Henry Tisdale longed for the peaceful Sabbath of his home in West Dedham, Mass. as he marched to the bloody battlefield of South Mountain.
He would be shot in the leg during the battle later that day. The Battle of South Mountain was a prelude to the deadliest one-day engagement of the Civil War — Antietam — on Sept. 17, 1862.
Henry Tisdale was born March 9, 1837, in Walpole, Mass., the eldest of seven children. He was a 25-year-old grocery clerk when he mustered into Company I of the 35th Massachusetts Infantry as a sergeant. Tisdale was deeply religious and believed it was everyone’s Christian and patriotic duty to enlist in the service of the United States.
He kept a detailed diary during his service in the war from 1862-65. He never spoke of his Civil War experiences to his wife or seven children. His diary was published after his death.
On the day of the Battle of South Mountain, which began in the evening of Sept. 14, 1862, he wrote in his diary,
On the march since the 10th off and on and are now camped near Middletown, MD. According to reports we are attached to General Jesse Reno’s Division of Gen. Burnside’s 9th Corps.
He then described “some little fighting” between the Union’s advanced parts and the rebels under Stonewall Jackson near Frederick, Md.
The country through which we have passed is a very fine in natural scenery, interspersed with fine farms and woodland, the latter more of a true frost style than our Northern woods, having much less underbrush and rocks, and the wood much larger. Passed through two or three small villages; these and the farm dwelling and buildings we have passed are far from equaling in style or taste those of the North, showing many of them in a dilapidated appearance, and far more whitewash than paint.
The Taint of Slavery
“One feels already the taint of slavery upon the land in the somehow thriftless and want of enterprising look of the country,” he wrote.
Our march through Frederick, MD yesterday and by moonlight, over the hills and beyond it was very fine. The scenery from these hills delightful.
He then described how the booming of cannon opened the morning. During the day, he wrote, troops passed by his camp in one continued stream.
It is hard to feel it the Sabbath. Prospects of our getting into action before night multiply causing a sort of feverish excitement to come over me. Help me my heavenly Father to do my duty in they fear and for glory for Christ’s sake, Amen. In one of the churches of the town is some of the rebel wounded from the action of yesterday or skirmishing. Tears come into my eyes as I think of home and of the peaceful Sabbath there enjoyed.
To read Henry Tisdale’s account of the battle six weeks later, click here. This story last updated in 2022.
Just a small detail, my great grandfather joined Company I, not Company G, that you wrote. Company I was the Dedham, MA company where he was from.
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