LBG John Krepps on the Union V Corps march into York County

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A while back, I posted an account of the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry of the Union V Corps entering southwestern York County on July 1, 1863. They were among a seemingly endless series of armed troops to pass through the region over a 5-day period, finishing with a portion of the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry which approached Hanover from York on July 5. They passed through Spring Grove (then Spring Forge) according to the battalion historian, but did not make it all the way to Hanover as far as I know.
We are blessed in York County today to have several local men and women serving as Licensed Battlefield Guides at the nearby Gettysburg National Military Park, including Larry Wallace, Bobby Housch, and John Krepps of the Hanover area. I have been on some of Larry’s battlewalks in the past. The Hanover contingent, and all LBGs, are experienced and well trained, and I recommend the services of an LBG if you are interested in a solid tour of the Gettysburg battlefield. Guided tours may be reserved in advance through the National Park Service at the new Gettysburg Visitors Center.
John Krepps has consolidated nearly all of the available information on the June 30, 1863, battle of Hanover in his excellent recent book, A Strong and Sudden Onslaught: The Cavalry Action at Hanover, Pennsylvania. A faithful reader of Cannonball, he was kind enough to offer some deeper insight in the route the 118th Pennsylvania, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine, and the rest of the V Corps used to reach the Hanover area, as well as his best estimation of the roads they used and the places they camped. I will post some photos of these areas in some upcoming blog entries.
For now, here are John’s scholarly and well researched comments on the V Corps at Hanover.


“In late afternoon June 30, the 5th Corps reached Union Mills, MD a few hours after the final troops of Stuart left that area. (For an interesting dispatch from Sykes concerning the 5th Corps at Union Mills see O.R. Vol. 27, part 3, p. 424.) On July 1, the 5th Corps actually approached the Hanover area by way of the Hanover-Westminster Road – the same route that the main body of Stuart’s Cav. had used the day before. (In the movie “Gettysburg” this is just one of a multitude of errors; the movie also has the 5th Corps marching through Taneytown, a town which they were never even close to, although other Union forces, including the 2nd and 12th Corps did march through Taneytown.) Some of the citizens who owned property along the Hanover-Westminster Road filed federal damage claims which included both Union damages from the 5th Corps and Confederate damages from Stuart’s forces, e.g. – Adam Leese, Josiah Gitt, Samuel Keller.
That march route is why the 5th Corps “encampment” sites were west of Hanover on the farms of Karle Forney, Henry Sell, Samuel Keller, Jesse Keller, et. al. These farmers lands were contiguous to each other and branches of the Plum Creek ran through each of these farms. However, the 5th Corps was only in bivouac from about 4 P. M. to 7 P. M. when word was received to move to Gettysburg. (See dispatch sent by Sykes in O.R. Vol. 27, part 3, p. 483. This timing is also confirmed by evidence given in the claim forms of Samuel Keller and Jesse Keller.)
That part of the march is definitely established. But what is a more difficult matter to determine is how they got from these bivouac sites to McSherrystown. It is commonly supposed in secondary works that the 5th Corps marched through Hanover but I am convinced that very few if any of these troops marched through the Hanover borough itself. They were still in bivouac west of Hanover when Sykes received word to move to Gettysburg as quickly as possible. (Sykes and several other officers were in the Henry Sell house, situated where the Hanover-Littlestown Road crosses Plum Creek, at this point.) It seems doubtful that a body of troops under serious time pressure would first move east away from their intended destination, only to turn back westward later, unless their was no other choice. But the road from Mount Pleasant to McSherrystown was in existence at that time.
And evidence strongly suggests that the road that we now call Blettner Ave. was a war time road also. Either of these routes would have taken the 5th Corps to McSherrystown and in the direction of their ultimate destination without going back through Hanover.
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Yahoo map of the Hanover region. I have drawn in the two roads John Krepps mentions as likely routes for the V Corps march. The Mount Pleasant – McSherrystown Road is the maroon arrows to the left center; Blettner Avenue is just to the right or east. The campsites were in this general region (I have marked the Forney farm, scene of the Battle of Hanover the day before and a Union cavalry campsite)
The farmsites that Barnes and Ayres’ Divisions bivouaced on were very near those roads; Ayres’ Division actually encamped on the Jesse Keller farm which is in Adams County along the Mount Pleasant-McSherrystown Road (Jesse Keller filed an interesting federal damage claim – he actually got to talk to Gen. Ayres – I’ll have to send more on this later). Crawford’s Div. had not caught up with the rest of the corps at this point. It is even less likely that Crawford’s men would have marched through Hanover when they reached the junction of the Westminster Road and Frederick Street. Since they did not stop to rest at this point, they would also have used one of the previously mentioned roads to reach McSherrystown. Crawford did encamp his men just outside (west of) McSherrystown that night while Barnes and Ayres made it to Bonaughtown (modern day Bonneauville). (See Crawford’s report in O.R. Vol 27, part 1, p. 652.)
Another strong indication – To the best of my knowledge no actual primary accounts have surfaced of Hanover civilians who witnessed Union infantry forces marching through Hanover. Very strange. Consider that many Hanoverians talked about the arrival of Kilpatrick’s men – a body of no more than 4,000 – of which no more than 2,000 would have reached Hanover at any given time. Others witnessed two brigades of Gregg’s Cav. ride through in the dead of night (July 2). So cavalry troops ride through the town setting off joyous celebrations among the locals and yet an entire infantry corps is supposed to have marched through the town in broad daylight and no civilians mention it?
This is one interpretation that even the venerable Harry Pfanz (for whom I have the utmost respect) put forth in his book “The Second Day”. He relates an incident concerning a statement made by Col. Strong Vincent which he believes “probably” occurred in Hanover. But the source he cites does not necessarily indicate Hanover as the location of this event. I think what caused a lot of confusion is that several 5th Corps accounts mention Hanover as the intended destination that day. But they do not specifically say they marched through the town. Also it seems that many of the soldiers confused the village we now call “Pennville” with Hanover. Another strong indication is that many of the the 5th Corps troops did take specific note of marching through McSherrystown – a village much smaller than Hanover.
A few accounts do give specific descriptions of Hanover. But when one looks carefully at these sources you realize that these descriptions of the town were made by soldiers who revisited the town after the war or were made because an individual officer received permission to enter the town when the troops were in bivouac for a few hours.
I cannot completely rule out the possibility that at least a portion of the 5th Corps marched through Hanover after leaving their encampment sites. If so, it would most likely have been some of Barnes Div. (The bivouac site of Barnes men was somewhat closer to Hanover than that of Ayres’ Div.) But with most of these men encamped along the axis of the York-Adams line well west of Hanover, and Ayres’ Div. in particular encamped very near the Mount Pleasant – McSherrystown Road, it is unlikely that much, if any, of the 5th Corps marched through Hanover itself.”

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