Our grandfather, Martin I. Smith, lived with his children several years before his death in 1939. While he was in our parents' home, my sister and I were often reminded of Grandpa's childhood in Maryland as he reminisced. Mart, as he was familiarly known, was a lad of eight or nine years, living in Maryland's Washington County when the armies of the Blue and the Gray were encroaching his father’s, Solomon Smith, farm on Elk Ridge Mountain in Pleasant Valley not far from Rohrersville. Troops – Confederate and Union both traveled the area – converged and looted his family's mountainside home during confrontations at Antietam in September 1862 and during the advance to and retreat from Gettysburg in mid-1863.
One incident was that the family was forced to leave the home, the house was ransacked, and belongings and personal effects were taken. When they returned, the Northern Army shared bedding and food until the family could stock up again. Another encounter was the use of the little farmhouse as a temporary infirmary, and this curious youngster peeking through a window witnessing amputation of a limb from a wounded soldier.
To escape troops marching to or retreating from Gettysburg, his mother, Sophia, took refuge up the side of the mountain and got lost in a briar thicket. She struggled for an hour or so before reaching a clearing. Three-month-old daughter, Emma, was carried in her arms, 6-year-old Sam and 9-year-old Mart held onto her skirts.
Helen C. Dingler
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