Postwar photograph of the Rev. Harrison Monroe Strickler, formerly a lieutenant in the Confederate Army. He was one of some 11,000 Rebel soldiers who visited York County, Pennsylvania, during the Gettysburg Campaign. Strickler launched the first Confederate attack at Gettysburg, nearly a week before the Battle of Gettysburg.
During the Gettysburg Campaign, 19-year-old Lt. Harrison M. Strickler commanded a company of the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, a hard-riding outfit from the Loudon Valley area of Northern Virginia. Strickler and the rest of Lt. Col. Elijah V. White’s boys were later to earn the nickname “White’s Comanches” for their wild war cries that reminded some onlookers of the ferocious Wild West Indian tribe, and for their lightning quick raids on isolated farms.
On June 26, 1863, “Lige” White ordered Strickler’s Company E to attack some distant Yankee militia on a ridge near Marsh Creek about three miles west of Gettysburg. After chasing off the enemy skirmishers, Strickler’s men looted the abandoned camp of the 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia before remounting and dashing into downtown Gettysburg. Firing their pistols and whopping their war cries, the men made quite an entrance.
The next day, they were part of the force that sacked the railroad intersection at Hanover Junction, PA, again driving off Union militia (this time part of the 20th PVM). After riding into downtown York on Sunday the 28th, Strickler’s young cavaliers accompanied much of the battalion to Wrightsville, PA, where they skirmished with the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry and then the York Invalids, a group of patients from the York U.S. Army Hospital who had grabbed weapons and marched westward to join the defenses of the river crossing.
Strickler, ironically, had family ties to south-central Pennsylvania and some of his kin lived on farms just west of Wrightsville.
So, who was Lt. Harrison Monroe Strickler of the Confederate army?
Harrison M. Strickler was born July 6, 1843 in “old Col. Daniel Strickler’s home” near Massanutten Mountain in rural Page County, Virginia. It was his grandfather’s house nestled in the shadow of the imposing mountain in the lush Luray Valley. The Strickler family was steeped in religion and faith, and young Harrison received an early education in both schoolwork and church doctrine from his parents, Harrison (1812-1866) and Louisa [Sedwick].
His grandfather Daniel Strickler (Oct 16, 1741 – Nov 6, 1828) was a Brethren circuit rider who came to Virginia from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1773 with his wife Barbara [Buswell]. He was the father of nine children.They lived first on Pass Run (in present day Page County) and then moved to near the village of Mt. Jackson. From there, he moved to near Linville, Rockingham County, and then to Middlebrook in Augusta County. Rev. Strickler’s final ministry post was at Strickler Springs in Rockbridge County.
His family scattered throughout the region, but it remained a tight-knit clan. Harrison grew up in a household filled with the teachings of the Methodist Church and developed his own strong faith at an early age.
At start of Civil War he served in quartermaster’s department and as a courier. In 1862 Strickler was among the recruiters in Page, Warren, and Shenandoah counties in Virginia that raised a company of cavalry. Elected as orderly sergeant of that company when it joined the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry.
On June 6, 1863 Strickler was elected as the 3rd lieutenant. He fought at the Battle of Brandy Station and assumed command of his company when the Yankees captured his superior officer, Captain John H. Grabill. He proved to be a popular, and very capable, officer but never lost sight of his faith despite his military service and the shenanigans of several of his colleagues and subordinates.
One fellow officer, Captain Franklin M. Myers, later wrote a history of the Comanches. In it, he wrote. “Rev. Strickler began preaching in the army. His brother, Dr. William Mayberry Strickler, began the study of medicine in the army and served as Assistant Surgeon throughout the war, and was connected with Hay’s Louisiana Brigade [the famed Louisiana Tigers].”
Strickler celebrated his 20th birthday in the saddle on July 6, 1863, as White’s Comanches covered the retreat of the Confederate army after its defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. The 35th Battalion in 1864 and Lieutenant Strickler fought at the Battle of the Wilderness and later in the large cavalry battle at Trevillian Station. They were part of the so-called “Beefsteak Raid,” and in efforts to stop Sheridan’s “barn burners” in the Shenandoah Valley. In 1865, they helped cover the army’s retreat from the Petersburg entrenchments to High Bridge during the Appomattox Campaign. By then, Captain Grabill had resumed command of Company E after being paroled in February 1865.
Lieutenant Strickler and his comrades in the 35th Battalion did not surrender at Appomattox Court House in April 1865 when Robert E. Lee formally surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. Instead they rode away from the army, slipped through Yankee lines, and returned to their homes.
After receiving a parole from the U.S.government, Strickler returned home to Page County. On October 2, 1866, he married his sweetheart Sarah Margaret Soule(1838-1895), the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Isaac Soule. On April 18, 1869, God blessed their union with their first child, a son they named Howard Montgomery Strickler. Harrison and Sarah would have several other offspring. Howard graduated from Randolph Macon College and subsequently received his masters at Johns Hopkins University.
Rev. H. Monroe Strickler spent forty years as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Like his grandfather, he moved frequently as his assignments and charges changed. He is mentioned frequently in old newspaper accounts of revival meetings and traveled extensively as a guest preacher for retreats, church conferences, and other gatherings. His “booming voice” and captivating, authoritative speaking style made him a popular choice for these preaching opportunities.
Strickler died quietly at his home in Page County, Virginia, on May 19, 1927, the same year that Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees’ “Murderer’s Row” terrorized Major League Baseball pitchers.