Gettysburg Postmaster Flees to York County
Hanover’s Central Hotel in the mid-19th Century was a focal point of travel and business on Centre Square. The postmaster of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was among those refugees during the 1863 Confederate invasion who made their way into Hanover for presumed safety. Nearly all left before the Rebels arrived on Saturday, June 27.
David Buehler and his wife Fannie lived on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg just south of the Diamond, the town square. Rumors spread that the Confederates were seeking out and arresting Federal employees such as postmasters, tax collectors, and similar positions, as well as telegraph operators and other occupations that supported the Union war effort.
Here is a portion of Fannie’s lengthy account of the Rebel occupation of Gettysburg on June 26-27, adapted from a 1900 issue of the Gettysburg Star & Sentinel.
Mr. Buehler was in the post office deliberately gathering up the letters from the boxes, and arranging things generally, for he too, was incredulous, and we both took it as another false alarm, and laughed over it. In less time than it takes to write it, our brother put his head in the window and said “The Rebels are just marching into town, hurry up, or you will be caught.” I then said to Mr. Buehler, “I will remain here; possibly you had better go and see how things look!” So he put on his hat and I followed him to the door. He went as far as the Diamond, or Centre Square, when a friend (Dr. Stoever) called to him, “David, flee for your life.” The advance Division of Early[‘s] Corps (Infantry) was then marching up Chambersburg street. I looked again and saw Mr. Buehler running towards home, and at once realized the situation–the Rebels had come…
After he had turned the corner at Middle street, knowing he must escape with all possible haste, he hailed the driver of an empty wagon, who was also trying to get away in order to save his horse. He jumped in the wagon and the man drove as fast as possible toward York street and reached the corner of York and Stratton streets at St. James church a little in advance of the Rebel cavalry, who were dashing down the street from the Diamond. There were other persons hotly pursued, some of whom were overtaken and marched back to town, but I think they were subsequently released and permitted to return to their homes.
My husband, seeing his danger, jumped from the wagon and made for the woods, after a few shots had been fired after him, and in time, reached the farm house of a friend, (Eden Norris) who lived on the Bonaughtown or Hanover road. The horses had all been sent off to York except one old nag, which had been left out to look after itself. My husband being no longer able to walk and realizing the danger of remaining where he was, straddled this raw-boned animal and started for Hanover. On the way he overtook others, who were also flying from “the Rebs,” by whom he sent word to have some kind of a vehicle sent out for him from Hanover, as he was well nigh exhausted.
Just outside of that town he met a man with a buggy who had came for him and who took him to the Central Hotel. On his way to Hanover it rained hard for awhile. He had never ridden on horseback before and having no saddle he was wet, tired and sore when he reached the hotel.
He at once sent for the President of the Railroad, (Capt. Eichelberger) whom he well knew, told him the situation in Gettysburg and wished to know what he was going to do about sending all the rolling stock to York that night. If he did, he too would go at once to York, if not he would remain in Hanover over night and get some dry clothes. The Captain replied, “I think now, I shall wait until morning, but I will inform you in time should I change my mind.” The Rebels were engaged in burning all the rolling stock they could find in Gettysburg previous to a raid on Hanover.
After leaving my husband at the hotel, the Captain learned of the burning at Gettysburg and concluded to run no risks but send cars, locomotives and all rolling stock to York at once. He sent a messenger to the hotel, as he had promised, and my husband was just in the act of drawing off his boots, which were well soaked with water; he had one off and not having time to put it on, ran with it in his hand to the last train which left Hanover.
Everything and everybody who could go went to York in advance of the Rebels. Once there, they awaited to see what would come next, but as reports were very gloomy and foreboding, and there was such a determination on the part of many to burn the bridge at Columbia over the Susquehanna, that the Rebels might not pass over into Philadelphia, my husband thought it prudent for him to proceed to Lancaster, from thence to Philadelphia.