Early’s Raid – an eyewitness account
Over the next week or so, I will present the text of an old article that appeared in a now-defunct newspaper, the Gettysburg Compiler, regarding the Confederate occupation of York. A significant portion of the account is from a York resident who was interviewed just days after the raid by a correspondent. His description is a nice summary of the key events as Jubal Early took possession of York. The last week of June 1863 was a trying time for most Pennsylvanians, many of whom simply wanted to be left alone. Few had expected the Civil War to come to their doorsteps.
We start with an early 20th Century reporter’s summation of the newspaper’s 1863 status, especially with an enemy army openly operating in the general region and more troops perhaps on the way… Here is the opening paragraph from the June 28, 1911, Gettysburg Compiler.
“Gen. Early came to Gettysburg on Friday, June 26, on his expedition to reach the bridge at Columbia and crossing it to attack Harrisburg. He left Gettysburg on the way to York on Saturday, June 27. The following Monday was publication day for the Compiler and with the town between Early’s troops and the main body of the enemy, the publisher of a paper had to be careful in handling the situation for if offense should be given or feelings stirred up, a publisher rmight be made to suffer and his property destroyed. The publisher of the Compiler handled the situation rather boldly, calling the invaders rebels and hoping they would be overtaken and punished. The following extracts from the Compiler of June 29, 1863 show how the situation was handled.” To be continued…
The Civil War-era Pennsylvania and Maryland newsmen did have legitimate cause for concern. When Albert Jenkins’ mounted infantry rode through Waynesboro, PA, earlier in the week, a few men dismounted and entered the offices of the Village Record. They smashed equipment, ransacked and trashed the office, and jumbled up all the individual type, which was normally kept meticulously separated by letter of the alphabet, printing font or style, and type size. It would be weeks before that paper could resume normal publication.
It is not known when the Compiler‘s publisher may have become aware of the vandalism in Waynesboro, nor when (or if) their fellow newsmen in York and Hanover received word of the destruction, but the fears about Southern suppression of the local press had some foundation.
Newspapers in the period were often inflammatory and highly biased, often strongly associated with a particular political party and serving as an unofficial (and sometimes official) mouthpiece for the local politicians. The publishers were often very much in league with local politicians, and many communities (including Gettysburg and York) had multiple papers that reflected vastly divergent views. The Compiler was a Democratic-oriented paper, often in sharp opposition to the more Republican-slanted Adams County Star and Sentinel.