The Most Expensive Horse in York County, PA????
Engraving of the famed thoroughbred racehorse “Sir Archy” (1803-1833) from volume one of Frank Forester’s Horse and Horsemanship of the United States, published in 1857. Public domain image. A namesake horse was stolen by Rebel raiders in York County, Pennsylvania during the Gettysburg Campaign.
Many of you are aware that I have been compiling all of the damage claims filed after the Civil War by residents of York County, Pennsylvania, who asked for compensation for horses, mules, and/or personal property taken by the Confederate and Union soldiers during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign. More than 1,080 horses are known to have been seized by the Rebels in this county, and that tally will surely increase as I add in those claims filed in other counties by people who actually lived in York County at the time of the thefts (one of my projects over the winter). There are some great stories hidden in these claims, and I am assembling them into yet another book idea.
In the meantime, I will share some of the more interesting tidbits that can be gleamed from this treasure trove of information.
For example, the claim of York County farmer William S. Anderson is of particular interest. He lived in northern Carroll Township not far from the village of Dillsburg. The average value of a common work horse or carriage horse in 1863 (averaging out the thousand-plus damage claims) was about $150. For a stallion, the average was closer to $250. Anderson had one he valued at $800, by far the most money allowed by the government officials for a horse in all of the York County damage claims (and likely in all other counties as well, although I have not yet read all the 6000+ claims from elsewhere in Pennsylvania).
What a horse it must have been!
In the late afternoon or early evening of Tuesday, July 1, 1863, a body of armed Confederates visited William Anderson’s farm in rural northwestern York County. They seized two of his horses, including a prized bay stallion that he had named “Sir Archy” in honor of a famous thoroughbred racehorse by that name that had been born and bred in Virginia in the early 1800s. The original Sir Archy was legendary for his exploits on the race track, and had become one of America’s first great stud horses in North Carolina.
Anderson’s Civil War-era steed must have been a magnificent specimen, being valued at more than triple the average stallion and five times that of a common plow horse. I have searched without success old record in an attempt to learn more about this particular horse, but have not found anything to date (there are of course lots of records of the first Sir Archy). Many of the records of the local fairs and agricultural expositions include names of farmers who had prize-winning horses, but William Anderson is not listed. However, there are large gaps in the years and it is quite conceivable that this horse was widely known (and admired) in the Dillsburg region.
Anderson’s total claim for $988.75 also included the loss of a leather saddle, bridle, halter, 15 bushels of oats, 30 bushels of corn, and 10 grain empty grain bags. In addition, he had to kill a black mare, the other horse taken by the Rebels. Apparently the mare was so badly injured (including a broken jaw) that Anderson had to euthanize it.
I have always wondered about the fate of his stallion. Was Sir Archy given to one of the Rebel officers as his new personal mount? Did it participate in the Battle of Gettysburg (or the Battle of Hunterstown, as the farm was located not far from Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton’s campsite near Dillsburg). Hampton’s boys fought at Hunterstown on July 2 before the East Cavalry Field fight on July 3 near Gettysburg.
If anyone has more information about the William S. Anderson family or his prized horse “Sir Archy,” please let me know.