Civil War Voices: Part 9 – Threat of Rebel raids casts fear over border counties
– Excerpted from ‘Civil War Voices from York County’
In late June, the first hostile shots in the region were fired in southern York County.
Little is known of the incident other than some sketchy newspaper accounts.
“Intelligence has also been received here that the workmen engaged in preparing the ground for a new camp near the Maryland line, at New Freedom, York County, were fired on by a body of Maryland Rebels, and two severely wounded,” a Harrisburg correspondent reported.
For the next few years, residents of the border counties of southcentral Pennsylvania –specifically York, Adams, and Franklin — would live in fear as reports trickled in that Rebel raiding parties were approaching.
Often these rumors were mere fantasy. But on a few occasions, Confederates would appear in the Keystone State.
York resident Mary C. Fisher noted, “Unprotected by military force, with no natural barrier between the seceding and the loyal States, the exaggerated rumors and the constant suspense were appalling in the early days of the deadly struggle.”
She added, “But soon familiarized to the life we became indifferent to the danger.”
The Philadelphia Press warned against complacency, “There is a danger that having been so frequently alarmed by reports of previous raids which have proved unfounded, our people may allow themselves to rest in a false sense of security.”
On July 4, with the original three-month units facing the end of their terms of enlistment, the U.S. Congress authorized a call for 500,000 fresh troops.
Passing soldiers had little doubt of York’s outward support for the military. In mid-July, the 12th New York State Militia returned home by train from Baltimore after its three-month term expired.
“The old flag was flying from church, schoolhouse, work-shop and private house,” one soldier recounted as the train passed through York, “The men, women and children ran out to meet us and gave us cheer, until we were hoarse and tired in answering them.”