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The sergeant never forgot

The Picket, Hanover's landmark monument to its Civil War battle, was once in the middle of the traffic circle (Author's postcard collection)
The Picket, Hanover’s landmark monument to its Civil War battle, was once in the middle of the traffic circle (Author’s postcard collection)

The largest military battle ever fought in York County, Pennsylvania, occurred in Hanover on June 30, 1863, when Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate three cavalry brigades clashed for several hours with Union troopers under General Judson Kilpatrick.  The fighting at times swirled through Hanover’s streets, with men slashing one another with swords or firing guns at close range. Terrified horses, their riders now fallen, added to the chaos.

Among the 300+ victims of the savage encounter was Sgt. James A. McGinley of Company D, 5th New York Cavalry. Severely wounded, he fell from his mount and lay along Frederick Street, fainting from the loss of blood. Finally, when several men started to carry him to a hospital, a resident emerged from a nearby house and dashed forward to the party.

Henry Long insisted on taking the critically wounded cavalryman, a stranger in need, into his own home. It was an act of mercy on the part of the York Countian. He and his second wife Sarah saved McGinley’s life through their personal care.

With the battle over and their guest eventually gone, Henry Long went back to his routine. The 42-year-old Marietta native raised seven children and was a staunch Democrat in politics and a member in good standing of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church.

Through the years, Sergeant McGinley never forgot the Longs and their unselfish kindness.

Here is the story, as taken from the December 27, 1905, issue of the York Daily.

The town's public market shed and the Central Hotel were landmarks in Hanover's Centre Square. The 5th New York Cavalry charged past these structures onto Frederick Street (Author's postcard collection)
The public market shed and the Central Hotel were landmarks in Hanover’s Centre Square. The 5th New York Cavalry counterattacked past these structures onto Frederick Street (upper left). (Author’s postcard collection)

Grateful after 40 Years

Union Veteran Remembers Man Who Nursed Him at Christmas

“The remembrance of a simple act of kindness for more than two score years actuated James A. McGinley, of Springfield, Mass., in sending to Henry Long, of Hanover, a handsome gold jewel case as a token of gratitude for services rendered him during the battle of Hanover June 30, 1863.

“Five thousand Union cavalry under General Kilpatrick that day opposed about an equal number of Confederate cavalry under General Stuart. McGinley was sergeant of Company D, Fifth New York cavalry, which took an important part in repelling the vigorous charge of the southern men up Frederick Street.

“Sergeant McGinley was shot twice and he fell from his horse faint from the loss of blood. As he was being carried to a hospital Mr. Long rushed into the street and volunteered to take care of him. The Long homestead was thrown open, McGinley was taken inside and his life saved through Long’s nursing.

“McGinley lost sight of his benefactor until five years ago last September, when, during the annual encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in Philadelphia, he was one of the survivors of the Fifth New York cavalry, who came to Hanover to attend a reception tendered these veterans by Major Jenkins post, No. 99. Upon this occasion McGinley renewed his acquaintance with Mr. Long and family.

“Every Christmas since Mr. McGinley has sent a valuable remembrance, each accompanied with a letter expressive of gratitude for the wartime favor. Mr. Long is the father of John Luther Long, the Philadelphia author [best known for his popular short story Madame Butterfly].”

Henry Long died in 1906 at the age of 87. He is buried in Hanover’s Mount Olivet Cemetery.

To read more about the Battle of Hanover, pick up a copy of Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide John T. Krepps’ fine, detailed local micro-history A Strong and Sudden Onslaught: The Cavalry Action at Hanover Pennsylvania and/or Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi’s  Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, a broader but extremely interesting study that places the fight within the context of Stuart’s entire foray and its ramifications. I highly recommend both works.