"We Know That You Were Carrying Out Orders": The Burning of the Mumma Farm

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Andy Cardinal

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Mumma-Farm-Burning.jpg

The first Mummas in America emigrated from the Rhine River Valley in 1732, arriving in Philadelphia and settling in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In May 1796, Jacob Mumma purchased 324 acres along Antietam Creek and moved his family to the Sharpsburg area. Jacob purchased a 151 acre property that included the current Mumma Farm in 1805. The house, barn, and some other outbuildings had been constructed by the Orndorff family during the 1790s.

Jacob's son John moved to the farm and soon constructed a two-story brick addition, doubling its size of the house. John's son Samuel lived and farmed here at the time of the battle.

Farm-property.png

The Mumma Property (The Farmsteads of Antietam)

Samuel married Barbara Hertzler in 1822. Their first child was born in 1824, and two more sons were born over the next few years. In 1830 Barbara died shortly after giving birth to their fourth, child, a girl. Baby Catherine died as well.

Shortly after, Samuel married 18-year-old Elizabeth Miller, daughter of Daniel (not David) Miller. Samuel and Elizabeth would have eleven children. In 1851, Samuel donated 4 1/2 acres on the western edge of the property for the Dunker's to build a church, which was completed in 1853.

At the time of the battle, Samuel and Elizabeth lived at the house with ten of their children. On Sunday, September 14, the Miller's invited the congregation to their house for a meal. After supper was ended, the adults sat and talked while the children ran back and forth from the house to the eastern edge of the property, describing the battle they could see on South Mountain in the distance. The Confederate army arrived in Sharpsburg the next morning.

Son Samuel later described what happened next: "My father was told the family had better get away, so we left on Monday afternoon the 15th, took nothing with us as they were cannonading then, and were were afraid there would be a battle at once. Some clothing was gotten together and the silverware packed in a basket, ready to take but in our haste to get away, all was left behind. Father and mother and the younger children left in the two-horse carry (the older children walking as there was a large family) all going about four miles, and camped in a large church called the Manor Church, where many others were congregated." Samuel Sr. was the last to leave. He grabbed his pocket watch and hung it around "baby Cora's" neck. Playing with the watch calmed the upset three-year-old.

When no battle developed, young Samuel, a brother and a friend decided to return home to check on their belongings and get more supplies. Samuel recounted: "On Tues. Evening a friend and I came back to the house, thinking to get some clothing, but found that everything of value had been taken. I then started for Sharpsburg, and at the ridge on the field above the house, where the line had formed, found Gen. D. H. Hill and some other officers had me brought to them abd questioned me as to whether I was a member of that family, and then asked me about the different roads to Antietam Creek. I gave a correct statement, although I was a Union boy. After we left, my older brother Daniel came back to the house and went to bed. Toward morning, some officers knocked at the door. Daniel, being young also, jumped out back window, left it up, and spent the remainder of the night in the upper room of a stone house that was once used by their slaves." He was probably in the stone building when fighting erupted in the nearby East Woods that evening. Before dawn the next morning, Daniel snuck away and rejoined his family at Manor Church.

On the morning of the 17th, Brigadier General Roswell Ripley ordered the Mumma house burned, fearing it would be used by Union troops as a sharpshooter position. As Ripley reported, "a set of farm buildings in our front were set on fire to prevent them from being made use of by the enemy."

Major James F. Clark took charge of the detail that carried out the orders. Clark remembered "throwing a torch through an open window and onto a quilt covered bed. Within a few moments the whole house was in flames.” The house burned quickly, and,the fire soon spread to other farm buildings. Artillery fire soon set fire to the barn as well. The inferno was frequently remarked upon in accounts of the battle by those serving on both sides. It was the only civilian property deliberately destroyed during the battle.

When the Mummas returned after the battle, they found their home in ruins. They stayed at the Joseph Sherrick house until their home was rebuilt. The house was built on the original foundation and used the three brick walls that survived the fire.

Almost 44 years later, Clark wrote a letter to the postmaster in Sharpsburg seeking information about the family whose farm he had set afire. Ironically, the postmaster at the time was Samuel, Jr.

New Bern, N. C.
March 19, 1906
Postmaster
Sharpsburg, Md.

Dear Sir:

Please be so kind as to give me the correct name of the man who owned or lived in the brick house that was burned at the Battle of Antietam or Battle of Sharpsburg, being called by both names.

