4,000 attended parade & dedication of Dover’s Civil War tablet to Jeb Stuart: Part 3

Confederate Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart led 4,500 Confederate cavalrymen through York County during the Gettysburg Campaign (Library of Congress)

Stuart’s two-day ride through York County caused calamity for the citizenry. His division’s horses were exhausted from the long ride from Salem, Virginia, through Maryland and then the mounted fighting at Hanover, Pennsylvania, on June 30, 1863. Then, the weary columns rode north in an effort to locate Jubal Early’s infantry division near York. Hundreds of horses played out. Roving patrols of Rebels appropriated nearly every fresh horse they could find in farm fields, barns and stables, or hidden in woods and thickets. Other cavalrymen took food and supplies, and, at times, personal property.

More than four decades later, on November 23, 1907, Dover erected a metal tablet commemorating Stuart’s ride as a perpetual reminder of local history. More than 4,000 people attended the parade and unveiling ceremony. A York Daily reporter covered the events, focusing on a lengthy speech given by the president of the Historical Society of York County, Robert C. Bair, in which he opened with a discourse on why it is important to remember historic places and events.

Now, in part 3 of this series, we present Mr. Bair’s initial comments on the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania and York County in particular, as taken from the November 25, 1907, York Daily. After setting up the historical context for the invasion, he relates an interesting story related to a group of professional spies sent into York County well in advance of the Confederate army.

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4,000 attended parade & dedication of Dover’s Civil War tablet to Jeb Stuart: Part 2

The old Civil War tablet to Jeb Stuart’s visit to Dover is now on the east side of this brick monument in front of the borough firehouse. (Scott Mingus photo)

Major General J.E.B. Stuart led more than 4,500 veteran Confederate cavalrymen through western York County on June 30, 1863, following the Battle of Hanover. His men paused for the night in fields surrounding Dover, Pennsylvania, before heading northward on July 1 to Dillsburg and Carlisle.

Forty-four years later, a York County Civil War Union veteran, Captain Wilbur C. Kraber, spearheaded local efforts to have a tablet erected in Dover’s town square to commemorate Stuart’s ride and the release and parole of 200 Federal prisoners of war there.

As the head of the Historical Society of York County, Robert C. Bair, spoke about the Civil War events, Miss Mary Lanius unveiled the plaque in front of a crowd estimated to be more than 4,000 people.

Here is part 2 of this series, with the first section of Mr. Bair’s lengthy, but at times very interesting, oration. In his opening remarks, Bair addressed the controversy that the tablet improperly honored the breakaway Confederacy, whose armed representatives had stolen horses and mules, as well as provisions and, at times, personal property. Rather than selectively bury or ignore uncomfortable or controversial parts of our history, Bair wonderfully captured many of the still relevant reasons why we all, more than 100 years after his stirring narration, should still strive to preserve and interpret the rich history of York County, and our state and nation.

It is a task not to be taken lightly.

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4,000 attended parade & dedication of Dover’s Civil War tablet to Jeb Stuart: Part 1

Dover’s plaque to the Civil War invasion by J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry. It now is at the Dover borough fire hall but was originally placed in the town square in 1907. (Scott Mingus photo)

It was late November 1907, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. All morning, crowds jammed the main roads leading into the small village of Dover, Pennsylvania. They came on foot, by horse, carriage, and other conveyances.

They were assembling to listen to patriotic music and stirring historical narratives, and to watch the unveiling of a tablet commemorating the July 1, 1863, visit by Confederate Major General J.E.B. Stuart and three brigades of cavalry to Dover. Stuart had ridden north from Hanover the previous afternoon and evening following the Battle of Hanover in an effort to locate Major General Jubal Early’s infantry division, which reportedly was operating near York. His 4,500 troopers had camped in the fields surrounding Dover, paroled more than 200 Union prisoners, collected horses and supplies, and then rode off toward Dillsburg and Carlisle.

Now, 44 years later, a throng of citizens of nearly the same number as Stuart’s forces gathered at Dover to recall the long ago events of the Civil War. Many were aged eyewitnesses to those terrifying days; others were second or third generation descendants interested in learning more about Dover’s history (or perhaps, there simply to be part of the day’s big events).

A reporter for the York Daily covered the parade and tablet unveiling ceremony and recorded his impressions in the November 25, 1907, newspaper. Here is his account.

