1863 Battle of Hanover changed course of Gettysburg Campaign
Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide and published author John T. Krepps spoke on Wednesday night to nearly 45 attendees at the monthly meeting of the York (Pa.) Civil War Round Table. John, the author of A Sudden and Strong Onslaught: The Cavalry Action at Hanover, Pennsylvania, used maps and engaging dialogue to present the story of Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart’s controversial ride to Pennsylvania during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign. Stuart received much criticism for his perceived failure to reestablish communications links with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia before the Battle of Gettysburg, a conception enhanced by the novel Killer Angels and the popular Hollywood film, Gettysburg.
Krepps indeed contends that Stuart lost much valuable time in fights at Westminster, Md., and then on Hanover, Pa., on June 30, as well as by dragging along a cumbersome and slow-moving captured wagon train. However, not all the blame can be placed on Stuart. Some rests on Confederate infantry and cavalry commanders already in Pennsylvania who failed to scout for his arrival. Some blame rests on improper usage of the four brigades of cavalry Stuart left behind. Some also rests on the Yankees, who showed unusual speed in arriving in Pennsylvania ahead of Stuart.
Author and battlefield guide John T. Krepps signs books for the crowd at the March 16, 2011, meeting of the York Civil War Round Table.
Krepps, a direct descendant of several Pennsylvania Civil War soldiers, traced the movements of Stuart’s columns using handouts of maps, and showed how strong forces of Yankee cavalry blocked his easiest path to reach the Army of Northern Virginia. John outlined the tactics at the Battle of Hanover, making frequent use of eyewitness accounts of the fighting, as well as soldiers’ positive opinions on the bravery of the women of Hanover, who defied the bullets to drag wounded men into their homes. One “old man with snow white hair” stood on his balcony and blasted at passing Rebel riders with his double-barreled shotgun!
Krepps then showed how Stuart began disengaging in the early afternoon and then began moving toward York and Dover, where he hoped to rendezvous with Lee’s infantry. He placed the battle and movements in the overall context of the Gettysburg Campaign, and discussed Stuart’s subsequent impact on the tactics of the Battle of Gettysburg, including Lee being forced to use the Stonewall Brigade on July 2 to screen the flank, a role normally performed by cavalry and not by infantry. This famed veteran brigade as a result was unavailable to join in the night attack on Culp’s Hill.
The website Gettysburg Daily presented an excellent series of battle walks led by John Krepps of modern Hanover, where urban sprawl has all but obliterated the battlefield. He recalled fishing in a wide stream as a boy, a 15-foot-wide “ditch” that General Stuart and his horse leaped to escape Yankees. Now the stream is a fraction of the width and depth as it was in the 1970s. So much else has changed in Hanover.
J.E.B. Stuart would never recognize the terrain today.
Click here to view John Krepps’ video tour of the Battle of Hanover. Start with Video #1. Link is to the Gettysburg Daily website.
Click the links below to see photographs taken by Scott Mingus of some of the Civil War sites in and around Hanover.
* Winebrenner House
* Daniel Trone House
* J. W. Gitt
* Mt. Olivet Cemetery
* Stuart’s Route from Hanover
* Civil War relics from the Battle of Hanover
* Kindness repaid by soldier
* Central Hotel