Burning bridge visible in skies over Lancaster County
Local artist Bradley Schmehl’s excellent depiction of the burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge will be featured on the cover of an upcoming book on the event by author Scott L. Mingus, Sr. Used by written permission of the artist as fair use for marketing and advertising this new book. Prints of Mr. Schmehl’s painting are available on the Internet from Somerset House.
The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge was set ablaze on the evening of June 28, 1863, by retreating Pennsylvania state militia to prevent it from being used by Brigadier General John B. Gordon’s oncoming Confederate troops. The lurid glow from the burning bridge was clearly visible to many onservers in and near Lancaster. Later, one local woman and her friends used the pen name “Patriot Daughters” to write a book about their service in the field hospitals of Gettysburg after the battle. She was among those Lancaster County residents who could see the flames from the distant nighttime spectacle along the river.
“The bridge at Columbia was fired early in the evening, and though ten miles distant, we saw it distinctly. No lovelier evening can be imagined. The moon was shining in the clear and cloudless sky, and the lurid flashes from the burning bridge gave every thing an almost supernatural appearance. During the still hours of that summer night, we watched and waited, not knowing what the morrow would bring forth. The morning came, and with it the welcome intelligence that the burnt bridge had stopped the career of the invaders; and that finding no crossing, they had been obliged to retrace their steps, but that at any moment news of a severe battle might be expected.”
Read more about the bridge burning in my upcoming full-length book, Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863, which is now scheduled to be in print by the end of this year from Eric J. Wittenberg’s Ironclad Publishing.