Boonsboro must have been a chaotic community in September 1862. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had just invaded the north, occupying Frederick and advancing to take Harper’s Ferry. But George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac pursued him from the east and, on September 14 engaged Lee’s rear guard at the gaps of South Mountain; by the end of the day some 6,100 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing.

Battle of Antietam: Image Kurz and Allison Art Publishing Company

Jacob Heck (Confederate infantry) and his brother, John Heck (Union cavalry) unknowingly fought each other in that battle. Having been raised in Boonsboro, they took advantage of a lull in the fighting to visit their mother, Elizabeth and sister, Sally on Church Street (now, Potomac Street).

After that chance and awkward encounter where they shared a meal with their family, they rejoined their units. Fate would have it that they would meet again on September 17 at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American military history.

Jacob and John lived to be 85 and 78 years of age, respectively, and it is uncertain if they ever reconciled their strongly held political differences.


Image: from the Kurtz and Allison Art Publishing Company.