Cannonball

Part of the USA Today Network

Where did J.E.B. Stuart hold his June 30 council of war?


Perhaps history was changed in this old farmhouse in rural North Codorus Township in scenic southern York County, Pennsylvania. Then again, perhaps not.

On the evening of June 30, 1863, Confederate Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart was leading his weary column of more than 4,000 cavalrymen northeasterly away from the site of the Battle of Hanover. His destination? The prosperous town of York, where he expected to link up with the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia following his daring ride around the Union Army of the Potomac.
History records that he and his staff paused at John E. Ziegler’s place to convene a conference of his leading officers, and decided to head toward New Salem (and eventually, Dover, where he still hoped to locate the trail of Early’s movements).
But exactly which Ziegler property did Jeb Stuart use for his temporary headquarters? There were a couple of possible sites.

This windswept intersection of Green Valley Road and what in 1863 was the Patapsco Road (now known as Panther Hill Road) marks the approximate site of what was Johan (John) Bernhart Ziegler‘s old country tavern. Ziegler, who lived from 1738 until 1797, had operated this tavern on what was a main trade route from Maryland to York. His son, John Ziegler (1767-1845), became owner of the tavern, grist mill, and sprawling farm down the road from the tavern. During the Civil War, the properties were owned and operated by his grandson, John Epley Ziegler (14 Apr 1806 – 19 Nov 1875).
Regional historian Ray Kinard has been searching for a photograph of this long since demolished tavern for several years (if you have one, please e-mail it to me and I will make sure Ray sees it).

Stuart’s column paused at or near the intersection while the officers convened. But where?
Here are the arguments for the old Ziegler tavern, a theory that is supported by several local historians, including Ray Kinard, who I regard as one of the leading experts on the Hanover Junction region.
1. It was centrally located right at the critical intersection. Stuart had fought a significant battle, his men were tired, and the tavern would have been a landmark that was likely known to the Hanover citizens who had been forced to accompany Stuart to guide his men on this dark night.
2. Stuart’s column was strung out for miles, and each of his three brigades would have had to march directly by this building, as well as his staff officers and couriers. It was easy to find.
3. Taverns in that era offered convenient and comfortable places to meet, with large enough rooms to gather staff and officers for open discussion of the options.
4. Food and drink could be procured as refreshments.
5. Communications with the line officers was easier, as many of the regiments were likely still on Green Valley Road.

Here are a few of the arguments for Ziegler’s farmhouse, which is located about three-tenths of a mile from the tavern site down the winding Panther Hill Road. Among those who claimed this was the location was local historian Armand Glatfelter.
1. Ziegler filed a Federal damage claim that Rebel cavalry in large quantities massed around his property, which consisted of the brick farmhouse shown above, several outbuildings, a huge barn, and a grist mill. Among his $1940 in losses were 6 tons of hay, 500 bushels of corn from his mill, 35 bushels oats also from his mill (which no longer exists, unfortunately), and six “fine horses.” It takes a lot of men to load 535 bushels of grain and 6 tons of hay, so in the darkness, Rebels were swarming over his property. Could one of Stuart’s senior staff officers been physically present to direct this activity, and therefore on-site to choose the farmhouse as the meeting place for the generals?
2. There is a significant source of water very close to the farm – the South Branch of the Codorus Creek, although it’s also within an easy distance of the old tavern.
3. Stuart had a propensity for using similar large farmhouses of the most prosperous man in the region for his headquarters (the previous evening he was at the farmhouse of wealthy miller / farmer William Shriver at Union Mills, Maryland). Stuart is known to have taken his dinner at New Salem; if he was at Ziegler’s Tavern, why did he and his staff not eat there while conversing? John Esten Cooke, a staff officer known to have been at Stuart’s side for much of the ride, remarked how famished everyone was by the time they reached New Salem. Could the tavern have been closed and locked, and hence the search for an occupied house that did not require a break-in?
In my recently released Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863, I mention the farmhouse as the location (the conventional wisdom), although over the past couple of years Ray has did a very nice job of convincing me that the tavern was a more likely location. I think the evidence is inconclusive and circumstantial in either case, although it’s one of the details of York County’s rich Civil War history that remains open to conjecture and debate.
What do you think?

After the conference, Stuart directed his column to turn northward onto the very winding and hilly Panther Hill Road toward New Salem, a very tricky and grueling route, especially at night. It’s not exactly a great route for cars today, let alone battle-and-road-weary horses carrying riders and guns.

By the way, John E. Ziegler’s daughter Sarah was married to Henry Bott, whose Seven Valley farm was a campsite of the 20th Pennsylvania Militia during the Gettysburg Campaign and whose store was raided by Elijah V. White’s “Comanches” during their expedition to the train station at Hanover Junction on June 27, just three days before Stuart’s visit. It is likely Mr. Ziegler had heard all the stories of the Rebel thievery from his daughter and son-in-law, and now, after June 30, he had his own stories to tell them, including the fact that Jeb Stuart had paid a personal visit to one of his properties.
Which one? That answer may have been lost to history with the passing of John Ziegler and his immediate family.