Sounds of tramping feet and creaking wheels alerted the citizens of Frederick before the sun rose on September 10 that the picture of the campaign was changing. By peeking out their windows, one could clearly discern thousands of Confederate soldiers making their way out of the city, heading west to an unknown destination. For many of those soldiers, their destination was a mystery, too. This movement was simply part of the plan Robert E. Lee outlined in Special Order No. 191, written and distributed the previous day. It divided Lee’s force, sending roughly two-thirds of the army on three separate paths to ensnare the Federal garrisons at Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry in the Shenandoah Valley. “Stonewall” Jackson’s column led the way out of Frederick, into the Middletown Valley, and up and over South Mountain. Captain Greenlee Davidson, a battery commander under A.P. Hill, recorded his experiences this day.
Greenlee Davidson was killed in action at the Battle of Chancellorsville. His younger brother fell at First Manassas in July 1861.
Left camp this morning at 3 A.M. and took the road to Frederick City three miles distant. Passed through Frederick about daylight and found the whole population on the qui vive.
Some few of the people cheered us and a great many ladies welcomed us by waving handkerchiefs and flags, but a large proportion of the people looked sullenly upon us.
After passing through the City we turned into the National road and moved in the direction of Hagerstown. About 10 o’clock passed through Middletown–a village nearly as large as Lexington [Virginia]. It has the reputation of being the bitterest abolition hole in the state. The people are as valid as those of any village in Massachusetts or Vermont. We found the place almost deserted. The houses were locked up and all the merchants had closed their stores and fled. It looked indeed like a deserted village. After leaving Middletown we passed through a most beautiful country. The lands are in the highest state of cultivation and every farm has a barn almost as large as Noah’s Ark. But strange to say, none of these magnificent barns, or roomy smokehouses contain neither corn or meat. I visited nearly a hundred farm houses during the day and did not succeed in buying a pound of meat or a bushel of corn. It is true that a considerable number of the houses were deserted, but where I found the owners at home, they all told me they had nothing to sell. It is perfectly evident that the people of this section of the State are as hostile to us as if we were north of Mason and Dixon line.
After dusk we went into camp one mile below Boonsboro.