Gettysburg man recounts the bushwhacking of Jubal Early’s division
The historic Cashtown Inn has been restored in the past few decades and, under new management since 2006, is a popular dining spot in the foothills of the South Mountain Range west of Gettysburg. Back in the summer of 1863, innkeeper Jacob Mickley was kept quite busy by the repeated passage of Confederate troops, and several leading officers of the Army of Northern Virginia paused at this tavern for refreshment. Prior to the arrival of the Confederates, the building was an outpost for Union cavalry videttes of Maj. Granville Haller. Some accounts suggest a party of four bushwhackers also steeled themselves for the task of sniping at oncoming Rebels by freely imbibing alcohol from Mickley’s barroom. Photo courtesy of Dr. Thomas M. Mingus.
While many Pennsylvanians practiced passive resistance when the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia passed through the south-central tier, tens of thousands of others took matters into their own hands. They grabbed their hunting rifles and other weapons and joined informal local militia groups to help defend their hometowns in case the Rebels came near. In the Juniata River region, more than 5,000 civilians (including many former soldiers) took up arms and encamped in the mountain passes. Union authorities derisively called them nothing more than “an army of bushwhackers commanded by ex-officers.” Near McKeesport, Pennsylvania, the local militia was so adept at stealing poultry from the area’s farmers that they became known as the “Chicken Raiders.”
Here in York County, one farmer near the hamlet of Big Mount took matters in his own hands. In circumstances that are not entirely clear, he savagely murdered a foraging Rebel from Louisiana (I document what is known of this incident from official Confederate records in my upcoming book on the Louisiana Tigers from LSU Press).
In Gettysburg, years after the war, the son of one of the local militia leaders gave this brief account of the bushwhacking in that region. Much of the account parallels (and adds to) my narrative of Union Major Granville O. Haller‘s efforts to organize the defense of Adams and York counties as Major General Jubal A. Early‘s powerful veteran division approached from the west.
Here is his account… although please note in his old age, the writer has confused some details in his fading memory.
By the 25th of June the Rebels occupied the Cumberland Valley from Martinsburg, W. Va., to within sight of the spires of Harrisburg, Penna. Stuart’s cavalry being licked at Brandy Station and Aldie was forced to ride around the right of the Union Army. [John] Imboden‘s brigade of cavalry and 150 of [Elijah V.] White‘s guerrillas were the only mounted troops with Lee. As the Rebels advanced the people fled with their movable property, horses, cattle, groceries, store goods, etc., after offering such resistance as was possible, each section furnishing scouts, bush-whackers, men with axes who felled trees across the roads, telegraphed information of the movements, strength, etc., of the enemy to Harrisburg and Washington.
On June 23d Henry Honn [spelled Hahn in other accounts] drew a line across the Chambersburg pike 2 miles west of Cashtown, Adams County, Pa., and swore he would shoot the first rebel that crossed it. An hour afterwards White’s guerrillas, 150 strong, rode over the line. Honn’s rifle cracked and a Johnnie rolled off in the dust. White’s guerrillas skedaddled. Honn took to the brush and his rifle cracked frequently during the invasion.[Other accounts dispute the details of this incident, although Licensed Battlefield Guide Gary Kross elaborates on it in a past issue of Blue & Gray].
A day or two after this Maj. John Scott of Gettysburg with 22 men disputed the passage of Monterey Gap in the Blue Ridge with Early’s division of 10,000 men. [Early did not use Monterey Gap; he used the Cashtown Gap, and he had half that number of troops]. White’s guerrillas, 150 men, came up in Scott’s rear, having crossed the mountain by the Cold Springs Road, and Scott would have been captured but Maj. Haller with the Philadelphia City Troop. 100 strong, retreated on the lope, (the dust was a foot deep) and they raised so much dust that when Maj. [Robert] Bell with 60 men armed with single shot horse pistols, cap locked, and saber charged White he skedaddled so fast he hadn’t time to pick up Scott and his men. The only names of Scott’s men I remember are John Burns, hero of Gettysburg, John Roth, a lame printer, Chas. Wilson, who died at the Soldiers Home at Hampton, Va., and Hy Mickley, afterwards a soldier in the Union army.
Harvey Cobean, one of Bell’s scouts, was surprised by White’s men coming up behind him. He turned the blind eye of his horse to the enemy, slipped his horse pistols and sabre through the fence and coolly collided the enemy. When the road was clear he rode back and reported to Maj. Bell.
Cashtown sent a squad into the mountains who picked off many of the spies, videttes, scouts, stragglers, foragers, etc, of the enemy. Arendtsville and vicinity sent a squad of twenty-five men who bushwhacked the enemy as they came through the Blue Ridge.
Gettysburg, Gettysburg College, the Lutheran Seminary and the surrounding country raised a company of men 100 strong which was Co. A of the 26th Pa. militia, of which hereafter. This section also organized Bell’s Cavalry, 60 strong. Capt. Bell captured 500 scouts, foragers, spies, etc., from the enemy and kept them west of the Blue Ridge for a couple weeks. [No other documentation is known of this alleged incident; likely Bell captured a handful of Rebels]. He was greatly assisted by “Dutch Charlie,” a Milroy skedaddler.
On June 25th the 26th Pa. Militia under Col. [William W.] Jennings arrived at Gettysburg. About 8 A.M. June 26th Maj. Haller ordered them out the Chambersburg Pike against Early’s Division, Col. Jennings, the commander of the regiment, protesting, Bell having informed Haller and Jennings of the Rebel strength. Three miles out the pike the militia came upon the enemy. When they tried to load their guns they had to bite all the paper off the bullets to get them down. Alter being discharged a few times it was impossible to reload the guns. The militia were soon outflanked and forced to retreat to Harrisburg, during which retreat about two hundred of them were captured.
Among the captured were many college boys of Co. A. They were corralled on Christ Church steps. Jubal Early rode up and inspected them. He grinned all over his face and said: “Hi, you little boys must have slipped out of your mothers’ band-boxes, you look so nice. Now be off home to your mothers. If I catch you again I’ll spank you all.” and they let them go.
White’s guerrillas and Early’s Div. pushed Bell and the City Troop out of Gettysburg June 26th, killing Private [George Washington] Sandoe of Bell’s men.
As Early’s Div. left the east end of Gettysburg Henry McNair, Geo. Gwynn and two other Adams county boys of Capt. Horner’s company, Cole’s Md. Battalion, dashed in and captured a dispatch bearer from Ewell to Early. The capture of that dispatch bearer caused Early to march to Wrightsville and back to Heidlersburg and probably saved the fall of Harrisburg, Pa. McNair took the dispatch bearer to [Major General John F.] Reynolds and became his guide during the campaign.
William Alonzo Scott, The Battle of Gettysburg. (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: self published, 1905).