At one time, an impressive equestrian statue of a Union cavalry trooper from the Civil War stood in the middle of the town square/traffic roundabout in downtown Hanover, Pennsylvania, in southwestern York County. Shunted off to one side during a reconstruction/re-envisioning of the square, “The Picket” now silently stands guard in front of a storefront. Other Civil War remembrances now line the various corners of the square, including vintage artillery gun tubes on replica carriages, wayside markers and tablets, the “Custer Maple” horseshoes and star, and several other displays of interest.
But the dominant thing on the square, other than the heavy automobile traffic, is The Picket, even from the sidelines.
Thousands of people celebrated the dedication of the statue in late September 1905. It was one of the largest turn-of-the-century events in Hanover, and indeed in all of York County. The governor, former Civil War soldier Samuel W. Pennypacker, was on hand to deliver a few remarks. He had been a member of the 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia that had come through Hanover via train on their way to guard Gettysburg against Jubal Early’s division, a task they failed to do on June 26, 1863, in inter-connected skirmishes at Marsh Creek, Rock Creek, and the Witmer Farm. The regiment contained a company of men from Hanover; many had been captured.
Just four days later, their fellow Hanoverians witnessed fighting in the streets of the town and surrounding hills and fields. More than 300 soldiers fell wounded or dead in the Battle of Hanover, the largest military engagement in York County’s long history. The Picket was meant to commemorate that battle for future generations.
Here is a newspaper report from the York Daily of September 28, 1905, outlining the dedication ceremony that was planned for later that same day.
“It is anticipated that 10,000 people will be in Hanover today to witness the ceremonies attending the dedication of the handsome equestrian statue erected in the public square of the town to commemorate the battle of Hanover, fought in the streets of the town on June 28, 1863, between General [H. Judson] Kilpatrick’s union cavalrymen and those under the command of the Confederate cavalry chieftain, General J. E. B. Stuart, and which was the first [significant] engagement of the civil war fought on Northern soil.
“Yesterday all final preparations for the celebration, which is likely to prove to be the greatest the town has ever witnessed, were well toward completion. Business houses and homes were beautified by the lavish use of bunting, flags and other decorative materials. Over the monument, which has a conspicuous site in the square, an imposing temporary court of graceful arches was being erected. This court will be adorned with flags and at night will be illuminated by electricity.
“Today’s celebration will open at 10 a.m. with a concert by the Glen Rock band in front of the Hanover Elks’s home. A parade, in which it is expected there will be 1,000 to 1,500 marchers, will occur at 11 a.m. This pageant will consist of three divisions, militia, firemen and fraternal. The military will be composed of Hanover’s G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans organization similar to today’s American Legion or VFW] post and posts from nearby towns; the fire companies in line will include the Rescue, of this city [York], and the Eagle chemical, of Hanover, the Philadelphia, of Pottstown, and companies from Littlestown, Taneytown, Westminster, Hampstead, East Berlin and Union Bridge. Fraternal organizations of Hanover and towns in this county, Adams county and Maryland will comprise the third division of the parade.
“Hon. Samuel W. Pennypacker, Colonel John P. Nicholson, Major General [David McM.] Gregg, General E. D. Dimmick [a veteran of the battle of Hanover] and Colonel M. A. Gherst and other distinguished guests of the borough will have a place of honor in the parade. D. L. Slagle will be the chief marshal.
“At 12:30 p.m. a lunch will be served in the public market house to the visiting veterans, firemen and lodgemen. This feature is in charge of the women of Hanover.
“The unveiling and dedicatory exercises will occur at 2 p.m. The day [of] celebration will conclude at 7:30 p.m. with a band concert and a display of pyrotechnics on the Hanover fair grounds.
“D. D. Ehrhart, chairman of the monument dedication committee, will preside at the unveiling ceremonies. The statue will be unveiled by Miss Florence Bittenger, daughter of Hon. John R. Bittenger, who introduced in the legislature of Pennsylvania the bill to provide for the erection of a statue in Hanover to commemorate the cavalry engagement famous because it was the first [significant] clash between union and confederate troops north of the Mason-Dixon line. [Note: there were several smaller previous engagements in Pennsylvania, including Pennypacker and the 26th PVM’s June 26 clashes at Gettysburg].
“The monument commission is composed of Governor Pennypacker, Colonel Nicholson and Rev. Daniel Eberly, the last named a member of Hanover’s clergy.
“The handsome monument is an equestrian statue in bronze of a cavalry soldier on picket duty, resting on a granite base, eight feet high. The cost was $7,500. The memorial occupies the centre of an oval beautified by lawns and flower beds and located in what in the future will be designated as Monument square. Several tablets also mark the oval.
“These were placed in position by the United States government, about three years ago. The letter carving on the tablets show the position of the different corps, when the fight at Hanover took place, on June 30, 1863, between the forces of General Kilpatrick, commanding the Third division of Pleasanton’s [sic. Pleasonton’s] cavalry, and General J. E. B. Stuart with three brigades of Lee’s cavalry corps. Stuart had present at Hanover about 6,000 men [more likely 4,500], with Fitzhugh Lee, Wade Hampton and John R. Chambliss commanding the brigades. General George A. Custer, who was then only twenty-five years of age, commanded the Michigan brigade of Kilpatrick’s cavalry. The other brigade was led by General [Elon] Farnsworth, who was killed four days later at the cavalry fight during the battle of Gettysburg.”