1863 Washington newspaper recounts outrages Rebels inflicted on York Countians
Confederate cavalrymen stole three horses from this old barn in West Manchester Township on July 1, 1863.
Background post: The Knights of the Golden Circle
A Washington, D.C. newspaper reporter visited York County and interviewed various farmers to here their tales of the Confederate occupation. His article first appeared the week after the Battle of Gettysburg, and is one of the earliest accounts of the human interest stories that comprised the Gettysburg Campaign in York County. The interesting article was reprinted by the Philadelphia Press and I have reprinted it, perhaps for the first time in 146 years, here on the Daily Record‘s Cannonball blog. It is emblematic of the interactions between the invading Confederates and the local residents.
Such stories were often repeated (and even worse) in the South. Both armies, blue and gray, had their share of vandals, thieves, and murderers.
“Even-handed justice appears to have been administered in large doses to the chivalrous Knights of the Golden Circle in Pennsylvania. A correspondent of the Washington Chronicle gives the following account of the manner in which some of the disloyal citizens of York were treated by the rebels:
Notwithstanding the heavy loss which the rebels inflicted on York county, one cannot avoid laughing at the way the Copperheads have been treated. The rebels, it seems, took particular delight in making sport of them. Mr. B– M was one of their victims. They went there during the night and took his horse. Next morning they called again, before breakfast, before Mr. M. had discovered his loss, and asked him at how much he valued his horse. He told them about $80. They then made him pay for it, and also deliver up his pocket-book. He soon discovered that he had been doubly swindled.
The rebels then went to Mr. B’s, and found that he had sent his horse away. They made him pay sixty dollars for sending it away. Mr. K–, who lives beyond the Harrisburg turnpike gate, ran out to meet them, telling them that he too was a rebel. Thereupon they ordered him to deliver to them his pocket book, and guide them around the country. The latter especially he did not like to do. Then they threatened to hang him, and commenced making preparations, when his wife came and paid them twenty dollars to obtain his release. They let him go; but threatened to come back and hang him if they lost their way.
The rebels did not know what to make of the people of Codorus township. They said whenever they went into a stable the owners came and began making all manner of signs with their fingers, and muttering strange words, as though they wished to exorcise the rebels, who did not understand the signs; and the poor, deluded farmers lost their horses, though they had paid their dollars to the K. G. C. They are said to be very angry with their party leaders in town, who are now endeavoring to make their enraged followers believe that the invaders were “not the rebels, but Lincoln’s hirelings.”
Mr. J. L. thought he would look after his farms on Tuesday, when the rebels had left. He took his son’s horse, and started out on the Carlisle road. When he was out three or four miles, a party of rebels came along and quickly relieved him of his horse, leaving Mr. L sitting in his wagon in the middle of the road. No sympathy is felt for him.
The rebels acted shamefully after leaving York. All along the Gettysburg turnpike road they plundered private dwellings, exacting heavy tribute from some.”
Philadelphia Press, July 10, 1863
This old farm at the intersection of East Berlin Road and Baker Road was visited at least once by a Confederate cavalry patrol in search of fresh horses.
More than 700 farms in York County were struck by the Rebels (perhaps many more, even into the thousand-plus range), as I have found documentation of specific activities that are not recorded in the formal damage claims. Some farmers (including the tenant farmers) moved away and filed claims elsewhere (I am still combing through thousands of old records to look for additional York County farmers who filed someplace else). Others never bothered with the hassle and expense. Some had died by the time the claims process was established after the war. Some just wanted to forget and move on with their lives.
From my study of York County damage claims, I believe I have identified a few of the specific citizens mentioned above by their initial(s). However, in respect for the original writer’s wishes to protect the victims’ identities, I will follow his lead.