typesetting was continued. The editors stated that they refused to remain in the county as long as the Rebels, as they were referred to by the pro-Union editor, were present. Thus page 1 of the paper was printed with the date of September 10, 1862 and pages 2, 3, and 4, with a date of September 24, 1862.

This is one reason that the account of the Battle of Antietam does not begin on Page 1. The other is that newspapers at the time did not use banner headlines as we do today. So instead of war news on page 1, there are advertisements and a love story where, against all odds, everything worked out happily ever after. The Maryland Campaign of the War Between the States is relegated to pages 2 and 3.

In spite of the war, life in Hagerstown went on. The newspaper ran its usual quota of ads for fresh herring, saddles, bridles, harness, whips, collars, fly-nets, buffalo robes, carpet bags and valises, for sheep, ladies slippers, beans, and roach bait, and Foutz’s Mixture, which could cure a man or his horse. Some ads even had a war theme – for sale were a novelty, the bombshell hat and the boots and shoes, adapted to the wants of the MILITARY, offered by Ruthrauff, Smith & Edson.

The notices tell of life in Washington County in the mid 19th century. Slaves belonging to Fanny Myers of Hampshire co., Va. had been caught and committed to the jail of Washington County as runaways. The owners of the above described slaves are requested to come forward and prove property, otherwise they will be discharged according to law. Mr. Otto D. Poffenberger married Miss Barbara A. Miller. Joseph, son of John and Elizabeth Brown, aged 3 years, 1 month and 11 days, Isabel Callendar, aged 9 years and Mr. Michael Brown, aged 66 years, 6 months and 23 days all died.

George Burgan was selling a one and a half story log house, smoke house and other out-buildings, and a never-failing spring with wagon shed and corn crib attached to it and a fine young thrifty orchard.A Black Muley Cow, with white feet, in good condition and a fine milker, strayed from Hagerstown. A female teacher was wanted to take charge of a public school in Funkstown. The newspaper also included legal notices such as sheriff’s sales, bankruptcies, and dissolution of businesses, notices of probate and estate settlement, unclaimed mail, deposits in the bank and tax lists.

The newspaper was reproduced courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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