A Tar Heel cavalryman recalls Stuart’s Ride through York County
This old farm at the intersection of Baker Road and East Berlin Road in West Manchester Township was among the hundreds of similar farms visited by patrols from Confederate Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry division during its sojourn through York County, Pennsylvania, on June 30 – July 1, 1863. More than 450 different residents of the county later reported losing horses to Stuart’s column.
Among Stuart’s diverse regiments was the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry, which had lost its commander as a prisoner or war during the Battle of Hanover. The regiment had been severely depleted in manpower during the earlier battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville in the Loudoun Valley prior to Stuart’s Ride around the Union Army, and the fighting at Hanover had not helped the matter, nor had the grueling retreat northward toward Dover. Horses played out, soldiers rode together on the remaining horses, and patrols scoured the countryside for fresh horses and mules.
Included in the saddle weary ranks was James A. Buxton, an 18-year-old soldier who had only joined Company H of the 2nd North Carolina in February of that year. Already he had seen considerable combat action and was now a seasoned veteran. He had been slightly wounded at the June 9 Battle of Brandy Station and had been reassigned to General Stuart’s headquarters as a special courier while he recuperated. He was still serving in that capacity as the division rode through Maryland and southern Pennsylvania during the early stages of the Gettysburg Campaign. He would remain as one of Stuart’s couriers throughout the Battle of Gettysburg and the rest of the summer campaign, returning to his regiment in September prior to the Bristoe Campaign.
Years later in the pages of the Confederate Veteran magazine, Jim Buxton, by then a senior citizen living in Newport News, Virginia, recalled his brief visit to York County…
“At or near Rockford, [Maryland], our cavalry captured a large number of loaded wagons, to each of which there were four mules. To make the wagon train shorter, two of the mules were detached from each wagon and placed in a drove.
At the battle of Hanover, on June 30, where most of my regiment was captured, including Lieutenant Colonel Payne, who was in temporary command, I became dismounted because my little sorrel horse had been overridden. I turned him out with the led horses and got a mount from the drove of mules.
We march all night and reached York [actually Dover] early the next morning. I reported to Major [Henry B.] McClellan that I was dismounted and asked permission to go out in the country and try to get another horse, but I returned to York about noon still riding my mule, as I had not been able to get a better mount.
Following leisurely after the command, which had left York some hours before, I overtook Lieutenant [Ephraim D.] Robbins during the afternoon, and about night, both of us being very fatigued, we stopped at a country house for supper. Being in the enemy’s country, we decided to sleep outside behind the barn.
The next morning near Carlisle, a large dark chestnut horse came galloping up the road from the city, and I succeeded in catching him, and, after changing my bridle and saddle to the horse, I turned the mule over to one of our dismounted men whom we had overtaken along there. We reached Gettysburg late in the afternoon.”