York County’s Civil War questions: Part 2

Penn Common 005A jauntily clad Union cavalry stands guard over Penn Common in this detail from the York County Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Thousands of young men from the county joined the army and thousands more men and women supported the war effort by providing food, money, forage, supplies, nursing aid, and other assistance.

Several questions have been received concerning the Civil War in York County. Here are a few of these, with our thoughts.

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York CWRT to feature author Ron Hershner on October 15

Hershner letters from home

The York Civil War Round Table will feature author Ronald L. Hershner at its monthly meeting on October 15, 2014.  Mr. Hershner will present a PowerPoint talk based on his book “Letters From Home: York County, Pennsylvania during the Civil War.”

The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening in the auditorium of the York County Heritage Trust at 250 E. Market St. in downtown York, Pennsylvania. There is no charge for admission and the public is welcome.

With the Civil War raging in 1863, nineteen year old farm boy John Harvey Anderson left the quiet cornfields of southern York County and rose to the defense of his country and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. By the end of the war, this cavalryman was fighting his way through the Carolinas, riding with one of the most battle-hardened and respected units in the Army of the Cumberland.

“Letters From Home: York County, Pennsylvania during the Civil War” offers a rare personal insight into the Civil War homefront through twenty-three letters written to Harvey Anderson from 1863 to 1865. “It is a story of a family coping with the distance that divided them from each other,” author Ron Hershner writes. “And it is a view into the ardently held and fiercely advocated opinions about the war that divided the southern York County community.” Harvey Anderson’s boyhood home served as a wartime microcosm of what transpired in countless northern communities.


Ronald L. Hershner, a native of York County, grew up on his family’s farm in East Hopewell Township. He is a graduate of Kennard Dale High School, Dickinson College, and Dickinson School of Law. Hershner is Managing Partner of the law firm Stock and Leader, LLP. He is active in a number of charitable and civic organizations. He has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the York County Heritage Trust and has been President of the Red Lion Historical Society. He regularly speaks to civic groups on topics of local history.

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York County’s Civil War questions: Part 1

Early route 30During my book signings and lectures on York County’s Civil War history, I am frequently asked questions about various topics. Most of them are straight forward and I have a ready answer; a few are trickier to answer without researching the answers off-line.

Here is a diverse sampling of some of these questions I have received over the years (including by email), and my thoughts…

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Roger Heller to discuss conscientious objectors on October 5 in York PA

farmland2Adams and York counties back during the mid-1800s were heavily pastoral. Many of the residents were of German origin, including hundreds of members of religious denominations with decided pacifist or non-interventionist ideals.

An interesting and unique Civil War presentation is coming to York on Sunday, October 5, 2014.  The South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society will be hosting a presentation by Roger Heller of Gettysburg entitled “Adams County’s Civil War Conscientious Objectors” at 2:15 p.m. at the York County Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market Street, in downtown York. 
Mr. Heller identified Adams County’s Civil War objectors and then grouped them by township and denomination, determining where concentrations of such men were found in the county.  He also uncovered intriguing stories about the Provost Marshal in Adams County’s draft district and his dealings with the objectors.  His presentation is illustrated with helpful maps and charts, and he is an engaging speaker.

The public is welcome!


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New book on the legendary Stonewall Jackson

Rebel Yell JacksonThomas Jonathan Jackson at the beginning of the War Between the States was a rather obscure Confederate general. A professor at the Virginia Military Academy, he had enough political connections, military training, and stature to secure a commission as a brigadier, but few knew how transcendent he would become in the lore of the Civil War. Early on nicknamed Stonewall Jackson for his exploits (or, in the belief of some detractors, his stubbornness in not moving forward) at Manassas, Jackson cemented his legend in 1862 with his triumphs in the Shenandoah Valley and his hard-hitting performance in the bloody battles of the late summer at Second Manassas and Antietam.

By the time of his death in May 1863 from the complications of pneumonia following the amputation of his left arm, Jackson was a celebrated hero to much of the Southern populace. His demise led to widespread extended periods of mourning and led many to speculate for years “what if” Jackson was at Gettysburg, or the Wilderness, or Spotsylvania, or, or, or.

Renown Old West author S. C. Gwynne, a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for his highly regarded book Empire of the Summer Moon, now has added his spin to the litany of biographies of Stonewall Jackson.

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Confederate officer left receipt for taking York County farmer’s mules

Leip, PeterAs the Confederate army invaded Pennsylvania in late June 1863, foraging patrols scoured the countryside for fresh horses, mules, and supplies, often paying with Confederate script. Officers were supposed to leave a signed receipt for what their men procured. Few of these receipts have surfaced over the years, but thanks to a massive amount of damage claims (also known as border claims because they originated in the border counties of south-central PA), we have a record of the residents who lost property to the Rebels.

