Young York businessman attended Lincoln’s first inauguration

Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration (Library of Congress)

It was March 4, 1861. After a bitter and contentious election that saw, for the first time, a Republican take the presidency, it was time for that man, former Illinois congressman Abraham Lincoln, to take office. In the intervening months since the election, seven Deep South states had seceded and formed a new breakaway government, the Confederate State of America. It was a hotly debated issue — some in the North thought “good riddance” and wanted to let them go. Some thought that negotiation and yielding on some points might bring them back into the fold. Others wanted the Union preserved, at all costs.

Lincoln was in that camp, even if it meant the possibility of war. The trick was how to restore the Union without aggravating other slave-holding Southern states, where secession was still likely of he made any aggressive moves. In his inaugural speech, he told his audience that he would not interfere with slavery where it existed, but he hammered on the point that he opposed secession and that the government had a right to “hold, possess, and occupy” Federal property. Already, in some states, secessionists had taken over Federal forts, arsenals, and other facilities. He also verified the government’s right to collect taxes.

In the audience that cloudy March day was Arthur Briggs Farquhar, a young businessman from York, Pennsylvania. Years later, he recorded his impressions of the new president in his book, The First Million The Hardest: An Autobiography.

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Extra Billy’s boys devastated North York farm

SLM derivation of a map from the Pennsylvania History & Museum Commission. Copy at YCHC.

Today, thousands of motorists travel through the intersection of U.S. Route 30 (Loucks Road) and N. George Street in North York and Manchester Township, York County, PA. Few, if any, are aware that back in late June 1863, during the height of the Gettysburg Campaign, more than 1,000 Confederate soldiers camped near this now bustling area. At the time, it was decidedly pastoral, dotted with tidy farms and several grist mills, with an abundant supply of fresh water and plenty of lush meadows and glistening fields of ripe oats, corn, and hay. It was, by all accounts, a bucolic setting.

Confederate Major General Jubal A. Early’s division approached York in two powerful columns. During the early morning of Sunday, June 28, 1863, 1,800 Georgia infantry, fronted by cavalry and trailed by artillery, tramped eastward from Farmers Post Office along the Gettysburg-York Turnpike (now Routes 30 and 462). They marched through York with their flags flying and bands playing starting at 10 a.m. and headed on toward Wrightsville to seize the covered bridge there. Some two hours later, the vitriolic General Early led the rest of his division (some 4,600 additional soldiers) south through Emigsville on what is today N. George Street (then the Harrisburg Road).

He had earlier dispatched the 200-man 17th Virginia Cavalry northward through Mount Wolf to burn two railroad bridges south of York Haven. Early dropped off the famed Louisiana Tigers to seize flour mills along the Codorus; most of them camped where today’s Harley Davidson factory sits. The general instructed Brigadier General William “Extra Billy” Smith to post his small, understrength Virginia brigade along the Harrisburg Road north of York not far from the Tigers’ position at the Z. K. Laucks grist mills.

Most of Smith’s force camped on the farm of Henry L. King.

King would long rue the Southerners’ visit.

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York CWRT to discuss the “Secrets of the Cyclorama” on January 18

Detail from the Gettysburg Cyclorama (Scot Mingus photo)

The York Civil War Round Table begins its 20th Anniversary year and 2017 campaign with featured speaker Chris Brenneman at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 7 p.m. Chris will present a PowerPoint presentation titled “Secrets of the Cyclorama” based on the book he co-authored with Sue Boardman, “The Gettysburg Cyclorama- The Turning Point of the Civil War On Canvas.”

The meeting will be held at the Historical Society Museum of the York County History Center located at 250 E. Market St., York, Pennsylvania. There is no charge for admission and the public is welcome.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 4 “The dainty morsel of pine”

One of a series of paintings of the Columbia Bridge on fire painted by students in 1913 for Columbia’s Old Home Week. (C. Wallace photo)

Twenty-eight years after the Confederates invaded Pennsylvania in what became known as the Gettysburg Campaign, the York Daily newspaper ran a lengthy article on June 29, 1891, recalling key events in York County, including preparations in Wrightsville to defend the river crossing. Confederate Major General Jubal Early planned to seize the Columbia Bridge (he was actually under orders to burn it, but obeying orders was not exactly his strong suit in Pennsylvania), march across the Susquehanna River into Lancaster County, wreck the railroads, mount his men on captured horses, and then push on toward Harrisburg. Glory beckoned.

