The cost of the Rebel invasion – Part 1
Cover art from a 1991 book, The Story of the Northern Central Railway, by Robert L. Gunnarsson, Greenberg Publications.
All over York County, from the outskirts of Abbottstown to the west across the turnpike to Wrightsville and from Hanover to the southwest up to Dillsburg (and dozens of other towns and hundreds of farms), residents took stock of their losses. For some, the damage was relatively light – as low as a single horse. For others, their livelihoods had been destroyed (for example, a large milling operation in Wrightsville that had burned down, displacing the workers). In the next few days, I will outline some of the damage in York County (and perhaps beyond) caused by the Confederates.
I thank York County railroad buff, author, and historian Ivan E. Frantz, Jr. (and a colleague of mine at work) for sharing the following very interesting information he has gleaned from the files of the Northern Central Railway, one of the hardest hit companies.
Ivan carefully went through the Minutes Books of the Board of Directors of the Northern Central Railway and the 1863 Annual Report to the Stockholders. Here is his report he graciously e-mailed me after he shared some of this information with the audience during the recent panel discussion at the York County Heritage Trust on June 25.
The NCR Board of Directors noted that the passenger station in York, York car repair shops, York car paint shop, a track scales in York, 12 bridges between Hanover Junction and Goldsboro, and all 19 bridges on the line from York to Wrightsville were burned. Although not specifically mentioned, it is also assumed that the freight cars were burned. The majority of these cars were 4-wheel coal cars with the rest being noted as 8-wheel house (box) cars.
The line from York to Wrightsville was technically incorporated as a separate company, but it was under the control of and operated by the Northern Central at this time. The full listing of damages to the NCR from the Gettysburg Campaign is as follows:
Loss of trade $109,000
Bridge repairs 91,000
39 cars destroyed at York 12,000
5 cars destroyed at Gettysburg 5,600
Scales and other fixtures at York 1,800
Labor & material in block houses 11,000
Iron clad car #319 800
Material & labor for #319 (sent to B&O) 3,700
TOTAL DAMAGE CLAIM $234,900
It is also noted in the BOD minutes that $5,000 dollars was approved to build a new brick passenger station, car repair shop and paint shop in York.
The following bridges were burned between Hanover Junction and Goldsboro:
Bridge number Length Location
81 130′ Hanover Junction
83 35′ Geisselman’s
86 242′ Fissel’s
88 202′ Brillhart’s
89 209′ Brillhart’s
91 43′ Minich’s
98 324′ Codorus (today’s Black Bridge) 113 85′
118 251′ Gut
119 317′ Conewago
The NCR, like most railroads, numbered every little culvert as a bridge, so that is why there are gaps in the number sequence. You can see that the Confederates only paid attention to major spans that could quickly be burned and did not bother with small masonry culverts.
The reason that no locomotives or passenger cars were destroyed is because as soon as the Cumberland Valley Railroad reported what the Confederates were doing in Hagerstown and Greencastle to the PRR and NCR in Harrisburg the operating superintendent of the railroad took the following actions:
June 15 – business was partially suspended and started moving rolling stock north of Harrisburg
June 16 – only local freight trains for the removal of property were run
June 25 – all shipments were ordered stopped
June 26 – telegraph with the Hanover Branch Railroad was interupted so all locomotives were ordered fired and ready to move
June 27 – all trains were moved north, as much rolling stock as possible was moved from York to Columbia, at 7:00 PM the telegraph at York was shut down and the operator removed the instruments for safe keeping.
By the time Gordon’s troops arrived in York on June 28, there was little NCR property left in York that was able to be moved. The rail car business of Billmyer & Small was not harmed, probably because it was considered a “private business” even though they built freight cars for both the PRR and NCR at this period in time.
Ivan, thanks so very much for your research and sharing it with our readers. Ivan has written an excellent account of the local railroads during the Civil War that can be found in the library of the YCHT for those interested in reading more of his fine work.
By the way, in many cases in the Civil War, the job of the historian in piecing together the events of so long ago can be a nightmare of contradictions, missing information and gaps, faulty memory, lies and distortions, biases, and other “noise” that contorts the data. Here is a good example!
The NCR’s claim that the passenger station and some buildings were destroyed is at direct odds with Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s official report, which states, “I found no public stores at this place (York)… All the cars at that point were destroyed, but the railroad buildings and two car manufactories, as well as the hospital buildings, were not burned, because, after examination, I was satisfied that the burning of them would cause the destruction of the greater part of the town, and, notwithstanding the barbarous policy pursued by the enemy in similar cases, I determined to forbear in this case, hoping that it might not be without its effect even upon our cruel enemy.
I tend to believe the senior railroad officials, whose minutes would have been a more accurate reflection of the company’s damages than a general who may have not wanted to call attention to too much destruction in disoebience to Robert E. Lee’s orders. However, he later wrote years after the war, “Some cars found in the town were burned. There were two large car factories, and two depots and other railroad buildings which I would have destroyed but for the fact that the burning of them would set fire to some private dwellings and perhaps consume a large part of the town, and I therefore determined not to run the risk of entailing so much mischief on non-combatants, notwithstanding the barbarous policy that had been pursued by the enemy in numerous similar cases.”