This graphic, from “East of Gettysburg,” shows Confederate troop movements through York County, Pa., to the Susquehanna River on June 28, 1863. In these days before the Battle of Gettysburg, about 11,000 foot soldiers and mounted rebel troops marched on York County soil. Also of interest: Civil War affected women in York County – and vice versa and Isabel Small led procession of women who made wreath for Abe Lincoln’s coffin and Samuel Small tops York, Pa. community contributor list.
The 150th anniversary of the Civil War must serve as an educational opportunity for York countians to understand the immense role their county played in this conflict.
I say “must” because York County was no bit player.
Often – not always – but often, it was in the line of fire and in the line of duty.
Dennis Brandt, who researched York County’s fighting men for his “From Home Guards to Heroes: the 87th Pennsylvania and Its Civil War Community” and other works, has put forth some numbers: …
About 5,000 men served in the Union Army and about 4,000 vets are buried in county cemeteries. The casualties of those with county ties mounted as the war plodded on: 375 captured, 700 wounded and more than 600 dead. Another 250 locals are buried in national cemeteries across the nation, and 3 perished at sea on their way home from war.
His online database, approaching 14,000 fighting men 19 civilians from York County and this region, is a public treasure.
Okay, those are the numbers – Contribution No. 1.
How else was York County in the line of fire?
Here are nine other memorable points to consider:
- Early in the war, tens of thousands of raw recruits bivouacked and trained at the old York Fairgrounds. Local residents provided food and shelter for scores of these recruits and later to patients at the U.S. Army General Hospital on Penn Park.
- From these earliest days, York County men in uniform became casualties from illness in camp or from drilling and on the battlefield. York County military units served as early responders soon after the firing on Fort Sumter.
- York County linked up with the war, even after Appomattox in April 1865. The massive military hospital was the destination point for 14,000 soldiers in blue from 1862 to the summer of 1865. Hospital staff also treated Confederate soldiers.
- Facing an invasion of more than 6,000 rebel troops in June 1863, York’s leaders approached Rebel generals to surrender the undefended town. That controversial decision led to an unopposed and terrifying occupation by the enemy in gray, making York the largest town north of the Mason-Dixon Line to surrender in the Gettysburg campaign.
- Two known fighting men died in the Battle of Wrightsville, shortly after the rebels occupied York. Union soldiers set fire to the mile-long Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge to stop the rebel advance, and the blaze spread to Wrightsville, consuming part of the town.
- The Battle of Hanover, a day before fighting in Gettysburg, resulted in more than 300 Union and Confederate casualties – dead, wounded and missing. The wounded were treated in makeshift hospitals in Hanover. That battle slowed Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart’s cavalry force, the rebels’ trusted scouting unit, from joining commanding Gen. Robert E. Lee.
- After the battle, nurses and other medical workers from York traveled to Gettysburg to provide wagonloads of medical supplies and food for the wounded in field hospitals. Trains then transferred scores of wounded soldiers to the military hospital in York.
- More than 11,000 Confederate soldiers occupied York County in late June 1863, resulting in extensive property damage and the theft of more than 1,000 horses, vital for the summer harvest.
- Death and displacement disrupted families in York County so significantly that it became necessary to build an orphanage, the Children’s Home of York.
I have written previously that the Civil War had a profound impact on York County: It catalyzed great change. The war drove previously isolated county soldiers to places they would never have otherwise visited, brought outsiders (including deserters) into this area and primed the county for the Industrial Revolution.
Also of interest:
- Become a fan on “Civil War Voices from York County’s” facebook page.
- Check out Scott Mingus’ “Cannonball” blog for info on 150th anniversary events and Civil War commentary.
- Check out this post for more Civil War numbers.