General Lee Sets Up Headquarters in Church

Dunker church served as headquarters for Robert E. Lee, and as a hospital during battle.

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In the Civil War days, General Robert E. Lee pitched camp a week nearby at the Longmeadow North of Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1863, and notified the people in the community that his headquarters would be in the Dunker Church.

Ann Rowland was the first visitor General Lee had, and she called on him to hand over the pulpit Bible to her. The general arose from his desk where he was engaged in writing and stood for a few moments in silence. A rare personality was standing in his presence, and with great admiration and courtesy, General Lee said, "Mrs. Rowland, we use this Bible in our morning worship. If it is left here I pledge my honor that the Holy Word shall be kept safely, and no harm will come to the place of worship." We still have the Bible.

The battle scarred the church. The Battle of South Mountain in Maryland during the Civil War took place on a Sunday, September 14, 1863. A crowd assembled at a historic spot for worship, the Mumma Church overlooking Antietam and Sharpsburg. All was peaceful, and they made their way home, not realizing what would come tomorrow.

In the afternoon children at play saw smoke and heard the roar of guns on South Mountain. The battle had begun with fury in the early afternoon.

Both armies were concentrating all day Monday. Tuesday skirmishing continued. Wednesday morning before daybreak the battle began with fury. The line swayed back and forth. Soon the Mumma home, bar and building were on fire.

General Hooker, who commanded, threw the whole division into attack, and came up the slope where the Dunker Church stood, battered with shot and shells. Battered, bloodstained and broken walls still stood. It was used for a hospital during the battle.

The Bible was carried away by two soldiers of the 107th New York Regiment and kept as a souvenir. At a reunion in Elmira, New York, it became known that the widow of a soldier had the Bible in her possession. Money was raised, the book purchased and put into the hands of John T. Lewis to return it to the church at Sharpsburg.

Mrs. Ezra A. Petie
Hagerstown, Maryland

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.