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Confederate Calamity: Rebels raid farms as they leave Dover

As Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s division of three brigades of Confederate cavalry departed Dover, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 1863, patrols fanned out in a wide swath to acquire fresh horses. More than 700 horses are known to have been taken in York County alone by Stuart’s men, and another 500 by other Rebel troops that criss-crossed the county. Among Stuart’s early victims as his troops left Dover was farmer Jacob Spangler, who owned this impressive characteristic red barn that still sits alongside Fox Run (not very far from two of my kids’ houses in Dover Township). He lost a ten-year-old bay mare and a six-year-old black horse taken from his stable.

The Spangler clan was the hardest hit family in all of York County, as seventeen different men by that surname reported losing horses or trade goods to the Confederate raiders! In total, the Spanglers lost thirty horses, not to mention the contents of Charles Spangler’s West Manchester Township store. Many of the Spanglers lived along Carlisle Road, the path that Stuart’s column took to reach Dillsburg and then Carlisle. Fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, uncles – the interrelated group took a serious financial loss in terms of lost horseflesh right at the important summer harvest time.

Another early victim of Stuart’s northward movement out of Dover in mid-day Tuesday, July 1 was 34-year-old Dover Township farmer Levi Overdeer (also spelled Oberdeer in some township records). He and his family lived on a large farm just west of Carlisle Road (today’s Route 74; shown in the foreground) near the intersection with Temple School Road (the school is no longer present, but Overdeer’s property remains a very active farm to this day). That’s the Conewago Mountains in the distant background, which Stuart’s column had to cross over; a grueling trek for the weary horsemen.
The photo was taken from the approximate location of the old one-room school, once a local landmark that Stuart’s boys would have ridden past that sunny afternoon. Old accounts tell of the Rebels raising a massive cloud of dust that could be seen for miles away, and the little school would likely to have been covered by a layer of dust after the prolonged passage of Wade Hampton’s brigade and 125 captured mule-drawn supply wagons, plus Stuart’s own ambulances, supply wagons, farrier wagons, etc.
Overdeer reported that Stuart’s cavaliers took a twelve-year-old black mare and an eight-year-old sorrel mare from his stable. He later filed a state damage claim for $200, but was never paid for his loss. There is no record how he brought his crops in for harvest, but other accounts suggest that farmers in the region who had successfully hidden their horses before Stuart arrived later pitched in to help their unfortunate neighbors with reaping.

Fifty-one-year-old Peter Leas also was hit by the Rebels (likely Fitzhugh Lee’s column of Stuart’s division). Leas’ prosperous farm was situated on the south side of Blackberry Road, about a mile west of Carlisle Road and a mile east of Harmony Grove Road which Lee’s and John R. Chambliss’s troops used to reach Wellsville. He lost a seven-year-old dun horse and a saddle. Leas estimated the workhorse’s value at $150 and the missing leather saddle at $10. Neighbors later saw his horse in possession of the Rebels.
Active members of the Bermudian Church of the Brethren, Leas and his wife Anna were also quite prominent in the church and surrounding community affairs. He died in March 1890. His descendants still live in the area.