National Park Service 154th Battle Anniversary Programs

Wiedrich’s New York battery monument on East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg. Scott Mingus photo.

National Park Service Press Release:

The three day Battle of Gettysburg marked a turning point not only in the course of the American Civil War, but also for the future of the United States of America. Join Park Rangers and Licensed Battlefield Guides during the 154th Anniversary for a series of free guided walks and talks that discuss, explore, and reflect on this important chapter in our nation’s history.

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The Confederate Controversy – my two cents

Long-time blogger Scott Mingus (right in this YDR photo) is the author of 19 books so far on the Civil War and Underground Railroad. He is the descendant of many soldiers who fought in the Union army during the Civil War. Here, he gives a tour of the fighting at the Battle of Hanover in southwestern York County.

Johnny Sisson was only fifteen years old when he marched off to war as a drummer boy for Company I, 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He had twice run away, once from his guardian uncle in Tuscarawas County and once from his employer-farmer. He had joined a traveling band before abandoning that in Columbus to join the Union Army in February 1864 for the duration of the war. He was my great-great-grandfather.

That same year, down in southern Ohio, Aaron Barnhill also enlisted in the infantry. He signed up for one of the new regiments of “Hundred Days Men” that would serve for three months to protect bridges, hospitals, rail lines, and supply depots to free up veteran regiments for front-line combat duty. He marched off in the 141st Ohio. He was my great-great-uncle.

They joined the Chambers boys of the 7th West Virginia, Pvt. John Brown, Lt. Calvin Mingus of the 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery, U. S. cavalryman John Fauley, and several  of my other great-great-grandfathers and great-great-uncles in the Federal forces. Their motives were the same — to fight the Rebels and restore the Union. None, to my knowledge, were ardent abolitionists or were fighting for civil rights and human equality (both noble causes). They fought because their country had been torn apart and their government needed them.

And, way down south, ancestors of some of my family members also joined the army, in this case, one that wore gray and butternut. They fought because their state needed them. Continue reading

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James Garfield and the Civil War is topic of York CWRT on May 17

On May 17, 2017, please join the York Civil War Round Table in its 20th Anniversary Year, welcoming Civil War historian and author Daniel J. Vermilya to our meeting for his presentation “From Battlefield to the Whitehouse: James Garfield.” The monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Historical Society Museum, Library and Archives, 250 E. Market Street in York, Pennsylvania. Admission and parking are both free, and the meeting is open to the public.

When the United States was divided by war, future president James Abram Garfield was one of many who stepped forward to defend the Union. While his presidency was tragically cut short by his assassination, Garfield’s historic life covered some of the most consequential years of American history. From humble beginnings in Ohio, he rose to become a major general in the Union Army. Garfield’s military career took him to the backwoods of Kentucky, the fields of Shiloh and Chickamauga and ultimately to the halls of Congress. His service during the war helped to save the Union he would go on to lead as president. Join Daniel J. Vermilya to discover the little known story of James Garfield’s role in the Civil War. Continue reading

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The Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts During the Civil War

When one thinks of the term “guerilla warfare” in the context of the Civil War, often the mind goes immediately to William Quantrill or “Bloody Bill” Anderson, and their exploits/depredations (depending upon your personal viewpoint) in the Missouri/Kansas area. Romanticized or criticized in many movies (particularly because of the involvement of the James brothers and the repeated savagery at Lawrence, Kansas), the partisan irregular fighting in the Trans-Mississippi Theater was both brutal and bloody, often crossing the line between military necessity and wanton lawlessness.

That, of course, is the popular image, reinforced by Ang Lee’s 1999 uneven  Ride With the Devil and a host of fictional, but often very popular Westerns featuring gangs of former or current Civil War soldiers who ride west looking for trouble (or in some cases, trying to avoid it).

The reality of irregular warfare in the Civil War is far more complex, and far less cinematic, in scope.

Brian D. McKnight and Barton A. Myers have teamed up to edit an fascinating collection of scholarly articles on partisan warfare in the War Between the States. In their newly released The Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts During the Civil War, they present a diverse array of sixteen thought-provoking essays from all major theaters of operation, not just the Trans-Mississippi. These are well worth reading if you have an interest in the often shadowy, highly personal irregular conflicts that at times pitted family members and neighbors against one another.

