A Grand Time in Pennsylvania!
James E. B. Brown, CSA Major General, led three brigades of veteran cavalry through southwestern York County after a half-day battle at Hanover. Photo from the Library of Congress.
On July 13, 1863, even as Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was retreating to Virginia, cavalry commander Major General J.E.B. Stuart wrote a letter to his beloved wife Flora. Criticism about being tardy and joyriding notwithstanding, the cavalier recounted, “I had a grand time in Pennsylvania and we return without defeat, to recuperate and reinforce, when, no doubt the role will be re-enacted. I shelled Carlisle and burnt the barracks. I crossed near Dranesville and went close to Georgetown and Washington, cutting four important railroads, joining our army in time for the battle of Gettysburg, with 900 prisoners and 200 wagons and splendid teams.” [That wagon train, according to one subordinate, had become an “embarrassment” by the time the column passed through western York County]
Undaunted by the results at the Battle of Gettysburg, Stuart added, “We must invade again–it is the only path of peace. We were received well in Pennsylvania and our troops treated the population better than our own.” [Tell that to the 500+ farmers in York County who lost horses, mules, livestock, forage, and supplies to Stuart’s invading column!]
He added this note on the strategic importance of the summer campaign, “General Lee’s maneuvering the Yankees out of Virginia is the grandest piece of strategy ever heard of. If they had only sent 10,000 reinforcements and plenty of ammunition to him here our crossing would have been with banners of peace.” [Indeed Lee did get the Yankees out of Virginia for nearly two months. However, the price he paid in men and officers, not to mention in rejuvenating the Northern morale and war effort, was substantial, perhaps fatal to the Confederate cause.]