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Hanover women watched Civil War battle unfold

Modern view of the Henry Winebrenner house on Frederick Street in Hanover PA (Scott Mingus photo).

The Winebrenners were a prominent family living on Frederick Street on the southwestern side of Hanover, Pennsylvania. The father, Henry, was born in Heidelberg Township on June 29, 1809. As an adult, he owned a farm in that township, as well as a profitable tannery near Hanover. He and his wife Sarah “Sallie” (Forney) had six children.

Two of them, Sarah and Martha, were eyewitnesses to some of the opening fighting of the June 30, 1863, battle of Hanover, the day after their father’s 54th birthday. The girls were in their early twenties and still lived at home at the time of the engagement, the largest military battle ever fought in York County. A woman who peddled berries around town brought them the early news of the arrival of the Rebels.

Soon, they saw the Southern saddle soldiers for themselves.

Here are their remembrances of that day, as told by a reporter for the January 28, 1904, York Daily.

The Winebrenner tannery was along Frederick Street south of Hanover’s square (YCHC).

“The Misses Sarah and Martha Winebrenner, of Hanover, have contributed to the York County Historical Society an interesting reminder of the cavalry fight at Hanover in 1863, which both of these ladies witnesses. It is a cartridge box dropped by a soldier of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, which with the 5th N. Y.  took the leading part in the hardest fighting in that engagement.

“”In the morning of June 30th, 1863, a woman selling berries entered Hanover from the southwest and stopped at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Winebrenner, parents of the ladies mentioned. This woman said: ‘The fields beyond those hills are full of rebels.  I saw them myself when I came into town.’

“About the same time a Union officer rode into town and stopped in front of the Winebrenner home, then at the western edge of Hanover. To the Winebrenner family and others who saw him approach, the officer said, ‘Let that flag float across the street. General [H. Judson] Kilpatrick’s division of cavalry will come along.’

“Then  they looked out the road and saw a long line of soldiers on horseback approaching. These were supposed to be the men that the berry woman saw, but such was not the case. The soldiers she saw were the advance of Gen. [J.E.B.] Stuart’s Confederate cavalry,  still behind the hills and woods southwest of Hanover.

“It was the Second North Carolina, known as the Black Horse Cavalry [actually, Stuart’s 1st Virginia Cavalry that bore that nickname] that dashed down the Westminster road and attacked the 18th Pennsylvania, the rear regiment of Kilpatrick’s forces. The remaining part of the fight is too long to tell at this time, but suffice to say one of the Union boys during the battle dropped his cartridge box in front of the Winebrenner house. It is this interesting memento of the dark days of the war that the Misses Winebrenner presented to the Historical Society. It is a souvenir with about fifty other cartridge boxes, cap boxes, minie balls and spurs from the cavalry engagement at Hanover, which are now in the museum of the Historical Society.

Wayside marker in front of the historic Winebrenner house (Scott Mingus photo)

“Soon after the saber fighting and exchange of shots began, at 10 a.m., Mrs. Henry Winebrenner and her daughter, Martha, went to the balcony of their home to see the conflict. They saw the flash of the cannon only 300 yards away, then they heard the roar, for the first shell had been fired into town, possibly at the Union flag which was then floating in Frederick street between the Winebrenner house and the building opposite.  The Winebrenner residence was doubtless supposed by the enemy to be the headquarters of federal officers directing the fight.

The porch of the Winebrenner house (privately owned). Scott Mingus photo.

“‘We had better go downstairs; we are in danger here,’ said the mother to the daughter, and they moved to the rooms off from the balcony. Scarcely a quarter of a minute after they had passed through the balcony door and closed it a twelve-pound Confederate shell struck the lintel of the door through which they had just gone and shattered a bureau, penetrated the floor and struck a brick wall in the northeast corner of the sitting room below. The rest of the family were in this room. Mr. Winebrenner picked up the hot shell, which had not exploded, and threw it into the yard. Although a frightful calamity might have resulted, no one was injured. The shell and the shattered bureau are still in existence. For two hours thereafter, the Winebrenner family remained in the cellar, for Union sharpshooters had taken position on the second story of a wood shed only ten yards from their residence.”

The southwestern side of the Winebrenner house (Scott Mingus photo).