Private John M Disbrow, Company D, 118th New York Infantry was barely 16 years old when he was killed by a gunshot in action on Bolivar Heights above Harpers Ferry sometime after 9 o’clock on the night of 14 September 1862 – probably by “friendly” fire from his own regiment, who fired at noises in the dark.

One of his messmates argued that he’d been killed by enemy cavalry:

You ask me about Disbro, I guess I can tell you as much as any one, about him, as I stood near him when he fell, and helped bury him. It is a mistake, his being shot by one of his own Company, as after he was dead, one of our Balls were tried to put into the hole in his head, & would not go. It was a Pistol Shot from a horse Pistol, in all probability by some of the Rebel Cavaraly, as we have no such arms. It is almost positive that he was shot by one of the Rebel Cavalry which attacked us in our Rear. It would be dreadful to think of his being Shot by one of his own comrades. It is universaly acknowledged that he was shot by some of the Rebel Cavalry.

This marker in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park talks about that night and the rookies of the 111th New York; photographed by Craig Swain.

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