Many Cannonball readers are well aware of the June 28, 1863, destruction of the Columbia-Wrightsville covered bridge. The winds shifted and lumberyards and houses along the riverfront also caught on fire. Confederate soldiers formed a bucket brigade and passed water up from the Susquehanna River and the nearby canal. They doused flaming embers on rooftops that threatened more of the town of 1,000 people. I document this in great detail in my book, Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Confederate Expedition to the Susquehanna River, June 1863. Other authors have also dealt with the topic to various degrees.
But, did you know that much of the riverfront area, particularly the vulnerable lumberyards, had been rebuilt and restocked with inventory after a disastrous fire on the night of August 28-29, 1862, that swept through much of the same area? In that case, the winds were favorable and spared the old bridge, granting it almost a year’s more usage before a team of Columbia citizens applied the torch (under army orders) during the Rebel invasion of York County.
Here is the story of the widespread destruction caused by the earlier conflagration, as taken from the August 30, 1862, Baltimore Sun.