In the Footsteps of J.E.B. Stuart: Dillsburg

Dillsburg sign.jpg

Photo by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. See his other pictures and text.

Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, is the principal town in Carroll Township in northwestern York County, Pennsylvania. Irish-born Matthew Dill settled there in 1740 on a 504-acre tract, raised a company of men to fight the occasional Indian raids, and later prospered, becoming a county judge. By 1833, there were enough people living in Dillsburg for it to become incorporated on April 9 of that year. It was an important regional trade center, as well as a popular stopping place on the old state road between York and Carlisle, two of south-central Pennsylvania’s most prominent towns. Dill’s Tavern became a focal point of the community, providing rooms and refreshment for weary travelers.
Nestled near the termination of South Mountain and on an important road, Dillsburg during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign was the scene of a minor skirmish between the 26th Pennsylvania Militia (retreating from Gettysburg) and elements of Albert G. Jenkins‘ Virginia mounted infantry brigade, which was raiding the region for horses (we will have a detailed look at Jenkins’ seldom discussed raid in a series of future posts).
On the late afternoon of July 1, 1863, more than 5,000 Confederate cavalrymen under Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart arrived in Dillsburg.
Stories abound about the brief incursion…

View of historic Dillsburg, PA, taken on the south side of town along Route 74. Some of the buildings date from the Civil War. A large portion of J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry force rested in Dillsburg, and an entire brigade (Wade Hampton’s) camped northeast of town on the John Mumper farm).
Stuart’s men entered town in two waves, with him having earlier split his division into two wings. The westernmost column consisted of the brigades of Fitzhugh Lee and John R. Chambliss, Jr. They lingered in Dillsburg while their horses rested and the men ate their dinners. The town was searched for supplies and horseflesh, and it is likely every stable was investigated. Only a few horses were located, because the majority of Dillsburg’s residents had heeded warnings from countrymen coming in that the Rebels were on their way. Still, a few citizens later filed damage claims for horses taken by Stuart’s cavaliers on July 1. Most of the horses had been hidden in supposedly secure places near the town in thickets, woods, or ravines, but the Rebels found the horses anyway.
Among the victims on July 1 were Col. Samuel Nelson Bailey, whose horse was taken from the country stable of Samuel Mumper. Dr. George L. Shearer‘s 7-yr-old black horse was taken from a patrch of woods despite the protests of Abraham Birkholder and David A. Bentzler, who were guarding the steed.
George W. Reed, Sr. sent his son Samuel Reed to take an 8-yr-old bay mare to woods on the property of John Cook. Rebels seized the horse, as well as two halters & chains.
Tomorrow we will discuss several of the merchants in Dillsburg who lost inventory to Stuart and/or Jenkins.

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8 Responses to In the Footsteps of J.E.B. Stuart: Dillsburg

  1. Mark Snell says:

    Jenkins’ Brigade, although recruited from what became the State of West Virginia (on June 20, 1863), nonetheless was a brigade of “Virginia” mounted infantry. Jenkins’ troops would have shot you out of your saddle had you’d called them “West Virginians”!!!

  2. Scott Mingus says:

    Your are so correct, Mark!!
    Being a Yankee at heart, and having my ancestors serve in the 7th West Virginia, I love to take jabs at their Rebel neighbors.
    I have changed the text entry to reflect the actual state designation the mountaineers would have used.
    Take care!

  3. Bob A. says:

    I didn’t see the original text here before you changed it, but I see no objection to calling Jenkins and his men West Virginians. Actually, by doing so you are helping to correct the screwed up perception of West Virginia history. For instance, there were more West Virginians in gray at Gettysburg than blue, about 3 or 4 times as many Confederates as Union. The WV monuments at Gettysburg are mostly to non-West Virginians, Artillery Co. C was from Ohio, the 1st WV Cavalry was only one-third West Virginian, the 7th Infantry about 60-70% West Virginian. The composition of the 2 companies of the 3rd WV Cavalry I do not know. But on the Southern side there was not only Jenkins’ Brigade, but 13 companies of the Stonewall Brigade, most of the men under Gen. Imboden, and many under Gen. Wm. Smith.
    The monument to the 4th WV Infantry at Vicksburg is to basically an Ohio regiment, only about 25% were West Virginian. So please go ahead and call Confederate (West) Virginians –West Virginians. It is time we stopped kow-towing to Virginia and letting them skim the cream while West Virginia gets stuck with people like Benjamin Kelley (from Massachusetts).

  4. Scott Mingus says:

    My three great-great uncles served in the 7th West Virginia at Antietam and Gettysburg; their little sister was my great-great grandmother. The Chambers boys…

  5. Bob A. says:

    Scott, I’m afraid our ancestors were shooting at each other. Col. Ferguson, who took over from Jenkins when he was wounded, is a great-great uncle, and I had a great-great grandfather and lots of uncles in the 16th VA Cavalry.

  6. Scott Mingus says:

    Hi Bob!
    This Thursday, I am giving a talk in Dillsburg that includes a discussion of Jenkins’ June 28-29 raid through northern York County. I have long suspected that the 16th Virginia was the regiment dispatched to Dillsburg; they had earlier been split off from the brigade to raid McConnellsburg. We know that a “colonel” commanded the “large body” of troops that entered York County on Sunday the 28th, so that would eliminate Major Eakle’s regiment and the two smaller battalions. The 17th VA was of course already in central York County with Jubal Early’s division. The 14th is the other possibility; they too had some independent actions including a raid on Fairfield and one on Caledonia.
    Do you have any corroboration (or any information) on Jenkins’ side trip to York County? The main force stayed in Cumberland County based upon an examination of damage claims from that area, but 50 or so farmers in this county were struck by the West Virginians, and multiple reports state they were Jenkins’ men (some reports have the general accompanying the column for a period before it entered the county).

  7. Bob A. says:

    Hi Scott, I’m sorry, I’m away from my books right now and won’t get home in time to take a look. There is this webpage on Jenkins and Gettysburg, if you haven’t see it perhaps it will be useful. Good luck tomorrow. Bob

  8. Jay Winters says:

    Along Dillsburg Pike is a creek running parallel. It’s logical they watered their horses there. There is also a nice field to the east between the creek and the road.

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