J.E.B. Stuart disrupts a York County funeral
Historic Ziegler’s Church Cemetery in southern York County, Pennsylvania, contains the graves of many of the pioneers and early settlers of the Codorus Valley region. Several Civil War veterans are buried here, as well as civilian farmers whose lives were disrupted by the various Confederate troop movements during the Gettysburg Campaign.
On June 30, 1863, a column of Confederate cavalrymen from Major General J.E.B. Stuart‘s division passed by this cemetery. Believed to have been a part of Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee‘s Virginia brigade, the passing soldiers created quite a stir!
The wartime Ziegler’s Church was a stone structure on the west side of Zeigler’s Church Road (note the change in spelling over the past century vs. the original church’s name). It has long since been demolished and replaced by a newer brick structure across the street from the cemetery.
The Reverend Constantine J. Deininger was officiating at an evening funeral in the graveyard of Ziegler’s Church late in the day on Tuesday June 30. It had been a good day weather wise, but the sound of a battle had loomed over the congregants that day as the noise from the Battle of Hanover emanated through the region, echoing off the hills. It is not known for sure that the battle could be heard at the church itself, but it is quite likely.
Research by York County historian Armand Glatfelter some years ago suggests the funeral was likely for Private John Miller, a 40-year-old resident of New Salem, who died June 3 in a military hospital in Suffolk, Virginia, probably of dysentery. Miller enlisted November 8, 1862, in Company D, 166th Pennsylvania Infantry (a nine-months regiment). His body was sent home on the Northern Central Railway to Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, the northernmost operational depot (Hanover Junction being out of commission since Elijah White’s June 27 raid). The coffin was placed on a wagon and transported to Ziegler’s Church Cemetery for burial. Miller left behind a wife and three small children.
As the graveside service continued, the Rebel advance guard clattered by, sending mourners scattering to retrieve their horses and carriages to avoid losing them to the oncoming Confederates. All of the funeral attendees apparently managed to make their escape, as there are no border claims in the files of the Pennsylvania State Archives from anyone who stated they lost a horse to Stuart’s men while at the church.
It is likely several of the fleeing mourners lost their horses when they returned home, however, as the Rebels passed through the region extensively for the next few hours, and many homeowners reported losing a horse from stables, barns, or fields. Some of the claimants were neighbors of the Miller family.
It is not known if John Eppley Ziegler and his wife were among the mourners at Zeigler’s Church. However, a couple of hours after the incident at the cemetery, his tavern (or possibly his house) was used by Stuart for a staff meeting with his subordinates to plot their course to York-New Salem and Dover, where they hoped to find the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia.