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Confederate Calamity: Dillsburg merchants robbed

Background post: Confederate Calamity: Dillsburg

Jeb Stuart‘s cavaliers rested in Dillsburg before he ordered Fitzhugh Lee‘s column to head for Carlisle, trailed by the brigade of John R. Chambliss, Jr. Before the Rebels left in the late afternoon, they visited most of the merchants in town. Some Dillsburg shopkeepers suffered rather severe losses, while others had already removed much of their inventory to safety well before the Confederates arrived in town.

Many of the Rebels watered their horses and refreshed themselves from a well outside the venerable Dill’s Tavern (at the time of the Rebel invasion, this building served as the office for Frederick Welty’s businesses). After a long day in the saddle riding up from Dover, the cool well water was welcomed, and lines of Southerners patiently waited their turn for a drink.

Meanwhile, a few officers took the opportunity to take a drink of a different sort, visiting Dillsburg’s taverns for a meal and some more potent beverages.


The storekeepers and clerks were powerless to stop the Rebels from taking what they wanted from the store shelves. In some cases, the merchants were gratified when the soldiers offered U.S. greenbacks to pay for their shopping spree. In other cases, the payment was in Confederate bank notes, worthless north of the Mason-Dixon Line except as a curiosity and souvenir. In a few cases, officers paid in drafts drawn upon the Confederate government – in effect, promissory notes that would only be redeemable in the event the South won the War Between the States.

One clerk who vainly tried to stop the cavalrymen from stealing stock from his boss’s store was Henry H. Hause. He worked in a store owned by Dr. Thomas L. Cathcart and Alexander Wentz. Confederates grabbed large quantities of dry goods, boots, shoes, teas, pocketknives, files, rasps, a pair coats, and “food of various kinds.” A few days before, Jenkins’ Rebel raiders had also visited Cathcart & Wentz, so Hause knew the drill. The owners later filed a large claim with the government; they never received any compensation for their significant loss.

A post-war view of the Dillsburg Post Office. The P.O. was operated by several different merchants in the 1800s, but for more than three decades starting in 1863, the postmaster was A. N. Eslinger, who had a personal and up-close encounter with some of J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalrymen. Photo courtesy of Dillsburg Online.

A few Johnny Rebs paid a visit to Postmaster Augustus N. Eslinger . They took $30 in cash (perhaps some of the money later used at other stores) as well as postage stamps and other valuables. As one Southerner left, he reached up and took Enslinger’s coat from its hook and walked away with it.

James L. Moore‘s store was not far away from the Post Office. Rebels took armloads of store goods and, for good measure, went behind the store into his stable and took an 8-year-old roan horse.

Henry Sidle‘s store was also robbed; he had been in previous trouble with the U.S. government and had briefly been imprisoned.
For years afterward, the residents of Dillsburg and Carroll Township swapped stories of the Southern sojourn through northwestern York County.

Stuart’s column under Fitzhugh Lee trotted up this road (Baltimore Street) into Dillsburg. Early 20th-century view courtesy of Dillsburg Online.