More future politicians visit York County!
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Library of Congress
Over the course of June 27 – June 30, 1863, perhaps more than any three-day period in York County’s history, dozens of men who would later gain fame in the political arena would visit this area, all in the uniforms of American armies. I covered a few future governors in my previous blog post, and will look at a couple more in this installment, as well as some other late 19th Century notable lawmakers.
Brigadier General William Smith led a brigade of Virginians in Jubal Early’s Division. They camped near Codorus Creek north of York, not far from today’s Harley-Davidson factory. Smith was already a celebrity when he came to York County. Before the war, he had been the 30th Governor of Virginia from 1846-49 during the Mexican-American War, and had served five terms in the United States Congress. He had lost an election to the U.S. Senate. He had gained the nickname “Extra Billy” for his penchant of overcharging state contractors and suppliers and pocketing the extra cash for personal gain. He had served in the Confederate Congress in 1862 while a general, and resigned from the Army of Northern Virginia shortly after Gettysburg, where his performance was questionable at best. He was again the governor until the end of the war. At the age of 80, he was elected to the Virginia state legislature.
Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain gained fame at Gettysburg for his defense of Little Round Top, and is particularly known to this generation from the vivid portrayal by actor Jeff Daniels in the movie Gettysburg. The Union V Corps, of which Chamberlain was a part, marched through southwestern York County on the afternoon of July 1 en route to Gettysburg. Chamberlain’s division passed through Hanover about 4 p.m. They planned to camp near Hanover for the night, but orders were received to march to Gettysburg, where a battle raged. He was later the Governor of Maine and a college president.