Cannonball

Part of the USA Today Network

Rebels reach Mechanicsburg

While York Countians were dealing with the occupation of Jubal Early’s veterans during the Gettysburg Campaign, neighbors in Cumberland County had their own set of problems, with two full divisions of infantry, a large battalion of artillery, and the bulk of a brigade of cavalry operating in that county. Richard S. Ewell, who had in-laws in York, occupied Carlisle and other towns, and patrols roamed freely without much opposition from New York and Pennsylvania militia, who were ensconced behind the shelter of extensive earthworks surrounding the approach to the Susquehanna River bridges and Harrisburg.


Farmers and townspeople suffered considerable aggregate losses in crops, supplies, livestock, horses, and even personal effects to the invading army, despite Robert E. Lee’s strict orders discouraging foraging. State officials in Harrisburg packed up important papers, documents, and treasures and shipped them on a special train to Philadelphia for safekeeping. Many merchants forwarded their inventory further east. Everyone expected a large battle on the morrow, and many doubted if Ewell could be stopped from taking the city.
Many citizens fled the region by June 28, often taking wagonloads or armloads of valuables with them. However, some refugees were intercepted by the roving Rebel patrols and robbed, and then paroled and sent back to their homes. Two men in a horse-drawn buggy left Harrisburg in the early afternoon, hoping to reach Mechanicsburg. After riding on the dusty road for six miles, they were spotted by Confederate cavalrymen, who stopped them and seized their horse and carriage. The chagrined civilians were paroled and sent on their way on foot, with orders to walk back to the city. Yet another citizen had a scarier encounter. He had walked some four miles from Harrisburg into the countryside when a Rebel accosted him. The soldier struck the terrified man with his bayonet and then allowed him to continue his trek.