How would you like to have marched from Richmond, VA to Frederick, MD to Harper’s Ferry to Loudoun Heights in Virginia, crossed the Potomac River twice, banged on a concrete aqueduct to no avail, and participated in siege of Harper’s Ferry all within 19 days?

Then guess what? Once Harpers Ferry was surrendered, you received orders to cross the Shenandoah River, march north for 17 miles to Shepherdstown, VA during the night and for the third time to cross the Potomac. All of this was to be accomplished as quickly as possible.

I doubt I could have done it. I have DRIVEN over the road from Harper’s Ferry that the army took. I have to admit it wasn’t mountainous, but there were a lot of rolling hills. But to this day, I feel sorry for men that traversed that road and the horses and mules that pulled the wagons and artillery pieces over those miles in such a short time.

The part of it that would have caused the most consternation for me would have been the crossing of the Potomac at night. Me and water don’t get along. Traversing that fast moving river even at low ebb still could have been most trying, plus having to carry all your equipment above your head for a long period of time due to the congestion of traffic. I bet the soldier’s arms were shaking by the time they got out of the water. It is no wonder that after they had marched a few miles to the main road into Sharpsburg, MD and halted that they fell out and went to sleep by the roadside.

The life of a 19th Century Soldier in both armies was no picnic.