Part of the USA Today Network

Civil War Voices: Part 6 – Newspapermen stop presses, enlist in Army

– Excerpted from ‘Civil War Voices from York County’

Some businesses, their ranks thinned as employees marched off to war, curtailed or suspended operations.

The Star, a newspaper in Wrightsville, was one of those to close its doors.
Its competitor across the Susquehanna River, the Columbia Spy, later recounted that the suspension of the rival paper lasted “for four years, caused by the whole printing corps going into the Army.”

One of them, Lt. Robert W. Smith Jr., of the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves, would be mortally wounded at Second Bull Run. He was the son and namesake of the Star‘s owner.

“The Star corps has done its share towards crushing the rebellion,” the Spy added.

Not to be outdone, editor/owner Samuel Wright of the Spy sold his paper in 1863 and also joined the army.


Dillsburg, a bustling village along the old State Road between York and Carlisle, responded well to President Lincoln’s requests for troops.

Of its 66 able-bodied men between 21 and 45, all but nine (mostly conscientious objectors) eventually entered the Union army.

In the spring of 1861, Samuel N. Bailey, a former state representative and justice of the peace, led the first group of volunteers to York to enlist. They became part of the 12th Pennsylvania Reserves, and Bailey eventually reached the rank of colonel before illness sidelined him.

Some of the other early responders from the Dillsburg region headed for Mechanicsburg, where they joined the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves. The men, though in different regiments, often fought side by side during the war.

Eight of those Dillsburg soldiers would be killed in combat or die of disease, including Jacob Koontz, Alexander McKeever, and William W. Arnold. Four other men would suffer serious wounds.

McKeever had moved from Dillsburg to Bird-in-Hand in Lancaster County to become an apprentice carpenter. He was “the only support for his parents thanks to an alcoholic father.”

He joined the army and died from a gunshot to the forehead at Fredericksburg in December.

Read these and more than 200 other interesting Civil War stories in the new book by Scott L. Mingus, Sr. and James McClure, Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.: Remembering the Rebellion and the Gettysburg Campaign. It’s available from most bookstores in the York – Gettysburg area, as well as directly from the authors ( Copies may also be purchased on-line from