On April 20, 1861, Robert E. Lee resigned from the U.S. Army.
He traveled to Richmond, Va., where he accepted command of the state’s military forces.
That same day, the Rev. Francis F. Hagen of York’s Moravian Church sat down to write in a journal.
“A day of great excitement. During the week the sad tidings came of civil war begun — thru the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston,” he wrote.
He also noted that “a fearful event took place at Baltimore.”
An anti-government mob had attacked Massachusetts troops marching through town to the train station. They were en route to the defense of Washington, D.C., “which is sorely threatened by the South.”
The news from neighboring Maryland brought swift response in York and other nearby towns.
“Our companies were ordered out this evening & great excitement prevails,” the Rev. Hagen penned. “The York companies — two — went down the railroad to guard the bridges.”
W.P. Karr hated the idea of secession.
With a passion.
The 21-year-old wrote a letter to his friend Milton Ruby of Hellam Township expressing his strong feelings.
“I am this much Republican that I think Honest Abe will do right. My motto is to protect the union and make the Southern Rebels come to terms. They are Nabobs and thieves, have stolen government property, and fired on Fort Sumter. They should be slain as traitors.”
Following the angry riot in Maryland’s largest city, fears spread that the Rowdies, a prosecessionist Baltimore gang, planned to rob banks in Hanover and then burn the southwestern York County town.
Alarmed residents barricaded streets.
Edward Steffy was one of those taking up arms. He sat on his front porch cradling an old, defective musket.
When asked what he planned to do with a useless gun, he uttered, “There is nothing wrong with the bayonet.”
The feared Rowdies never made an appearance in Hanover, much to the residents’ relief.
Ed Steffy put away his weapon.
Read these and more than 200 other interesting Civil War stories in the new book by Scott L. Mingus, Sr. and James McClure, Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.: Remembering the Rebellion and the Gettysburg Campaign. It’s available from most bookstores in the York – Gettysburg area, as well as directly from the authors (firstname.lastname@example.org). Copies may also be purchased on-line from amazon.com.