On Sept. 8, 1862, George McFarland made what was possibly the most difficult decision of his life. The 28-year-old school principal, married with two children, had spent a year and a half watching the Civil War from afar and had “at last determined to go to war.”
“This determination has not been made lightly or without much serious thought and anxious prayer,” he confessed in his diary, “I believe my country needs my services and it is my duty to yield to her wants and go to her relief in this extremity.” A community leader, McFarland was elected Captain of Company D and later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. By the end of the month, McFarland and his comrades were in camp, drilling to become soldiers. They would spend the beginning part of their service on guard duty and join the Army of the Potomac before the Battle of Chancellorsville.