There was a haze over the distant mountain off to the east. The corn was ripening in the autumn sun. The leaves of the oaks and the maples in the nearby grove indicated the change of the season. The Cumberland Valley, always beautiful but never more so than in the lazy, hazy days of September and the following colorful days of October, lay bathed in beauty. From over the dirt roads, flanked by the split-rail fences, came people on horseback, on foot, and in carriages. Along the sunken road, soon to be baptized with blood as Bloody Lane, came the Mummas and others who lived east of the little church. Along the Hagerstown Pike to the north, and also from Sharpsburg on the south, came the worshipers.
It was a sober and thoughtful gathering, for the terrible war was coming closer. Over all there must have been a sense of impending tragedy. Yet little did they realize that within a relatively few hours this lovely spot would be the focal point of a bitter struggle and that they would be within the Confederate lines. On the ridges puffs of smoke could be seen. From time to time the boom of cannon could be heard. But no man could know what the morrow might bring.
The church to which these people came has been variously known as the Mumma church, the little white brick church, and the Antietam Dunker church. Located on a hill overlooking Sharpsburg as well as Antietam Creek, it was surrounded by sturdy trees. The main road from Hagerstown to Sharpsburg passed by on the east side of the structure.
The minister who was to bring the message that morning was Elder David Long. At that time he was in his prime, being forty-two years of age. Already he had won the respect not only of his parishioners but also of other people in his community and far beyond its borders. Elder Long lived some little distance northwest of the church.
That memorable Sunday he took his place, following the usual greetings of friends and fellow members, in the pulpit or, rather, behind the table, for the Brethren felt that all should occupy the same level in the services and did not place raised platforms in their church houses. The hymn was announced and lined, and the congregation sang it spiritedly. At the proper time the elder opened the historic and now-famous Bible, read a psalm, announced his text, and preached a fervent sermon.
Following the lingering good-byes, with which were mingled the expressed hopes of meeting again, the members went their separate ways to their own homes or to the homes of friends. Samuel Mumma, as was the custom of that day, had guests for the noonday meal at his home a short distance to the east of the church. In the afternoon some children who had been playing outdoors came running in and reported seeing smoke on South Mountain, not far east of the Mumma home. The battle of South Mountain was beginning. It is quite unlikely that the full import of what might lie ahead was realized by anyone. That afternoon, even as the Confederate lines were forming north of the Potomac, over a hundred people made their way to the commodious home of Elder Long, where they must have contemplated seriously the events of the day and the prospects for the future.
Source: Sidelights on Brethren History, Freeman Ankrum
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