13. Reflections on 9/11 of yesteryear, the day history was almost changed, the near assassination of Robert E. Lee

September 11, 1862:

A terrible rumbling could be heard on the National Road coming from the south in the direction of Boonsboro.  The sweeping farm fields surrounding the Old National Pike were cleared then, and the views from Cool Hollow House were much more vast than they are today.  Cresting the ridge near the southern end of the farm a great horde could be seen marching down into the hollow, kicking dust high into the air, this was the Confederate Army, many thousands strong.  Leading this massive army were two imposing men, one on a great grey steed named Traveller, General Robert E. Lee. The other was Lee’s “Old War Horse”, the famous General James Longstreet.

1 day prior:  Before leaving Frederick, Maryland on September 10, 1862, Lee had sent out several secret orders to his generals laying out his plans and directions for the upcoming engagements.  Known as Special order 191, this order detailed his plans to send part of his army to march to Harpers Ferry to seize the Federal Arsenal.  The other part was to march with him to Boonsboro, where a division would stay to defend Turner’s, Fox’s, and Crampton’s Gap on South Mountain, the rest to accompany him to Hagerstown.  On September 13, 1862 Union Troops captured this secret order in one of the Civil War’s greatest mysteries.  This strange turn of events alerted Gen. Mcclellan to Lee’s plans and whereabouts.  The Union Army would set out in haste to meet the Confederat’s in what would result in the most deadly one day battle in all of American military history, Antietam. 

Having left Boonsboro on the morning of September 11, 1862 Lee and Longstreet led their army north on the National Road towards Hagerstown.  About 4 miles north of town the National Road descends through a series of very sharp turns into a place called Cool Hollow where the placid Antietam Creek lazily gurgles its way beside it. This is the only place this occurs on the 10 mile stretch between Boonsboro and Hagerstown, making it a critical stopping place for travelers.  The large farm of David and Magdalena Schindel named “Cool Hollow” sits at this very spot.  The prominent Schindel’s were “Dunkers”, a peace loving sect vehemently opposed to slavery and war. Chance would have that on this day the Schindel’s were being visited by a local Dunker minister by the name of Mr. Daniel Bovey.  Mr. Bovey was passionate in his support for the North, and it must have been to the households great horror to witness this unstoppable force bearing down on their home.   The army stopped at the front gate and the two Generals dismounted and came onto the lawn. Taking a rest while the soldiers and horses took water from the Antietam creek, wells and springs on the grounds Lee and Longstreet settled in.

It was on this lawn where Lee and Longstreet met, and one of the upper windows where Daniel Bovey aimed his rifle at the two men, and nearly changed history.

It was on this lawn where Lee and Longstreet met, and one of the upper windows where Daniel Bovey aimed his rifle at the two men, and nearly changed history.

According to his account, Mr. Bovey in a fit of what must be called rage, grabbed a rifle and ran to an upstairs bed chamber window.  Standing back as to not be seen, the minister aimed his rifle at Lee and Longstreet contemplating their assassination, and ending the war.  Coming to his senses, and remembering himself he soon thought better of this and stepped back.  What would history look like had he gone through with this plan?  Would our nation have been spared so much suffering? 

Article from Herald Mail 1973 detailing account.

Article from Herald Mail 1973 detailing account.

Would the war have ended sooner?  We will never know the outcome, but it certainly puts a mind to thinking what might been on our lawn that afternoon.  After conferring for a time about the upcoming events the Generals led the army to Hagerstown that night, leaving Cool Hollow House with a story for the ages. 

Lee camps at Hagerstown, MD 9/11/1862 the evening of “the Cool Hollow incident”

Lee camps at Hagerstown, MD 9/11/1862 the evening of “the Cool Hollow incident”

Two days later learning of the Unions knowledge of his plans, Lee sent Longstreet and his divisions back past Cool Hollow to meet the Union Force at South Mountain, where a fierce battle raged. This was the first battle on northern soil on September 14, 1862, 3 days before Antietam.

September 11th is a day that lives in infamy to our generation of Americans, a day of great sadness and reflection.  This is also a day that 157 years ago could have shaped the future of our nation.  September 11th is a day of “what if’s”, and “might have beens”.  Either way we still remember.

Battle of South Mountain 9/14/1862

Battle of South Mountain 9/14/1862