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Early’s Raid – The Rebels Arrive in York

Confederate troops from Georgia haul down York’s huge flag in this Lewis Miller sketch, courtest of YCHT. York became the largest town in the North to be occupied by the Confederates. It was one of more than fifty such towns and villages in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to see Rebels marching through the streets during the summer of 1863.
In several previous posts, we have looked at the Confederate invasion of York through the eyes of resident M. L. Van Barman, in an account not fully republished since 1911. Backgrounds posts: Introduction, Jubal Early arrives in Gettysburg, The Rebels Approach York, Farquhar Steps Up, York “Surrenders” at Farmers.
I cannot imagine what it would be like for an enemy army to march through the streets of your hometown, and then to physically occupy it. Millions of people throughout history have experienced such events, sometimes with horribly tragic results. Some time ago, I studied the Roman occupation of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, one of the more brutal occupations. York would be spared any significant damage, and women and children would not be molested as terms of an agreement offered to York’s delegation by John B. Gordon at Farmers, PA. In this case, the opposing army would enter town peacefully and no civilians would be injured or killed, unlike some places in Indiana and Ohio visited a few weeks later by Rebel raiders under John Hunt Morgan.
Here is the continuation of M. L. Van Barman’s eyewitness account of Jubal Early’s raid…

“Sunday morning, June 28, the sun rose high in the clear sky over our peaceful borough. Groups of persons could be seen in eager and anxious discussion in and around Centre Square, while many others were on their way to the various churches, and the church bells were ringing in accustomed manner. About 10 o’clock a cloud of dust could be rising out on the Gettysburg pike and an occasional bugle blast could be heard, indicating the approach of the Confederates. Then the citizens fully realized that their homes would be at the mercy of the armed invaders and [they] were in the greatest dread of the consequences.
It took but a short time for them to arrive in the square, with General Gordon at their head. Along the curbing, on porches and boxes, in every direction, could be seen the tired and not very presentable troops, sitting or resting.
In the Centre Square were two market sheds , extending east and west. In the center was a large flag staff upon which floated the Stars and Stripes. General Gordon immediately ordered the lowering of the flag, and then proceeded on his way to Wrightsville, expecting to cross into Lancaster county and beyond over the bridge at said place, but upon his arrival he found the bridge on fire and partially destroyed on the Wrightsville side, sufficient to check his advance. During this time, the Confederates were continually arriving in York and vicinity.”
In the next installment, Jubal Early will inform York of his terms of occupation, in effect ransoming the town in exchange for the promise of safety.