I belonged to the 3rd North Carolina infantry, Colonel William L. Derassette, Ripley's Brigade, D. H. Hill's Division.

This house stood immediately in our front as the battle was being commenced and at times was in the enemy's lines. General Ripley, to prevent its occupation by sharpshooters and protect his officers from being picked off, ordered it burned. A volunteer call was mad as to who would go and do it. Five or six privates from Company A volunteered and I took charge of them, being at that time, Sergeant Major of the Regiment. After firing the house we all got back to our lines, myself being the only one hurt. Ripley ordered me to carry orders down to his line to 44th and 48th Georgia Regiments to come up and take a rail fence in their front. He was shot soon after I left him. I carried the orders down to the Georgia troops and being weak from the loss of blood, went off the field by an old Church and on to our hospital. Then a women, young and beautiful and black haired, helped to bandage my arm. I have often wondered if she was any of the family and where they when caught between the lines of battle.

I wish to write up the particulars of the event truthfully and there are some particulars about the family I would like to have.

On the next campaign, Gettysburg, by the command to which I belonged, we assisted to capture General Milroy at Winchester, Virginia, and I had to lay up for repairs and did not get any further.

My brother, now deceased, said that he saw the old gentleman, or thought he talked with the owner of the house burned, and said that he hoped the next time they fought, they would get out of his cornfields, as he gathered no corn or crops that year.

Hoping to hear from you with a line of particulars, as to where the family went that morning September 17th, 1862, I am,

Yours respectfully and truly
James F. Clark
Late Sergeant Major
3rd North Carolina Regiment

Mumma-Farm-destroyed.jpg

Alexander Gardner's Photograph​

Samuel Mumma replied:

Sharpsburg, Maryland
March 22, 1906
Mr. James F. Clark
New Bern, N. C.

Dear Sir:

In reply to your letter of March 19th asking for some information concerning the burning of the brick house on September 17th, 1862, I will say that the house referred to was owned by my father, Samuel Mumma, Sr. The house, a large brick colonial one, near the Dunkard Church, was burned at the Battle of Antietam. My father was told that the family had better get away, so we left on Monday afternoon the 15th, took nothing with us as they were cannonading then and we were afraid that there would be a battle at once. Some clothing was gotten together and the silverware was packed in a basket ready to take, but in our haste to get away, all was left behind.Father and mother and the younger children left in the two-horse carry-all (the older children walking as there was a large family) going about 4 miles and then we camped in a large church called the Manor Church, where man others congregated.

On Tuesday evening, a friend and I came back to the house, thinking to get some clothing but found that everything of value had been taken. I then started for Sharpsburg and at the ridge on the field above our house, where the line had formed, General D. H. Hill and some other officers had me brought to them, and questioned me as to whether I was a memeber of that family. They then asked me about different roads to the Antietam Creek. I gave them a correct statement although I was a Union boy. After we left, my older brother Daniel came back to the house and went to bed. Towards morning, some officers knocked at the door and Daniel being young also, was afraid to open the door and jumped out the back window, leaving it up and spent the remainder of the night in the upper room of a stone building that was once used by slaves. The next day he went to Sharpsburg. That morning the house and barn were burned but we were told that General Richardson's Battery (a Union General) had shelled the house and barn and burned them.

Our family then went to a friends house until spring. In the spring of 1863 we rebuilt our house and had just moved in a few weeks before the army went to Gettysburg.

As they were passing through to Gettysburg, an officer approached me and asked me if I know who had burned that house. I told him that I did not. Then he told me that he and eight other men were detailed by General Ripley to burn the house and hat he had picked up a chunk of fire from where they had been cooking and had put in in an open window on to a bed. He told me the color of the quilt and the shape of the bedstead.

We lost crops, fencing and everything, all amounting from $8,000 to $10,000 and were never recompensed as the Government claimed it was damaged by being right in the heart of the battle.

As well as I can remember, the hospital you spoke of must have been at the home of one Harry Reel, southwest of the old Dunkard Church. He had a daughter with black hair. She is now dead and the rest of the family have moved west. That was the nearest hospital that I knew of.

As to burning our house, we know that in doing so, you were carrying out orders.

Enclosed find a few souvenir postals of the battle. Hoping that these points will help you in your work, I am,

Sincerely,
Samuel Mumma, Jr.,
Postmaster
Sharpsburg, Md.

