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A young Rebel in Dover Township

Confederates from the Army of Northern Virginia passed through York County in waves in the early summer of 1863. The first incursion, rather minor, involved patrols from Albert Jenkins’ western Virginia brigade. Jenkins, an antebellum U.S. Congressman, sent detachments of partisan or “wild cat” cavalry into extreme northwestern York County. Crusty old veteran Jubal Early led his powerful division of four infantry brigades, several artillery batteries, and a couple regiments/battalions of cavalry directly towards York on June 27. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry division roamed western York County on June 30 and July 1, fighting a battle at Hanover and minor skirmishes at Jefferson and Dover. One of his cavalrymen left this description of York County and its residents:

Dover square shortly after the Civil War (Greater Dover Historical Society)

An 18-year-old officer in James Breathed’s battery of Virginia horse artillery was among the more than 5,000 Rebels Major General Stuart brought with him into Pennsylvania. Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, Lieutenant F. Halsey Wigfall, wrote his sister: “You should have seen the Dutch people in York Co. turning out with water and milk and bread and butter and ‘apple butter’ for the ‘ragged rebels.’ I was quite surprised at the tone of feeling in that part of the State. In two or three instances I found people who seemed really glad to see us and at scores of houses they had refreshments at the door for the soldiers. The people generally seemed not to know exactly what to expect and I don’t think would have been at all astonished if every building had been set on fire by us as we reached it, nor would a great many have been surprised if we had concluded the business by massacring the women and children!”

Similar comments about southern Pennsylvania, including Yorkers, abound in Southern literature and accounts. In general, the Confederates thought the local people to be friendly and cooperative, although they strongly suspected their ulterior motivation was to save their farms and livestock, as well as possessions, from seizure or damage.

[Excerpted from Volume 2 of Human Interest Stories from the Gettysburg Campaign, by Scott Mingus. To be published in November 2007 by Colecraft Industries of Orrtanna, PA. Volume 1 of this series is for sale now at the Borders store in York near the Galleria Mall]