It was not to be.

In Part 1 of this four-part series recounting of that long-ago newspaper report, the correspondent outlined the situation and set up the Rebel drive to the river. Part 2 dealt with preparations in Wrightsville to defend and then destroy the old bridge, which had been rebuilt in the early 1830s from the wreckage of an earlier upstream structure knocked down by ice floes. It was at the time reportedly the longest covered bridge on Earth, but would soon be deemed “the dainty morsel of pine.” The story included the close call of an unwise country doctor who tried to bypass nervous militia pickets without the proper countersign. He received a flurry of bullets for his trouble and, in response, told the military men where to go.

In Part 3, two unsung heroes, John Peart and William Hess, volunteered to ride west through Hellam toward York to determine if the Rebels really were approaching, as rumored. As the duo galloped back shouting the alarming news, some of the militia volunteers (specifically the fancily uniformed First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry and elements of the 20th and 27th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia) took to their heels.

Here is the final installment from the York Daily, republished from the Philadelphia Press of June 28, 1891.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 3 Two courageous volunteers

Detail from the 1860 Shearer & Lake Map of York County. Volunteers John Peart and William Hess rode west from Wrightsville on the gravel turnpike toward York to try to determine if the Confederates really were approaching. (PHMC)

Twenty-eight years after Confederate Major General Jubal Early led more than 6,600 Confederate infantry, cavalry, and artillerymen into York County, Pennsylvania, the York Daily newspaper republished a story in the Philadelphia Press that recounted many details of the invasion, with a particular focus on the Union defense of the covered bridge at Wrightsville.

In Part 1 of this four-part series, we looked at the background of the story and introduced two unsung local heroes whose contributions had not been documented in contemporary accounts. Part 2 covered the nervousness in Wrightsville on the weekend of June 27-28, 1863, as rumors spread of the fall of York and the approach of the Rebels.

Now, in Part 3, here is the story of those two long-ago heroes, John Peart and William Hess.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 2 The unwise country physician

Diorama of Wrightsville in 1863 (Burning of the Bridge Diorama, 124 Hellam St., Wrightsville

On June 29, 1891, the York Daily newspaper republished an article that had appeared the previous day in the Philadelphia Press marking the 28th anniversary of the Confederate expedition to capture the long covered bridge between York and Lancaster counties.

It was a time of great fear and trepidation in south-central Pennsylvania, as powerful twin columns of veteran Rebel soldiers headed for the two major river crossings at Wrightsville and Bridgeport (now Lemoyne) to the north. More than 6,600 Rebels under Major General Jubal A. Early marched eastward from the Gettysburg area through York County to York, occupying the county seat on Sunday, June 28, 1863. That afternoon, a Georgia brigade under Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon headed farther east to seize the bridge at Wrightsville.

A motley group of militia of varying quality and martial experience awaited them. Part 1 of this four part series outlined the general situation as the Rebels moved toward York. Now, in Part 2, preparations are being made in Wrightsville to protect the bridge.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 1 The Rebels are coming!

Lewis Miller sketch of the 31st Georgia as it marched into York (YCHC)

I am always interested in fresh accounts of the Confederate invasion of June 1863, a time when more than 11,000 Rebel soldiers in three columns marched or rode into York County, Pennsylvania. Some of these add more details or human interest stories to what I included in my book Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Confederate Expedition to the Susquehanna River, June 1863 and subsequent other Civil War titles.

Here’s one such example, taken from the June 29, 1891, York Daily. It adds the story of John Peart and William U. Hess, two men who reportedly volunteered to scout the presence of oncoming Rebels marching from York to Wrightsville. Peart, a Lancaster County farmer who was home on furlough from the army, was an experienced soldier. Needing a companion for the ride westward, Hess volunteered to ride along. The two of them provided some of the earliest warnings that the Rebels were indeed approaching Wrightsville. They augmented Captain M. M. Strickler’s small company of local, non-uniformed volunteers that patrolled the area west of Wrightsville.

