Eat, drink, and be merry!
A view looking north at what in 1863 was the Henry Fishel farm just east of Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania. This was among the scores of farms in Adams and York counties visited in the Gettysburg Campaign by Elijah V. White’s 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry (later nicknamed the “Comanches” for their war cries). The Rebels burned the railroad bridge over Fishel Creek (seen in the upper center). CLICK TO ENLARGE these photos for a better look at the farm.
Lt. Col. Elijah White’s men split off from John Gordon’s Confederate brigade shortly after leaving Gettysburg on June 26, 1863. They had stolen dozens of horses at Gettysburg, became drunk on local whiskey, and killed an Adams County cavalryman, George Washington Sandoe. They “widely scattered” upon leaving Gettysburg on the 27th, with some of the battalion accompanying Gordon as far as Abbottstown on the turnpike (now U.S. 30) before turning southward to Hanover. Others followed the railroad, burning bridges and heading into McSherrystown. Evidence exists that at least part of the battalion took Hanover Road (today’s S.R. 116) to reach McSherrystown and then Hanover (horses were stolen along the way from farms on 116). Later, they raided Hanover Junction and some visited Seven Valleys.
Here is one of their stories from their afternoon of merriment at the expense of York Countians…
The old Henry Fishel farmhouse is on the left in this photo. Hundreds of houses dating from the Civil War still exist in York County, and the movements of various Confederate columns (and Yankees) can be traced through these sources. Henry Fishel was born September 22, 1819, in Springfield Township in York County, Pennsylvania. About 1849, he married Leah Geiselman. They would have nine children, eight of whom had been born by the time White’s men paid a visit to their prosperous farm and distillery. Their names were Elmira J., Christianna, William H., Purd, George Henry. Franklin, Sarah Catherine, Mary Henrietta, who was only three when White came calling. The ninth child, John Calvin Fishel, would be born after the war in 1869.
From Seven Valleys, “Lige” White sent a patrol (possibly of company strength) to follow the railroad to burn bridges. They doused the Fishel Creek railroad bridge in coal oil (which apparently had been brought in wagons along with the cavalry, as more than a dozen bridges were fired on June 26 by White’s detachments after leaving Gettysburg). Someone lit a match, the wooden bridge went up in flames.
Some of the Confederate horsemen stopped at the Henry Fishel farm to confiscate a large supply of homemade rye whiskey. Breaking open the locked door of Fishel’s distillery room, merry Rebels drank their fill before an officer intervened. They destroyed the remaining forty-two barrels of spirits by smashing in the barrelheads and allowing $1,200 worth of alcohol to pour onto the floor. After the war, Fishel filed a damage claim with the government, but did not receive his desired recompense.
Another view of what the Henry Fishel farm looks like today. My little grandson is fascinated by cows, especially black ones, and he just loves visiting farms and staring at the cattle.
White’s men rode as far north as the Howard Tunnel, which they found “heavily guarded” by Union militia. Patrols stole more horses, then relayed the news to White that Yankees guarded the Howard Tunnel and a small bridge near Reynolds Mill, as well as a much longer one north of Brillhart Station. White decided not to attack these bridges, instead leaving them for Colonel William H. French’s 17th Virginia Cavalry to burn the following day. He ordered his men to return to Jefferson, while sending one company four miles south to destroy a 50-foot-long Northern Central Railway bridge near Glen Rock. This detachment appropriated more mules and horses along the way back, including farmer Jeremiah Krebs’ prize gray stallion.
Twenty-three-year-old Captain Franklin M. Myers, the commander of Company A, later wrote about the typical horses his company “procured” from the locals in Adams and York counties, “Next day (referring to the June 27 raid into York County) was passed in scouting and gathering up horses, supposed from their fat, sleek appearance, to be fit for service, but no greater mistake was ever committed, for a Southern cavalry horse , after being completely broken down, could travel farther and better than the fine-looking steeds just from a Pennsylvania stable, and many a man bitterly repented him of exchanging his poor old horse for a new one, even if he got a watch to boot.”
Quoted from Frank M. Myer’s classic book, The Comanches: A History of White’s Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, 1871.
Stealing watches was relatively common, and I have found dozens of such accounts in York County alone. More than 1,000 horses were taken by the Confederate cavalry from Yorkers between June 26 and July 1, 1863.
Captain Myers also briefly noted the brief military engagement at Hanover Junction, “The battalion marched to Hanover Junction, where there had been about eight hundred [sic: actually perhaps 200 at the junction itself] Yankee infantry, but who retired to their fortifications, about two miles off, as the “Comanches” advanced, nor did the latter deem it prudent to attack them; so after some skirmishing with them a short time they passed by and encamped for the night…”
His terse prose is one of the very few Confederate accounts of the raid on Hanover Junction that I have seen.
Perhaps there are more out there???
For more posts on the Confederate damage to the Northern Central Railway, see these posts:
Destruction of Fishel’s Bridge
Rebels destroy the Codorus Bridge (Black Bridge)
Fire on the Conewago