New account of Louisiana Tigers in York County surfaces
One of the joys of occasionally traveling around the East Coast giving PowerPoint presentations on my various Civil War books is the people I meet. At times, they share stories of their ancestors. Recently, before I spoke at the Lynchburg, Virginia, Civil War Round Table on “The Louisiana Tigers in the Civil War,” a local man gave a short talk on one of his family members who had interacted with the Tigers.
It was a fresh story I had not previously heard about the interactions between the Louisianans and the civilian populace.
And, it took place here in central York County, Pennsylvania.
Fred Phillips graciously sent me a hard copy of the story he shared that evening and gave me permission to share it on the York Daily Record‘s Cannonball blog. It is an excerpt from a March 1987 typewritten essay titled “History of the Ohler Family of York, Pa., Compiled by William H. Phillips from Information Supplied by Viola Ohler Phillips, George E. Ohler, and Rose Ohler Snider.”
Fred’s great-grandfather, Michael Bixler, was six years old in June 1863 at the time the First Louisiana Brigade, popularly known as the Louisiana Tigers, paid a visit to York County. Patrols ranged throughout the center part of the county on June 28 and June 29 collecting supplies and taking horses and mules for military use. Young Bixler lived on the family farm, which was located near today’s John Rudy Park northeast of Emigsville.
Detail from the 1876 Atlas of York County showing the J. Rudy farm (the wartime farm where the Bixlers lived) northeast of Emigsville.
Here is the story of little Al Bixler and the Tigers.
“Michael Albert Bixler (1857-1948) (Al or Daddy) was 6 years old and living in the stone house when southern soldiers came through and camped on the farm on the way to Gettysburg. One of the aunts was out walking in the evening [Blogger’s note: likely Sunday evening, June 28, 1863], and when the soldiers appeared she hid in the banks of the creek all night. The Bixlers had many horses on the farm. When they heard that the southern soldiers were coming, they hid the horses in the river hills, a wooded area near the Susquehanna River. Daddy was approached by soldiers asking for milk. He told his grandfather, who had hurt his leg that day. The grandfather was unable to accompany the soldiers, but he sent them down in the cellar where ice from the river was stored to keep milk and food cold. Instead, the soldiers found the wine cellar and stayed a long time sampling the contents.
“The soldiers were also interested in whiskey. There was a distillery on the adjacent farm of John Brillinger, but the officers put a guard on it and required orders signed by an officer. The soldiers got paper and pen from Daddy and forged orders. One of the officers became friendly with the Grandfather and asked him for whom he had voted. Grandpa said Abe Lincoln. The officer said that he did too. The men exchanged addresses, hoping to get in touch after the war.
“All the soldiers were from a regiment known as the Louisiana Tigers. The morning [June 30, 1863] before the battle of Gettysburg, some soldiers were sent to round up stragglers. When Grandpa asked them where they were going, they replied, ‘We’re going straight to h–l!’ The statement proved to be true, because every one of the soldiers who camped on the farm was killed in the battle.
“The Bixlers were Abolitionists and had sheltered escaped slaves in their barns at various times. During the Confederate occupation the progenitor of one of York’s well known black families (one Stevens) remained hidden in the barn. This man worked for the Bixlers and if the rebels had found him they would have carried him back into slavery as they did with many blacks whom they captured during their stay in Pennsylvania.”
Little Al Bixler, who had interacted with the famed Louisiana Tigers, was educated in small country schools and then at the Emigsville Academy. When he received his inheritance, he headed to the West. Taking a train to Chicago, he befriended a fellow passenger and went with his family in a covered wagon to Kansas. There, Bixler homesteaded for a time before deciding to return to York County, where he married and worked for Merchants Power & Light Company in York. Bixler later helped George Rudy, Sr. found the York Telephone & Telegraph Company. Bixler was a sales representative, riding on horseback out to various farms to convince the farmers to get a telephone installed.
Michael Albert Bixler died of a heart attack at age 84 on the back porch of his house at 1045 Market Street. He was one of the last York Countians who had interacted with Brigadier General Harry Hays’ famed Louisiana Tigers during the last days of June 1863 before the battle of Gettysburg.
For more on the Tigers’ visit to York County, pick up a copy of The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign (available signed from the author or unsigned from amazon.com and leading book dealers).