Here is part 1 of the story:

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Civil War vets reconnect after 48 years in York County

Old Civil War veterans meet after the war (image provided by the descendants of Pvt. William Henry Gilbert, used in Jim McClure and Scott Mingus’s book Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.)

Following the American Civil War, veterans from both the North and South often assembled with their comrades to renew their acquaintances, relive old war stories, and to remember those who had given their last full measure of devotion. Some men searched in vain for old chums whose addresses and current whereabouts were now unknown.

In one case, two men reconnected after a 48-year absence.

Ironically, they both had lived for all those years in the same county, not more than 20 miles apart.

York County.

Here is the story, from the December 29, 1911, York Daily.

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York Civil War Round Table Announces 2017 Schedule

Logo designed by Jared Frederick; used by written permission.

The York, Pennsylvania, Civil War Round Table has recently released the schedule of speakers for its 2017 campaign (and 20th anniversary as a group). All meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month in the meeting room of the York County History Center, 250 E. Market Street, York, PA. On-street metered parking is free during the meeting hours. These talks are free of charge and are open to the public. The CWRT does not require memberships and everyone is quite welcome to attend. A free-will offering is taken to help defray speaker expenses.

January 18, 2017 – CHRIS BRENNEMAN – “Secrets of the Cyclorama”

February 15, 2017 – JAMES McCLURE & SCOTT L. MINGUS, Sr. –“The Ground Swallowed Them Up: Slavery and the Underground Railroad in York County, Pa.”

March 15, 2017 – MICHAEL S. JESBERGER – “The H. L. Hunley – Confederate Submarine”

April 19, 2017 – MARK GRIM – “Imprisonment, Trial and Execution of the Lincoln Conspirators – An Overview”

May 17, 2017 – DANIEL VERMILYA – “From Battlefield to the White House – James Garfield”

June 21, 2017 – D. SCOTT HARTWIG – “Gettysburg: Sorting Fiction From Fact”

July 19, 2017 – TOM HUNTINGTON – “Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg”

August 16, 2017 – LINDA CLARK – “Wounded Houses, Shattered Lives: What Was it Like For the Gettysburg Citizens of 1863”

September 20, 2017 – DR. CHARLES C. FENNELL, JR. – “Farnsworth’s Fatal Charge with the 1st Vermont Cavalry “

September 24, 2017 – BATTLEFIELD WALK AT GNMP with DR. CHARLES C.  FENNELL, JR. – Tour of South Cavalry Field including Devil’s Kitchen – 10 AM to 12 Noon

October 18, 2017 – SCOTT L. MINGUS, Sr.  – “Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith: From Virginia’s Statehouse to Gettysburg’s Scapegoat” – SPECIAL 20th ANNIVERSARY MEETING

November 15, 2017 – KEVIN RAWLINGS – portraying “The Thomas Nast Patriotic Civil War Santa Claus”

December – NO MEETING! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

See you there?

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Novel recalls Union veteran’s actual post-war reconciliation march through Dixie

elmaleh

Following the Civil War, most veterans returned home to their families, jobs, and communities. Some found things unchanged; others faced uncertain futures, particularly in the South. Large numbers of veterans struggled with chronic illnesses and pain; some ended up in sanitariums or hospitals. Others drifted westward to new lives on the frontier. At veterans reunions and around town gathering places, old soldiers discussed the war and their exploits and recalled fallen comrades.

For one former infantryman, Gilbert H. Bates, a chance bet in February 1868 became the impetus for a widely celebrated 1,400-mile solo march through the deep South while carrying a U.S. flag. Bates, a former sergeant in the 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery, believed he could emerge unharmed and would be warmly welcomed; others thought him a fool. The war had only been over for five years; the scars and bitterness remained. Yet, Bates, undaunted and unarmed, successfully made his way from Vicksburg, Mississippi, through the Deep South and up through Virginia, finishing in Washington, D.C.  He wrote a pamphlet on his adventure and drew the admiration of Mark Twain and others. Later, he made a similar march across England, again carrying an American flag.

Bates’ adventures have long slipped into obscurity, but they provided the inspiration for a new historical fiction very loosely based upon his march through Dixie.

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