JEB Stuart’s Rebel cavalrymen camped in Dover man’s fields

Alfred Weaver, Dover PA (Scott Mingus collection)

Alfred Weaver of Dover, Pennsylvania. Photo taken by H. Barratt, York, Pa.(Scott Mingus collection)

I frequently peruse eBay and other on-line auction sites looking for photographs/CDVs of York Countians from the Civil War era. Often, they are unidentified. Every now and then, I purchase one that is of a known person. Recently, I was the winning bidder (for a very modest price) on a photograph that excited me as a chronicler of York County’s Civil War history.

The CDV is the first image I have seen of Alfred Weaver of Dover, Pennsylvania. Born in October 1831 to Henry Weaver and Susanna Vogelthorb, by the time of the Gettysburg Campaign in the summer of 1863, he had married Mary Ann Stough, started a family with the first two of what would eventually be eight children, and owned a prosperous farm in Dover Township.

As he and Mary Ann retired on the evening of June 30, 1863, they could not know that within hours, their farm would play host to hundreds of visitors.

Some of J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalrymen, to be specific.

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York’s Underground Railroad Heroes: William Yocum

Wyatt Earp (Library of Congress).

Wyatt Earp (Library of Congress).

Old West gunslingers, marshals, sheriffs, and cowboys have always fascinated me. As a lad, I read as many books as I could on the topic. Names such as Bat Masterson, Wild “Bill” Hickok, Calamity Jane, Billy the Kid, and Jesse James became familiar to me through the power of the printed word. But, perhaps none of them fascinated me more than Wyatt Earp.

He was at times both a gunslinger and lawman — a deputy sheriff and later a deputy town marshal. His occasionally disregarded the law or twisted it to suit his needs, playing both sides of the coin. The dichotomy of being sworn to uphold the laws of the United States of America while at the same time breaking them seemed to be a paradox to me.

And, yet, there has been plenty of precedence for Earp’s controversial actions, including here in York County, Pennsylvania, where a local constable was much more blatant in his defiance of the laws he had paid to uphold.

His name was William Yocum.

He, illegally, was a conductor in the Underground Railroad movement while performing his duties as constable of York.

He’s one of York County’s Underground Heroes.

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York’s Underground Railroad Heroes: Abraham and Susan Hiestand

york-valley-inn-2

Ye Olde Valley Inn was a familiar sight to generations of York Countians, set alongside of the heavily traveled road from York to Wrightsville. In 1737-38, English Quaker settler John Griest constructed a limestone square blockhouse on the site for protection against the natives. After the American Revolution, later owners expanded the simple  structure into one of the most prominent roadside taverns in York County.

A long series of proprietors served the traveling public with food and beverages.

At least two of them were conductors in the Underground Railroad movement for many years.

They were husband and wife.

Later, their daughter took over the secretive operation.

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York’s Underground Railroad Heroes: Henry W. Grant

Detail from the 1860 Shearer & Lake Map of York County, Pa. showing Peach Bottom Township

Detail from the 1860 Shearer & Lake Map of York County, Pa. showing Peach Bottom Township (PHMC, copy in the collection of YCHC)

Henry W. Grant was born to slave parents in Cecil County, Maryland, and grew up on his master’s plantation. When he turned 19, he received his freedom  when his owner died.  Grant soon moved to Pennsylvania, where he eventually married a free black woman named Charlotte. The newlyweds worked a small farm in Little Britain Township in southern Lancaster County where they raised 12 children.

In 1844, the 46-year-old Grant moved his growing family across the Susquehanna River to Peach Bottom Township in southeastern York County, where for the next seven years he farmed a plot five miles above the Maryland border and a mile west of the river.

He also was an integral part of a ring of local men who conducted escaped slaves across the river in direct violation of the Federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

It was risky business, highly illegal and punishable by six months in prison and a $1,000 fine, but in Grant’s judgment, morally and ethically correct. He and his friends are unsung heroes of the Underground Railroad movement.

