Part of the USA Today Network

Whew! That was close!

The market shed in the square of Hanover, Pa. (Scott Mingus postcard collection)
The market shed in the center square of Hanover, Pa. (Scott Mingus postcard collection)

It is Saturday morning, June 27, 1863, in Hanover, southwestern York County, Pennsylvania. All is quiet, but there is a noticeable nervousness in the air on what normally would have been baking day in this Germanic community.

For several days, the fear in this peaceful farming region has been, “The Rebels are coming.” Reports from refugees from Adams County state that the Rebels indeed have come there, chasing off the hastily organized state emergency militia and occupying Gettysburg. And now, the Confederates reportedly were en route to Hanover.

Soon, they arrived.

Lt. Col. Elijah V. White and the veteran troopers of the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry quickly spread out throughout Hanover, blocking all the exit routes and seizing horses from the residents who were on the streets. In a few cases, when daring citizens tried to make a run for it, angry Rebels snapped off pistol shots.

Here’s one such account, taken from the March 22, 1875, pages of the York Daily.

Lt. Col. Elijah V. White, 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry
Lt. Col. Elijah V. White, 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry

“During the rebel invasion in 1863, when the enemy were about to enter Hanover, says the Hanover Herald of Saturday, Mr. Jesse Kohler, of this place, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Levi Kindig, residing near town, started from Trone’s Hotel (formerly Kohler’s,) on Carlisle Street, in a buggy, to follow some of the younger members of the family, who had gone away with the horses. They had started when they were commanded to halt, by a cavalryman, who came dashing on behind them. Not obeying they were fired on, and heard the bullet whistle in rather dangerous proximity. They stopped, Mr. Kohler running away and escaping, while Mr. Kindig was captured and ordered to stand by the sidewalk and await orders. He soon afterwards also escaped, with the horse and buggy.

“The old buggy was taken the other day, to the shop of Shultz & Kump to be re-trimmed. While working at the top frame Mr. Kump found a pistol bullet imbedded in one of the bows, just over the seat. There the leaden missile had been peacefully slumbering for nearly twelve years. Neither Mr. Kohler nor Mr. Kindig had before any suspicion that their escape from death on that exciting day, had been so very narrow.”

Jesse Kohler was born in Hanover on November 17, 1819. He married Sarah Kindig and raised five sons and two daughters. He was a businessman most of his adult life, engaged in making carriages as well as owning a grist mill for several years. He died in his hometown on April 7, 1901, and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. His obituary appeared in the New Oxford Item on April 12, 1901.

“Jesse Kohler, died Sunday, afternoon at 1.30 o’clock at the home of his daughter, Mrs J. Emory Bair, at Gettysburg, of a complication of diseases, aged 82 years, 4 months and 20 days. Deceased was a son of the late Philip Kohler and wife and was born and reared at Kohler’s Mill near New Oxford. When a young man he was married to Miss Sarah Kindig, a daughter of the late John Kindig, of near Hanover. He was engaged for a time in teaming from York, before the railroad to Hanover Junction was built, and was also in the milling business at Kohler’s Mill.”

Levi Kindig was born in 1818 in McSherrystown, a village near Hanover in Adams County. He lived on a farm outside of Hanover most of his adult life and died in 1882. Several descendants still live in the area.

A matter of mere inches had determined whether Kindig and Kohler lived peacefully to old age or perished from a Rebel bullet. There are only a few accounts of Confederates deliberately firing at civilians during the occupation of York County, and most occurred in Hanover.

It had indeed been a close call.