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Submitted by Ilena Di Toro

The Battle of the Brogue?

York County, Pennsylvania, saw several small skirmishes during the Gettysburg Campaign, as well as the June 30, 1863, Battle of Hanover which remains the largest military engagement in the county’s history. The second largest fight during the Civil War occurred two days earlier when more than 2,000 Confederates tried to seize the covered bridge at Wrightsville (then the longest covered bridge in the world). I document many of these long-forgotten Civil war skirmishes (such as the fights at Rossville and York Haven) in a past Cannonball blog.

One incident of gunfire that did not make the list occurred at the Brogue, a tiny village in southeastern York County on today’s Route 74 between Red Lion and Airville.

It had all the markings of a potential tragedy. Lengthening evening shadows only a week after the fighting at Wrightsville and just two days after the end of the Battle of Gettysburg. Nervous citizens frightened from days of constant fear that the Rebel cavalry was coming to take their horses. Relatively inexperienced Union cavalrymen, chased by veteran Rebels from Gettysburg all the way to Columbia, who now patrolled York County roads looking for Rebel deserters and abandoned horses.

Fortunately, no one was hurt although several farmers had to spend time collecting themselves (and their loved ones and horses) after the gunfire and the ensuing panic.

Here is the story of “the Battle of the Brogue,” as taken from the July 7, 1863, issue of the York Gazette.

Adapted from Google Maps

In the third week of June, 1863, the First Troop, Philadelphia Cavalry had been patrolling the roads in western Adams County watching for reports of Confederate activity near South Mountain. On Friday, June 26,  Jubal Early’s division marched into Adams County, seized Gettysburg, scattered the defenders including the Philadelphians, and camped overnight. The First Troopers retreated to York and then, on June 27, rode farther eastward and clattered across the long bridge into Columbia. They were engaged on the 28th in the skirmish at Wrightsville.

Early in July, with the covered bridge now burned, they used flatboats to take their horses back into York County. They rounded up more than 100 Rebel deserters and stragglers, as well as collecting 100+ horses that they brought back to York to be corralled until ownership could be established.

Now, on Sunday, July 5, the troopers were again on patrol, accompanied by other Union forces that had arrived by then.

That’s when the excitment began.

“Fighting in the County” read the subsequent headline in the Gazette, which reprinted an article from The Pennsylvanian, another local paper.

“A terrible excitement was caused in the lower end of this county, around the Brogue, last Sunday evening. A few hundred Union troops marched down the Brogue road, and the citizens of that section having had pickets extended for a few miles, the latter mistook the former for rebels, firing upon them, and then running away in consternation, and alarming the whole country, for miles around. The fright is said to have been almost beyond description. Many persons cut the harness from horses which had been hitched to wagons and teams, and fled with the animals—whole families ran and sought hiding places in the hills, and other places,—and man and beast, promiscuously, were running around in wild confusion. A few hours elapsed before the mistake became known, and it was difficult to collect families and animals together.”

Thus ended “the Battle of the Brogue,” a forgotten chapter in York County’s Civil War history.