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Hanover soldiers, captured at Gettysburg’s Witmer Farm, paroled in York

During the Civil, this was the Henry Witmer farmhouse. Members of the 26th PVM fired from these western-facing windows at the oncoming 17th Virginia Cavalry (Scott Mingus photo)
During the Civil War, this was the Henry Witmer farmhouse about three-and-a-half miles northeast of Gettysburg. On Friday, June 26, 1863, several members of the 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia fired from these western-facing windows at the oncoming 17th Virginia Cavalry during a skirmish at the Witmer farm. (Scott Mingus photo)

In several Cannonball blog posts a few years ago, I covered in some detail the interesting story of the men and boys from Hanover, Pennsylvania, who, during the threatened Confederate invasion of June 1863, left their homes, farms, schools, and businesses to enlist in the 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia. These “emergency men” were to serve until the Rebels left the Keystone State and the emergency abated.

As Confederate Major General Jubal Early crossed South Mountain on the rainy morning of June 26, 1863, he learned from advance scouts that Yankee militia guarded Gettysburg, his next destination. He split his division in an effort to capture them (and their much needed supplies). Early sent Gordon’s brigade and the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry forward on the turnpike (now US 30) while he led the rest of the brigade on Hilltop Road  to Mummasburg. He then advanced Col. William H. Henderson and the 17th Virginia Cavalry, supported by two regiments of the famed Louisiana Tigers, farther eastward on the muddy back road (Goldenville Road).

Just east of the intersection with Table Rock Road, Henderson’s veteran cavalrymen caught up with the rear of the retreating 26th PVM and pitched into them shortly after 2 p.m. Union Col. William W. Jennings, a mustered-out veteran of the Army of the Potomac, put up a fight at the Witmer Farm before retreating to Harrisburg. He lost more than 175 men between the fighting at Witmer Farm and an action against Gordon’s column west of Gettysburg earlier in the afternoon.

Early brought the prisoners with him on the subsequent march to York on the 27th and 28th. There, he paroled them on the 29th before marching the next morning toward Gettysburg after receiving fresh orders from his commander, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, who had sent a courier and cavalry escort trotting down from Carlisle.

“Old Jube” paid a local printer, Small & Welsh (publishers of the York Gazette), for blank Confederate parole forms. More than 40 years later, D. P. Schultz of W. Market Street donated the old receipt to the Historical Society of York County. He had worked for the newspaper at the time and had personally signed the receipt.

Here is the story, as told in the March 19, 1904, edition of the York Daily.

Looking west past the Witmer Farm. Colonel Jennings and his remnant split into two wings and retreated toward Good Intent School past this location. (Scott Mingus photo)
Looking west past the Witmer Farm. Colonel Jennings and his remnant split into two wings and retreated toward Good Intent School past this location. (Scott Mingus photo)

After occupying York on Sunday, June 28, General Early established his divisional headquarters in the York County courthouse. He took over the sheriff’s office for his own use. His quartermaster, Major Charles E. Snodgrass, used the nearby auditor’s office to conduct military business. It was there that Snodgrass penned the handwritten receipt for the printing services.

The Confederate States

To Small & Welsh, Dr. 1863. June 29th. For Printing 4 Quires Blank Paroles at $1 per quire, $4.

Received at York, June 29, 1863, of Major C. E. Snodgrass, Chief Q.M. Early’s Division, Four Dollars ($4) in full of the above account.

A “quire” was an old printing term for 25 sheets of paper (one-twentieth of a ream).

Here is the rest of the 1904 newspaper account:

“When General Early entered York, June 28, 1863, he had with him a number of prisoners of war. Many of them were Union soldiers belonging to the 26th Pennsylvania Regiment, who were captured near Gettysburg on June 26th. Among these were Captain Forrest, of Hanover, and some of his men whom he had recruited at Hanover about two weeks before. Most of the prisoners were paroled or set free while Early was in York. Mr. Schultz being connected with the York Gazette signed the receipt for the payment of the bill which is in the handwriting of Major Snodgrass. The latter handed Mr. Schultz a five dollar Confederate note in payment of the bill, expecting a one dollar greenback in change. Mr. Schultz preferred to keep his change and the officer agreed to pay five dollars for them.”

Shultz also donated to the Historical Society a $100 Confederate bond and 25 small copper coins, as well as a small weekly journal printed on yellow paper on October 4, 1862, by Union forces then occupying Port Royal, South Carolina. Quartermaster Major Charles Garrettson, of York, had mailed the souvenir newspaper home to his friend Schultz.

To see several local relics from the Civil War, plan a visit to the York County History Center, 250 E. Market Street, York. To read more on the Confederate occupation of York, pick up a copy of my book Flames Beyond Gettysburg and/or Jim McClure’s East of Gettysburg while at the museum bookstore or from other local stores, or from