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150 years ago – July 1861: Unexpected Northern setbacks

This engraving from Harper’s Weekly, July 27, 1861 depicts the Battle of Falling Waters (or Hoke’s Run to many Northerners). Fought on July 2 in the Shenandoah Valley in what is now Berkeley County, West Virginia (then Virginia), the battle was part of what later was termed the Manassas Campaign.
Here is a description paraphrased from Wikipedia.
On July 2, Union Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson’s division crossed the Potomac River near Williamsport, Md. and marched on the main road to Martinsburg. Near Hoke’s Run, brigades of Cols. John J. Abercrombie and George H. Thomas encountered Confederate regiments of Col. Thomas J. Jackson’s brigade, driving them back slowly. Jackson’s orders were to delay the Federal advance only, which he did, withdrawing before Patterson’s larger force. On July 3, Patterson occupied Martinsburg, but made no further aggressive moves until July 15. His prolonged (and ill-advised) inactivity allowed Confederate General Joseph Johnston, along with Jackson’s Virginians, to slip away and reinforce the Rebel troops near Manassas, Virginia.
The Falling Waters Battlefield Association, Inc. preserves the memory of the battle and the surviving parts of the battlefield itself, as well as providing education programs and collateral, including signage, markers, etc. The association welcomes funds to help preserve what is left of this early war battlefield.

Two days after the fight at Hoke’s Run, with the original three-month units facing the end of their terms of enlistment, President Abraham Lincoln gave a passionate speech to Congress. He asked for authorization to raise and pay for 50,000 fresh troops to put down the rebellion. Lincoln remarked that the fledgling war was “a People’s contest…a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men.” Congress authorized the expenditure and recruiting efforts began in earnest across the North.
In the meantime,. the short-term warriors began heading home. Passing soldiers had little doubt of the town of York, Pennsylvania’s, outward support for the Federal military. In mid-July, the 12th New York State Militia returned home by train from Baltimore after its three-month term expired.
“The old flag was flying from church, school-house, work-shop and private house,” one soldier recounted as the train steamed through York, “The men, women and children ran out to meet us and gave us cheer, until we were hoarse and tired in answering them.”
Recruiting efforts in York County yielded hundreds of fresh volunteers for the Union war effort, despite the coming summer harvest season. Some would never return home, as disease and warfare would thin the ranks over the next few years.

Northern hopes for a quick end to the war disappeared on July 21 when the reinforced Confederate forces stunned Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s Union army near Manassas at Bull Run and sent the Yankees flying back to Washington, D.C. Long-time National Park Service artist Sidney E. King captured the action of Rickett’s Battery in this 1964 oil-on-plywood painting which now hangs in the Visitors Center on Henry Hill at the Manassas National Battlefield.
News of the unexpected defeat of the newly raised National volunteer army stunned the North, including most York Countians.Within days, thousands of new recruits headed for the Washington, D.C., to bolster the ranks of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s beaten army. Within a week, Lincoln would replace him with George B. McClellan.
If you go: The Falling Waters battlefield is an easy drive from York County, PA. It is located in the Shenandoah Valley not far from I-81 (and US Route 11) and between the towns of Hainesville and Falling Waters. Other nearby attractions include the preserved Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, a marvelous walking and bicycling trail.
The Manassas National Battlefield Park is about a two-hour ride from York and Adams counties and can best be reached via scenic U.S. Route 15 (several other Civil War battlefields, including Monocacy and Ball’s Bluff, are also accessible off of Route 15). A major reenactment of the First Battle of Bull Run will take place on July 23 and 24, 2011. For tickets, directions, times, and additional information, please click here to visit the website for the 150th Anniversary Committee.