Part of the USA Today Network

A Wrightsville tragedy

I have read several excellent books on the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, including the late Greg Coco’s fine works, especially his classic A Strange and Blighted Land. More than 150,000 combatants descended upon the town of less than 3,000 people and left the buildings, countryside, and streets littered with dead, dying, and wounded men, and the debris of war. Among the more deadly of the war materiel left behind were unexploded artillery shells, loaded pistols and rifles, and other weapons. Greg Coco related several stories in his fine book about civilians who perished at Gettysburg in the weeks and months following the battle, including the sheriff of York, Pennsylvania. Disease was the number one cause of death, but another significant problem was children (and at times adults) who were playing with or handling explosives that detonated.
York County had its own tragic story.
During the Skirmish of Wrightsville, Captain William Tanner of the Confederate army fired forty rounds from his battery, the Courtney (Virginia) Battery. At least one of those rounds failed to explode as designed.
It had tragic consequences.
Here is a newspaper article from the Columbia Spy of March 3, 1866, that related the ultimate result of Captain Tanner’s long-delayed shell.