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