Resident shared memories of the battle of Hanover
In our last post, 19th-century historian George R. Prowell had interviewed former Hanover shopkeeper Joseph C. Holland about his memories of Lt. Col. Elijah V. White’s June 27, 1863, raid on Hanover and the battle of Hanover three days later. These recollections were printed in the July 12, 1905, edition of the York Daily, 42 years after the battle.
The lengthy article continued with Prowell’s earlier interview with another aged eyewitness, Lewis J. Conrad, who had recently passed away.
Here is that account…
PROWELL: “Lewis J. Conrad, of 417 Carlisle street, Hanover, related to me shortly before his death an interesting experience of the Confederate invasion of 1863.”
CONRAD: “On Saturday, the 27th of June, I rode out from my house where I now reside, to McSherrystown, where as a contractor, I had some men employed erecting a building. During the forenoon, we heard that a squadron of confederate cavalry was approaching McSherrystown from Gettysburg. I had a good horse and I decided it was best not to let the enemy have him. So I dashed off to the Pigeon Hills and several other parties followed me with their horses, about twenty-five animals altogether. We remained in concealment in a dense thicket near the reservoir until Sunday morning and then returned to our homes.”
PROWELL: “The Confederates that Mr. Conrad mentions were 240 mounted men under command of Lieutenant Colonel White, of Virginia. They were part of the Thirty-fifth Virginia cavalry. This band had left General Early’s division at Gettysburg. They were sent on to Hanover Junction to destroy the railroad bridges there. After they had accomplished their work Colonel White and his men passed up the railroad and joined General Early’s command at York, the next day, June 28.”
CONRAD: “On Tuesday, June 30, I went to McSherrystown early in the morning to give my men directions in the construction of the building mentioned. About 8 o’clock I was informed that a large force of union cavalry was moving down the Littlestown road toward Hanover. I was very anxious to see our men pass through town, and so I mounted my horse and returned to Hanover, arriving here about 8:30 o’clock. I passed up to Center square, where I found our citizens already feeding the hungry soldiers. Some one coming up Baltimore street, reported that several huckster wagons had been captured by confederate soldiers out the Westminster road. As I understood the order an officer of [Union Brig. Gen. Judson] Kilpatrick’s division sent a squad of men to find out where the enemy was. The troops under Kilpatrick, [Brig. Gen. George A.] Custer and [Col. Elon] Farnsworth continued to pass oon through Hanover toward Abbottstown, every company and regiment halting upon our streets to receive refreshments from our patriotic citizens.
“About 10 o’clock I heard a report that the huckster wagons had been recaptured and that some confederate soldiers holding them had been taken prisoners. Supposing this story to be true, I went down Frederick street which was still covered with union soldiers moving on through town. When I arrived in front of the residence of the late Henry Winebrenner, I heard some shooting out the Westminster road. The federal soldiers on Frederick street immediately turned and began to dash out the road to Littlestown to meet the enemy. A few minutes later, I heard the balls from the contending forces rattle on the top of Jacob Forney’s barn. This barn stood with the gable end toward the street nearly in front of Mr. Forney’s residence, now owned and occupied by his daughter, Miss Mary Forney. About the time, I saw a shell go into the house of Henry Winebrenner, now occupied by his daughters, Misses Sarah and Martha Winebrenner.
“The fight seemed to be fierce and impetuous. At this instant, some of the officers of Farnsworth’s brigade urged all citizens to go into their houses or cellars. With some other persons, I went up [the] street to the house of David Diehl where I remained in the cellar for considerable time while the fighting was going on. Mr. Diehl’s house then stood on the site of the residence of Charles Anthony.
“During a lull in the fighting, I came out of the house and started for my home on Carlisle street. When crossing Center square, I saw five or six dead horses lying there, but the killed and wounded men that fell there seem to have been taken away before I reached the square. I passed up Carlisle street, entered my house and crept out through the trap door. I stood on the top of my house for half an hour or more, watching movements of troops on both sides. Meantime, several regiments of federal troops, mounted and ready for action were stretched across Bunker Hill from the Jacob Young farm across the Carlisle pike to the present site of the Ketter wagon works. These according to official records, were under the command of General Custer. Several times I saw a regiment or more move down in line of battle toward the Littlestown road.
“At the same time, I noticed mounted confederates moving toward them from an elevated position on Cemetery Hill [Mount Olivet Cemetery] and east and west of it. The confederates several times moved up almost within carbine range of the union troops and then slowly fell back. Our soldiers, at the same time, fell back to Bunker Hill in line with their comrades. This singular maneuvering continued for an hour or more without the troops being brought into action as far as I now recall. Meantime, the confederate cannon in the vicinity of the Rice farm and Cemetery Hill, began to throw shells across David Hoke’s residence on Bunker Hill. One of these shells whizzed about twenty feet above my head, but I kept observing the movement of the troops. Presently a shell passed within six feet of my head and I concluded to leave the roof and I quickly climbed down through the trap door. By this time, the fighting had ended. It was probably 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the confederate forces were moving toward Jefferson. So far as I remember, the facts I have given are the most important recollections I have of the cavalry engagement at Hanover June 30th, 1863.”
PROWELL: “The maneuvering of the Confederate soldiers explained by Mr. Conrad conforms to the statements recently made in communications from officers of the Thirteenth Virginia and the Second North Carolina cavalry which commanded most of the fighting on the Confederate side in the engagement. These officers now report that the object of this movement in the afternoon, when the engagement had ended, was to give Fitzhugh Lee with his brigade an opportunity to move over toward Jefferson and York with an immense train of 125 wagons. This wagon train had been captured two days before by General Stuart’s cavalry [at Rockville, Maryland] near Washington City, shortly after the Confederates had crossed the Potomac river.
“‘General Stuart succeeded,’ says Captain Graham of the Second North Carolina cavalry, ‘in taking this entire wagon train through Jefferson and Dover to Dillsburg. Here it was put in charge of several regiments [of Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton’s brigade] which passed through York Springs and on the second day of the battle of Gettysburg this wagon train was turned over to the quarter-master general of Robert E. Lee’s army, a few miles north of the scene of battle.'”