Cannonball

Part of the USA Today Network

Another rare document at the Columbia Historic Preservation Society

Major Granville O. Haller of the 7th U.S. Infantry commanded the defenses of York and Adams counties during the Gettysburg Campaign. He wrote this fascinating letter to Robert Crane, the Columbia, PA civilian who under Haller’s orders burned the Columbia Bridge on Sunday night, June 28, 1863, to prevent Jubal Early’s Confederate division from crossing into Lancaster County.
The document is in the collection of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society. Photograph and transcript by Scott L. Mingus, Sr. for CHPS. Used by permission.
Here is the transcript I wrote; any misinterpretations of the handwriting are mine.

The reverse of this document, which is a hand-written copy of Haller’s original note. This letter was found by Chris Vera of CHPS during the sorting and cataloging of thousands of papers donated to CHPS by M&T Bank. They are from the old First National Bank of Columbia.
Here is the transcript:
York, Pa., October 17th 1863
My Dear Mr. Crane,
Your note, of yesterday, in regard to your report respecting the destruction of the Columbia Bridge, has come to hand. I really beg your pardon for not having acknowledged the receipt of your report and answering your previous letter. One cause of my delay was, that I had sent your report with a History or Report of the enemy’s advance and our operations to defeat his crossing the Susquehanna River, to Major Genl. Couch, from whom I expected an order of commendation and thanks to all who had participated. My sudden and unexpected dismissal defeated this part of my program. Since then I have been busily engaged in preparations on removing to Washington Territory, and endeavoring to get my case investigated, and in this way lost sight of your letter. Knowing you were perfectly safe and justifiable in what had been done, I paid less attention to it, than I should if the question had been doubtful. To satisfy your mind as to your course, I extract from Genl Couch’s telegram, dated at Harrisburg June 28th, 1863, to say the following:
When you find it necessary to withdraw the main body of Frick’s command from Wrightsville leave a proper number on the other side to destroy the bridge, and use your own discretion in their destruction. Keep them open “as long as possible with prudence.”
XXXX (signed)
D. N. Couch
You are aware that I, in response, expressed my approbation, of your conduct and these who stood by you on that occasion. Your party has my warmest thanks for your service.
Independent of what I have said to you and written, the written order of Col Frick is full authority for all you have done. Every order from him was valid, unless countermanded by me by order from Major Genl Couch, who had directed me to superintend the military operations for him, in this section of country. Twice I was in Columbia and enquired for you, but had not time to stay long enough to meet you. Believe me, dear sir, I remain,
Yours truly,
G. O. Haller
(late Maj. 7th Inf & A.D.C. pro tem)
Capt Robert Crane
Engineer on Columbia & Reading R.R.
Columbia, Pa.
The above letter is a correct copy made by me from the original,
H. N. North
January 12, 1864

Bridge documents 002.jpg</form

Postwar view of the rebuilt Columbia Bridge