Cannonball

Part of the USA Today Network

145 years ago today – July 1, 1863

Jeb Stuart‘s three brigades of veteran Confederate cavalry rose in fields surrounding Dover and leisurely ate their breakfasts. Foraging patrols scoured neighboring farms for several miles looking for horses, mules, forage, horsehoes, and other supplies of military interest. They paid for them with worthless CSA currency or bank drafts to be paid by the Confederacy after the war ended. Scores of Union prisoners captured in Maryland or at the Battle of Hanover are paroled, released, and sent walking back down today’s Route 74 to York. By early afternoon, Stuart’s men are back in the saddle, as multiple columns wind their way through northwestern York County through Wellsville, Rossville, and Dillsburg, where the brigade of wealthy South Carolina planter and politician Wade Hampton III will camp for the night on the Mumper fruit farm.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the county…


In Wrightsville, citizens are taking stock of their losses. Several buildings, including the town’s post office, have burned down as an indirect result of the controversial decision by Maj. Granville Haller to set fire to the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge (on the orders of Maj. Gen. Darius Couch, who had also prepared the two bridges at Harrisburg for similar destruction if necessary). Across the broad river in Columbia, the 27th Pennsylvania Milita can hear the distant booming of artillery; many assume a battle has begun in York. Few (if any) realize it’s much farther west in Gettysburg, where a small engagement is cascading into what will become America’s most famous battleground.
In Hanover, several wounded men from the previous day’s cavalry battle are being nursed back to health; a couple will die despite the best efforts of local doctors and citizen volunteers. People pick up souvenirs of the fighting and recount the events. Efforts are made to restore the local telegraph lines between Hanover and Hanover Junction.
In York, men are hired to clean out and scrub the two market houses in the town’s Center Square; they are filled with a most unwelcome gift from I. E. Avery’s Tar Heels — lice. Similarly, the hospital is being cleansed. A few Confederate stragglers and deserters roam the countryside; a few will escape toward Canada, but many will eventually be rounded up by Union cavalry patrols. Boys swimming in the Codorus hear the cannon’s distant roar.
In the Jefferson region, several merchants are counting their losses from the previous afternoon, when Stuart’s men raided their shops. Three or four of these shopkeepers will later file extensive claims with the government detailing what the Rebels took; compensation will never be granted.
War has come to York County, but its angry discord will be much more violently felt in Adams County, where battles will rage at Gettysburg, Hunterstown, and Fairfield.