The National Archives has a small file of original private property receipts, a handful of which have York County ties. The above example is a wonderful example of these now scarce pre-printed military forms which has been filled out in its entirety.

So who was Peter Leip, what did he state the Rebels took in his damage claim, and who were the Confederates who likely visited his farm?

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CSA generals’ graves in Spring Hill Cemetery, Lynchburg VA

IMG-20140910-00305In my previous Cannonball post, I showed photos of the grave of Confederate General Jubal Anderson Early and briefly summarized his expedition through York County, PA, during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign.

Early is the most notable person interred in Spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia, but he is not the only one.

Several other Confederate officers who fought at the battle of Gettysburg are also buried in Spring Hill, including James Dearing and Thomas T. Munford who both  rose to the rank of general later in the war.

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Jubal Early’s grave in Lynchburg, Virginia


For three days in late June 1863, the phrase “General Early” was quite familiar to many of the 60,000+ residents of York County, Pennsylvania. Confederate Major General Jubal Anderson Early, a vitriolic commander noted as much for his profane temper as for his considerable fighting ability, marched into the heart of the county with more than 6,600 enemy troops.

They burned railroad bridges and turntables, took down telegraph wires, procured or stole more than 400 horses and dozens of mules from terrified or angry farmers, and seized control of the major roadways. They also indirectly led to the destruction of the region’s only bridge across the mile-wide Susquehanna River, disrupting commerce. Early to make matters worse laid a tribute on the town for $100,000; borough leaders went door to door and collected $28,610 of the requested levy. That money would help finance the Confederate war effort. [It must be noted that the Union army and state militia also took horses and personal property from the citizens, as did JEB Stuart's Rebel cavalrymen, but it was Early who elicited most of the reaction from the populace.]

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York CWRT to feature Dr. Charlie Fennell discussing the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 2014


The York Civil War Round Table will feature the always entertaining Dr. Charles C. Fennell, Jr. at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. A long-time friend of the York CWRT, Dr. Fennell is returning for his annual Battlefield Talk and Walk Program which has been held for the past ten years. In commemoration of the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, Dr. Fennell’s presentation topic will be “America’s Longest Day : The Battle of Antietam.”

The meeting will be held at 7 P.M. on Wednesday evening in the auditorium of the York County Heritage Trust at 250 E. Market Street in downtown York, Pennsylvania. The presentation is free and open to the public! Parking is also free!

This program will give an overview of the Battle of Antietam and then focus on the carnage in Mr. Miller’s cornfield near Antietam Creek, which became the unlikely setting for perhaps the worst fighting of the entire Civil War.

Battlefield Tour at Gettysburg National Military Park on Saturday, September 20, 2014 – Tour of the Wheatfield – Time changed to 10:00 AM to Noon. Cost is $10.00 payable at walk. Meet at the Visitor’s Center at GNMP in the lower level of the Bus Depot parking lot. We will car pool to the Wheatfield. Tour open to the public. No pre-registration necessary.

The Cornfield at Antietam and the Wheatfield at Gettysburg evoke images of tremendous carnage and suffering. How does the fighting in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg compare to the struggle for the Cornfield at Antietam? What was similar and what was different? Join us in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg and decide which one you think was more important.

Dr. Charles C. Fennell, Jr. is currently on the staff at the Gettysburg campus of the Harrisburg Area Community College. Dr. Fennell has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at GNMP since 1986. He is one of the recognized experts on the Culp’s Hill portion of the Gettysburg Battlefield. He received his Ph.D. from West Virginia, University.

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10 books which early on influenced my interest in history


My friend and The Second Battle of Winchester  co-author Eric J. Wittenberg challenged me to come up with a list of the 10 history books (not necessarily Civil War related) which have had the most influence on me over the years. I thought about it for awhile, fondly remembering a ton of books I used to check out of the John McIntire Library branch in my hometown and read voraciously. Many of the books I checked out multiple times, reading them yearly as I grew up and on through my high school years.

Each book in its own way helped deepen and shape my love for the Civil War to the point where when I applied to take an upper level Civil War history class at Miami University, not only was I accepted for the class despite not being a history major, I even got an A for the class. My research paper on “The Iron Brigade at Gettysburg” received an A+ with the professor commenting in writing “A solid piece of work.” I still have that paper, although I have never submitted it anywhere for publication.

Years later, after writing for money for a sports collectors’ magazine and later crafting half a dozen wargaming scenario books with my friend Ivor Janci, I was ready to start writing commercial books. Twelve books later (and four or five assorted other works in progress), I am still interested in Civil War history.

So, here in no particular order are the 10 most influential history books of my youth…

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