“A mean, selfish, sordid people”
Typical York County farmland, Library of Congress
The Pennsylvania Germans of the mid-19th Century, as a general rule, were a hard-working, thrifty people that often did not readily embrace outsiders or admit them into their social circles. They were content to be at peace with their neighbors and families, and derive a good life from the fruits of the soil and their labor. A fair number of them were rather ambivalent to the Union war effort, preferring to be left alone to mind their crops and livestock. And, they really wanted nothing to do with the invading armies. When the Confederates rolled through York County, several soldiers commented on this perceived lack of hospitality of their “hosts.”
During the afternoon of June 29, Captain William Johnson Seymour, adjutant of the First Louisiana Brigade, received a written pass and visited downtown York. He wrote in his journal that it was a “pretty place… Some of the public buildings were exceedingly tasteful and imposing structures. All the stores were closed and I was disappointed in not being able to purchase articles of clothing of which I stood in great need. Through the kindness of my friend Major [Samuel] Hale, of Gen. Early’s staff, who was acting Provost Marshal, I got into the back door of a very large fancy store, where I purchased a bottle of old Cognac brandy and a few other articles.
The proprietor of the establishment was a Baltimore woman, who appeared to be greatly rejoiced at the advent of Confederate troops and declared her willingness to accept Confederate money in exchange for anything contained in her store. The inhabitants professed to be “Copperheads” and opposed to the Federal Conscription Act and further prosecution of the war. Not much faith to be placed in their professions; they are a mean, selfish, sordid people who would profess or do anything to save their money & property.”