Ransom of Hagerstown


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March 12, 2024

The summer of ’64 brought grief to the Hall family. A letter between sisters sums it up

Article Author: Abigail Koontz (This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail March, 2024) The summer of 1864 was a tumultuous one for the United States, caught in the throes of the Civil War. The Federal Army employed more aggressive tactics in the South — such as burning private homes and property — and the Confederacy was losing ground. Locally, the summer of 1864 irrevocably altered the life of 19-year-old Hagerstown resident Sarah Bell (Hall) Matthews, who witnessed the Ransom of Hagerstown and the aftermath of the Burning of Chambersburg. Sarah Bell Hall was born in Hagerstown on Oct. 6, 1845, to William Hall, a master machinist, and Elizabeth (Noel) Hall. Sarah’s parents had moved to Hagerstown from Pennsylvania by the early 1840s; they had at least seven children together. On May 30, 1864, the Halls received terrible news. Their oldest son, Noel, a 22-year-old private in Company K, 12th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry, had died from wounds received at the Battle of the Wilderness in early May. Noel’s body was transported home from Virginia and buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. Sarah had lost her brother, but soon she lost the presence of her older sister, Kate, who married Nathan Wright […]