A York soldier first encounters the war
York County’s 130th Pennsylvania marched past the venerable old Mountain House inn at Turner’s Gap on South Mountain on September 15, 1862. Today, this establishment is still in operation and offers some of the best food in the central Maryland region. Its now peaceful appearance is in sharp contrast to the horrifying view the young York soldiers had as they passed by this old stone inn after the Battle of South Mountain.
Background post: Pvt. Ed Spangler
Private Ed Spangler was a relatively fresh recruit in the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry. During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862, he saw the horrors of war for the first time as he tramped up the eastern slope of South Mountain toward the battlefield at Turner’s Gap.
He later recalled, “The first evidence I saw of the conflict was a dead cavalryman, evidently a courier. He was shot through the head, and his blood-covered face and glassy eyes made a ghastly sight. He was the first dead soldier I saw, and it was by no means a pleasing spectacle.
As I reached the crest of the mountain near the “Mountain House,” hundreds of dead Union and Confederate soldiers covered the ground, denoting the violence of the contest. The loss was 1,568 killed and wounded, and the casualties of the enemy were almost as heavy.
At sunrise we were in pursuit of the enemy. In our advance, the 8th Illinois Cavalry charged upon their rear guard, sabring some and taking prisoners. The latter, in passing on the rear, gave us our first view of live Confederates. They presented a ragged and unkempt appearance, save a handsome young lieutenant who was attired in a brand new uniform of gray. In answer to our questions as to whether any more rebels were left, he replied that we would see lots more shortly, and we did.
Late in the afternoon, impelled by an aching void and a desire for a change of diet, I repaired to a spacious farm-house near the highway (the National Road — today’s Alt 40), in quest of a pie for value. The matron emphatically refused compensation, and stated that as she was Union to the core she would take no pay from a Union soldier. As I had neither time nor inclination to argue my faint protest, I thanked her for her hospitality and returned to the regiment much refreshed.”
As the regiment marched toward Sharpsburg (and the ensuing Battle of Antietam), little did an unsuspecting Spangler realize that in the tiny town of Boonsboro, he was passing by the grave of his maternal grandfather, Yost Herbach, a veteran of the French & Indian and Revolutionary wars who had died in that Maryland town during an 1831 visit to his daughter’s home.