1876 tourist guidebook outlined York County’s Civil War history
A popular series of guidebooks issued during the United States Centennial in 1876 promoted tourism throughout the country. The country was in the midst of prosperity, and many Americans took advantage of the many attractions, especially the official centennial celebration exposition in Philadelphia.
One very popular side trip for travelers was to take the train from Philadelphia to Gettysburg to view the battlefield. It had been 13 years since the fighting at Gettysburg, and many former soldiers and their families, as well as history buffs, curiosity seekers, and sightseers made the journey.
The railroad lines, of course, to reach Gettysburg from Philadelphia went through York County, Pennsylvania.
Here are the comments the editors made about York County for the benefit of the tourist crowd as they passed through the verdant region on their way to “this hallowed ground” at Gettysburg.
Note that the handbook contains a few small errors concerning the Civil War history of York County. Jubal Early’s force did not approach 10,000 men, as the editors state. In reality he had less than 6,000 men, still an overwhelming force however that easily outclassed and outgunned the hastily organized state militia forces defending York County.
Also, the date for the Battle of Hanover is incorrect. It was not on June 28, but rather June 30.
Still, it is interesting to note that in 1876 tourists heading to Gettysburg were made aware of York County’s role in the Gettysburg Campaign.
And that is exactly our challenge for the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War — how does the county publicize its role so that tourists bound from Lancaster’s Amish Country for the battlefield learn more about the rich heritage of the region they are passing through?