Incidently, if Mumma was correct in his identification of the Reel home as the hospital where Clark met the beautiful woman, the Reel farm was used as a Confederate field hospital during the battle. Sometime that afternoon, an artillery shell hit the barn and set it on fire. It burned down in a matter of minutes, and the wounded soldiers inside died in the flames.

Sources:
Ernst, Too Afraid to Cry

Walker, Antietam Farmsteads

https://jacob-rohrbach-inn.com/blog/2017/04/the-farmsteads-at-antietam-samuel-mumma-farm/

http://southfromthenorthwoods.blogspot.com/2010/05/as-to-burning-our-house-we-know-that-in.html?m=1
 
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Andy Cardinal

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Mumma's damage claim included:

One house destroyed by fire($2000)
One barn ($1250)
One spring house and hog pen ($100)
Household furniture and clothing ($422.23)
Farming implements included McCormick reaper, a wheat drill, two grain rakes, a wheat fan and a wheat screen, six plows and a threshing machine, in addition to the usual pitch forks and other tools, plus 2 wagons ($457)
Fence destroyed ($590)
Land damaged by traveling and burial ($150)
Fifteen cords wood ($37)

46 tons of hay (valued at $508)
80 bushels of wheat ($100)
20 bushels of rye ($15)
25 bushels of corn ($16.25)
75 bundles of straw ($88). Another 75 bushels of wheat ($93.75)
16 acres of corn ($355)
16 acres of fodder ($88)
100 bushels of Irish potatoes ($100)
10 bushels of sweet potatoes ($15)
15 tons of straw ($97.50)
1 bushel each of dried corn ($2)
I bushel dried apples ($1)
1/2 bushel each of dried peas ($1.50)
1/2 bushel beans ($.75)
1¾ bushels of dried cherries ($4)
12 crocks of preserves ($12)
12 crocks of marmalade ($12)
8 crocks of apple butter ($6)
4 barrels of vinegar ($20)
16 gallons of wine ($24)
1/2barrel of pickles ($4)
2 household gardens, valued at $10 each
6 steers ($150)
2 calves ($12)
2 colts ($60)
1 horse ($100)
9 hogs ($90)
9 shoats ($27)
8 sheep ($40).
200 chickens ($30)
12 turkeys ($6)
2 ducks ($.50)
 
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Dusty

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Thanks for that very interesting article. They have done a wonderful job of restoring the farm house, barn and other out buildings. The Sherrick farm house. as mentioned in your article, is restored nicely also but when I was there to take an extensive tour of the battlefield last summer, there is only a foundation of the barn. I do not know what their plans are for it, if any. I made a quick trip through the battlefield this spring as my main destination that day was Shepherdstown, West Virginia across the river from Sharpsburg. The old general store there is worth the trip alone. There are also other nice shops on the main street there. I am only about an hour away. But, Sharpsburg has an outstanding ice cream shop in the middle of the town.
 

rpkennedy

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Just imagine what his property looked like on the evening of September 17. Not just the lost buildings but the sheer number of bodies and general flotsam all over the field. Douglass' defensive line and Stephen Lee's artillery line ran along his property. Not to mention the fighting around the Dunker Church and the back and forth nature of the action.

Ryan
 
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Andy Cardinal

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Thanks for that very interesting article. They have done a wonderful job of restoring the farm house, barn and other out buildings. The Sherrick farm house. as mentioned in your article, is restored nicely also but when I was there to take an extensive tour of the battlefield last summer, there is only a foundation of the barn. I do not know what their plans are for it, if any. I made a quick trip through the battlefield this spring as my main destination that day was Shepherdstown, West Virginia across the river from Sharpsburg. The old general store there is worth the trip alone. There are also other nice shops on the main street there. I am only about an hour away. But, Sharpsburg has an outstanding ice cream shop in the middle of the town.
Nutters Ice Cream!
 

Andy Cardinal

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Joined
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Just imagine what his property looked like on the evening of September 17. Not just the lost buildings but the sheer number of bodies and general flotsam all over the field. Douglass' defensive line and Stephen Lee's artillery line ran along his property. Not to mention the fighting around the Dunker Church and the back and forth nature of the action.

Ryan
Some of the heaviest fighting of the war took place on Mumma's property, especially if you count the 4.5 acres he gave for the Dunker Church ("St. Mumma's Church" Hood called it).
 
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