Confederate cavalry raid farms along Bull Road near York
The photograph, taken in the 1920s by a field survey team for the U.S. government, is part of a series of old pictures of York County that are now housed in the collection of the Library of Congress.
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s CSA cavalry camped around Dover, Pennsylvania, in the wee early morning hours of July 1, 1863. Patrols were sent out throughout the region to gather forage, supplies, and, most importantly to riders whose mounts were played out, fresh horses. Some York County farmers took great measures to hide their horses, while others mistakedly believed the Rebs would not come near their farms.
The photo shows a typical York County barn, one near Bull Road (north of today’s U.S. Route 30 and Church Road). Historians are aware of several farms along Bull Road that were visited by at least one Confederate cavalry patrol, perhaps systematically. Several horses were seized in this area, including perhaps from this very barn. One can imagine looking at the old black-and-white picture that this scene would have been familiar to Stuart’s cavaliers-turned-horse-thieves (in their defense, some Rebels did at least pay for their procurements with Confederate scrip or promissary notes).
Here’s one such story (derived from an article I wrote for a past issue of the Gettysburg Magazine): “At one of the Meisenhelder farms on Bull Road, Rebels missed several fine draft horses which were concealed under a large apple tree with branches that hung to the ground, providing good cover. The animals were gagged, and a farmer used a fly brush to keep them from stomping their feet and attracting attention.”
Several farmers along Bull, Church, and Canal roads were victimized, and more than 100 horses were taken from the region east and southeast of the village of Dover. Debi and I live in a subdevelopment located on one such farm visited by the Confederate cavalry in 1863, although there is no record the “Johnnies” found anything of value on the property. Perhaps the owner, like many other York Countians, had taken his horses into hiding, or had taken them across the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge to safety in Lancaster County.