York businessmen P. A. and Samuel Small victimized twice by Rebels
Philip Albright Small and his brother Samuel Small during the 19th century were among of the leading industrialists and merchants of south-central Pennsylvania. The firm of P. A. & Small lasted well into the 20th century as a wholesale distributor of food products. The 1876 atlas of York County shows the extent of their empire, with more than a dozen flour mills being operated by the company, as well several large warehouses and other properties including a hardware store on the square in downtown York.
Many of you are familiar with the story of P. A. Small during the Gettysburg Campaign. He played a prominent role in organizing the town’s Committee of Safety and hosted its meetings in the counting room of his hardware store. His family lived in what is now the Lafayette Club, and they watched Jubal Early’s forces march through York. Armed Rebels surrounded Small’s grist mills and removed their contents, both grain and ground flour. When York came up well short on General Early’s demand for $100,000 in cash, Small offered a $50,000 bond to help make up the difference (many Yorkers worried that the Rebels would burn the town if the money and other requisitioned supplies were not produced).
However, this was not the only time that Confederates victimized Mr. Small and his brother. Cannonball reader Ray Kinard of the Codorus Valley Historical Society kindly sent me a fascinating article about yet another incident.
Here is a summary of P. A. Small’s other encounter with Rebel raiders…
In the 1840s P.A. & S. Small and the Patterson brothers of Baltimore purchased the Ashland Furnace in Ashland, Maryland. They formed a new management entity, Patterson, Small, and Company, and invested heavily in the operations. They enlarged the facility with a second furnace, added another smokestack, and augmented the previous water power with internally-generated steam. By 1856 the No. 2 furnace was producing more than four thousand tons of iron a year. In 1864, a third line was installed because of the demand for pig iron generated by the Civil War (naval ironclads, machinery, etc.). It had the capacity of 50 tons/day.
However, trouble lurked.
And, it was to come from a man destined to be the police commissioner of Baltimore after the war, famed Confederate partisan ranger Harry Gilmor.
Gilmor led a colorful life. He was noted for his daring raids throughout Maryland and northern Virginia on the railroads and Yankee supply convoys. No wagon train was safe. He and his men operated on the fringes of the Army of Northern Virginia, and at times were a formal part of that organization. Twice a prisoner of war, he commanded the First and Second Maryland Cavalry regiments.
During the Gettysburg Campaign, Gilmor raided dozens of Pennsylvania farms for horses and supplies. On July 2, 1863, he left his horse with an aide, grabbed a rifle, and charged up East Cemetery Hill with the Louisiana Tigers. Harry was the only known cavalryman to make that assault.
The newspaper article that Ray Kinard shared quotes an excerpt from an old book, History of the Ashland Iron Company by Harold Simpson.
“A band of men known as the Gilmor raiders were hired by the wealthy Gilmor family of Baltimore, sympathizers with the South, to roam through the countryside and rob the people of what ever could be used for the Confederate Army. [editor’s note: Harry didn’t need to be hired; he was family] Desiring to stop the supply of iron that was being sold to the Union by the Ashland Company, Mr. Gilmor ordered his gang to appear at Ashland, set their cannon around the city, and threaten to destroy the plant and dwelling houses if a ransom was not paid.
Word as to whether or not the ransom would be paid was slow in arriving from the Smalls in York, and the workers and inhabitants of Ashland were told to flee, that the town was being fired upon. All left except an elderly man named John Atkinson, who stayed in the Iron Works.”
The situation was tense. Noted Rebel marauders surrounded the industrial complex, and a lone holdout refused to get out of the way. Atkinson’s brave (perhaps ill-advised) act however bought time. While it is uncertain if Gilmor would have opened fire knowing a civilian was still inside his target, Atkinson’s act bought enough time for a courier to arrive from the telegraph station.
Here is the rest of the story, as told by Harold Sampson:
“Agreement to pay the ransom was received before orders were given to fire and the raiders left without damaging the city.”
The article does not mention how much money Philip and Samuel Small had to fork over this time to protect their property.
The brothers must have been glad when the war ended and put a stop to the cash outlay to the Confederacy, although the cessation of hostilities also yielded a dramatic drop-off in U.S. military business and the Ashland Iron Works became unsteady in production and profitability.