145 years ago today – June 27, 1863
Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s veteran Confederate division, one of the hardest fighting units in the Army of Northern Virginia, departs from camps near Mummasburg, Gettysburg, and Hunterstown and heads eastward toward the prize they had been ordered by Richard S. Ewell to capture – the prosperous town of York. Early’s main column – 3/4 of his artillery, all but one company of the 17th Virginia Cavalry, and the brigades of I. E. Avery and Extra Billy Smith trudged from Mummasburg toward Hunterstown, picking up the Louisiana Tigers en route. John Gordon’s Georgians left the Wolf farm just east of Gettysburg and marched out the turnpike (today’s U.S. 30). It would be a leisurely march for these two columns this day, one that would end at Big Mount and Farmers, respectively.
It was the third column that would create the military excitement on this day – White’s Comanches which had terrorized much of northern Maryland and had earned a reputation for lightning raids on Union supply lines. Now, their war whoops would be heard in southwestern York County…
Elijah V. White’s 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry split into various parties, some taking the pike to New Oxford and following the railroad down to McSherrystown. Others rode out the Hanover Road, while some may have taken Centennial Road. The troopers arrived in Hanover, where they were allowed a one-hour rest break that turned into a shopping spree as cavalrymen freely distributed worthless Confederate currency in exchange for retail goods and services. Again splitting up, the battalion burned bridges and then attacked and scattered elements of the 20th Pennsylvania Militia feebly guarding the vital Hanover Junction depot. They torched more bridges in the vicinity, as well as railcars and other military targets. Some men raided local distilleries on farms near Seven Valleys.
The merry cavaliers-turned-arsonists, their bridge burning done for the day and having failed to take Howard Tunnel as it was too strongly guarded, rode south into Jefferson and Jefferson Station, where more whiskey was discovered. Riding through Spring Forge, they encamped on a farm where the shopping center is today.
Meanwhile, youthful York businessman and entrepreneur Arthur B. Farquhar guided his buggy westward on the turnpike to find the Rebel infantry. He discovered them resting near Abbottstown, and demanded an audience with their commander, who turned out to be John Gordon. Assisted in getting this interview by an old school chum who was a Rebel officer, Farquhar and Gordon established the terms by which York would surrender, and the industrialist rode back to York to tell the authorities of the agreement.
York’s Committe of Safety (a self-appointed delegation that met routinely during times of local crisis during the war) had mixed feelings, but sent a delegation with Farquhar back westward on the pike. The ride was much shorter, as the Rebels had moved to Farmers for the night. There, the delegates met with General Gordon and agreed to the terms by which the enemy forces would occupy their town. They returned to an anxious York during the night.