Rebels visit Dover – part 4
A view taken in December 2008 of the northwestern corner of the main intersection in Dover, Pennsylvania. In the 19th century, Dover had a town square, which accounts for the setback of the white frame building on the left. The town (and surrounding township) had a significant population of citizens with German heritage, including Mrs. Forscht, who owned the corner lot with the white house. The sturdy red brick building to the right was the office of Dr. John Ahl, which would be the Confederates’ business office during their half-day stay in Dover on July 1, 1863. Here, General Wade Hampton fired off dispatches via couriers, and later supervised the parole of 230 Yankees, including 21 men captured at Hanover.
Dawn of July 1, 1863, saw Dover firmly in the grasp of the famed Southern cavalier, Major General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart. His men surrounded the town, with the brigade of the future Governor of South Carolina, Wade Hampton III, likely occupying the ground immediately west of Dover as it was the rear guard of the force, and it is known that Hampton’s men later that day skirmished with Federal pursuers near Salem Church. What is less clear is the exact location of the brigades of Fitzhugh Lee and John Chambliss, Jr. although I am still combing through old records to see if a clue can be obtained. It is known that the main body of the Rebels camped near Fox Run, the main source of water in the Dover area, although picket posts were established well out the main roads.
For more photos of modern Dover and commentary, click the link.
1860 map of Dover showing the intersection of Canal Road (roughly southeast-southwest) and Carlisle Road (or the State Road as it was still sometimes called during the period). We will examine the modern town square in this Cannonball blog entry.
J. Gerber owned the lots on the southwestern corner of Dover’s town square, according to 1860 land records and maps. This modern view is directly across Canal Road from Mrs. Forscht’s property. Rebels entered Gerber’s stable and hauled hay out to Main Street. They repeated this throughout Dover, and hungry Confederate cavalry horses munched the fruits of Dover’s lush fields.
General Stuart had spent the evening in a farmhouse (there are conflicting local oral traditions as to its identity and location). He and his staff arrived in town about 8:00 a.m. He ordered breakfast for himself, his staff and brigade commanders at Jacob Frees‘ Upper Tavern on the west side of Main Street. They ate a bountiful hot meal and exchanged stories of their experiences so far in Pennsylvania. Unknown to them, while they dined, the Battle of Gettysburg was starting. Meanwhile, in an adjoining room, army surgeons dressed the wounds of Confederates who had received saber cuts at Hanover.
Another large hotel occupied the southeastern corner of Dover’s center square. For generations, travelers along Carlisle Road (now State Route 74 for much of its route) paused for refreshment and/or a night’s sleep.
Now modern travelers pause at the same location for gasoline and snacks. Modern times, modern needs… but the ambiance of small town, privately owned hotels have largely went by the wayside as people tend to prefer national chains along busy highways and shopping / dining districts.
The final corner of Dover’s center square boasts this impressive brick mansion. It was formerly the home of one of the county’s wealthiest citizens, Englehart Melchinger.
He was a son of Israel Melchinger, an American Revolution Hessian soldier who settled in Dover after the war rather than returning to Europe. Upon his father’s death in 1834; Melchinger assumed the role of the town’s postmaster and later built considerable wealth through various business pursuits. On July 1, 1863, his hired hand, George Lecrone, was busy shuttling horses from Melchinger’s extensive stable to a presumably out-of-the-way sawmill along East Canal Road. His luck run out when one of Stuart’s patrols stopped him at gunpoint and seized a buckskin.
Previous posts in this series on Dover during the Gettysburg Campaign…
For much more on the history of Dover, as well as a walking tour, see the website for the Greater Dover Historical Society.