USMRR crews repair Hanover Junction bridge destroyed by Virginia cavalry
Detail of a photograph of the hastily repaired bridge over the Codorus Creek at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania. The original wooden bridge was burned on Saturday, June 27, 1863, by the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. Elijah V. White. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The raiders arrived at Hanover Junction about 2 p.m. after riding from Gettysburg. They chased off Union militia and then proceeded to burn the turntable, some rolling stock, the ash pit, and the railroad bridge. They did not, thankfully, burn the depot, which was restored early in the 21st century and is today an interesting museum and interpretive center.
Within days after the bridge’s destruction, crews (shown above) from the U.S. Military Railroad arrived in York County and began repairing all of the damaged bridges (there were many of them!) to restore the Northern Central Railway and the Hanover Branch Railroad to operational status.
Here are some of the official reports from the Union commanders concerning the repair of the vital bridges. Trains began running again within an amazingly short time period, a credit to the bridge gangs, and to the leadership of Brig. Gen. Herman Haupt of the USMRR.
All entries are from Volume 27, of the Official Records.
Harrisburg, June 21, 1863-6. 30 p. m.
Major-General HALLECK, Washington:
I have expected the Northern Central Railroad to be cut. However, I will try and protect five of the important bridges north of the Maryland line.
D. N. COUCH,
JUNE 27, 1863.
About 200 cavalry, one battery, and 2, 000 infantry occupied Gettysburg last night, and moved this morning toward Hanover Junction, on the Northern Central Railroad. They were part of Ewell’s Corps, under General Early; the cavalry under [E. V.] White. Another column is reported as moving 5 miles north of Gettysburg, int the direction of York, and the rebels told the country people that another column would come from Carlisle and meet them at York.
R. G. McCREARY.
T. J. CARSON.
Gettysburg, June 28, 1863 – 2 p. m.
Major-General [Julius] STAHEL,
We have just arrived with the column at this place, and find no enemy. The day before yesterday, at 3 p. m., a force of infantry, estimated at 2, 000, with six pieces of artillery and 200 cavalry, under Colonel White, passed into the town, and out again at daylight yesterday morning. They destroyed the railroad bridge near here, and helped themselves to everything they needed in town.
They went out on the road to York, and it is reported here that White, with his cavalry, branched off to Hanover Junction from a place called Abbottstown. Nothing has been heard from that place. At the same time that the enemy arrived here, a large camp of them was seen on a road 4 miles north of this place, which also leads to York, and during that night the troops proceeded in that direction. The citizens who observed them report an estimate of 6, 000 infantry and twenty cannon (counted). The train belonging to these troops did not get past here till yesterday afternoon. All the enemy came from Chambersburg, and they stated they were going to York, and to cut railroad communication at Hanover Junction.
I have camped my men east of the city, where there is plenty of grass, and I think I can get grain for them. I shall picket the York, Chambersburg, and Hanover roads, and patrol communications between them. A report has just been brought in that the enemy encamped last night at Abbottstown. By order of Brigadier-General Copeland:
Headquarters Cavalry Corps, June 29, 1863.
Respectfully forwarded for the information of the commanding general. By command of Major-General Pleasonton:
A. J. ALEXANDER,
QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington, D. C., July 1, 1863- 11. 20 a. m.
Brigadier General R. INGALLS,
HEADQUARTERS Army of the Potomac:
GENERAL: Bootees, socks, and other supplies will be sent to Westminster by the Western Maryland Railroad; also a construction train, to lay down sidings and prepare the means of transacting business there. General Haupt is ordered from Harrisburg to Baltimore and the Northern Central, to take charge of the repairs of the Northern Central and the work upon the Western Maryland Railroad. If this movement is successful, you will probably have a depot at Westminster for a time. Reports seem to indicate a concentration of the rebels. Some trains, if you strike the Northern Central at any point which they can reach, can be moved on to that road. These movements are ordered, and are in preparation. Supplies of shoes are on the cars.
M. C. MEIGS,
RELAY HOUSE, July 2, 1863 – 12 midnight.
Brigadier-General HAUPT, Eutaw House, Baltimore:
Just returned from New Oxford and Hanover Junction. There are nineteen bridges destroyed between York Haven and Hanover Junction. Between Hanover Junction and Gettysburg there are two small ones gone, and one partially. I think these three bridges can be put up in from one to two days. I shall retain the Tiger here until further orders.
J. B. CLOUGH,
Engineer of Construction
RELAY, [NORTHERN CENTRAL RAILROAD,] July 3, 1863. (Received 10. 20 a. m.)
