Mystery solved…mostly

A few weeks back I wrote a little piece on John Hudson, a Sergeant in Cole’s Cavalry. During the early days of the Gettysburg campaign Hudson was in Frederick, along with much of the rest of the battalion. From there Cole’s men scouted along the rolling hills of western Maryland looking for Lee’s army, frequently sparring with rebel cavalry along the way. Their other job during this period was to maintain law and order in Frederick as part of the Provost Guard. It was during the execution of this duty that Sgt. Hudson was shot by a fellow soldier in Company A named John Bectol.

The papers (which I have images of in the link above) stated that Hudson had gone to arrest Bechtol and that the latter shot him in the face. Bechtol was arrested for the crime while Hudson was not expected to live. He eventually did recover – again you can read the full story at the link above.

There were a few holes in the story that I’ve been able to fill in since then. To find out more I turned to the Diary of Jacob Englebrecht, which is one of the single most useful sources for those interested in Frederick’s history. Jacob was a tailor turned councilman and mayor who was one of the city’s most prominent 19th century residents. He also had a penchant for recording nearly everything that ever happened in the city and surrounding area. Between 1819 and 1878 he kept an almost daily record of everything – births and deaths, agricultural and business news, political and military campaigns. He was an outspoken Unionist and opponent of slavery, so his writings during the Civil War years are particularly interesting.

So I turned to Jacob’s diary to see if this crime was mentioned anywhere. Sure enough on Friday, June 19th 1863 there is the following entry:

Sergeant John S. Hudson of Captain Cole’s Cavalry Company was shot intentionally by Private John Bektol# of same company. It happened in Bentztown in front of Mr. Daniel Derr’s house. It was expected he would die immediately being shot through the head; but this morning he is still living. Shot yesterday morning about 8 o’clock. Friday June 19, 1863 10 1/2 o’clock AM #Drunk

So there’s some useful information here. First of all we have a probable motive. It appears that according to Englebrecht Private Bectol was drunk. As a member of the Provost Guard it would have been Sgt. Hudson’s duty to round up the drunks and stragglers. This is likely why he attempted to arrest the Private.

The diary entry also gives us a location. Jacob mentions “Bentztown,” a neighborhood on the southwest end of Frederick. The area was so named because it was built on land formerly belonging to Jacob Bentz, and ran along the south side of West Patrick Street on the west side of Carrol Creek.

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Bentztown, in a detail from the 1858 Issac Bond Map (Library of Congress)

Today the Bentztown name lives on in the Bentztown Spring Park, a small city park located along Carrol Creek (look for the bronze calf statue near the corner of Bentz St. and Patrick!).

The shooting took place in front of Daniel Derr’s home. Derr is listed in William’s City Directory (1859) as a butcher living on the south side of West Patrick and west of DeGrange Alley. That puts him somewhere in this vicinity:

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I’ll have to do some further digging to find the exact spot, but that location still contains a number of original 19th century houses. It’s likely the old Derr place is still there.

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Looking southwestward along the row of houses in Bentztown. Could one have been the spot where Hudson was shot? (Google Maps)

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