Civil War relics found in York County
Woven basket filled with old canister balls that were discovered on a York County, Pennsylvania, farm.
York County has a rich and varied Civil War heritage. The county provided thousands of soldiers to the Union war effort, and a handful to the Confederate cause, including a brigadier general with ties to the town of York. Food, war materiel, suppliers, railroad cars, tents, blankets, and a myriad of other government purchases were transported to the troops. Trains passed through York County filled with soldiers from all over the North on their way to the front lines. Wounded soldiers (Union and Confederate) were treated at the U.S. Army Hospital or at the Oddfellows Hall in York. Three separate Rebel forces of varying sizes invaded York County during the Gettysburg Campaign. President Lincoln passed through the county at least a couple of times.
Yes, the county should rightfully be proud of its Civil War past. Sometimes, relics and artifacts of that era can still be discovered. When he was young, Dr. Mark Snell of Shepherd University and a York native found a rusty bayonet near where San Carlos’ Lounge is now located near Route 30 and the Codorus Creek. Another native York Countian found a brass button from a VMI graduate while digging in her yard, possibly lost by a passing Rebel officer. Dozens of other residents in this area also have found artifacts associated with the Civil War, including Confederate money given to their ancestors by the Rebel troops. Several Hanover residents have relics from the cavalry battle fought there, and fellow blogger June Lloyd mentioned a sword that had been plowed up on a farm in that area.
Vintage artillery shell thought to be associated with one of the Confederate artillery batteries that camped in York County, PA.
Perhaps the rarest and most intriguing relics that I am aware of are the artillery canister balls and the intact shell. Both are owned by the same York County resident, who lives on a farm not far from a known location of a Confederate artillery battery. These fascinating relics were dug up on the farm years ago. The canister tin had rotted away, but the iron balls were intact. I am not aware of any Union artillery ever camping on or near this particular farm, so it can be speculated that they were brought to this area by the Confederates.
Major General Jubal A. Early commanded the largest Confederate force to enter York County, arriving in Paradise Township on Saturday, June 27 and camping near Big Mount. The next day, his men in two separate columns marched through Jackson, Dover, and West Manchester townships before arriving in the York vicinity (his largest column having also entered Manchester and Spring Garden (now Springettsbury) townships).
His command included four batteries of artillery, each with four cannon and accompanying ammunition limbers and caissons. Three of the batteries were from small towns in Virginia (Courtney, Charlottesville, and Staunton), while the fourth hailed from Louisiana. Each camped in a different area surrounding York, with one battery, the Courtney Artillery, firing forty rounds during the Skirmish of Wrightsville on Sunday evening, June 28. On Tuesday, June 30, the same battery unlimbered in Jackson Township on the Henry Ramer farm and aimed southward, after hearing the echoing sounds of the Battle of Hanover.
Early’s four batteries were not the only artillery that passed through or camped in York County during the Gettysburg Campaign. Major General J.E.B. Stuart‘s cavalry division had a few guns as well; field pieces that fired considerable rounds in southwestern York County during the June 30 Battle of Hanover. Later that day, these batteries clattered through southern and western York County, passing through several townships before camping outside of Dover. In at least two cases, the guns unlimbered and pointed at oncoming Union patrols (once at Jefferson and again at Dover). At least two guns unlimbered at the intersection of Harmony Grove Road and Carlisle Road north of Dover. Finally, these artillerymen camped northeast of Dillsburg.
It was not far from one of these known campsites that the canister balls and shell were discovered many years after the Civil War. Perhaps they were inadvertently left by the Rebels? Or, perhaps they had a different origin. In any event, I was thankful that a local person allowed me to photograph these interesting relics.
Metal detecting is a fascinating and wonderful hobby, one that my father and I enjoyed at times when I was much younger. Dad and I found old coins and other fun things, but we were never near any Civil War sites. As a reminder, never enter private property anywhere here in York County to treasure hunt or search for old relics without the express permission of the land owner.
Do you have artifacts from the Civil War? What are they, and how did you obtain them? If you are willing to share them with the Cannonball readership, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may, of course, remain anonymous should you so desire.