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Young York businessman attended Lincoln’s first inauguration

Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration (Library of Congress)

It was March 4, 1861. After a bitter and contentious election that saw, for the first time, a Republican take the presidency, it was time for that man, former Illinois congressman Abraham Lincoln, to take office. In the intervening months since the election, seven Deep South states had seceded and formed a new breakaway government, the Confederate State of America. It was a hotly debated issue — some in the North thought “good riddance” and wanted to let them go. Some thought that negotiation and yielding on some points might bring them back into the fold. Others wanted the Union preserved, at all costs.

Lincoln was in that camp, even if it meant the possibility of war. The trick was how to restore the Union without aggravating other slave-holding Southern states, where secession was still likely of he made any aggressive moves. In his inaugural speech, he told his audience that he would not interfere with slavery where it existed, but he hammered on the point that he opposed secession and that the government had a right to “hold, possess, and occupy” Federal property. Already, in some states, secessionists had taken over Federal forts, arsenals, and other facilities. He also verified the government’s right to collect taxes.

In the audience that cloudy March day was Arthur Briggs Farquhar, a young businessman from York, Pennsylvania. Years later, he recorded his impressions of the new president in his book, The First Million The Hardest: An Autobiography.

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Extra Billy’s boys devastated North York farm

SLM derivation of a map from the Pennsylvania History & Museum Commission. Copy at YCHC.

Today, thousands of motorists travel through the intersection of U.S. Route 30 (Loucks Road) and N. George Street in North York and Manchester Township, York County, PA. Few, if any, are aware that back in late June 1863, during the height of the Gettysburg Campaign, more than 1,000 Confederate soldiers camped near this now bustling area. At the time, it was decidedly pastoral, dotted with tidy farms and several grist mills, with an abundant supply of fresh water and plenty of lush meadows and glistening fields of ripe oats, corn, and hay. It was, by all accounts, a bucolic setting.

Confederate Major General Jubal A. Early’s division approached York in two powerful columns. During the early morning of Sunday, June 28, 1863, 1,800 Georgia infantry, fronted by cavalry and trailed by artillery, tramped eastward from Farmers Post Office along the Gettysburg-York Turnpike (now Routes 30 and 462). They marched through York with their flags flying and bands playing starting at 10 a.m. and headed on toward Wrightsville to seize the covered bridge there. Some two hours later, the vitriolic General Early led the rest of his division (some 4,600 additional soldiers) south through Emigsville on what is today N. George Street (then the Harrisburg Road).

He had earlier dispatched the 200-man 17th Virginia Cavalry northward through Mount Wolf to burn two railroad bridges south of York Haven. Early dropped off the famed Louisiana Tigers to seize flour mills along the Codorus; most of them camped where today’s Harley Davidson factory sits. The general instructed Brigadier General William “Extra Billy” Smith to post his small, understrength Virginia brigade along the Harrisburg Road north of York not far from the Tigers’ position at the Z. K. Laucks grist mills.

Most of Smith’s force camped on the farm of Henry L. King.

King would long rue the Southerners’ visit.

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York CWRT to discuss the “Secrets of the Cyclorama” on January 18

Detail from the Gettysburg Cyclorama (Scot Mingus photo)

The York Civil War Round Table begins its 20th Anniversary year and 2017 campaign with featured speaker Chris Brenneman at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 7 p.m. Chris will present a PowerPoint presentation titled “Secrets of the Cyclorama” based on the book he co-authored with Sue Boardman, “The Gettysburg Cyclorama- The Turning Point of the Civil War On Canvas.”

The meeting will be held at the Historical Society Museum of the York County History Center located at 250 E. Market St., York, Pennsylvania. There is no charge for admission and the public is welcome.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 4 “The dainty morsel of pine”

One of a series of paintings of the Columbia Bridge on fire painted by students in 1913 for Columbia’s Old Home Week. (C. Wallace photo)

Twenty-eight years after the Confederates invaded Pennsylvania in what became known as the Gettysburg Campaign, the York Daily newspaper ran a lengthy article on June 29, 1891, recalling key events in York County, including preparations in Wrightsville to defend the river crossing. Confederate Major General Jubal Early planned to seize the Columbia Bridge (he was actually under orders to burn it, but obeying orders was not exactly his strong suit in Pennsylvania), march across the Susquehanna River into Lancaster County, wreck the railroads, mount his men on captured horses, and then push on toward Harrisburg. Glory beckoned.

