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Gettysburg Confederate casualties buried in York PA

Commemorative headstone remembering the five dead Confederate Civil War soldiers who are buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in York, Pennsylvania. Ironically, their graves are not far from a campsite of a portion of “Extra Billy” Smith’s Virginia brigade during the Gettysburg Campaign.

The wounded soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg were dispersed among various hospitals in the North after the battle as soon as railroad connections were restored and the patients were healthy enough for the arduous journey over hastily patched rails from Gettysburg to Hanover, Hanover Junction, and beyond. Among the destinations was York’s U.S. Army Hospital, where thousands of Union soldiers were admitted and treated, often for several months after their unfortunate Gettysburg experience.

However, the director of the hospital, army surgeon Dr. Henry Palmer of the famed Iron Brigade, refused to allow any wounded Rebels to be taken to his facility and threatened to resign if forced to accept them.

Luckily for the suffering wounded Southerners, some sympathetic local doctors stepped up and took care of them in the Odd Fellows Hall.
Five of the Rebels didn’t make it.

Dr. Henry Palmer of Janesville, Wisconsin directed the U.S. Army Hospital in York PA. After being held prisoner by Jubal Early’s division the last few days of June 1863, a bitter Palmer refused to allow any wounded Confederates from the Battle of Gettysburg to be treated in his medical facility.

As the trainloads of wounded from Gettysburg arrived at downtown York’s depot, the Union soldiers were transported a few blocks to Penn Common, where they were admitted to the army hospital complex. Dr. Palmer, his assistant surgeon, and a bevy of nurses, including “Mammy” Ruggles, tended to them.

The Rebels were conveyed to Washington Hall, the meeting place of the local Odd Fellows Lodge on South George Street. Records are somewhat sketchy, but it is believed Southern sympathizer Dr. Henry Nes was among the physicians who treated them. At least five of the patients died, a much higher percentage than the Union soldiers a block away at the army facility. Perhaps the sanitation was not as good being a lodge hall; perhaps Dr. Palmer and his staff were more experienced and adept at treating gunshot trauma; or perhaps the Rebels were weaker or more badly injured than their counterparts (or had been last in the pecking order for initial treatment at Gettysburg’s many temporary field hospitals where patients were stabilized before embarking on the trains).

In any event, over a period of several weeks, five patients died and were taken by wagon presumably up North George Street to the scenic Prospect Hill Cemetery, where they were interred.

The grave is part of the Civil War walking tour of Prospect Hill Cemetery, an interesting (and healthy) stroll through York’s impressive Civil War history. A tour guide brochure is available at the gift shop of the York County Heritage Trust at 250 E. Market Street (the historic Lincoln Highway) in downtown York. The tour guide discusses the Rebels, as well as scores of Civil War personalities also buried in the cemetery, including several Yankees mortally wounded at Gettysburg. It’s well worth a visit if you are in the York area! The cemetery with the dead Rebels is easy to find; it’s about a half-mile south of U.S. Route 30 on N. George Street in York.

Another Confederate grave from the Gettysburg Campaign is along the Susquehanna River in eastern Hellam Township not far from the famed Accomac Inn. Click here to view it.