Letter from Thomas McKean, from Camp near Hagerstown, MD., September 20, 1862

Camp near Hagerstown MD.,
Sept. 20th, 1862.

Dear Rachel – We reached this place yesterday afternoon, after a fatiguing ride by railroad. We left Harrisburg on Thursday morning and were some 30 hours getting to Hagerstown. There are said to be over 50,000 Penna Militia encamped in the neighborhood. We have been on short allowance of food since we got here – Not because there is not enough provisions here – But because the commissary force is too light to meet the business. We have now got plenty of provisions. We have heard firing heavy artillery nearly all the time since we came. We do not hear any news, the papers not making their appearance. Of course there plenty of rumors, of different sorts. I believe McClellan has pretty much cleared Maryland of Rebels. Capt. Buffum has just told me that we will leave for Chambersburg tomorrow. I expect we will, but do not consider it by any means certain. If we are sent back, I have no doubt we will soon be home.

We have no tents, and last night we had no blankets, over coats or food, having moved from our camp to meet an expected cavalry attack, which did not come off. Our boys generally bear the discomforts of their position with good nature. We are all in excellent health. The weather is somewhat warm in day time and cool at night.

We have no mail facilities, and I do not know how to send this letter, but will try to start it, for I doubt not you well feel uneasy, most likely the newspapers will have us in some of the fights, which is not the case. The moral effect of the presence of so many Penna militia in Maryland has undoubtedly been great not only upon the Rebels, but also upon our own men.

I think the decisive fighting of the last few days will end the Rebellion or the Union. We are Company H, 15th regiment Penna Militia. There are eight companies from Pittsburg, one from Erie County, and ours from Mercer in the Regiment. Capt. Jas R. Reed, and Capt. Jos C. Buffum have companies in our regiment. John Scott who used to work with me is in a Pittsburg company.

Whistler asks me to tell Will to go down to tell Mrs. Whistler that we are first rate. Give my love to all. You need not write till you hear from me. Love to all. Kiss the little ones.