Some York Countians fled as Rebels approached in June 1863
In mid-June 1863, more than 6,600 Confederate soldiers approached York County from the west. Their commander, Major General Jubal A. Early, was a West Point graduate, a veteran of the Mexican War, and one of the Confederacy’s more aggressive generals. He had a vitriolic, mean streak, and rumors abounded that the Virginian planned to apply the torch to a Pennsylvania town in retaliation for perceived Northern atrocities committed in the Old Dominion. Other tales circulated that the unpredictable Rebels were thieving giants, that they ate children, and had horns (they were “teufelen,” or devils).
Hoping to protect their families, livestock, horses, and possessions, many residents of south-central Pennsylvania headed for safety. Most went across the Susquehanna River at the various bridges and ferries.
Some headed south to Maryland or east to Lancaster. Others headed for Harrisburg.
“The Rebels are coming! The Rebels are coming!” was the cry of the day.
Some walked; some rode horses; others were in carriages or farm wagons. Some took few possessions; others overloaded their conveyances with all sorts of household treasures, including mattresses and chairs.
Here is one contemporary account of a temporary migration to Cecil County, Maryland, on Saturday, June 27, 1863, as Early’s cavalry first appeared in southwestern York County.
“THE FUGITIVES – The appearance of the Rebel army in York county caused many citizens to flee from their homes, and seek safety in this and Lancaster Counties. During the early part of the week quite an exodus took place from the region of little York. Conowingo Bridge was thronged with carriages and wagons. Live stock of all kinds was hurried across the Susquehanna. Many persons from the “seat of war” halted in the Brick Meeting House [a local Quaker church also known as the East Nottingham Meetinghouse] and Rising Sun neighborhood, and still greater numbers journeyed further [sic] north, into Chester and Lancaster counties. Large droves of cattle, horses, and mules were brought to those sections of the country for safety. The Rebels evinced a very warm attachment to their Copperhead friends, by driving off their stock, assuring them they took it out of consideration for their friendly ‘sympathies’ for the South, as they, of course, freely gave it to the people they loved so dearly. Southern sympathizers, copperheads, etc. show to enviable advantage these times!”
For much more on the Confederate invasion of Adams and York counties during the Gettysburg Campaign, please pick up a copy of Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Confederate Expedition to the Susquehanna River, June 1863 available directly from the publisher, Savas Beatie, or from leading book retailers!