Part of the USA Today Network

Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon (Library of Congress)

Early’s Raid – Farquhar steps up!

With the Confederates threatening in late June 1863, York’s civic officials and other leading citizens took action.

Among them was Arthur Briggs Farquhar, a young man not yet 25, who owned a fledgling agricultural implement company in York. Impetuous and full of energy, Farquhar had ridden down into Maryland in September 1862 to meet an old classmate, Confederate general Fitzhugh Lee. Farquhar, a Marylander by birth, before the war had attended school in Virginia with Lee. They discussed ways to ensure that Farquhar’s business would be spared should the Rebels invade Pennsylvania and enter York. Luckily, that threat had not materialized.
Now, nearly a year later, as the Rebel vanguard marched eastward from Gettysburg along today’s Route 30, the impulsive Farquhar again trusted his instincts that he could again intervene.

Here is the latest installment of York resident M.L. Van Barman’s article that first appeared in the Gettysburg Compiler nearly a century ago.

“On Saturday morning, the 27th of June, it was known for a certainty that the Confederates were on their way toward York and beyond. Prominent and influential citizens of our borough met in the counting room of Messrs. P.A. & S. Small’s hardware store for consultation and to devise means for the protection of our people. David Small was chief burgess during this time. He with Messrs. Samuel Small, Sr., W. Latimer Small, George Hay, Thomas E. Cochran (one of York’s most prominent attorneys during this period…) and Thomas White, and others I don’t recall, were constituted a committee of safety. This meeting was called together about 8 o’clock in the morning, and was in consultation during the entire day.

“Our worthy townsman, A. B. Farquhar, impulsive and full of vigor (characteristics that were very essential at this time), took the initiative at this own responsibility and drove out the Gettysburg pike early on this Saturday morning to enter the enemy’s lines and make sure of their intention. He drove into their lines a short distance beyond Abbottstown and inquired for the commanding officers. He was escorted to the presence of General John B. Gordon, who was in command of a brigade of General Jubal Early’s division of Ewell’s corps. In a conversation with Generals Gordon and Early, he was given a written article of agreement in which it was stated that upon their entering into York and its vicinity, they would refrain from destroying private property and not molest women and children in their occupation, but would expect a contribution of money and maintenance while there.

“He [Farquhar] thereupon hastened his return to York and at once visited the committee that was in session in the counting rooms of Messrs. P.A. & S. Small, where he produced his communication with the assurance of its contents. Mr. Cochran, who was present, spoke up. ‘This is too good to be true.’ Mr. Farquhar insisted that a committee be appointed authoritatively to go out to meet the Confederates and enter into a definite and official understanding. This was agreed to at once. Messrs. David Small, George Hay, Thomas White, and Mr. Farquhar constituted this committee.”

With that blessing, the quartet piled into a carriage and headed westward along the dusty turnpike towards the oncoming Confederate force. It must have been an anxious ride for the committeemen, as they literally held York’s destiny in their hands, depending upon how the negotiations went. Farquhar’s impetuous act had no authority, but it had paved the way for this delegation to officially work with the Rebels on a contract of safety.

In my next installment, Van Barman recounts in 1911 what occurred nearly fifty years before when Farquhar and his comrades came face to face with John Brown Gordon at the tiny hamlet of Farmers, a nondescript place described by one Southern colonel as being nothing more than a pair of small stores.