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Hanover Militia Company Fights at Witmer Farm, Part 1

Centre Square in Hanover, PA in 1863. Photographed from a wayside marker in Hanover. Original in the collection of the Hanover Historical Society, Pennsylvania Room.

In mid-June 1863, news arrived in Hanover in southwestern York County PA that parts of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had slipped away from their camps near Fredericksburg VA and moved into the Shenandoah Valley. Shortly thereafter, Confederate Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins’ mounted infantry twice raided Franklin County PA. Some, including the commonwealth’s Republican governor, Andrew Gregg Curtin, believed this signaled a major invasion of the Keystone State. President Lincoln called for 100,000 volunteers from four states to defend the North; Curtin issued a fiery proclamation on June 12 requesting 50,000 Pennsylvanians to respond to the threat.

The governor proclaimed, “Information has been obtained by the War Department, that a large rebel force, composed of cavalry, artillery, and mounted infantry, has been prepared for the purpose of making a raid into Pennsylvania.” The commander of the newly formed military Department of the Susquehanna, Maj. Gen. Darius N. Couch added, “To prevent serious raids by the enemy, it is deemed necessary to call upon the citizens of Pennsylvania, to furnish promptly, all the men necessary to organize an army corps of volunteer infantry, cavalry, and artillery, to be designated the Army Corps of

the Susquehanna.”The recruits responding to the call “would be mustered into the service of the United States, to serve during the pleasure of the President, or the continuance of the war.” That caveat limited the response, as many men preferred not to join the army for the rest of the war. Some 7,000 men who arrived and stayed in Harrisburg through a short period of confusion decided to enlist once Curtin and Couch proclaimed that the volunteers would only need to be soldiers “for the duration of the present emergency.” Once the Rebels were repelled, they could return to their farms, shops, and schools.
Curtin’s proclamation appeared in the Hanover newspaper, as well as in other papers in York County. About seventy-five young men from the Hanover region, including several Marylanders such as Henry Wirt Shriver of Union Mills, traveled to downtown Hanover to sign up for a militia company. The volunteers included some veterans of the Army of the Potomac who had mustered out of the service previously when their terms of enlistment had expired. However, the majority had no previous military experience, and few had ever fired a weapon at a fellow human. Among the recruits was Ovid Stahl, who I briefly discussed in a previous blog posting.By the time the recruiting period ended, enough men had volunteered to form a company that traveled to Harrisburg to present themselves for military service. The Hanover boys would be mustered in as Company I of the newly organized 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia. Their lieutenant colonel was another Hanover man,

Joseph S. Jenkins. He was a veteran of the 130th Pennsylvania, having served as a captain in that nine-month regiment starting in August 1862.

Captain – John S. Forrest
First Lieutenant – John Q. Pfeiffer
Second Lieutenant – Alexander T. Barnes
Non-commissioned officers:
First Sergeant – Joel Henry
Sergeants – William H. McCausland, Howard N. Deitrick, Napoleon B. Carver, Charles Young
Corporals – Josiah Rinehart, Thomas Sneeringer, Henry Schultz, David E. Winebrenner, Henry C. Bucher, Amos F. Klinefelter, Charles T. Kump, Charles W. Thomas.
William Althoff, Noah Allison, William Bair, William H. Bastres, William F. Baum, William A. Beard, James Blair, John F. Blair, Edward Bollinger, John Bond, David F. Forney, William G. Forney; Jacob Freet, William Gantz, Jacob Gardner, Martin Graybill, Lewin Heathcote, Martin Hitzel, Addison M. Herman, John J. Hersh, Josiah D. Hersh, Barthabus Himes, John H. Hinkle, Lewis V. Holter, William H. Holter, Washington J. Johnson, Lewis B. Jones, Isaac Jones, William Leader, Isaac Loucks, Henry C. Metzgar, Jacob H. Michael, Michael D. Myers, William A. Myers, Aaron McLean, Mahlon H. Nail, Hezekiah Ports, Henry H. Pfeiffer, John J. Sanders, George W. Sherman, George E. Sherwood, Henry W. Shriver, William H. Snyder, Eli Snyder, Daniel J. Snyder, Ovid Stahl, George E. Trone, Oliver Trone, Samuel E. Trone, Fabius N. Wagener, Samuel Weigle, John Willing, Calvin Wirt, William C. Wolf, Cornelius Young, Martin Zimmerman.

In part 2, we will look at the Hanover company’s stay in Harrisburg at Camp Curtin and their train ride toward Gettysburg.