175th Preview: The Civil War Arrives at Saint James
175th Preview: The Civil War Arrives at Saint James

In the spring of 1861, Fort Sumter was attacked and the outbreak of the Baltimore Riot impacted Saint James when six panicked parents withdrew their boys. By the summer, 81 of the initial 104 students remained on campus.

On the evening of June 15, 1861, a brigade of nearly 4,000 Pennsylvanians found themselves in a field next to Saint James. Kerfoot spoke the the commanding officer, having been assured "some days before that they would encamp none near us." He discovered that Gen. Williams and his men had simply "mistook their appointed field" after marching 22 miles in the hot June weather. Despite his loyalty to the North, Kerfoot reminded Gen. Williams that "...we were clergymen, with special responsibilities over a most peculiar charge, and we had decided to meet courteously military from North and South, give the officers every courtesy as gentlemen, and their command every facility." Gen. Williams understood. That night, the field was littered with men, the bath-house opened to the officers, and about 70-80 men were fed.

The next morning, tensions between the Union Troops and the mostly Southern School rose with the sounds of musket fire early in the morning. Kerfoot discovered "that some of the soldiers were inquiring, much and threating, why there was not a United States flag up." The men cheered at the site of the flag as it was raised, while southern sympathizers yelled to "Haul down that flag!" Later, Kerfoot learned that the School was in peril due to a rumor that Saint James was a part of the secession. Their first encounter with troops on school grounds turned out to be overall peaceful and the School itself was unscathed. But the Battle of Antietam and the retreat form Gettysburg would bring the battle and horrors of war to their door steps.

Kerfoot was on a business trip when the Confederate army crossed the Potomac into Maryland. Upon hearing this news he rushed home and booked his son and his eldest daughter, along with the family silver and valuables, on the last train out of Hagerstown. Shortly after his return, all those who remained on campus heard cannon fire from the Battle of Harper's Ferry and the Battle of South Mountain (Boonsboro Gap) as the troops drew closer and closer. The Headmaster, along with his wife and housekeeper, prepared bandages for the wounded. Two days before the Battle of Antietam, 2,600 to 2,800 Confederate troops retreated through the campus after the battle of South Mountain. Dr. and Mrs. Kerfoot supplied ice water, bandages, and all of the food in the house to the starving, wounded, and exhausted men."

What happened next? Tune-in next Thursday to find out.

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