The aerial photograph of the modern York Flour Mills, Inc. is courtesy of Microsoft Virtual Earth, and shows the location of one of the old P.A. & S. Small mills nestled between the railroad and the Codorus Creek. In 1863, the railroad line was the Northern Central’s tracks that led from Baltimore to Harrisburg, and Confederate troops camped in and around the mill yard. Armed guards made sure no one broke into the mill.
Earlier in the war, thousands of Union soldiers crossed by the landmark mill on troop trains headed south to join what became the Army of the Potomac.
An aerial view taken in 1938 during an extensive survey of Pennsylvania sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Note the old mill along the creek (just above the center of the photo), and also note how open the overall terrain was back then. It was, of course, much more similar to what Jubal Early’s troops, and specifically the Louisiana Tigers, would have seen back in 1863. Today’s view would be incomprehensible to those long-ago soldiers from the Crescent State. Also note the Black Bridge crossing the Codorus in the left of the photo. The original bridge was destroyed during the Gettysburg Campaign by Confederate troops.
There were three separate farms / mill sites that were the camps of the Tigers (these are discussed in some depth in my upcoming book on that brigade) within this photo.
One of the Smalls had previously received a firm promise that such vandalism would not occur, so naturally they were alarmed at the reports.
Here is an excerpt from my recently printed Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863… it concerns one of the Small family and his specific concern to protect the mills as he visited with Confederate General John B. Gordon at Farmers.
“A delegation from York had arrived in the darkness, carrying a flag of truce. They had sought out Lieutenant Redik, who had been arrested for allowing [A.B.] Farquhar to pass through Confederate picket lines without giving the proper password. Gordon, his manner now more formal than during his afternoon session with Farquhar, met the emissaries in Altland’s farmhouse. A staff member recognized pre-war acquaintance George Hay as a Union officer and suspected him of being a spy. Hay, recently medically discharged as colonel of the 87th Pennsylvania, finally convinced the skeptical Rebel that he was now a civilian whose sole interest was York’s safety.
The quintet informed Gordon that they had tried to raise enough of a force to resist the Confederate advance. However, with so few men at their disposal, any attempt to defend the town would result only in useless bloodshed. They asked for protection for the people of York and their private property. Gordon reiterated his position. He did not intend to pursue the Union army’s style of warfare. Private property would be respected, and the townspeople would not suffer any indignities. However, any manufacturing centers or supplies intended for the government would be destroyed, and it was up to Jubal Early to define the details for requisitioning provisions once his troops occupied the town.
An anxious Latimer Small mentioned his family’s flour mills and asked Gordon to protect them. Gordon replied that he already knew about the Smalls, and his men would not harm their mills or the hardware store. Small surmised that Gordon had learned these facts from Confederate generals Isaac Trimble or Richard Ewell, both of whom had become familiar with York from their pre-war railroad work in that area. When the citizens expressed a desire to leave, Gordon balked, but relented after further dialogue and allowed them to return to York.”