A Civil War period farm near the intersection of Bull Road and Butter Road in Dover Township. Scott Mingus photo.
Civil War Border Claims: Pine Hill? Xenia? Hall?
Several years ago, I spent many Saturdays at the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg reading through each of the more than 800 postwar Civil War Border Claims from York County. Residents of south-central Pennsylvania who had lost personal property to the Confederate army during the three invasions of the Keystone State could file formal sworn statements in-person to a three-man panel of commissioners who would validate their claims and assign a value for the commonwealth to compensate them for their losses. Claims included horses, mules, household items, dry goods, hardware, wagons, harnesses, carriages, food, and store goods. A few of the claimed losses were more exotic, including a buffalo hide robe taken by Rebel soldiers from a Wrightsville man.
Most border claims are from Franklin, Adams, and Cumberland counties, followed by York County (which saw far less Rebels than did its sister counties to the west or northwest). Fulton County trails by a considerable margin (only a few Rebels visited that locale).
What if the soldier taking the personal property or horses wore the blue uniforms of the Federal army? Or, perhaps they were some of the visiting militiamen from New York or New Jersey who helped defend Harrisburg and the Cumberland Valley during the Gettysburg Campaign?
In those cases, the commonwealth was not involved in the claims process. The Federal government had jurisdiction and its own separate claims procedures that needed to be followed.
The key difference? The Feds paid their claims; Pennsylvania did not. The commonwealth claims bogged down in a morass of legal wrangling, partisan politics, budget cuts, and stonewalling until the matter was finally dropped despite the approvals of the team of commissioners.
Farmers such as Peter Bott of West Manchester Township had to provide documentation of what the Rebels or Yankees had taken, including coming to the commission with eyewitnesses willing to testify under oath that the farmer did indeed have the lost property prior to the Confederates’ arrival and what giving the approximate value. Many of these witnesses actually saw the Rebels take the horses or other personal property.
While no one received money from these claims, they provide a gold mine of sworn testimony that I have used over and over again in many of the 23 books that I have written to date on the Civil War.
For example, in my popular book Confederate Calamity: J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry Ride Through York County, Pa., I extensively used the claims in conjunction with the 1860 Shearer & Lake Map of York County to pinpoint the exact routes that Stuart’s three brigades (under Brigadier Generals Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee, and Col. John Chambliss, Jr., respectively) took through York County. These form the backbone of my tours I lead of Stuart’s ride for my clients.
A careful study of the individual claims indicates that the soldiers (blue and gray) took 1,123 horses and 59 mules from York Countians, as well as $271,439.97 worth of personal property (including the value of the stolen animals). The majority of the claims for stolen horses are from Stuart’s north-south ride through York County, followed closely by the foraging patrols of Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s east-west-moving columns. Less significant are the claims from Confederate Maj. James Nounnan’s raid from Cumberland County through Dillsburg down to Dover and back to rejoin his commander, Brig. Gen. Alfred G. Jenkins.
Claimants had to provide their name, township of residence, a list of animals or materials stolen, their estimated value, any details on the Rebels or Yankees who took the items (including the names of the commanding officers), and the closest post office.
In tracing the claims stemming from Stuart’s ride, the term Pine Hill Post Office came up. As a relative newcomer to York County during those early days of my research that eventually became a book, I was initially mystified as to where Pine Hill may have been. In studying the Shearer map, it soon became clear that Pine Hill was the name of the post office in New Salem (later known as York-New Salem to avoid confusion with a New Salem in another county). Likewise, Codorus Post Office was located in Jefferson, Hall Post Office was in Kralltown, and Newpost Post Office was in Admire. Xenia Post Office proved to be in Manheim Township near the now-lost village of Marburg.
Using the damage claims, we know with certainly where the Rebels were (and were not) in York County. For example, there are zero claims from southeastern York County (to be expected; no Rebel patrols reached those townships). Because several claims include the approximate time that the Rebels visited the farm or general store, we can construct a timetable of when the various Southern forces reached particular points as they passed through the region — quite useful information, of course, to my research and writing.
I made my Excel file of all of the 800+ claims from York County residents available to the public a few years ago on the website of the York County History Center. Search by your ancestor’s surname.
Once the current COVID-19 crisis is over, I will be resuming my private guided tours of York County’s many Civil War sites, including Stuart’s Ride. Watch this Cannonball blog or my Facebook page for details.