22nd New York State Militia robs Newberry Township farmer
“Rich York County farmland.” Marion Post Wolcott photograph from the 1930s; courtesy of the Library of Congress.
During the Gettysburg Campaign, nearly 11,000 Confederate soldiers marched or rode through York County, Pennsylvania. They left a vast trail of misery in their wake, stealing more than 1,100 horses and mules needed for the summer harvest season and taking countless supplies, personal property, livestock, and food. In some cases, formal damage claims were filed after the war by farmers and residents citing similar losses to the Union defenders of the region.
One areas often overlooked as being robbed during the Gettysburg Campaign is northeastern York County. Colonel William H. French‘s 17th Virginia Cavalry raided Mount Wolf and Manchester on their way to burning two bridges at York Haven, and some of J.E.B. Stuart‘s outriders are known to have robbed a few farms in Newberry Township on July 1, 1863 while the Battle of Gettysburg raged to the southwest.
Today’s let’s look at a little known military foray in the Newberry Township area for supplies and horses.
Members of the 22nd New York State Militia, a regiment from New York City that had been sent by train to help defend Harrisburg from the advancing Rebels. The militiamen developed quite a negative reputation in Pennsylvania’s capital for their fancy uniforms, often haughty attitudes, and their foraging abilities.
Here is the story of a patrol of the 22nd NYSM that spent more time in York County stealing things than in scouting the oncoming Rebels.
A quartet of the 22nd New York State Militia stands in front of a caisson near Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in 1861. Library of Congress.
The 22nd New York State Militia was organized in April 1861 in New York City. it spent most of the first couple years of the Civil War within the state and then serving in the garrison at Harpers Ferry, helping protect the arsenal and military warehouses as well as the vital Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks and bridges. By September 1862, they were back in New York City and were discharged.
When Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Andrew G. Curtin reached out to his neighboring states for military aid when Confederate invaders threatened the Keystone State, New York’s Democratic Governor Horatio Seymour responding by sending several regiments of state militia to Harrisburg. Among them was the 22nd NYSM, which left New York City on June 18 via train and were re-mustered into Federal service. Their commander was 29-year-old Colonel Lloyd Aspinwall, the son of one of New York City’s wealthiest businessmen and a staunch Democrat.
Arriving in Harrisburg, the regiment was assigned to duty in the earthworks near Lemoyne. Patrols (often mounted on horses) roved the countryside for miles in front of the entrenchments searching for signs of enemy activity.
On Tuesday, June 30, 1863, a patrol of the New York regiment entered northeastern York County looking for Rebel deserters and scouting to make sure no Rebel forces were marching north from York toward the state capital. They visited various farms asking for food and supplies.
When they reached 68-year-old Samuel Miller‘s prosperous farm near Newberry, they turned from askers to takers. He reported in his damage claim that a “group of Union soldiers” entered his barn without his permission and took a 6-year-old black horse from his stable. They also stole a saddle and bridle and rode away with their prize. He asked for $250 in compensation from the state of Pennsylvania for his loss; his claim was never paid. Among the handful of claims for Union activity in northern York County, Miller’s stands out in that he is the only claimant to name the specific regiment whose troops visited his farm. The others simply state Union troops or militia (likely the same patrol from the 22nd NYSM but impossible to verify).
It is not known if the militiamen were late in heading back to their company and wanted a horse to speed up their return, or if they were already mounted and needed a replacement horse (most likely). There are only a handful of claims from Union troops operating in northeastern York County, and I have not uncovered any formal reports from the 22nd NYSM as to the identity of this small patrol.
For Sam Miller and his family, it must have been quite disconcerting to watch helplessly as the defenders of the Union shamelessly stole their horse and rode off. Their loss was just as painful, perhaps even more, than the losses that Lewisberry residents Samuel Beck, John W. Leas, and other Newberry Township residents suffered the next day from J.E.B. Stuart’s roving patrol of Rebel cavalrymen.