Rebels Raid Wolf’s Church / Bairs Road region
On Monday, June 29, 1863, Col. William H. French‘s 17th Virginia Cavalry ranged throughout Dover Township and West Manchester Township in west-central York County, Pennsylvania, while foraging for horses, mules, and supplies. One patrol of the “Night Hawk Rangers” canvassed the region around the York Turnpike / Bairs Road / Wolf’s Church area (today’s commercial strip on U.S. Route 30 immediately west of the intersection with Route 462 Lincoln Highway).
Shown is 39-year-old farmer Henry S. Stambaugh‘s house, which is still in excellent condition despite being more than 150 years old. The Stambaugh name is still quite common in York County, and several members of the family filed damage claims with the state following the Civil War. Like the other victims of the Rebel raiders, they had to provide sworn testimony as to what was taken from their farms and include eyewitness depositions if available as to the thievery and/or testimony as to the known value of the horses lost. In several cases, neighboring farmers provided affidavits concerning how much the stolen horses would have been worth on the retail market had they been sold.
The red boxes on this old map from 1876 show the farms in this part of West Manchester Township that are known to have been raided by the Confederates during the Gettysburg Campaign. These men filed state damage claims; other families may have also had items or livestock taken, but never filed formal claims. Note the location of the Henry Stambaugh and Andrew Stambaugh farms along Wolf’s Church Road.
Henry S. Stambaugh’s damage claim cited the loss of a 6-year-old brown horse, a 12-year-old brown horse, and a 9-year-old brown horse, as well as a riding saddle, halters, wheat bags, 2 bushels of shelled corn, 6 bushels of rye, and 3 bushels of wheat. The farm sits astride Wolf’s Church Road. Mr. Stambaugh died in 1898.
The adjacent farm immediately of Henry S. Stambaugh’s place was owned by Andrew Stambaugh. I have met the current owner a couple of times, and he is an immediate descendant of the Sprenkle family, whose farms shown on the map above are long gone (the foundation stones are on what is now the state game lands in the flood plain of Indian Rock Dam).
The Night Hawk Rangers took a 5-year-old black mare, and a 10-year-old gray mare from Andrew Stambaugh’s stable. They also snatched a wagon saddle, 4 empty wheat bags, 3 bushels of wheat, and 6 bushels of rye from his barn. Henry and Henry S. Stambaugh provided substantiation for Andrew’s state damage claim.
It is probable that Colonel French’s cavalrymen systematically stopped at all the farms in the area, including this off-the-road homestead along Bairs Road. It was owned in 1863 by J. H. Baer (or Bair). It is not known if he had taken his horses to safety (as did more than 1,000 residents of York County) or simply failed to file a claim after the war. The farmers of West Manchester Township lost nearly 90 horses in total, many to the much feared Night Hawk Rangers, who had a well earned reputation for foraging, marauding, and partisan / guerrilla warfare. They were also very efficient horse thieves, as they proved once again in York County.
A little more than a year later, the 17th Virginia Cavalry’s battle flag was captured at the Battle of Monocacy during another invasion of the North, and Lieutenant Colonel William Cabell Tavenner was mortally wounded. He commanded several of the raiding parties in York County during the Gettysburg Campaign and was actively engaged in leading a charge during the June 26, 1863, fighting at Witmer Farm near Gettysburg.