Rebels visit Dover – part 3
Typical York County farmland. Confederate columns criss-crossed the undulating region during the last week of June 1863. Rebel soldiers took more than 1,000 horses from county residents, at times leaving behind worn out nags and mules. Stuart’s column freed 80 exhausted mules in one farmer’s field, destroying his entire crop of oats. Many farmers hid their animals in ravines, hollows, brushy fields, orchards, woods, and on mountains. However, the Rebels often discovered the horses and mules and took them with them when they departed.
June 30, 1863, had been a trying day for J.E.B. Stuart‘s Confederate cavalry division. Many of the troopers had participated in an emotional battle against Union cavalry at the Battle of Hanover, and several men left friends and family members behind, dead or wounded. The Secessionist saddle soldiers had then endured a grueling ride through southwestern York County’s undulating terrain, hampered by a captured train of 125 Yankee supply wagons. Most would march an average of 23 miles from Hanover.
The lead elements of Stuart’s column, the Virginia brigade of Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, began arriving in Dover sometime about 2:00 a.m. on July 1.
Dover, PA is shown in this 1860 map, courtesy of the York County Heritage Trust, which has an original map on display. Stuart’s men would have arrived from the west on Canal Road. They virtually surrounded the town with their various campsites.
Tired troopers watered their exhausted horses in Fox Run and nearby streams. Guards to were posted at the town’s two hotels (the Dover and White Hall hotels) to discourage looting and drunkenness. Many of the residents awakened at the jangling of spurs, the snort of horses, and the sound of the officer’s orders resonating in the still night. Weeks of rumors had turned to reality for Dover citizens – the Rebels were in possession of the town.
Someone told Stuart that Jubal Early’s men had departed westward toward Shippensburg (in 1863, Davidsburg Road was called the Shippensburg Road), and General Stuart ordered an aide to take 30 troopers and investigate. For those saddle-sore men, that order must have been met with some frustration. The rest of the men not assigned to picket duty slumped into the meadows and fields on the plains surrounding Dover and finally caught some sleep. It would be hours before the last of Stuart’s 17-mile column, Hampton’s brigade, also reached Dover, which Captain John Esten Cooke termed “a straggling little village.”
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart had less than a year to live as he visited Dover. This would be the last July 1 he would experience on earth.
During the night, as first Chambliss’s Brigade and then Hampton’s steadily trotted northward on South Salem Church Road, dozens of farmers along the route would be oaid visits by Rebel raiding parties. Dover Township farmer George Diehl lost two bay horses and a harness taken from his stable. Mary Roth would later report that Rebels took from her place 40 pairs of horseshoes, as well as 50 pounds of horseshoe nails — valuable commodities to the Confederate farriers. Dozens of other residents were also victimized; few would ever be compensated for their loss.
By morning’s light, residents took stock in the situation. Three full brigades of Confederate cavalry were encamped around the town. Artillery crowned the heights west of the town (not far from where Dover High School now is located). Another battery was parked north of town near the intersection of the State Road (Carlisle Road) and Harmony Grove Road.The main street was lined with hay taken from the citizen’s private stables and tossed outside along the sidewalks for the horses to munch.
A few citizens slipped out of town before the roads were cordoned off. Postmaster Alexander Spangler handed the sacks of mail to 16-year-old Oliver M. Stough, who galloped off to Rohler’s Church to conceal it in a stone quarry. One of wealthy landowner Englehart Melchinger’s employees, George Lecrone, began shuttling his boss’s horses out to a remote sawmill well east of Dover along Canal Road. On his third trip, a guard halted him and took a buckskin horse.
A typical York County barn near Dover believed to have been visited by some of Stuart’s troopers.
A few other residents also hid their horses. Sam Bentzel took his horse into a cornfield. Roving patrols of Rebels would find it during the day. One Dover lady smeared her horse with cow dung to make it a less attractive target to any Confederate intruders. Sure enough, when a patrol reached her stable, the men laughed at her ingenuity and walked off to take her less enterprising neighbor’s horse.
One can almost imagine a small knot of Confederates entering this barn to look for horses or mules. Dozens of area farmers were forced to exchange their healthy horses for played out nags abandoned by the armed Rebels.
July 1 would prove to be a long, long day for Dover residents and those citizens in Dover Township and adjoining Conewago Township. Hundreds of houses, stables, and famrs would be visited by roving Rebel raiders before Stuart departed.
More to come in future posts, including some photographs of Dover’s town square and some of the farms and grist mills hit by the Southerners…