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Civil War vets held ceremony on 50th anniversary of Rebel occupation of York

Lewis Miller sketch of the 31st Georgia as it marched into York (YCHC)
Lewis Miller sketch of the 31st Georgia as it marched into York (YCHC)

On Sunday morning, June 28, 1863, Confederate Brigadier General John Brown Gordon and more than 2,000 veteran Georgia infantrymen and Virginia cavalrymen and artillerymen marched eastward on the Gettysburg turnpike into York, Pennsylvania. York would be the largest Northern town to fall to the Confederate army during the entire Civil War. After Gordon’s dusty columns continued out of town toward Wrightsville, his commanding officer, Major General Jubal A. Early, arrived from the north through Emigsville with the bulk of his division, more than 4,000 additional Confederates from Louisiana (the famed Louisiana Tigers), Virginia, and North Carolina. Early’s men would occupy York until the morning of June 30, when they would retrace their steps back toward Gettysburg, where they would fight a pitched three-day battle over a small town that they had already seized and then abandoned.

Fifty years later, the York post of the Grand Army of the Potomac, the leading Union veterans association, held a commemorative service to recall the Rebel occupation of York and the subsequent battle of Gettysburg.

Here is the story, as written in the June 25, 1913, edition of the York Daily newspaper (a forerunner to the York Dispatch).

This Lewis Miller sketch shows Brig. Gen. John Gordon's Confederates lowering the massive US flag in the town square of York PA on Sunday, June 28, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign. (YCHC)
This Lewis Miller sketch shows Brig. Gen. John Gordon’s Confederates lowering the massive US flag in the town square of York PA on Sunday, June 28, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign. (YCHC)

York G.A.R. Service

To Be Held in Observance of Fiftieth Anniversary of Early’s Invasion

“The members of General John Sedgwick post, No. 37, Grand Army of the Republic, will observe the 50th anniversary of the occupancy of York by the confederate troops under the command of General Early on June 28, 1863, and of the battle of Gettysburg by holding a service in the First Presbyterian church, East Market and Queen streets, the Rev. John Ellery Tuttle, pastor, next Sunday evening at 7 o’clock.

“This service will be attended by about 100 members of General Sedgwick post, who will have as their guests the members of Companies A and K, Eighth Regiment, National Guard of Pennsylvania; Company A, Sixth Battalion, Sons of Veterans Reserves, and the ladies auxiliaries of the several military organizations of York. An invitation is also extended to any veterans of the Civil war who may be in this city while en route to Gettysburg to attend the ceremonies at that place next week.

“The two National Guard companies will assemble at the armory, East Maple street, next Sunday evening at 6:15 o’clock in full dress uniform. Company A will be in charge of Captain W. H. Baublitz, the commanding officer, and Company K will likely be in charge of First Lieutenant Thomas Jones, owing to the commanding officer, Captain W. W. Van Baman, being out of the city.

“The members of General Sedgwick post will meet at the post hall, West Market and Penn streets, at 6:30 o’clock and will march to the church. On their way to the church the veterans will march over part of the route covered by General Early and his men when they entered this city 50 years ago. The Sons of Veterans and the ladies will also go to the church in a body.

“The service will begin at 7 o’clock and will consist of an address by the pastor, Dr. Tuttle, and a number of special selections by the choir of the church, under the direction of Arthur Bates Jennings, chorister. The committee of General John Sedgwick post who arranged the service is composed of Comrades William A. Cook, E. L. Schroeder and Joseph R. Gross.”

A couple days after the stirring service, the members of the Sedgwick GAR post traveled west to Gettysburg and took up temporary residence in tents between 100 and 200 Seventh Avenue in the grand encampment of Civil War veterans commemorating the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg.

More on that in my next post.

To learn more on the Rebel occupation of York, pick up a copy of Jim McClure’s very interesting book, East of Gettysburg: A Gray Shadow Crosses York County, Pa., or our two co-authored books, Civil War Voices from York County, Pa. and Echoing Still: More Civil War Voices from York County, Pa. These and several other pertinent local Civil War books can be obtained in the gift shop of the York County History Center, 250 E. Market Street, in downtown York. Members receive a special discount.

East of Gettysburg McClure