Cannonball

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More on Hanover Junction RR bridge: a gruesome accident

Back in July 2010, I blogged on a railroad bridge near Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania, which Confederate cavalrymen burned during the Gettysburg Campaign. Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, the U.S. Military Railroad erected the temporary bridge shown above. Here is the background post on the bridge and efforts to repair it.
Lt. Col. Elijah V. White‘s 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry poured coal oil on the bridge and then torched it, sending plumes of black smoke above the Codorus Creek. The Southern saddle soldiers also burned a turntable, some outbuildings, and rolling stock sitting on a siding. But the key target was the bridge, for all railroad traffic between Baltimore, Md., and Harrisburg, Pa., went across this span and its destruction effectively severed the rail connection. Likewise, Rebels ripped down all the telegraph lines, cutting off direct communication.
For some time, a few members of the York Civil War Round Table have debated whether or not the original wooden bridge torched by White’s Comanches was covered or not. The Northern Central Railway used both covered bridges and open girder decks along its route from Harrisburg through York and down to Baltimore. Covered bridges were of course more expensive to build, but the decking was protected from the elements and often lasted much longer than open bridges. Covered bridges also burned much easier, as the roof formed a wind tunnel to allow fast spread of a small fire, whereas open bridges usually took more time to be consumed. White’s men did not spend a lot of time in Hanover Junction, perhaps a couple of hours at the most.
Ray Kinard of the York CWRT shared with me an old article about a death “near Hanover Junction” at Deal’s Bridge. That sparked me to dig more deeply into the question as to which bridges were covered and which ones were open.


Here is an interesting newspaper article Ray looked up on www.newsinhistory.com. It dates from August 16, 1852, and is from the Baltimore Sun.
From the description, it is clear that it is referring to a covered bridge. However, is it the one at Hanover Junction destroyed by the Rebels?
“I regret, however, to add that a serious accident occurred to Mr. Wm. Scott, the most experienced and efficient conductor, which must disfigure him, if not result more seriously, for life. He was in company with Mr. Gardinier, in charge of a train of 28 cars, coming down from York and Hanover with passengers for the camp [the Shrewsbury, Pa. Camp Ground, a religious camp often used for multi-day revival services].
The train being so very long, they found great difficulty in collecting the tickets and passage money, and having locked one of the cars to prevent those who not paid from passing into the cars in which they had made the collections, Mr. Scott feared it necessary to pass over the top of a portion of the train; when he unfortunately came in contact with the Deal bridge, near the Hanover junction twelve miles this side of York.
He was in the act of stooping to avoid the bridge, when his face came into contact with one of the timbers, laying open the skin and flesh from the forehead, gathering his nose in a dreadful manner down to his cheek, and mashing the bone. His whole face was also shockingly bruised and cut. There was a continual hemorhage [sic] from the wounds and also from the lungs, for several hours, but the hemorhage had finally ceased when he was removed to the cars this evening to be conveyed to Baltimore.
He was conveyed to the residence of Mr. John Henry, and the train proceeded on in charge of Mr. Gardinier.”
Luckily for William Scott, several physicians were on board the train bound for the Shrewsbury Camp Ground. Dr. Crabster of Baltimore County tended to Scott’s injuries until he was stable enough to catch the next train down to Baltimore to enter the hospital.
Thanks Ray for providing me with a copy of this old article.
Interestingly, my own research has uncovered a very similar story from the end of the Civil War in 1865.
Here is a snippet from Jim McClure’s and my upcoming Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.: Remembering the Rebellion and the Gettysburg Campaign.
John Jolly of the 35th New York had survived the fighting, making it through his two-year enlistment.
Looking forward to his own homecoming, he was riding atop a railcar as his train rolled near Hanover Junction in south-central York County in May.
But Jolly would not make it home to Jefferson County, New York, alive. As his train passed under a bridge, he was knocked off and killed instantly.
His comrades put his body into a coffin and shipped it, by express, to his home.”
So was this covered bridge the one destroyed by Elijah White?
No.
This one escaped the torch.
The 1863 Annual Report of the Northern Central Railway states that Deal’s, or Bridge #79, was NOT damaged by the Confederates and was in fact just south of Hanover Junction. Bridge # 81 at Hanover Junction itself was the southern-most bridge actually destroyed by the Rebel raiders.
Bridge 81, also known as Riley’s Bridge, was built in 1855 and was a 132-foot-long open deck girder bridge.
So,the bridge at Hanover Junction destroyed by the Rebels was an open deck affair, which according to the annual report was replaced by another girder-style span. The covered bridge which caused the fatalities “near Hanover Junction” was to the south a little ways and escaped damage, keeping the route open from Hanover Junction down to Glen Rock and beyond to Baltimore.
Mystery solved!