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Did you know? 150 Civil War facts about York County, Pa.: Part 7


91. After the battle of Gettysburg more than 11,000 wounded men were taken via railroad through York County to various hospitals in the North. More than 2,000 spent some time in the U.S. Army Hospital in York. However, the surgeon in charge, Dr. Henry Palmer, had been captured earlier in the campaign by the Confederates, who also camped in his hospital and left it filled with lice and other degradations. Palmer refused treatment to some 200 wounded Rebels who arrived on the trains from Gettysburg. Instead, civilian doctors treated them in the Odd Fellows Hall on S. George Street. Five Southerners died and are buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery. Their identities remain unknown.

92. Also during the Gettysburg Campaign, a soldier’s body washed up on the western riverbank of the Susquehanna on River Road about a mile north of Glatz’s Ferry (now the Accomac Inn).  His accoutrements suggested he was a Confederate cavalryman, perhaps a scout who drowned in the river, a deserter, or a gunshot victim from a skirmish which occurred just upstream between York Haven and Bainbridge. Various markers over the years have designated his grave, but its likely his residual bones washed away when runoff from Hurricane Agnes obliterated the riverbank in 1972.

93. Thirty-two Union dead from the Battle of Gettysburg who perished in York’s Army Hospital are buried in a circle in Prospect Hill Cemetery along with other victims from throughout the war.

94. Peace Democrats and other alleged Southern sympathizers were often derisively deemed as “Copperheads” by their opponents. As the Confederates marched into downtown York on Sunday, June 28, 1863, several residents reportedly waved handkerchiefs at them as a sign of greeting and others asked for buttons from the uniform coats of officers as a momento. Dr. Charles M. Nes, a prominent surgeon and son of a deceased U.S. congressman was accused of entertaining enemy officers in his home. One resident, Cassandra Morris Small, wrote to her cousin that a line had been drawn in society between those who welcomed the invaders and those who were loyalists.

95. The Northern Central Railway ran a spur from York to Wrightsville which connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad using the Columbia Bridge. Like the main line of the NCRW, this spur proved profitable during the war years as the Union army shipped supplies, food, equipment, and other freight down to Baltimore for reshipment to the storage depots. In 1863 alone, the NCRW scored reported freight earnings of $12,934.03 from the Wrightsville spur, a significant increase from pre-war levels. The Confederates targeted the spur during their marches between York and Wrightsville, destroying every bridge.

96. At the start of the war in April 1861, the army transported tens of thousands of soldiers on the Northern Central Railway down to Baltimore. The NCRW charged the government two cents a soldier per mile traveled. Adding in the receipts for munitions carried on the line, the NCRW’s gross receipts from Uncle Sam for the year were a whopping $336, 835.49 (equivalent to more than nine million in today’s dollars using the consumer price index). Packages sent from home to the new soldiers via Adams Express jumped more than $10,000 from the pre-war level. By the way, according to railroad officials, this net increase in revenue from the war relieved “the company from its financial embarassments. For the first time in many years, the Stockholders can see their way clear, and in a short time receive a return for their investments.” It took the Civil War to return the Northern Central to financial solvency.

97. Shortly after the Pratt Street riots in downtown Baltimore on April 1861, rumors spread in Hanover that a gang of noted pro-secessionist toughs from Maryland planned to raid the town. Many nervous residents sported weapons and it was not unusual that April to see people sitting on their porches with hunting rifles. Despite the fears, no rowdies appeared and eventually Hanover’s citizens went about their normal business without incident from Southern intruders. That would change, of course, two years later when elements the Confederate cavalry arrived.

98. According to research Dennis Brandt, as Jim McClure has pointed out, “About 5,000 local men served in the Union Army, with a handful in the Confederate Army. The casualties of those with county ties mounted as the war plodded on: 375 captured, 700 wounded and more than 600 dead. About 4,000 vets are buried in county cemeteries. Another 250 locals are buried in national cemeteries across the nation, and three perished at sea on their way home from the war.”

99. On the home front, the deaths of many of these soldiers deprived families of their husband, father, and breadwinner, leaving some people destitute and in some cases, leaving children as orphans. So many in fact that the town needed to construct  an orphanage, the Children’s Home of York.

100. A mill in Manheim Township was a significant source of woolen blankets for the Union army. Located near Brodbecks and Glenville, the Codorus Woolen Mill remained in operation for more than a century after the war. It had been established back in 1790 shortly after the American Revolution. Other factories produced leather goods, railcars, and other supplies for the military.

101. Famed war heroes General Ulysses S. Grant and Admiral David Farragut visited York shortly after the war in September 1866. They were accompanying President Andrew Johnson, who had assumed office following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. As far as if known, this was the first visit to York County for any of the trio. Johnson went on to make a speech from the balcony of a local hotel. Grant would return to York County in 1868 as president; he was on his way to Gettysburg. He stopped in Hanover and praised the performance of army commanders at the 1863 battle.

102. Michael P. Small of York was an 1855 graduate of West Point. He became a brevet brigadier general in the Union army in recognition for his Civil War service. He held several important posts in the commissary and quartermaster department in both the Western Theater and Eastern Theater, and became noted for his grasp of logistics. Early in the war, Phil Sheridan, later a famed cavalry general, deemed Small as “an invaluable assistant” and praised him for “putting things into shape.” After the war Small stayed in the army and served in California, Arizona, and Texas.

103. Among the earliest York County volunteers to the Union army at the start of the Civil War were several militia groups which had been established before the war. Groups such as the York Rifles and Worthington Infantry in York and similar organizations such as the Hanover Infantry and Marion Rifles in Hanover and elsewhere came into the army already with some concept of military structure and protocol, and many of the men already knew how to handle a weapon and had an idea of martial drills.

104. In 1862, as the need for fresh soldiers dramatically increased with all of the casualties in the Shenandoah Valley and in the Peninsula Campaign, as well as out west at Shiloh and elsewhere, states and towns turned to offering cash bounties to attract new recruits. In July 1862, the York’s borough council designated $2,500 of civic funds to provide a $25 bounty for 1,000 proposed volunteers. The county commissioners soon followed suit, raising $15,000 to tack on an additional $50 bounty for men from throughout the county. Some men, in an era where identities could be hidden rather easily, signed up for the service multiple times under different names, deserting when they had a chance to keep the charade going.

105. Later in the war, particularly after the U.S. Department of War instituted a draft, men could avoid the service by paying $300 which would be used as a bounty for a substitute t take their spot. President Lincoln himself, as a show of support for the concept, hired his own substitute. A handful of the substitutes from York County perished in the war.