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Week of June 5, 1861 - Skirmish at Williamsport, canal closed.

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information




On Saturday last, the roll of the drum was heard in our streets, and persons were seen hurrying to and fro with rifles and shot guns in their hands. On making inquiry, we ascertained that Capt. KENNEDY'S Civil Guards of Williamsport and the rebel troops on the opposite side of the river had opened fire upon each other, and that some of our young men were making preparations to repair to the relief of the Guards, about twenty of whom afterwards proceeded to Williamsport. The Home Guards of Clearspring, and Capt. COOK’S RIFLES of Sharpsburg, also repaired to Williamsport as soon as information of the skirmish reached them, but the Guards had silenced the enemy fire before these reinforcements reached them.

It appears that the Virginia Troops seized the Ferry Boat, and were about to run it down the river for the purpose, as the Guards supposed, of crossing over in it at their convenience. The Guards warned them not to take it, but they persisted in doing so, and the firing thereupon commenced across the Potomac, and was continued at intervals some two or three hours. None of the Guards were hurt, but it is known that several of the rebel troops were wounded, one or two having been seen to fall. Both parties were partially under cover, the Virginians firing from behind trees, some of their shots cutting twigs from trees in the very heart of the town, and the Guards from such shelters as were available. Finally, the Virginia troops retired from the banks of the river, and the boat was guarded from the opposite side by Capt. KENNEDY'S men during Saturday night and Sunday. We have not learned what disposition was made of it afterwards, but report says it was taken down the river on Sunday night, and that all the rebel troops, except about fifty cavalry, had retired to Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry.

The affair created intense excitement all along the Maryland side of the river, and aroused the people to a firm determination to defend themselves from the aggressions and outrages of the rebels, who have seized the Canal and deprived these people of all means of livelihood. We learn that there are upwards of one hundred boats lying at Williamsport and other points below and above, which have been prevented from passing down with their freight by the rebel troops at Harper's Ferry; consequently all business upon the Canal has been suspended, and the thousands directly and indirectly interested in its trade and commerce thrown out of employment, and otherwise aggrieved. The following letter from the President of the work to Mr. STAKE, the Superintendent, we find in the last Ledger:—

FREDERICK, MD., May 27, 1861.


DEAR SIR :— I visited Harper's Ferry today for the purpose of knowing if Coal or other Boats could pass. I find it will be impossible for any Boats to pass the Ferry, or the Point of Rocks. The rock that has been thrown down at the Point, would not stop the Canal, but other rocks will also be thrown down, and Boats cannot pass.       

Please give the information to those interested, and oblige yours,       

Now, we are asked by the Secessionists to send a man to Congress who sympathises with those who have not only violated the laws of their country without justification, but who have trampled under foot the rights and interests of a very large and industrious class of our own fellow citizens !


Herald of Freedom & Torch Light


Collection Location:
Washington County Free Library

Hagerstown (Md.), Newspapers; Maryland, History, Civil War, 1861-1865

Washington County (Md.), 1861-1865

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

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