Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight to Elizabeth White Dwight, Monday Evening, June 2, 1862

Williamsport, Maryland, Monday Evening,
June 2, 1862. At last.

Soon after my last words, Mr. Barnhardt, with corpulent and puffy energy, came up stairs. “Well, will you go this morning?” “Yes.” He had previously told me, when I asked him about a wagon for Martinsburg, “O, it worrits me, it worrits me!” Now he said, “I've got a wagon for ye, yes I have, already!”1 Sure enough, a contraband and his cart were at our door in half an hour. Dr. Stone2 and I started at once. Colonel Kenly bade me good by and God speed.

Now for impudence and liberty! On we rode. Four miles, and then came the halt that we dreaded. Two mounted citizens pragmatically inspected our paroles, and at last let us go. Then two cavalrymen, whom we dissuaded. Then we were shouted at to halt! Two mounted men, with bowie-knife, revolver, carbine, and sabre, said, “You must turn back.” Our hearts sank, but we took out our papers, reasoned, persuaded, and, as Providence would guide it, led them to respect our paroles, and let us free. They said, “We will go back to town and ask again.” On we went, and, with only another halt, but with every nervousness of anxiety, we got to Bunker's Hill. There the harness broke, and again we looked to the rear, but on we went again. “What is that?” “Our cavalry?” “It must be”; and sure enough down they charged upon us, and we were, in an abrupt transition, at once within the Union lines. I cannot describe our thankfulness and heart-swell.

We reached Martinsburg. Then our contraband and colored driver, entering into the spirit of our pursuit, agreed to put us through to Williamsport. We crossed the river, met Brown's3 wagon. Brown's ready grin and constant delight prepared me a little for the enthusiasm of the regiment. I cannot describe their welcome. God knows, I should be proud to deserve it. I have never known greater happiness or thankfulness than to-night. Good by, my dear mother. I go to Washington to-morrow. I will come home when I can, and tell you all.

1 After Major Dwight left Winchester, some of Mr. Barnhardt's neighbors, who were Rebels, said to him: “You’ll have to suffer yet for keeping your Major so long, and then helping him away.” “I told them,” said the brave old man, “that they couldn’t rob me of much if they took my life, for I was ’most eighty year old.”

2 Dr. Lincoln Ripley Stone, then Assistant-Surgeon of the Second Massachusetts Infantry, who would not abandon the hospital in his charge at Winchester, was a prisoner. He was paroled; the parole to be a free release, if at Washington he could secure an agreement that surgeons should not be liable to capture; which was accomplished.

3 George H. Brown, Regimental Wagoner.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 266-7

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