Henry Grant hosted a group of local conductors who frequently met inside his residence. Among them were Isaac Waters, Robert Fisher, Isaac Fields, Thomas Clarke, and Delaware-born free black Elijah “Lige” Starkey. According to Grant’s son Benjamin (known as B. F.), “The night was never too dark or the storm never too severe for these brave, noble-hearted, courageous men to do their work. They did not fear death. Although they were uneducated men ignorant of the letter, they were directed by a Higher Power. The hand of God led them, and so they succeeded in carrying off hundreds, nay I truthfully say, thousands from the counties of Cecil, Harford, and Baltimore.” B. F. noted with satisfaction, “All lived to be old men.”

Source: Grant, B. F., “Some Undistinguished Negroes: B. F. Grant,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1919, 97-98.

For more local stories from the Underground Railroad, please pick up a copy of The Ground Swallowed Them Up: Slavery and the Underground Railroad in York County, Pa., available from the York County History Center or from author Scott Mingus.

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York’s Underground Railroad Heroes: Bossy and Julia Johnson

runaway-slaves-on-underground-railroad

In the 1850s, John “Bossy” Johnson, a black man living in York, Pennsylvania, was accused have run away from his owner, a Baltimore woman, and arrested for violating the Fugitive Slave Law. He claimed he was a free man. The ensuing trial generated significant interest in York County before Johnson was eventually released. The Spring Garden Township man was quite active in the Underground Railroad movement, along with his wife Julia and sister-in-law Susan Mars.

Julia Johnson (known affectionately in the community as Aunt Juley), like “Susie” Mars, was a paid servant in the sprawling mansion of leading white businessman and former U.S. congressman Charles Barnitz, who was himself a secret operator in the Underground Railroad. The number of freedom seekers that Barnitz, the Johnsons, and Mars assisted, and their exact methods in doing so, are uncertain. According to early York historian Israel Betz, over time Susie and John “assisted many a poor runaway slave to make his escape toward Canada.” They managed “to secret away these castaways until an opportunity availed itself to show them the road to the Big River [the Susquehanna].” Operatives in Wrightsville likely then helped the freedom seekers make it into Lancaster County.

Julia Johnson lived most of her later years in an old house on S. Duke Street between King and Princess. It was torn down in 1884 by its new owner, Frank Reever, to build a new residence on the site. At the age of 94, Aunt Juley died at her home on E. Princess Street at 2:30 in the morning of March 4, 1887. She is buried in Lebanon Cemetery.

Her obituary in the York Daily on March 9 gives us a little more information on her and Bossy.

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Excellent new book on relics and artifacts of Little Bighorn

hutchison

Say the name “George Armstrong Custer” and immediately visions usually come to mind of hordes of Native American warriors circling an outnumbered band of desperate U.S. 7th Cavalry troopers. Custer, pistols blazing, goes down fighting as his men perish around him on Last Stand Hill. Hundreds of paintings, illustrations, drawings, sculptures, miniatures, and other depictions have colored our view of the battle of Little Big Horn. However, most are purely conjecture, as Native American accounts of the battle vary and everyone with Custer died and of course left no record of what unfolded.

Recent archaeological studies in the 21st century have begun to shed some light on what transpired. Indian and cavalry positions have been pinpointed by tracing shell casings and recovered bullets. Movements of the warriors and troopers are somewhat clearer today than in the 19th and 20th century accounts. Yet, there is still so much that likely will never be known with any certainty.

With all the combatants long gone, we are left with the only tangible remnants of the battle and the clash of cultures — relics and artifacts either recovered from the battlefield itself, or representative of the clothes, weapons, accoutrements, everyday utensils and personal items, etc. that the natives and Custer’s men typically would have used.

Author and photographer Will Hutchison has taken photos of many of these items and included them in his fascinating new book, Artifacts of the Battle of Little Big Horn: Custer, the 7th Cavalry & the Lakota and Cheyenne Warriors.

