The five dead Confederates in Prospect Hill Cemetery
Did you know?
Five Confederate soldiers, wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, expired from their injuries here in York, Pennsylvania, in the weeks following the fighting. Three of them died in the temporary hospital the US Army established in rented space in the Odd Fellows Hall on S. George Street and were buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery.
The story of the other two Gettysburg casualties is a little more unusual and begins with Confederate raiders burning bridges over Conewago Creek south of York Haven several weeks before the pair of wounded soldiers passed away on July 19.
On Sunday morning, June 28, 1863, a powerful Confederate division of some 6,600 men under Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early entered central York County from the west after departing Adams County the previous day and camping overnight at Big Mount and Farmers. That afternoon, General Early dispatched Col. William Henderson French and the 17th Virginia Cavalry to burn two railroad bridges over Conewago Creek near York Haven. After driving off defending Union soldiers from the 20th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia in a minor skirmish, they accomplished their assigned task of destroying the bridges and then rode back to Emigsville, where they camped.
Following the Battle of Gettysburg, engineers and crews from the U.S. Military Railroad’s base in Alexandria, Virginia, came to Maryland and Pennsylvania to repair bridges on various railroads that the Rebels had earlier burned. They constructed temporary bridges at 31 locations in York County, including the two over the Conewago. These were hastily built and were not meant for heavy usage. The USMRR wanted to restore train service and allow the various railroads to rebuild more permanent structures over time.
On Friday evening, July 17, a Northern Central Railway stock train, heavily laden with cattle and livestock, was passing over one of these temporary bridges when it collapsed into the creek. A portion of the train derailed, killing a considerable number of animals and injuring three crewmen on the train.
That incident caused the Northern Central to halt all rail traffic north to Harrisburg from York. Meanwhile, trainloads of wounded soldiers (both Union and Confederates) and prisoners of war were being evacuated from Gettysburg through Hanover Junction. With the hospitals in Baltimore filled, the soldiers were supposed to head north on trains through York to Philadelphia and New York. That traffic, however, was now at a standstill on the sidings in York.
Two Confederate prisoners of war, wounded at Gettysburg, died in the railcars during their train’s detention in York on Sunday, July 19, 1863. They were buried along the railroad. Later, their remains were exhumed and taken to Prospect Hill Cemetery. The exact location of their graves is unknown.
A cenotaph marker erected more than 100 years later remembers the final resting place of these two unknown Confederates, along with the three soldiers who died at the Odd Fellows Hall. More than 30 Union soldiers, also wounded at Gettysburg who died in York, are interred at Prospect Hill in a circular pattern around a 19th-century statue.
Sources: York Gazette, July 21, 1863, and Scott Mingus’s personal files on the Confederate invasion of York County.
To read more on the evacuation of the wounded and the Northern Central Railway in the war years, please consider buying a copy of this book.