A Tar Heel at the Battle of Hanover
Confederate cavalry from North Carolina and Virginia charged up Frederick Street in downtown Hanover, Pennsylvania, during the beginning phases of a cavalry engagement on June 30, 1863.
I am back from a business trip to historic Baden Baden, Germany, which was a madhouse of activity because of the annual horse racing series (picture being in Louisville during Kentucky Derby week and you get the idea of crowds, bands, great meals at restaurants, and other social events). I now return my attention to York County in the American Civil War and present a first person account of the Battle of Hanover.
George William Beale was an old man in 1918, but he wanted to share his reminiscences of his Civil War service through a book he wrote entitled A Lieutenant of Cavalry in Lee’s Army. His memory was sharp and detailed of his years of service as a young lieutenant in the 9th Virginia Cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart. He picks up his narrative on June 30, 1863, following the Battle of Westminster in northern Maryland…
“The men, now well nigh exhausted, were allowed four hours’ rest, after which we again started and proceeded towards Hanover in Pennsylvania. Reaching Hanover we learned the enemy held the place in force. Both men and horses being worn out, all of us regarded the prospect of a fight with no little regret and anxiety. No time was to be lost though and while I was sent with a small party to the left to guard against the enemy’s
flanking in from that direction unnoticed, the 13th (Virginia), 9th (Virginia) and 2nd N. C. regiments were ordered to charge.
The charge was made and the enemy driven from the town. But our men were soon turned upon by the enemy, or else attacked by another force, and driven back in confusion. We lost a number of men, principally from the N. C. regiment. Our Company (C of the 9th VA Cavalry) lost (privates) E(dwin). D. Brown, shot in the knee badly, and William (H.) Franklin, missing, and thought to be killed. Being on the left, I did not participate in the charge, and do not know how our men acted, but I feel quite sure if they had done their duty bravely, we would have captured the town and held it.
Having failed to do this, all of us seemed to regard our situation as critical. Blockaded
in front, but twenty miles from the Yankee army, and encumbered by an immense wagon train and a retinue of more than a thousand prisoners, broken down men and horses, it did look critical! After fighting the enemy for several hours with our sharpshooting and shelling, the town quite furiously, thereby giving most of our men time to move around the town and get several miles away, we withdrew without being pursued.
In the day’s fight we killed and captured as many of the enemy as we lost, though Col. (W. H.) Payne of the 4th (NC) regiment and Captain (J. N.) Billingsly of the 9th (VA) and several minor officers were captured from us.
We marched all night and the next day, and arrived in front of Carlisle about dark. It was here that we confidently expected to meet our troops, but what was our surprise (and almost dismay) when we learned that Gen. (Richard S.) Ewell had left the place twenty-four hours before, and that quite a large force of Yankees held the town.”