Cannonball

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Civil War Voices: Part 10 – History’s children march through York

– Excerpted from ‘Civil War Voices from York County’

Northern hopes for a quick end to the war disappeared on July 21, 1861, when Confederate forces stunned the Union army at Bull Run and sent the Yankees flying back to Washington, D.C.
Within days, thousands of new recruits headed for the North’s capital to bolster the ranks of Major General Irvin McDowell’s beaten army.
Descendants of two famous early Americans passed through York County on July 26 on their way to fortify the Union ranks.


Fletcher Webster, son of famed orator Daniel Webster, was the colonel of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry. He and his men were traveling southward through the county on the Northern Central toward Baltimore.
They paused at Glen Rock to eat their breakfast and load their muskets. They filled their canteens from a nearby spring.
It took five-and-a-half hours for the train to steam the 25 miles from Glen Rock to Hummelstown, Md. That was far longer than expected, so Webster became suspicious that the engineer could not be trusted.
Colonel Webster dismissed him and turned to a soldier in his regiment.
“Can you run this train to Baltimore?” he asked.
The soldier answered in the affirmative. He was Private Nathan L. Revere, grandson of the Boston silversmith who made the legendary midnight ride to warn patriots about the British approach at the start of the American Revolution.
Revere hopped into the locomotive, took the throttle, and safely guided the train through Secessionist territory down to Baltimore.
He made very good time.
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In August, the Rev. J.T. Bender addressed a gathering at Mount Pleasant Bethel Church of God near Siddonsburg in Monaghan Township.
His northwestern York County audience was the Independent Rifles of York County, who were awaiting their turn to head into harm’s way.
“Today we live in the midst of great events,” Bender lamented, “but a few months ago ours was a nation of peace and prosperity. Now the flash of bayonets, the thunder of musketry and cannon, the tread of thousands of Columbia’s sons marching to the sound of music, with hearts brave, and minds determined to repel the rebel forces, which have made battle against our institutions, announce in unmistakable language, that we are in the midst of war — a great and terrible war.”
Also concerned about the political divisions in the North, Bender twice warned, “We fear a compromising policy more than the enemy.”
The minister would come to know the anguish of war personally, losing two sons while serving in the Union army.