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The First “Johnnies” in York

As the Civil War entered its second year (1862), few York residents had ever seen a Confederate soldier. Plenty of Union soldiers had paraded through the town between Camp Scott and the railroad station, and plenty of troop trains heading south the front lines had passed through York. But, by the end of summer 1862, new Rebel soldiers had appeared in York’s streets. That would change during the Maryland Campaign.

The Union army maintained a large garrison at Harper’s Ferry, [West] Virginia. Little did the soldiers know that Stonewall Jackson would essentially surround the town and force the surrender of the Federal troops in mid-September. In the week before the Rebels appeared in force, scattered Confederate patrols, scouts, and advance pickets roamed the Harper’s Ferry region. The Loudoun Rangers, a pro-Union Virginia cavalry organization, occasionally picked up these Rebels and took them captive.

Four Rangers, Joseph T. Divine, D. J. Harper, T. J. McCutcheon, and Charles White, were on special picket duty with the 87th Ohio at Sandy Hook, Maryland. As Jackson’s force approached, this squad became separated from the infantry. The quartet decided to head for safer confines, and ride northward through Maryland into Pennsylvania. Along the way, they ambushed and captured three Confederate soldiers. The Loudoun Rangers escorted their prisoners into downtown York, creating quite a stir.

The Rangers’ historian wrote, “These were the first “Johnnies” the citizens had seen, and, of course, they were a kind of curiosity. The Rangers were lionized for this heroic achievement and escorted to the hotel, where an ovation was given them, and a grand dinner which the boys enjoyed.”

There is no record of what became of the Rebel prisoners, but it is likely they were locked up in the town jail while their captors feasted with the jubilant citizenry of York.