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Jenkins’ Cavalry Raid through Northwestern York County: Part 7

The interior of a reproduced 19th century general store in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. During the Civil War’s Gettysburg Campaign, dozens of similar small dry goods stores in York County, Pennsylvania, were raided by Confederate soldiers, including the Smith store in Wellsville.
On Monday, June 29, 1863, Major James H. Nounnan‘s battalion of the 16th Virginia Cavalry was particularly active in Warrington Township in northwestern York County, raiding farms for horses, forage, and supplies. Some accounts suggest that the Rebels were accompanied by a young black man, perhaps a servant or slave, who demonstrated an uncanny ability to ferret out the hiding places where York Countians had secreted their horses. Scores of farmers and residents later filed damage claims that delineate the Rebel’s thievery, which in some cases was “paid for” with worthless Confederate currency or bank drafts on the Rebel government that would be redeemable after the war in case of a Southern victory.
In the afternoon, the Rebels reached Wellsville, a small village near Doe Run in central Warrington Township. Here, the commander ordered a brief rest halt while the town was searched for additional supplies and horses. The prime target was the town’s general store, owned by a man named William R. Smith.
Smith would later file one of the most extensive damage claims of any York County merchant, citing his massive losses to the Virginia horsemen.

Wellsville, Pennsylvania has retained much of its small town 19th century feel, and many of the existing buildings were there as Albert Jenkins’ boys rode into town on June 29, 1863. The village is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Smith had locked his store as reports spread of the oncoming Confederate cavalry. However, his lock proved to be of little resistance, as Rebels broke into the store and began carrying out armloads of dry goods, food, and supplies, as well as alcohol, a favorite beverage of the hard riding mountain boys. In the meantime, Major Nounnan turned the battalion’s tired horses loose to graze in a large field owned by Smith in back of the store.
William Smith’s damage claim suggests the magnitude of what the Rebels took that Monday afternoon. He lost three full barrels of fresh home-distilled York County rye whiskey (a total of126 gallons!), twenty gallons of brandy, ten gallons of ginger brandy, ten gallons of wine, five gallons of old rye whiskey, and five gallons of cherry brandy. Nounnan’s boys would be well liquored for several days as a result of their massive haul in Smith’s store.
The Rebels did not stop with the booze. They began picking the store shelves clean. Smith reported losing 30 pairs of new shoes and 2 pairs of nice leather boots, as well as 25 hats. He lost large quantities of notions, 40 pounds of tobacco, a box of pocket knives, and several sets of knives, forks, and spoons. Cloth was also a popular item among the raiders, who took10 yards of calico, bolts of cassimere and variouscottonades, 50 yards of muslin and 50 yards of other cloth.
All of the groceries were carried out of the store as well.
The Rebels cavalrymen took care of their mounts as well, stealing a dozen new horse brushes and a dozen curry combs. They also filled wagons with 20 bushels of corn, 125 bushels of oats, and 3 bushels of a mixture of grains. Meanwhile, the hungry horses were devouring or trampling six acres of timothy grass as they grazed for perhaps an hour or more while their riders terrorized the town.
Once the Rebels left town, Smith surveyed the damage. His neighbor and customer David Spangler visited the store on the morning of June 30 and found “nearly all the goods had been taken out.” After the war, Bill Smith filed a damage claim for $1180, an extraordinary sum for a small town country merchant. Of the nearly three dozen businessmen in York County who filed border claims with the state government, Smith’s ranks third, trailing only two very large downtown York establishments, Valentine Erney‘s store and N. Lehmayer & Son. The largest York County damage claim was a Federal claim filed by Wrightsville hotel owner Henry Hantz, whose losses in alcohol alone were staggering and whose Union Hotel was used as Federal headquarters for the 27th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia during the week before the Skirmish of Wrightsville.
In part 8, we will look at more of the damage claims from Warrington and Dover townships caused by the Jenkins Raid.
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