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York CWRT to discuss the “Lincoln Conspirators” on April 19

Mark Grim and John F. Hartranft (submitted)

On April 19, 2017, please join the York Civil War Round Table in its 20th Anniversary Year, welcoming historical reenactor and lecturer Mark D. Grim, Jr. to our meeting for his presentation on the “Imprisonment, Trial and Execution of the Lincoln Conspirators.” The monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Historical Society Museum, Library and Archives, 250 E. Market Street in York. Admission and parking are both free, and the meeting is open to the public.

The program is an overview of the imprisonment, trial and execution of the Lincoln conspirators following the assassination of President Lincoln in April 1865. It is seen through the perspective of Brevet Major General John F. Hartranft, USV, in his capacity as Military Governor of the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary where the conspirators were confined and Special Provost Marshal for the trial of the conspirators and their execution in July 1865.

John F. Hartranft, a native of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, graduated from Union College in 1853 and was admitted to the Montgomery County Bar in 1860. In April 1861, he took command of the 4th P.V.I.( a 90-day unit) that refused to fight at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) on July 21, 1861, their 90-days having expired. Hartranft remained and participated in the battle as a volunteer aide in Colonel Franklin’s brigade. In 1886, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valiant conduct during the battle. In September 1861, he took command of the 51st P.V.I. (a 3-year unit) which participated in numerous battles with the Ninth Army Corps in both the Eastern and Western Theaters including Burnside’s Expedition (North Carolina), Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredricksburg, Vicksburg, Knoxville, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Petersburg (Crater and Fort Stedman). In May 1864, he was promoted to brigadier general and in March 1865 he was brevetted a major general by General Grant.

In late April 1865, he was appointed Special Provost Marshal and Commander of Troops at the Old Military Prison, Washington, D.C., by President Johnson. In this capacity, he oversaw the imprisonment of all eight individuals charged in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy trial and on July 7, 1865, he oversaw the hanging of four of them. From 1866-1872, he served as Pennsylvania State Auditor General and from 1873-1879, he served as Governor of Pennsylvania during which time he organized the Pennsylvania National Guard. Hartranft died in October 1889 at the age of 58.

Mark D. Grim, Jr., of Biglerville, Pennsylvania, is a retired Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, with over 25 years of service and also a retired Pennsylvania attorney. He is a graduate of Ursinus College, Widener University School of Law, U.S. Marine Corps Command & Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. He is descended from a Civil War veteran, his Great Uncle, Corporal Andrew J. Grim, who served in Company C, 51st P.V.I., from September 1861- May 1864 when he was wounded (second time) at Spotsylvania Courthouse. On June 6, 1864, he died as a result of those wounds. He is also a member of the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table, Adams County Historical Society and the Confederation of Union Generals. Mark Grim can be contacted through this web site at

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More on the honest Rebel surgeon and the Rudy family of Hellam Township

Back in September, I wrote a blog post about Dr. E. A. Jelks of Quitman County, Georgia, who had purchased a farm horse during Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon’s march from York to Wrightsville during the Gettysburg Campaign. He had purchased a horse taken from the Jacob Rudy farm east of Hallam, Pennsylvania, along the turnpike between York and Wrightsville. Years later, he sent U.S. currency to the family (Mr. Rudy was by then deceased) to replace the worthless Confederate currency he had used.

I have since located another, longer, more detailed version of the story, which I present below from the pages of the Harrisburg Telegraph, March 29, 1898.

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Sturdy iron safes survived devastating fires along Wrightsville’s riverfront

The International Order of Odd Fellows is a non-sectarian fraternity that back in the mid-19th century had lodges in several York County towns, including Wrightsville and York. (Submitted)

The Odd Fellows fraternities in York County, Pennsylvania, played a role in two incidents during the Civil War. In mid-July, 1863, thousands of wounded men from the battle of Gettysburg began to arrive at York’s 2,000-bed U. S. Army General Hospital. The superintendent, Dr. Henry Palmer, irate over his recent treatment by the Rebels as a prisoner of war, refused to allow any Confederates to enter the hospital or be treated by his staff. The Southern soldiers were instead taken to the Odd Fellows Hall on S. George Street, where civilian doctors and IOOF members tended to them.

Two weeks earlier, during Brigadier General John Brown Gordon’s attack on Union militia defenses surrounding Wrightsville, a Rebel artillery shell likely fired from the hill on which the Hybla home sits smashed into the second story of the building housing the IOOF’s lodge, causing considerable damage.

