Part of the USA Today Network

Confederate foragers scour York County

A lone Confederate supply wagon passes down a back country road somewhere in York County, trailing a patrol of Virginia cavalry who are going from farm to farm seeking forage, supplies, food, and, perhaps most importantly, fresh horses and mules. From a Civil War diorama / 15mm wargaming layout by Scott Mingus.
Maj. Gen. Jubal Early stripped his division of its encumbrances for the march from Greenwood, Pennsylvania (just west of South Mountain on the Chambersburg Pike). He left behind all his wagons loaded with tents, supplies, personal baggage, and non-essentials, leaving each regiment with an ambulance and a cooking wagon, as well as extra ammunition. What he did bring along was a vast train of empty wagons to be filled with the plunder he took from the region. The materiel would be sent back to the Old Dominion and used for future military needs. Few wagons returned empty, as Early’s men, particularly his cavalry, were very efficient in scouring the county for these supplies. Here are some of their stories…

George and John B. Rutter owned a large Manchester Township farm not far from the campsite of a portion of Early’s Brigade, in particular the Louisiana Tigers. A foraging patrol raided the prosperous farm, taking a horse, three mules, several harnesses, halters, collars, traces, and a wagon whip and riding saddle. Perhaps emboldened with York County whiskey, the Confederates took other personal property and wantonly destroyed it. The Rutters did not leave any compensation or a receipt, nor did they ever collect from the Federal government.
Not far away was a grist mill owned by Josiah Myers. Perhaps the same group of Rebels paid a visit to it. They broke into the locked building and ransacked the place. They filled a wagon with fifteen bushels of corn, fifteen large bags of processed meal, and for good measure, swiped eight barrels of stone ground flour. Again, Mr. Myers was left cleaning up the damage and rueing his reduced inventory.
Foraging parties roamed as far south as Glen Rock, and a few records indicate at least one patrol was active in southeastern York County as far as McCall’s Ferry. Hanover, Seven Valleys, Jefferson, Pine Grove, Nashville, Spring Grove, Farmers, Bottstown, Emigsville, Weigelstown, Manchester, Mout Wolf, York Haven,,, the list of places known to have been visited by Early’s cavalry patrols is extensive. And, the infantry did its fair share of foraging as well, particularly the Louisiana Tigers stationed north of town on Diehl’s Hill and the Virginia brigade of “Extra Billy” Smith, encamped farther north near Emigsville on the road to Harrisburg.
In Hanover, Virginians and Marylanders freely entered shops and warehouses, searching for supplies, food, cutlery, and clothing, often paying with worthless Confederate scrip. Elijah V. White’s men stuffed their saddlebags, but most of the apparel and dry goods had previously been sent out of town. Soldiers pillaged Heiman’s Clothing, as the storeowner had neglected to send his stock away to safety. Other cavalrymen ransacked Wintrode’s Hotel, breaking open cabinets and forcing the safe. Luckily, the nearby Hanover Savings Bank was empty, having sent off all its assets days before. Rebels accosted carriage maker A. N. Michael, commandeering his 9-year-old roan as well as his saddle and bridle. Michael walked dejectedly home.
In downtown Mount Wolf, one party of men from Colonel William French’s 17th Virginia ransacked George H. Wolf’s store and cut down nearby telegraph poles. Another group stole four mules, two horses, a colt, harnesses, and halters from a Manchester Township farm. Still others accosted a young couple out for a carriage ride and, at gunpoint, took the man’s wallet for a little spending money.
Warfare can bring out the best and worst in men, and most Confederates were well behaved and at least followed procedure in paying for their requisitions with Confederate money, leaving a receipt in some cases. The “bad boys” were to be found in both armies, and some York Countians were robbed of horses and supplies by the Pennsylvania militia that guarded the county or by the Union Army of the Potomac as elements passed through the southwestern part of the county.
Do any of our readers have in their possession any old Confederate receipts, money, promissary notes that were left with ancestors? What about those infamous “golden tickets” that many York Countians bought from con artists who claimed the tickets would guarantee that the foragers would leave their property alone in case of an invasion? Send me an e-mail if you have any of these items and would allow them to be photographed for the local historical society?