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Author Ed Bonekemper to speak at York CWRT on November 16

bonekemper

The York Civil War Round Table will feature author and historian Edward H. Bonekemper, III at its monthly meeting on November 16, 2016. The topic of the evening will be “The Myth of the Lost Cause: False Remembrance of the Civil War.”

The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening in the auditorium of the Historical Society Museum of the York County History Center located at 250 E. Market Street in downtown York, PA.  There is no charge for admission and the public is welcome.

The Southern-created Myth of the Lost Cause has long dominated Americans’ remembrance of the Civil War, the country’s watershed event. In many ways, that myth has been America’s most successful propaganda campaign.

Historian Ed Bonekemper examines the accuracy of the Myth and how it has affected our perception of slavery, states’ rights, the nature of the Civil War, and the military performance of Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and James Longstreet. He begins by discussing the nature of slavery in 1860, including whether it was a benign and dying institution.

The heart of his analysis is whether slavery was the primary cause of secession and the Confederacy’s creation. He does this by examining Federal protection of slavery, slavery demographics, seceding states’ conventions and declarations, their outreach to other slave states, Confederate leaders’ statements, and the Confederacy’s foreign policy, POW policy and rejection of black soldiers.

Drawing on decades of research, Bonekemper then discusses other controversial Myth issues, such as whether the South could have won the Civil War, whether Lee was a great general, whether Grant was a mere “butcher” who won by brute force, whether Longstreet lost Gettysburg for Lee, and whether the North won by waging “total war.”

Bonekemper is the author of six Civil War books, former book review editor of the Civil War News, and former adjunct military history lecturer at Muhlenberg College. His latest book is “The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won.”

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The tanned Confederate colonel: Part 2

Col. William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, CSA (Library of Congress)

William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, CSA (Library of Congress)

In part 1 of this 2-part series, W. H. F. Payne, a former Civil War general who had served in the Gettysburg Campaign as the lieutenant colonel of the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart, shared his memories of stumbling and falling into an open wooden vat of tan bark during the June 30, 1863, battle of Hanover. A nearby Union soldier helped fish him out of the trough, and the two of them entered one of the Winebrenner Tannery’s sheds for cover as the battle continued to rage along Frederick Street.

Payne continued his vivid reminiscences of the fighting at Hanover in the May 10, 1901, issue of the York Daily, as told to York historian/correspondent George R. Prowell.

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The tanned Confederate colonel: Part 1

Col. William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, CSA (Library of Congress)

William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, CSA (Library of Congress)

W. H. F. Payne had been an attorney from Warrenton, Virginia, before the Civil War. The father of ten had enlisted as a private in a local military unit at the start of the war, but soon became a captain in the famed Black Horse Cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart and later the major of the 4th Virginia Cavalry. By the spring of 1863, Payne was the lieutenant colonel of the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry in Stuart’s division, fighting in the Chancellorsville Campaign and then in the Gettysburg Campaign.

Payne was but one of more than 11,000 Confederate soldiers who visited York County, Pennsylvania, during the Gettysburg Campaign but his story certainly ranks among the most unique. Here is his personal reminiscence of the June 30, 1863, battle of Hanover, as taken from the May 10, 1901, edition of the York Daily.

He would emerge with his physical being, and his reputation, temporarily stained.

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Historic Underground Railroad station near Wrightsville faces uncertain future: Part 2

Detail from an aerial photograph of the old Hybla farm near Wrightsville PA (Scott Mingus photo taken inside the Hybla farmhouse)

Detail from an aerial photograph of the old Hybla farm near Wrightsville PA (Scott Mingus photo taken inside the Hybla farmhouse)

In part 1 of this brief two-part series, we looked at the Mifflins, who were major conductors in the Underground Railroad in eastern York County, Pennsylvania, during the 1810-1840 time frame. Scores (perhaps hundreds) of freedom seekers passed through this property or were hidden here on their way to the Susquehanna River.

By the time of the Civil War, Jonathan and Susanna Mifflin were dead and their son Samuel had moved away. The Huber family owned the farm during the war years. Little did they know the war would arrive at their front doorstep.

Literally.

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