Jenkins’ Cavalry Raid through Northwestern York County: Part 6
The Mumper farm in Franklin Township, York County, Pennsylvania, was among the scores of farms struck by Confederate foraging parties during the Gettysburg Campaign. Northwestern York County saw two separate and independent Rebel incursions, first by Major James H. Nounnan‘s battalion of Albert G. Jenkins’ (West) Virginia brigade on June 28-29, 1863 and then by three brigades under Major General J.E.B. Stuart on July 1-2.
As dawn rose in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania on Monday June 29, 1863, the overcast skies had cleared, and the humidity grew as the day progressed. Rumors circulated concerning that strange glow in the sky from the previous night, with most people thinking that the town of York had been burned down by the Rebels. it would be some time before confirmation arrived that the strange spectacle had been the flames from the burning Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge being reflected off the storm clouds.
Throughout Dillsburg, Major Nounnan’s patrols scurried about collecting last minute provisions and hunting for any remaining horses. The main body of the 16th Virginia Cavalry battalion saddled up in the early morning hours and headed south on what is today’s State Route 74 into Warrington Township.
For most of the rest of the day, the mountaineers would ride through northwestern York County and raid farms in Carroll, Warrington, Washington, and Franklin townships before returning to Cumberland County to rejoin the rest of Jenkins’ Brigade, which was engaged that day in a series of minor skirmishes with Union militia including an engagement at Oysters Point.
Monday June 29, 1863 would be a day long remembered by the citizens of northwestern York County, as it foreshadowed the movements (in reverse) of J.E.B. Stuart’s much larger force on July 1.
This rebuilt cabin with an original 19th century stone chimney sits on what in 1863 was the Heiges farm in Franklin Township, York County. The 16th Virginia Cavalry was active in this area late on the afternoon of June 29, 1863 before retiring into Cumberland County.
One of Nounnan’s patrols rode over to Round Top (now a popular York County downhill ski resort and summer paintball place) and found several horses that had been hidden there, including a 5-year old mare belonging to Cumberland County farmer James Coyle. On June 27, the horse had been “taken to York County for the purpose of preventing it from falling into the hands of the Rebels. She, with many others, were at what was considered a safe spot in Warrenton [sic] Township but was captured by the Rebel army.” Two days of camping in the woods in York County had come to nothing, as Coyle ruefully found out when he stared at a Rebel pistol and handed over his mare.
Millard J. Blackford was a prominent York County politician and farmer. He and his father-in-law Andrew Shearer were powerless to stop the Virginians as they entered his stable and emerged leading a bay and a black mare. Blackford later testified that the “Rebels were armed and quite numerous in that area.”
Jenkins’ boys were only warming up. As news spread, several residents collected their horses and desperately tried to take them to places of presumed safety. Most were successful. However, at least one party of York Countians was not so fortunate. Armed Rebels cavalrymen overtook the trio of farmers “on the public road from Dillsburg to York” and leveled pistols at them. When then rode off, they had the groups’ horses, leaving the men fuming by the road.
Christian Gerber lost his 13-yr-old bay mare, 4-yr-old sorrel mare, 14-yr-old gray mare. 3 bridles, and 3 saddles and halters. Lewis Strayer lost a 6-yr-old bay mare. The Dixie saddle soldiers led away Benjamin Harlacher‘s 13-yr-old black mare and 12-year-old dark bay mule, and a saddle and a bridle. When the unfortunate Harlacher finally arrived home, he discovered considerable damage.
It is likely that Major Nounnan had called a rest break in late morning on Harlacher’s farm in southern Warrington Township. The York Countian later testified that the Rebels and their horses took, consumed, or otherwise destroyed two tons of hay from his barn and a ton of hay and timothy grass in the field. For good measure, they also took three bushels of shelled corn and ten bushels of oats from his barn.
In the next installment of this series, the mountain marauders will visit Rossville merchants and finally turn northward back toward General Jenkins’ main column.
For my series of blog posts on Jenkins’ Raid, please visit these links:
Part 1: Context and historical setting
Part 2: The approach on Mechanicsburg
Part 3: Major Nounnan’s patrol enters York County
Part 4: A Sabbath in Dillsburg
Part 5: Monday Morning in Carroll Township
Part 6: Rebels Raid Warrington Township
Part 7: The Raiders reach Wellsville
Part 8: To Dover and the Return toward Cumberland County
Part 9: The Raiders reach Franklin Township