Union cavalry general recalls his visit to York County during the Gettysburg Campaign
David McMurtrie Gregg (shown above in this photo from the Library of Congress) commanded a division of Union cavalry in the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863. He was a first cousin of the governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Gregg Curtin, and a native of Huntingdon, Pa. The West Point graduate is remembered with an impressive equestrian statue in Centre Park in his adopted hometown of Reading, Pa., where he and his wife are buried.
In mid-June of 1863, he led his three-brigade division north through Maryland toward Pennsylvania. Years later, in 1916, he gave a lengthy interview to a reporter for the Reading Eagle.
Here is the part of that narrative which involve his visit to York County…
“My division arrived at Westminster [Maryland] only a few hours after Gen. [J.E.B.] Stuart’s Confederate cavalry had passed through on the way to Hanover. I arrived with my division at Manchester on the 13th and was there when Gen. Stuart and Gen. [H. Judson] Kilpatrick were engaged in a sharp conflict at Hanover, but at that time I knew nothing about this fight, although I was expecting that I might come in contact with Stuart at any hour on that day.
At Manchester I received orders to move eastward to Hanover Junction and protect Baltimore. If Baltimore was not threatened by the enemy I was to proceed with my division to York. I arrived at the junction on the morning of July 1, the day the battle of Gettysburg opened.
I had three brigades, then commanded by Gen. [John] McIntosh, Gen. Irvin Gregg (who was my cousin), and Col. [Pennock] Huey. I ordered Col. Huey back to Manchester to guard my baggage train. I passed from Manchester across York County to Hanover Junction on a forced march and arrived there shortly after Gen. Stuart and his brigade commanders, [Wade] Hampton, [Fitzhugh] Lee and [John] Chambliss had a conference at the farm house of John A. Ziegler, not far away. The station house at this junction and the railroad bridges nearby had all been burned by [Lt.] Col. [Elijah] White’s Virginia cavalry, sent there by Gen. [Jubal] Early on June 27, on his way to York.
While at Hanover Junction I was unable to communicate with York or Baltimore, for the telegraph line had been cut by the enemy, but received two messages from couriers from Gen. [George] Meade from his headquarters then at Taneytown, Md. One of these messages ordered me to move toward Baltimore, which movement I began to make when the second message directed me to proceed with all possible haste towards Gettysburg, where the opposing armies were concentrating and where fighting had already begun.
I expected to reach York on the afternoon of July 1 but I moved northwestward from the junction through Jefferson to Hanover. It was midnight when we passed down York Street [now Route 116] , Hanover. It was a full moon and and the moving shadows of our horses could be seen on the streets. We halted from 12 o’clock midnight to 3 a.m. in Center Square at Hanover, and on the leading streets. Many of my soldiers slept on the pavement, for they were tired after two days of hard marching. The citizens of Hanover brought provisions in abundance to my hungry men. We received a hearty welcome from every citizen of that town. When I stopped in Hanover with my two brigades, numbering about 4,000 men, I learned definitely of the cavalry engagement at Hanover and that Gen. Early had occupied York with a division of Confederate infantry for two days. After three hours rest at Hanover I received another message from the commander-in-chief. This was early in the morning of July 2, and soon afterward we heard the booming of cannon and the rattle of musketry from the battle of Gettysburg.
Gen. [Irvin] Gregg then took up the line of march, and in the afternoon of July 3, engaged Stuart on the Rummel farm, where he defeated his antagonist in his effort to turn the right of the Union line. His victory there won him fame and distinction from every student of American history.”
Source: Reading Eagle, August 20, 1916
For much more on David Gregg’s tiring countermarch at Hanover Junction, please click here first and then here second to visit a pair of past blog entries on this same topic (with several pertinent photographs).