Early’s Raid – A Determined Businessman
1909 postcard showing the Codorus Creek and the modernized flour mill once owned by the prosperous firm of P.A. & S. Small. Reports on June 29, 1863, reached businessman Samuel Small, Jr. that the infamous Louisiana Tigers were destroying the operations and gumming up the mill race and equipment by dumping flour into the water.
How far would you go in wartime to protect your own private property, or that of your neighbors and friends? During Early’s Raid in 1863, local residents reacted in a mixture of ways that reflects the diversity of human emotions and personalities. Many Yorkers packed what they could and fled eastward to Lancaster County. Some of these refugees drove flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, horses, and other livestock and animals across the toll bridge over the Susquahanna to presumed safety.Other people hid their valuables and horses (and sometimes themselves as well) in woods, hollows, barns, and other hiding places in an attempt to escape detection from roving patrols of Confederate foragers.
A few bold residents confronted the Rebels and refused to allow them to steal property or livestock. Several men even insisted on personal audiences with leading Confederate generals, including Jubal Early, to ensure the safety of their property and possessions. M. L. Van Barman relates one such story.
“The amount paid the Confederates in food, etc., was eventually assumed by the borough authorities, by levying a special tax on property owners which took several years to realize, but was finally paid.
Samuel Small, Jr. bears the distinction of being the only native of York who served on the staff of General Early during the invasion. Unsolicited however, on the part of Mr. Small, this promotion came about through the following incident: The firm which he represented conducted a mill known as the Codorus Mill, some three or four miles [north]east of York. In this vicinity the famous Louisiana Tigers, which were a part of the command of General Early, were located. Mr. Small became apprised that this command was violating the agreement not to destroy private property. He immediately waited on General Early at the court house to remonstrate.
While passing through the corridor of the court house, he was halted by one of the guards stationed there, and he promptly asked to be shown to the headquarters of General Early. He related to the general what was being done and asked of the general that he should give him the necessary protection. The general stated that he would give him and order and a pass to proceed to the mill and have any depradations stopped. Mr. Small said that it would be more effectual if the general should send one of his own officers with the instructions. The general insisted, however, that [Small] should take a horse from one of the members of his staff and proceed to the mill. It was finally agreed that Mr. Small would go: providing he could use one of his own horses which he had secreted in a warehouse adjacent to the store and which he prized very much.
Mr. Small secured his horse from amidst barrels and boxes and proceeded out to the mills armed with the pass and order from General Early, which was his only means of defense. Some two miles from York on his way, he was halted by four cavalrymen who stated that he had the very horse they were looking for and attempted to take possession of the animal.
Mr, Small remonstrated and was only allowed to proceed when he produced the pass from General Early. He proceeded to the mill and accomplished his end by serving on the staff of General Early on this occasion.”
Would you or I have the courage during wartime to boldly walk into enemy headquarters, demand to see the commanding officer, persist in negotiating for the protection of your property, hop onto your prized horse when raiders were stealing every horse in sight, and then ride alone through the enemy-held countryside out to your property? Samuel Small, Jr. certainly had what the old-timers called “gumption.”