It was not to be.

In Part 1 of this four-part series recounting of that long-ago newspaper report, the correspondent outlined the situation and set up the Rebel drive to the river. Part 2 dealt with preparations in Wrightsville to defend and then destroy the old bridge, which had been rebuilt in the early 1830s from the wreckage of an earlier upstream structure knocked down by ice floes. It was at the time reportedly the longest covered bridge on Earth, but would soon be deemed “the dainty morsel of pine.” The story included the close call of an unwise country doctor who tried to bypass nervous militia pickets without the proper countersign. He received a flurry of bullets for his trouble and, in response, told the military men where to go.

In Part 3, two unsung heroes, John Peart and William Hess, volunteered to ride west through Hellam toward York to determine if the Rebels really were approaching, as rumored. As the duo galloped back shouting the alarming news, some of the militia volunteers (specifically the fancily uniformed First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry and elements of the 20th and 27th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia) took to their heels.

Here is the final installment from the York Daily, republished from the Philadelphia Press of June 28, 1891.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 3 Two courageous volunteers

Detail from the 1860 Shearer & Lake Map of York County. Volunteers John Peart and William Hess rode west from Wrightsville on the gravel turnpike toward York to try to determine if the Confederates really were approaching. (PHMC)

Twenty-eight years after Confederate Major General Jubal Early led more than 6,600 Confederate infantry, cavalry, and artillerymen into York County, Pennsylvania, the York Daily newspaper republished a story in the Philadelphia Press that recounted many details of the invasion, with a particular focus on the Union defense of the covered bridge at Wrightsville.

In Part 1 of this four-part series, we looked at the background of the story and introduced two unsung local heroes whose contributions had not been documented in contemporary accounts. Part 2 covered the nervousness in Wrightsville on the weekend of June 27-28, 1863, as rumors spread of the fall of York and the approach of the Rebels.

Now, in Part 3, here is the story of those two long-ago heroes, John Peart and William Hess.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 2 The unwise country physician

Diorama of Wrightsville in 1863 (Burning of the Bridge Diorama, 124 Hellam St., Wrightsville

On June 29, 1891, the York Daily newspaper republished an article that had appeared the previous day in the Philadelphia Press marking the 28th anniversary of the Confederate expedition to capture the long covered bridge between York and Lancaster counties.

It was a time of great fear and trepidation in south-central Pennsylvania, as powerful twin columns of veteran Rebel soldiers headed for the two major river crossings at Wrightsville and Bridgeport (now Lemoyne) to the north. More than 6,600 Rebels under Major General Jubal A. Early marched eastward from the Gettysburg area through York County to York, occupying the county seat on Sunday, June 28, 1863. That afternoon, a Georgia brigade under Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon headed farther east to seize the bridge at Wrightsville.

A motley group of militia of varying quality and martial experience awaited them. Part 1 of this four part series outlined the general situation as the Rebels moved toward York. Now, in Part 2, preparations are being made in Wrightsville to protect the bridge.

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Rebel invasion recalled 28 years later: Part 1 The Rebels are coming!

Lewis Miller sketch of the 31st Georgia as it marched into York (YCHC)

I am always interested in fresh accounts of the Confederate invasion of June 1863, a time when more than 11,000 Rebel soldiers in three columns marched or rode into York County, Pennsylvania. Some of these add more details or human interest stories to what I included in my book Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Confederate Expedition to the Susquehanna River, June 1863 and subsequent other Civil War titles.

Here’s one such example, taken from the June 29, 1891, York Daily. It adds the story of John Peart and William U. Hess, two men who reportedly volunteered to scout the presence of oncoming Rebels marching from York to Wrightsville. Peart, a Lancaster County farmer who was home on furlough from the army, was an experienced soldier. Needing a companion for the ride westward, Hess volunteered to ride along. The two of them provided some of the earliest warnings that the Rebels were indeed approaching Wrightsville. They augmented Captain M. M. Strickler’s small company of local, non-uniformed volunteers that patrolled the area west of Wrightsville.

Here is part 1 of the story:

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