Famed Maryland saddle designer arrested in Hanover as Confederate courier
Military officer Walter H. Jenifer of Baltimore, Md., designed a type of saddle which sold well to both the Confederate and Union armies. However, it proved quite uncomfortable and was not easily adaptable. This image is from The Civil War Gazette.
Jenifer was the son of a former member of the U.S. Congress and minister to Austria, Col. Daniel Jenifer. His grandfather was a Founding Father of the U.S. and a member of the Constitutional Convention. Walter Jenifer entered West Point in 1841, but left to accept a commission as a lieutenant in the infantry. He later transferred to the cavalry, where he designed the saddle for which he is still known. His native Maryland did not secede, but Jenifer offered his services to the Confederacy anyway. He raised a company of cavalry and received a commission as a lieutenant colonel. He led a battalion in some of the war’s earliest battles.
However, before he joined the Confederate cause, he ran into some trouble in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Here is the story.
The following text is from the Southern Literary Messenger, Volume 34, page 599.
Captain Jenifer, a brave officer, born in Charles county, Maryland, had returned with his company from Texas to Carlisle Barracks, in Pennsylvania. Obtaining a brief leave of absence, he came to Baltimore, and was present on the day of the severe fight in the streets, when Northern troops passed through. Finding that if he continued in the Federal service he would be compelled to fight against the South, with whom were all his sympathies, he promptly resigned his commission, to take effect on the 30th of April; thus giving a brief interval for settlement of his accounts with the Government. He set out on his return to Carlisle, going part of the way on horseback, the railroad bridges having been burned.
At the small town of Hanover, in York county, Pennsylvania, he was arrested under orders from her Abolitionist Governor, Curtin, seconded by a mob, upon the pretence that he was the bearer of dispatches, or important information, designed for the South, He proposed to the Mayor of Hanover, that he should be searched, which was thoroughly done, and nothing adapted even to excite a suspicion was found on him. Nevertheless, his feet were bound with chains, and handcuffs were sent for, and it was only upon the indignant remonstrance of a Captain Eichelberger, of Hanover, who seems to have been the only decent man present, that these gross indignities were suspended.
Though entirely unarmed himself, he was carried by an armed guard to York, the county seat, and on Tuesday morning, the 23rd of April, he was locked in a cell in the common jail, and heavily ironed. Upon the earnest request of Lieutenant Wells, of the Navy, the irons were removed by order of Judge Fisher, but a few hours afterwards they were replaced by the sheriff, under direct instructions, by telegram, from Governor Curtin.
In the evening Captain Jenifer was released on parole, and the next day went to Harrisburg, had an interview with the Governor, and boldly told him all the facts. The only reply this narrow-hearted official made was, “these are exciting times, and we have to be on our guard,” with some expressions of regret at what had occurred.
After his release, and after closing his affairs with Lincoln’s Government, Captain Jenifer turned his back upon his cowardly persecutors, and readily obtained a commission in the Confederate Army. It was but just that under his command a Southern regiment afterwards inflicted a bloody retribution upon troops from the North.”
The Lieutenant Wells mentioned in the story was the same Clark Wells who later ruined York native Granville O. Haller’s career by accusing him of uttering treasonous sentiments against the government. Haller, who led the defense of Adams and York counties in the Gettysburg Campaign, spent years trying to restore his reputation.
Eichelberger is A.W. Eichelberger, president of the Hanover Branch Railroad.
Judge Robert Fisher would later interact with another Confederate officer, Major General Jubal Early, who occupied York with his division during the Gettysburg Campaign. Early demanded the keys to the courthouse, and he and Fisher had quite an interesting dialogue.