Major-General HALLECK, Commander-in-Chief:
One of our engines proceeded to Hanover Junction yesterday afternoon; thence, over the Gettysburg Railroad, to within 7 miles of Gettysburg, where a burned bridge obstructed farther progress. Report excessively heavy firing and much smoke toward Gettysburg. Returned at midnight. Nineteen bridges are destroyed between Harrisburg and Hanover Junction, on the Northern Central Railroad. I have sent half my bridge corps with train to Harrisburg, via Baltimore and Philadelphia, to work south; the other half to work north. This road is of the very poorest description-curves of 300 feet radius, around which ordinary engines with flanged drivers cannot run. I will make the best arrangement possible, but not much dependence can be placed upon this road. Some supplies, in the present position of the army, might be sent from Sykesville by wagon. I learn from Colonel Donaldson that he has forwarded all the supplies that have been ordered by the Westminster branch, but the amount not large. I am now leaving for Westminster.
Brigadier-General, in Charge of U. S. Military Railroads
HEADQUARTERS, Baltimore, July 4, 1863. (Received 4. 20 a. m.)
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
I have, after careful inspection of condition and estimate of capacity of the Western Maryland road, arranged for fifteen trains per day each way, in convoys of five trains each, at intervals of eight hours. Trains cannot pass at any point on this road, from want of sidings, and there is no telegraph line; still, if cars are promptly loaded and unloaded, and no accident occurs, I hope to pass one hundred and fifty cars per day each way, capable of carrying from 2, 000 to 4, 000 wounded. In return cars, the rapidity of loading and unloading will measure the capacity of the road.
My men have passed over the Northern Central Railroad to Hanover Junction, and over the Hanover and Gettysburg branches to Oxford, 7 miles from Gettysburg. A branch is marked on the map from Hanover to Littlestown, but my information is that road is actually laid only a few hundred yards from Hanover. I have informed General Ingalls by courier of all these facts, and it rests with him to designate the route. I have no very recent information from Gettysburg, but at last account the position of the enemy would not permit the reconstruction and operation of the Gettysburg branch at that time. I can soon open the branch road to Gettysburg after we have full and undisturbed possession.
HANOVER JUNCTION, July 4, 1863. (Received, War Department, 12. 35 p. m.)
All the supplies offered for transportation on Westminster branch have been sent forward, and sidings at Relay are clear. Our arrangements work well. Transportation of the wounded should be sent via Westminster, to fill return cars. I have so requested. Our men rebuilt entirely the bridge at this Junction, three spans of about 40 feet, this morning. They expect to reach York to-morrow night. The reconstruction of the Northern Central entire at this time may not be an imperative military necessity, but, as my corps would not be otherwise employed, it is best to do it. I will endeavor to secure for you, when I reach Hanover, more rapid communication be telegraph with Gettysburg.
HANOVER, PA., July 4, 1863. (Received 4. 20 p. m.)
I am now at Hanover Station. A bridge is broken between this place and Littlestown. I will proceed at once to repair it, and commence to send off wounded; then return and take the Gettysburg Railroad, and commence repairing it. It will be well to make a good hospital in York, with which place I expect in two days to be in communication by rail. Until then, temporary arrangements can be made for the wounded. I learn that the wire in intact for 9 miles toward Gettysburg. I will have it repaired, and communicate any information of importance that I can obtain.
OXFORD, PA., via HANOVER PA., July 4, 1863-11 a. m. (Received 11. 15 a. m.)
Night has overtaken me at Oxford, 7 miles east of Gettysburg. We have been at work on a large bridge near this town, which is considerably damaged. It will require two hours to-morrow to finish it, when we will proceed to Gettysburg. A portion of the track is torn up. I have found the foreman of repairs, and he will commence to repair the track at daylight. About a mile of the telegraph wire is down, and wire carried off. I have sent my engine to the Junction for men and material to repair it.
When an office is ready, and line in order to Gettysburg, the operator will report to General Meade’s headquarters. Persons just in from Gettysburg report the position of affairs. I fear that while Meade rests to refresh his men and collect supplies, Lee will be off so far that he cannot intercept him. A good force on the line of the Potomac to prevent Lee from crossing would, I think, insure his destruction. By 11 o’clock to-night about 2, 000 tons of supplies should have been forwarded, since yesterday morning, to Meade’s army, if so much has been offered for transportation. I had arranged for 1, 500 tons per day on the Western Maryland Railroad. The reopening of the Northern Central Railroad from Hanover Junction to York will permit the rapid and convenient removal of wounded to that city, which is an excellent location for hospitals. I expect to have this completed by to-morrow (Sunday) night.
[JULY 4, 1863.]
FREDERICK, July 8, 1863. (Received 8. 40 p. m.)
W. W. WRIGHT,
McClellan House, Gettysburg:
In consequence of the bad condition of the roads, I will go to Gettysburg via Northern Central Railroad. The Cumberland Valley Railroad must be re-opened to Hagerstown as soon as we get possession. I expect to place you in charge of that line. Hope to reach Gettysburg to-morrow.