A Virginia gunner visits York
I spent much of yesterday at the new Gettysburg Research Room of the Adams County Historical Society, which has digitized much of its collection, as well as the files of the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides. The reading room is not yet finished and certainly lacks amenities (the Lutheran Seminary is more than a century and a half old and wasn’t built with the 21st Century researcher in mind), but the ease of use is incredible. Keyword searches make browsing through massive amounts of files a breeze.
Here’s a relatively fresh account of a visit to York by officers of the Charlottesville Artillery.
Wilbur F. Davis was the sergeant major of the Charlottesville Artillery. The veteran battery rumbled into York “passing through the heart of the town, crossing over a stream [Codorus Creek] over a stone bridge.” They parked their guns and caissons on the grounds of the York fairgrounds, which ironically was a Union training center. Davis and some comrades, including battery commander Captain James Carrington, went sightseeing that Sunday night. They strolled across Market Street and walked north, which seemed to the Rebels to be “the street of fine residences.”
Family groups (mostly women and girls) were sitting on their front stoops enjoying the cool of the evening. Surprisingly to the soldiers, one such group remarked in low tones, “Good evening, gentlemen.” In response, the Virginians bowed. As they walked further, some ladies at another house repeated the greeting, adding in whispered tones, “Glad to see you!” The men doffed their hats and walked by.
Reaching the end of the street, the officers decided to retrace their steps and engage the latter cordial ladies in conversation. The women invited them into their house, but the men worried about the social outcome for the ladies if they were seen entertaining Confederates. The women insisted, and the artillerymen spent a relaxing evening “most hospitably and warmly entertained.” They were offered cake, tea, coffee, and domestic wine. They learned the family was originally from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and the old grandmother “could scarcely contain herself” when she first saw the Confederate troops enter York. Her family had to physically restrain her from exulting in the street. The Rebels stayed until past 10 p.m. when they returned to the fairgrounds.
In the morning, the Charlottesville men went shopping in York, buying goods with Confederate money. Several of them were captured a year later and sent to Fort Delaware near Philadelphia. They wrote to the York family, who responded by sending “boxes of fine edibles.”