The Copperhead question
This anti-Lincoln pamphlet, published in 1864 by J.F. Feeks of New York City, is typical of the strong anti-war, anti-Lincoln rhetoric that pervaded many places in the North, including southern Pennsylvania and my native southern Ohio.
Pennsylvania’s southern tier of Franklin, Adams, and York counties was a mixture of personalities, ethnic backgrounds, and political beliefs. Some pockets (including the Hanover, Codorus Township, and North Codorus Township area in southwestern York County) had fairly high concentrations of Southern sympathizers. Other enclaves were strongly Unionist, and another large group of residents were totally ambivalent and just wanted to be left alone.
E. A. Paul was a New York Times correspondent who was “embedded” (to use a modern term) with the Army of the Potomac as it traveled northward. Specifically, he accompanied the V Corps into southwestern York County on July 1 en route to Gettysburg. His comments and opinions regarding York County’s Copperheads were recorded after the war in Frank Moore’s Rebellion Record, a postbellum anthology of Civil War stories. Keep in mind as you read this account, Paul is biased and bases much of his article on hearsay and second-hand information. Still, there are some sentiments in here that have some authenticity, as York County indeed had a fair amount of Copperheads.
“As the cavalry by the battles at Aldie and Upperville, prevented the rebel Stuart from marching his column through Maryland and Pennsylvania by the way of Edwards’s Ferry and Boonsboro, so did the whipping of him at Hanover prevent further marauding excursions toward the centre of the State. Stuart and Early, the marauding chiefs of the rebel army, when they heard that Kilpatrick was on their track, abandoned the disgraceful work they were engaged in, and began to look about them for a sale exit from the State. These legalized Dick Turpins had demanded tribute in almost every town visited by them. and threatened to destroy the towns unless their demands were promptly met. In some towns the citizens nobly refused to comply, but prepared rather to sacrifice their property than to yield to the invader.
In many places, I regret to say, the reverse of all this was acted upon. At York, a town of twelve thousand inhabitants, the chief burgermaster, a man named Small, rode seven miles to surrender the town, and before any demand had been made for its surrender. General Early condescended to say, that if in the course of his peregrinations York was visited, he would consider the surrender as an ameliorating circumstance.
Visiting the place, he demanded a ransom of one hundred thousand dollars and a supply of provisions and clothing for his whole command. A committee of citizens was actually formed, and forty-five thousand dollars in greenbacks and the required provisions were turned over to the Early aforesaid, who magnanimously offered to spare the town then, provided the balance of the money demanded was paid upon his return, which lie said would be within a few days. Fortunately, General Kilpatrick’s troops frightened this pink of generals away, and the citizens of York and vicinity were saved the opportunity of further humiliating themselves.
On the Saturday previous to arriving in Hanover, one hundred and fifty of Stuart’s cavalry entered that place, and did pretty much as they pleased, not one of.the three thousand inhabitants daring to remonstrate or raise a finger in self-defence in fact, it appears they met more friends than enemies — for they found those who gave them
information as to the movements of our troops, and were thereby enabled to make the sudden attack they did upon the rear of General Farnsworth’s brigade the following Tuesday.
Indeed, I have had in my possession a letter written by Fitz-Hugh Lee, and addressed to General Stuart on the very morning of the attack, giving a correct account of General Kilpatrick’s movements, “obtained,” they say, “from a citizen, and is reliable.” There was no “reliable citizen” in all Pennsylvania to inform General Kilpatrick of the approach of General Stuart upon the rear of General Farnsworth’s brigade; and our commnnders
throughout the campaign in that State, labored under almost as many disadvantages as if campaigning in an enemy’s country.
Indeed, not until we arrived near Gettysburg, could any valuable information as to the enemy’s movements be obtained. In conversation with the editor of a paper in Hanover, whom I accidentally met, after showing him the letter of Fitz-Hugh Lee, I made the remark that the rebels appeared to have a great many sympathizers in that vicinity. He
replied: “I don’t know as to that, but you see this is a very strong Democratic county, and the Democrats were opposed to the removal of McClellan!”
Leading and active Union men were pointed out by the traitors, who seek to mask their treason under the garb of Democracy in this town, that they might be plundered by
the marauders. One man, a jeweller, was thus pointed out, and his stock in trade, though concealed, was unearthed, and divided among the rebel soldiers. In Hanover, and at other points, particularly in York County, the enemy found warm friends ready to welcome them, and actually received some recruits for their army.
Women at the Washington Hotel in York degraded themselves by waving their handkerchiefs in token of welcome to the rebel troops, and there were a number of citizens who spread tables for the officers, and invited them to their houses.
At Mechanicsville, one “Democrat” was so buoyant, that he mounted a sword, and guided the rebel column to the railroad junction, where they destroyed a large amount of property.
There seemed to be a perfect understanding between the enemy and men whose loyalty had been questioned before. One of this class recovered nine horses from Stuart; “they were taken by mutatto.” The keeper of a hotel in Abbottstown, who, I regret to say, was once a leading ” Wide Awake”, also manifested his pleasure at receiving a visit from the rebels.
Fortunately, even the Democrats of York County have seen all they wish of rebels — a column of whom can be smelled as far as a slave-ship.
A majority of the women in Hanover and elsewhere are truly loyal. They cared for the wounded — even taking them from the streets while bullets were flying around promiscuously. They furnished provisions to the soldiers, and in most instances, positively refusing to receive any pay. In one instance, a citizen voluntarily exchanged horses witli a scout to enable the latter to escape.”