York CWRT to discuss “Abolitionists of South Central Pennsylvania” on Feb. 21

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE YORK CWRT – On February 21, 2018, please join the York Civil War Round Table in its 21st campaign year, as the group welcomes local author and historian Cooper H. Wingert as their featured guest speaker. Mr. Wingert will present a PowerPoint talk based on his book “Abolitionists of South Central Pennsylvania.”

The monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Historical Society Museum, Library and Archives, 250 E. Market Street in downtown York, PA.  Admission and parking are both free, and the meeting is open to the public.

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87th Pennsylvania Company C announces 2018 schedule

Some of the 87th PA line a fence at Monocacy (submitted).

The 87th Pennsylvania, Company C, living history group has released its 2018 schedule of events. The public is welcome to come out and chat with the reenactors and learn more about this family hobby.

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One-tank trips: General Gregg statue in Reading PA

Ask most Civil War buffs to name ten Union generals that fought at Gettysburg, and the name David McMurtrie Gregg will most likely not be on the list. He has long been overshadowed by more popular officers with better media coverage, or better known exploits. And yet, in his time, he was one of the more capable generals from Pennsylvania and arguably the best cavalry officer from this area.

Gregg was born on April 10, 1833, in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (east of Altoona). His grandfather was a U. S. congressman and a first cousin, Andrew Gregg Curtin, was the Republican governor of the Keystone State during the Civil War. Gregg graduated from West Point in 1855 and served in the west, including a stint as an Indian fighter in the Washington Territory.

During the Gettysburg Campaign, he led a division of Union cavalry that marched into York County and paused for some time at Hanover Junction before backtracking and eventually arriving at Gettysburg. There, some of his men participated in the fighting on East Cavalry Field.

Here are some photos of his monument and associated signs along Centre Street in Reading, PA, the town where he lived most of his life and is buried in Charles Evans Cemetery.

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Living historians honor York’s 87th Pennsylvania: Part 3

Dominish Marie Miller (left, submitted)

The 87th Pennsylvania living historians will be kicking off their 2018 campaign soon, with a schedule full of parades, living history appearances, and encampments. As we continue our series of interviews with members of this longstanding York County organization, we chat today with Dominish “Domi” Marie Miller.

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One-tank trips: GAR Museum & Library in Philadelphia (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this brief two-part series, we looked at some photos I took during a December 2017 visit to the Grand Army of the Republic Museum & Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Only a small portion of their holdings are currently on public display.

Here are some additional photos from the museum.

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One-tank trips: GAR Museum & Library in Philadelphia

The Grand Army of the Republic was the largest, and perhaps best known, of the many veterans fraternal organizations that sprang up in the North in the years following the American Civil War. Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson founded the first chapter in Decatur, Illinois, in 1866. Local chapters, including several here in York County, Pa., sprang up across the country. Open to any military veterans of the Civil War, the group had strong ties to the Republican Party, many of whose leaders were former army officers of note.

By the 1900s, the GAR was in decline but several chapters stayed active well in the 20th century. My own great-great-grandfather, Pvt. William D. Sisson, was the last GAR post commander in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, when he died in the early 1930s. Sisson was a veteran of the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry and had served in the Atlanta and Franklin/Nashville campaigns.

Some of the earliest posts of the GAR were in Philadelphia. The membership of Post 1 tended to be blue-bloods, former officers and wealthier citizens. They maintained the stuffed head of “Old Baldy,” the horse of Gettysburg victor Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. Post 2 was across town, and its membership was more working class. They adopted the head of a common army mule as their mascot.

Over time, the collection of Post 2 formed the nucleus of today’s Grand Army of the Republic Museum & Library in a period house at 4278 Griscom Street in Philadelphia.

I spoke at the museum in December on my book, Flames Beyond Gettysburg.

Here are some photos of selected exhibits in this crammed, but fascinating museum, a place that is well worth a visit!

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York soldier saved & inscribed old book in Virginia

Members of the 87th Pennsylvania reenactors group portray period Union soldiers.

The 87th Pennsylvania is perhaps the best-known infantry regiment from York County, Pennsylvania, where the majority of its companies were raised. Perhaps a close second is the 200th Pennsylvania, which saw hard fighting in the Army of the Potomac during the Siege of Petersburg.

Organized in Harrisburg in September 1864, the 200th contains a significant number of York Countians, including teen-aged Charles Cook.

He found himself in April 1865 in Nottoway County, Virginia, where U. S. Grant’s army was pursuing Robert E. Lee’s retreating Rebels after the Army of Northern Virginia abandoned its long-held entrenchments around Richmond and Petersburg. Several Union soldiers raided the records of the local courthouse and started destroying some of the old documents.

Charles Cook decided to intervene.

And, the Library of Virginia is glad he did.

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Dillsburg native was Rebel chaplain during the burning of Chambersburg

Period sketches from the collection of the Library of Congress showing Confederates looting Chambersburg before setting the town on fire.

The burning of Chambersburg remains controversial in south-central Pennsylvania to this day. Once known as the “queen of the Cumberland Valley,” the town was an important stop on the Cumberland Valley Railroad and served as the company’s headquarters. It contained machine shops, warehouses, a massive iron turntable, and other facilities, including a telegraph station.

Chambersburg was a frequent Confederate target during the war. In 1862, J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry raided the town and burned some of the CVRR buildings and nearby trains, as well as several warehouses, before departing for Adams County. The following year, much of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia either passed through Chambersburg or camped there in the days preceding the battle of Gettysburg. George Pickett’s Virginia division destroyed the railroad tracks, turntable, and many of the remaining buildings, including the rebuilt depot.

But, for Chambersburg residents, the real horror did not come until late July 1864.

Tiger John and his men came calling.

With torches.

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Pregnant woman buried scores of Gettysburg dead

The battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863, saw both heroes and cowards, brave men and shirkers, and the frightened and the arrogant. Soldiers, as well as civilians, were a mixture of those who kept their cool in the face of pressure and unrelenting stress, and those who shrank from the moment and hoped the storm would soon pass them by.

Count Gettysburg civilian Elizabeth Thorn among those whose actions deserve merit and praise.

Born in Germany, she lived with her husband, Peter Thorn, and her elderly parents, John and Catherine Musser, in the gatehouse of the hilltop Evergreen Cemetery just south of Gettysburg. In 1862, Thorn and several other Gettysburg men had joined the 138th Pennsylvania as a corporal, with an enlistment term of three years.

With Peter gone off with the Union army, Elizabeth assumed the duties as the cemetery caretaker.

Little could she have known the horrors that awaited her in the early summer of 1863.

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Book features legendary Gettysburg relics collection

J. Howard Wert, a native of Gettysburg and a scout during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, came from a well-connected German-American family which had a deep connection to the early history of the United States. Family members fought in the French & Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. They were friends with several notables, including Dr. Benjamin Rush of American Revolution fame and with Thaddeus Stevens, the mid-1850s abolitionist congressman with ties to Gettysburg, York, and Lancaster.

Wert was caught while serving as a scout by Robert E. Lee’s soldiers, but escaped and returned home in time for the battle. With his strong knowledge of local roads and terrain, he helped guide Union troops to their positions at various points in the battle.

Later, he began picking up relics and artifacts from the battlefield. Over time, he purchased or was given many more until accumulation was deemed as one of the finest, if not the best, Gettysburg collections in the country.

His son kept the collection together. Today, G. Craig Caba preserves the collection. He and c0-author Bruce Mowday have given the public a rare glimpse of some of the more important artifacts in their fine book, J. Howard Wert’s Gettysburg: A Collection of Relics from the Civil War Battle.

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