Dover Township farmer hit twice by the Rebels
On June 28, 1863, nearly 3,500 Confederate soldiers of three brigades of Major General Jubal A. Early‘s division marched past this sturdy brick farmhouse on Davidsburg Road in Dover Township. Discipline was tight in the ranks, and no one broke ranks to raid the farmhouses along the way. Early’s Division followed Davidsburg Road to Carlisle Road (today’s Route 74) at Weigelstown and then headed on country roads eastward to George Street (then the Harrisburg Pike).
There is no record if the owner of the farmhouse, John F. Bowersox, was home as Early’s road-weary column tramped past his home.
For Mr. Bowersox, his troubles were only beginning…
On Monday, June 29, 1863, General Early sent patrols from the 17th Virginia Cavalry throughout Dover and West Manchester townships to collect fresh horses and mules. One patrol trotted down Davidsburg Road and reached the intersection with Admire Road. There, the soldiers entered John Bowersox’s barn (located where the newer barn is now) and haltered his 5-year-old bay horse. They led it away, adding it to the growing number of York County horsed impressed into Confederate service.
Because Confederate cavalrymen had to supply their own horses (unlike the Union Army, where the government furnished horses for the troopers), the Southerners resorted to foraging for fresh horses when their mounts (or their friends’) played out. The Rebels took individual “ownership” of the stolen horses.
Two days later, on Wednesday July 1, while the Battle of Gettysburg was raging in the adjoining county, patrols from J.E.B. Stuart’s three brigades of Rebel cavalry scoured Dover Township for any remaining horses. Farmers who had thought the threat was over with Early’s departure into Adams County were stunned to wake up to find more than 4,000 new Confederates in their midst.
For John Bowersox, Stuart’s visit meant the loss of yet another horse – a 9-year-old bay mare. The farmer, a prominent member of Union Church in nearby Shiloh, later asked the government for $125 for the mare lost to Stuart and $150 for the dark bay horse taken by the 17th Virginia.
Bowersox (from the German surname “Bauersachs”) came from an old-line Berks County family who had moved to York County early in the 18th century. He was born on March 17,1809, in Hanover and christened April 28, 1809, in St. David’s (Sherman’s) Lutheran Church. By the 1840 census, he had moved to Conewago Township and he and his wife Catherine were raising a large family of six children. By 1850, he had moved to the Dover Township farm hit by the Rebels a decade later, and a seventh child had been born. His property was valued at $6,000 in the 1850 U.S. Census. He died a few years after the war and is buried in Lenhart’s (or Gerber’s) Cemetery in Dover.
Just up Admire Road from Bowersox’s farmhouse was the Zeigler property, which, like many other York County farms, had a prominent springs in the yard. The stone spring house appears to date from the Civil War, and it is likely Confederate troops refilled their canteens here. Zeigler did not report losing any horses to the Rebels, and may have been among those prudent residents who took their livestock to Lancaster County for safety in the days before the Rebels arrived.
I ride by the old Bowersox and Zeigler farms most evenings on my way home from work, and the Civil War stories come to life when I see the remaining structures, which, like hundreds of other York County houses, have stories to tell of a time only a few generations ago when Rebels marched throughout the county in search of provisions and horses. Some older York County residents knew the farmers whose properties were raided, and these stories are still fresh and vibrant.
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