Singing Rebels ride through Wellsville in NW York County
As the long column of Confederate cavalry snaked its way through northwestern York County on July 1, 1863, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart split his force to make better time and to sweep a wider area for fresh horses. The brigades of John R. Chambliss, Jr. and FitzHugh Lee rode through the village of Warrington, where they too separated, with Chambliss following the State Road to Carlisle and Lee heading into Wellsville.
The fun was just beginning.
About noon, Lee’s saddle-weary Virginians entered the village. Although tired from the long rides over the past week, the men were in a cheerful mood. Someone started signing a Confederate war song, and soldier after soldier soon joined in until the entire brigade was having a merry sing-along. The sound of singing cavaliers echoed off the buildings as the column passed through town.
A few Rebels dismounted and entered a general store owned by two brothers, Abraham and John E. Wells, descendants of the pioneer for whom the village was named. The Southerners selected some items from the store’s inventory of goods, and reached into their pockets and purses to pay for the personal items with Confederate paper money. Satisfied with their shopping, they emerged from the store, remounted, and trotted off to take their place in the long line, which took two full hours to completely pass through Wellsville.
A few Wellsville residents watched the parade from the sidewalk, although most either had fled the oncoming Rebels or peered from the safety of their windows.
The sight of armed enemy cavalrymen singing their way through the little out-of-the-way town must have left quite an impression on young and old.