Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jacob's Pen 1

Many students of the Civil War are familiar with the letters, journals, and memoirs of soldiers from both sides. These sources offer extraordinary insights into the daily life and sentiments of those fighting the battles of our nation's defining moments. But how were these defining moments viewed - how were they felt - on the home front? Luckily for students of local history in the Frederick County, Maryland, area, we have The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht, published by the Frederick County Historical Society.

Throughout the sesquicentennial (150 year) anniversary commemorations of the Civil War, we'll view that period from the perspective of this first-generation German-American pro-Union storekeeper. Entries are written verbatim - spelling mistakes, erroneous reports, politically sensitive language, and biased opinions included.

Jacob's home town of Frederick, Maryland, is about twenty miles east of Harpers Ferry. As the anniversary of John Brown's raid kicks off the six-plus year sesquicentennial, we'll begin Jacob's Civil War story here, on October 17, 1859.

At 8 o'clock that morning, Engelbrecht recorded a typical entry in his diary about the arrival of a new minister for the new German Methodist Missionary congregation in Frederick. Two hours later, he would make note of an event whose shockwaves forever changed our nation.

"Harpers Ferry riot - The Independent Bell & the United or Swamp Bell are both now ringing (Swamp first) calling together the military companies of our city. The report from Harpers Ferry is that there is a kind of insurrection among the Negros of Jefferson County Virginia & want to seize the United States arms there or that the workmen at the Ferry are somewhat rebellious.
- Monday October 17, 1859 10 o'clock AM"

Later that day:

"Monday October 17 1/2 past 3 o'clock PM - Our three town companies Captain Sinn, Captain Ritchie, & Captain Hobbs just started for the cars at the Depot for the scene of War - Harpers Ferry."

All diary entries in the "Jacob's Pen" series come directly from The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht, published by The Historical Society of Frederick County, Inc.

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