Jenkins’ Cavalry Raid through Northwestern York County: Part 4
Early 20th century view of downtown Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, looking up Baltimore Street, the town’s main street. Postmaster A. N. Eslinger’s office and store were on the east side of the street in the middle of the block as one walked toward the town square from Locust Alley. He briefly chronicled Jenkins’ Raid on the town. Courtesy of DIllsburg Online.
Augustus N. Eslinger became the postmaster of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, in early 1863 following a succession of other local merchants and businessmen to hold the position. Eslinger would give the office stability, capably filling the job until July 1885. A. N. and Agnes (Diller) Eslinger raised several children in Dillsburg and among the borough’s leading citizens throughout the mid and late-1800s. A proud pro-Union man, he named one of his sons Edwin Lincoln Eslinger.
In 1902, the former postmaster became an author, writing and publishing an interesting little book on the history of his adopted hometown, entitled Local History of Dillsburg, Pa. By then, he was in his fiftieth year as a resident.
His brief account of Jenkins Raid follows…
“On June 28th, 1863, part of the Confederate Army came into Dillsburg on Sunday afternoon. This was part of General Ewell’s Corps. They were under the command of Col. Jenkins. They encamped over night just a short distance south of the borough. They sent squads of their soldiers into Dillsburg for provisions, such as bread, meat, coffee and tobacco, &c, and offered to pay for it in Confederate script, but it was worthless to our people. They left the camp on Monday morning the 29th, after taking all the good horses in the borough and from the farmers all around the country.”
Among the merchants of Dillsburg who later filed damage claims for losses to Jenkins’ cavalrymen were James J. Moore and the business partnership of Dr. Thomas L. Cathcart & Alexander Wentz. Both reported extensive lists of inventory that was taken by the Rebels, including shoes, boots, and York County tobacco (a major cash crop of the region during and after the Civil War).
In one store that remains unidentified,
Postmaster Eslinger recalled that the Rebels took “all the good horses in the borough and from the farmers all around the country.” From a study of the damage claims filed after the Civil War, it is clear that Major Nounnan’s battalion split into smaller foraging parties and canvassed the region. With the Yankee militia gone and no fear of any enemy action, the Rebels could systematically go from farm to farm and check for remaining horses.
Early on that Sunday afternoon, June 28, they had success. However, as the evening approached and word spread that the Rebels were on their horse hunt, farmers began hiding their horses and livestock in the mountains, in dense woods, in thickets and ravines, and in other out-of-the-way locations.
Among the Dillsburg residents who filed border claims were two members of the Lehman family. John Lehman lived on a farm near the county line between Carroll and Franklin townships, about a mile and a half northeast of Franklintown. He lost a 12-year-old bay horse from his stable. His relative Lydia Lehman watched as one of Major Nounnan’s squads rode up to her farm just south of Dillsburg. They dismounted and walked around her barn to the stable in the rear. When they left, they were leading away her 7-year-old roan mare. Yet another member of the extensive clan, Samuel Lehman, filed a claim that appears on the master index of York County filings, but his actual claim form has been lost to historians, so we don’t know exactly what was taken, From the magnitude of his claim ($41.50), it was likely not a horse (which cost about $150) but personal goods.
George R. Arnold lost a gray mare and a saddle which were taken from his barn. Virginians entered his house and stole a large quantity of meat. Arnold later asked for $142 in damages from the commonwealth.
One of Nounnan’s patrols headed further south on the Carlisle to York Road through Warrington Township and crossed the Conewago Creek into Dover Township. Some accounts suggest the Rebels rode as far as the village of Dover before withdrawing up Harmony Grove Road into Washington Township.
Monday June 29th would see the last of Jenkins’ Raiders in northwestern York County, but their escapades were certainly not over.
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