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Letters From Emmitsburg's Past

Emmitsburg as described in a Union Solder's letter home,
June 30, 1863

(To Mr. Luther Wingetq Milford Center, Union County, Ohio)

Emmitsburg, Maryland June 30th, 1863

Dear Friends:

I will again pencil another note to you, So that you can keep track of our whereabouts. We stayed at Middletown until the evening of the 28th about six 9clock p.m. We started from there to Frederick (about 7 miles) and got there about one o9clock a.m. All that time we were marching (part of the time Double Quicking) our officers trying to get us to our camping place beyond the city without going through it, which they succeeded in doing by marching us until that time of night and going entirely around the city. So I did not get to see the city at all.

It is said to be very large and nice. Well at 4 o'clock that morning (the 29th), we began our march to this place (a distant of 25 miles) and arrived here last night about 6 o'clock and stayed in that place until this morning when we moved to this place, a Shady Grove, near a Nunnery or rather on the farm and near the Buildings belonging to the Sisters of Charity.

The town is a very nice one, hardly as large as Urbana, but all fine buildings* About one half of the town was burnt about two weeks ago* The people think it was done by a resident of the town whom they now have in Jail. He is said to be a union man although the town is one of the worst secessionist towns in Maryland. But that was not the reason it was burnt. It was in revenge for some private wrong done by some individual of the town, His store was set on fire and burnt the rest with it.

This institution of the Sisters of Charity (whose grounds we are now on) Farm and Buildings (especially the latter) is the finest I ever saw. Nothing in Ohio will compare with it, I was astonished to find such magnificence in such a place, a place I have never heard of before. The buildings cover about a square of ground, the same as a square in a town, built entirely of brick and ornamented with marble carvings. The main buildings are 4 stories high, built in Splendid style, Before the war began, there were 500 Sisters of Charity of this institution. But all but about 60 are with the army in the various hospitals, taking care of the sick and wounded, And they are said to be very good nurses and very kind.

The institution belongs to the Catholic Church and on almost every part of the buildings are crosses stuck on, They have, of courses a Chapel (a place of worship)* This is finished beautifully, The room is very large and in the form of an arch. Beautiful paintings are all around the room and a large statue of the Virgin Mary and Child. But the altar is the nicest feature in the Chapel. It is built of the finest marble and on it is a splendid cross with an image of our Savior on it with a crown of gold (real) on his head, an angel on either side of him (the cherubim's). It is a nice room.

Near the institution is the cemetery and in the center of it is a small but beautiful Chapel. Beneath which in a vault is the remains of Mother Mary Seton, the foundress of the institution, (She left the grounds and money to build, furnish and set to running the institution. She died in 1821.) The chapel is a little round room with an altar in it similar to the one just described.

The farm has 400 acres in it and is under the best of cultivation. It is worked by several Catholics, old Irishmen who I suppose are not able to take care of themselves, but who find labor and a home here with someone to take care of them, as there is a directing hand somewhere, although I know not who it is,

But I forgot something about the cemetery. There are 155 graves in it in regular rows and about 10 in a plot with paths between the plots. The graves are all in good condition, very narrow, with the grass growing nicely on each* Each grave has a cross at the head with the name, age and death on it; and all have foot stones. One thing is worthy of note, and ages of those buried there (all females) all vary from 13 to 25, All young women in the prime of life.

With respect to the fifty or sixty now in the institution (I saw but few of them), they wear back dresses (without any hoops) with white aprons, a cape coming over the shoulders and coming to a peak at the waist. And a white bonnet in the shape of a scoop shovel (only more so.) It has a cape also which comes down to the shoulder. The bonnet is the ugliest piece of furniture I ever saw, although it was white as snow as was the apron. The girls are most all young and good looking,, while some of them are beautiful. And it seemed to me to be a shame to keep them immured in a gloomy building like that with no appropriate society.

But to return to the grounds, they are laid out in good style. All round among the buildings and grounds are carriage drivers, and springs are plentiful, while here and there are statues, some of the Virgin, some of our Savior and the Apostles, Every once in a while you come across an iron sofa or seat, among the nice trees. They have also a large garden of about three acres. Everything is laid out in good order and the crop is forward.

But the barn is one of the curiosities. It is brick also and a bank barn. At each end of the barn is a very large mow and between them are 3 large barn floors, each about 18 feet wide. The barn is very high and the upper part is floored and has stairs to go up into it, and there kept the farming utensils. Beneath in the basement are 5 rows of stalls with a feeding room for each, and each row has room for 8 horses, And there is a shed the whole length of the barn where it (the barn) juts over. Thus you can see what a beautiful barn it is. It never cost less than $3,000.

Author Unknown

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