Georgians march through York
Much has been written about the “triumphal entry” of Brigadier General John B. Gordon’s brigade into York on Sunday, June 28, 1863. Gordon’s men marched down Market Street en route to Wrightsville and its imposing military target, the mile-and-a-half-long wooden covered bridge across the Susquehanna River. Less has been mentioned about the Georgians’ return to York after the Pennsylvania militia thwarted their efforts by burning the only passageway across the river between Harrisburg and Havre de Grace, Maryland.
Here is one contemporary account of Gordon’s march back through York the following afternoon.
That eyewitness was James Gall, Jr., a Relief Agent for the United States Sanitary Commission, a charitable organization that served the needs of soldiers. His superiors feared that a battle would occur near York, and they sent Gall to prepare the way for relief efforts should that rumor prove to come true. On Saturday, Gall had traveled from Harpers Ferry via train to Parkton, Maryland, where he found that further northern travel would have to be made on foot. The Northern Central Railway had been cut by the Rebels, who were now in possession of York. He left Parkton at 9 a.m. on Sunday and arrived in York at 4 in the afternoon. He toured Jubal Early’s various campsites the next day and commented on the appearance, condition, and habits of the Confederates.
“On Monday, the rebels were busy carting off the levied articles. About 4:00 P.M., Gordon’s brigade returned from Wrightsville, bringing with them some horses and cattle which they had picked up along the way. They had about eight supply and ammunition wagons, and twelve ambulances with them. Many of the latter were marked U.S. The ambulances were all filled with men, who had apparently given out on the way.
Physically, the men looked about equal to the generality of our own troops, and there were fewer boys among them. Their dress was a wretched mixture of all cuts and colors. There was not the slightest attempt at uniformity in this respect. Every man seemed to have put on whatever he could get hold of, without regard to shape or color. I noticed a pretty large sprinkling of blue pants among them, some of those, doubtless, that were left by Milroy at Winchester. Their shoes, as a general thing, were poor; some of the men were entirely barefooted.
Their equipments were light, as compared with those of our men. They consisted of a thin woolen blanket, coiled up and slung from the shoulder in the form of a sash, a haversack swung from the opposite shoulder, and a cartridge-box. The whole cannot weigh more than twelve or fourteen pounds. Is it strange, then, that with such light loads, they should be able to make longer and more rapid marches than our men? The marching of the men was irregular and careless; their arms were rusty and ill kept. Their whole appearance was inferior to that of our [Union] soldiers.”