A Georgian recalls his time in York
Many of you know that a publisher has asked me to research and write yet another book in my popular series of human interest stories. In the never ending quest for fresh material, I was perusing an old copy of Confederate Veteran last night when I stumbled across a different account of John Gordon’s brigade in Pennsylvania by an author I had previously used in Flames Beyond Gettysburg. Here are a couple of fresh anecdotes from Private Isaac G. Bradwell of the 31st Georgia Volunteers. The second one is particularly interesting, as it is the only known first-hand account from a Confederate of Gordon’s campsite west of York on Monday night June 29, 1863.
Unlike other Rebel accounts, the young Georgian had some very positive things to say about the people of York…
Bradwell remembered, “At early dawn the rattle of the drum called us to ranks, and we set out on the march to York. This place was much larger than Gettysburg and the inhabitants did not shut themselves up in their houses through fear of us, but were so anxious to see us and converse with us that we had some difficulty in forcing our way through the city.
It was Sunday morning, and everybody was dressed in his very best. So great was the pressure that our officers marched us through the town in single column of twos. Handsomely dressed women extended their hands from each side, anxious to have a word with us; but our officers hurried us along as rapidly as possible. Among the men I saw several who were suffering from wounds, but these kept themselves well to the rear and did not seek to come in contact with us.
The people of York were the most refined and intelligent folk we met in the State and reminded us of our friends at home, both in manners and personal appearance. They did not seem to be a bit reserved, and if we had not known where we were, we might, from their conduct, have supposed ourselves in Dixie.”
Bradwell and the brigade marched to Wrightsville, where they attacked Union militia entrenched west of town but failed to capture the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, which was burned by the retreating Yankees. On Monday afternoon about 4 PM, the Georgians marched back through downtown York and camped in the countryside along the Carlisle Road (Route 74 today).
The young private added some interesting details…
“At York General Early had made a demand on the merchants for a large sum of money as indemnity for destruction of property in Virginia. When they were unable to pay the amount imposed, he seized a large quantity of such goods as the army needed. We arrived there in the night, after a hard march from Wrightsville, and bivouacked. The orderly sergeant detailed me and a comrade to go to the quartermaster and draw rations, and our part of the goods coming to our company.
It was surprising to see the amount and variety issued to us, and to get it all to the men consumed a great part of the night, and we found many of them lying about fast asleep, and could not waken them to take anything. We finally fell down ourselves and had hardly closed our eyes in sleep when we were called to ranks, half dead from fatigue, to resume a hard march to Gettysburg. Even when our men awoke they paid no attention to the great piles of supplies we had brought them, and marched away, leaving their portions for anybody who might find them.
Among the rations I remember were two hindquarters of very fine beef, a barrel or two of flour, some buckets of wine, sugar, clothing, shoes, etc. All this for about twenty men. I suppose the rest of Early’s division got things in the same proportion as our company, all of which would have required quite a train to transport it.”
Confederate Veteran, Vol. XXX, No. 10, October 1922.