Wrightsville’s IOOF, the Chihuahua Lodge No. 317 (chartered in June 1848), had relocated to that building because of a devastating fire in late August 1862 had completely engulfed their previous hall. See my previous Cannonball post for specific details on this inferno. At the time, the fire was blamed on an incendiary device, rumored to have been placed by Secessionist arsonists.

Within days of the August fire, lodge members picked through the ruins looking for anything that could be salvaged. To their surprise, the iron safe that housed their records and valuable documents had been spared. One of the Odd Fellows, a prominent local businessman, sent a thank you note to the the company that manufacturer the safe. In turn, the company reposted the endorsement in a paid advertisement a few days later in the September 10, 1862, Philadelphia Inquirer.

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York cavalryman murdered fellow soldier after dispute

1860 map of West Philadelphia showing Hestonville (circled in yellow). The railside village was along the Lancaster Pike (today’s US Route 30) near Landsdowne Ave. and Westminster Ave. PHMC

Edward Jacoby, born in York County in 1834, had been a carpenter before the Civil War. In August 1861, the 25-year-old Jacoby went to Columbia in Lancaster County and enrolled in Jackson’s Cavalry, a company of volunteers from the river region. He and his comrades were taken to a military camp at Hestonville, where they became members of Company I, 108th Pennsylvania / 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry (also known as Harlan’s Cavalry for their first colonel).

Jacoby, according to his enlistment papers, was 5′ 6″ tall, with dark hair and brown eyes. Little did he or his loved ones know that his military service would end in disgrace within mere weeks of his enrollment.

Jacoby was given a dishonorable discharge in early September on a writ of habeas corpus after killing fellow York County cavalryman Henry “Harry” Leakway in a drunken rage after a minor dispute got out of hand. Leakway, who had partnered with Jacoby in building houses before the war, left a wife and three small children.

Here is the tragic story of two friends whose lives were forever changed in a moment of time. It is adapted from the September 2 and 3, 1861, Philadelphia Inquirer; the September 3, 1861, Philadelphia Press; Dennis Brandt’s Civil War Soldiers Database at the York County History Center, and other sources.

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Fire destroyed Wrightsville’s riverfront a year before the bridge burning repeated it

Painting of the burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge. (Scott Mingus photo. Painting at the Columbia Historical Society.)

Many Cannonball readers are well aware of the June 28, 1863, destruction of the Columbia-Wrightsville covered bridge. The winds shifted and lumberyards and houses along the riverfront also caught on fire. Confederate soldiers formed a bucket brigade and passed water up from the Susquehanna River and the nearby canal. They doused flaming embers on rooftops that threatened more of the town of 1,000 people. I document this in great detail in my book, Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Confederate Expedition to the Susquehanna River, June 1863. Other authors have also dealt with the topic to various degrees.

But, did you know that much of the riverfront area, particularly the vulnerable lumberyards, had been rebuilt and restocked with inventory after a disastrous fire on the night of August 28-29, 1862, that swept through much of the same area? In that case, the winds were favorable and spared the old bridge, granting it almost a year’s more usage before a team of Columbia citizens applied the torch (under army orders) during the Rebel invasion of York County.

Here is the story of the widespread destruction caused by the earlier conflagration, as taken from the August 30, 1862, Baltimore Sun.

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California poet/preacher toured York County’s Civil War sites in 1903

Vintage postcard of Wrightsville’s monument to commemorate the town as the farthest east Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia reached during the Gettysburg Campaign. (Scott Mingus collection)

Since 1978, Debi and I have been members of the Church of the Nazarene, first in Painesville, Ohio, and for the past decade and a half in York, Pennsylvania. The holiness denomination traces its roots to John Wesley and the Wesleyan Arminian tradition, the forerunner of Methodism. In October 1895, in Los Angeles, Methodist pastors Phineas Bresee and Ohio native Joseph P. Widney co-founded the Church of the Nazarene. Widney, a medical corpsman on Union boats on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers during the Civil War, soon returned to the Methodist Church. He pastored a church along with his younger brother Samuel, who led the Sunday School and played an instrument.

The Reverend Samuel A. Widney, besides being a noted preacher and Christian educator, was also an accomplished poet and writer. In the fall of 1903, after a visit to his hometown of Piqua, Ohio, he toured the Mid-Atlantic region, with a focus on local history. In late October, he visited York County while on his way to Baltimore before heading to the South.

Here is that portion of his travelogue that appeared in the Piqua Daily Call, on October 27, 1903. In it, Widney relays a humorous story about a good Pennsylvania Dutchman who deeply prized his horse.

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