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A visitor from Virginia — 151 years ago today


On Sunday, June 28, 1863, more than 6,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early marched or rode into downtown York, Pennsylvania. They encamped in and around the town, with unlimbered artillery pieces frowning from the heights north and south of York and other guns prominently displayed on the old fairgrounds. Early ransomed the town for massive quantities of supplies, including more than 1,000 pairs of shoes and boots, several days of foodstuffs, and $100,000 in cash.

Throughout Monday, June 29, the Rebels remained in firm control of the town and its people. However, that grip was not oppressive and residents were free to stroll the streets and chat with the soldiers. In some cases, citizens entertained acquaintances or leading Rebel officers in their homes. Some Yorkers took the opportunity to visit the Confederate camp in the fairgrounds to check out the four cannon, according to the artillery battery’s commander.

No citizen is known to have been harmed physically, for for some the psychological terror was overwhelming. No one was quite sure when or if the Rebels would “unleash the dogs of war” and burn the helpless town or commit atrocities. As June 29th wore on, it became more evident that General Early had no such immediate intentions, but the tension remained palpable. Rebel foraging patrols spent the day scouring the countryside for supplies and fresh horses and mules, while other patrols scouted the roads for any sign of Union presence. Still other detachments burned all of the railroad bridges in the area, including those between Wrightsville and York.

It was, in the words of a local woman, a time “never to be forgotten.”