Cannonball

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York County Civil War Border Claims Database now on-line at YCHT

Joseph Menges lived on this prosperous York County, PA farm during the Civil War. The Franklin Township farmer filed a damage claim for $225 citing the loss of two horses to “Stuart’s Cavalry” during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign). He lost a 14-yr-old gray horse and a 4-yr-old bay mare taken despite being “concealed in an out-of-the-way place” on his 125-acre farm. The losses occured on July 2, making it quite probable that the Confederates were from Brigadier General Wade Hampton‘s brigade of J.E.B. Stuart‘s cavalry division.
In the decade following the Civil War more than 700 different residents of York County, Pennsylvania, filed damage claims resulting from the Gettysburg Campaign. The vast majority of these so-called “border claims” asked for compensation for losses incurred to the invading Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, although a few dozen were from citizens whose property or horses were seized by either the Pennsylvania Emergency Militia that was defending the county or the Union Army of the Potomac, parts of which passed through southwestern York County on June 30 and July 1.


To file a damage claim, the resident had to file a sworn deposition as to what the Rebels or Yankees took, some estimation of value, and whatever information or specifics would help establish that the property was indeed owned by the claimant. Claims range from horses (more than 1,100 in total were taken from York County, the majority by J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry) to such esoteric items as a buffalo robe stolen by one of Brigadier General John B. Gordon‘s command during the Confederate occupation of Wrightsville.
I read through each and every York County claim microfilmed in the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg and took extensive notes. I then created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet listing the claimant, township, post office or place of residence, claim amount, number of horses or mules, and some accounting of what was taken. I also included which Rebel command likely took the personal property or animals (in a few cases, the residents were clearly mistaken as to which Rebels were the perpetrators).
Hanover historian John T. Krepps helped me by adding the Federal claims, many of which were from the Battle of Hanover, and Lila Fourhman-Schaull at the York County Heritage Trust drove the effort to get this spreadsheet transformed into a searchable database that all interested persons could use as a research tool to see if their ancestors were victimized by the Rebels.
The damage claims database is now available on-line at the website of the York County Heritage Trust.
Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress. I still have to add those claims from people who lived in York County when the thefts occurred, but filed their claims in neighboring counties (I have started searching the Cumberland County claims and already have found a handful of York residents. There certainly are several more yet to be added). Also, note that many Yorkers failed to file claims (they had insurance and received their money from that funding source, or they simply did not want the both of traveling to York, Dover, Dillsburg, or Wrightsville to file a claim, or they had passed away or simply did not want the hassle or bother).
The State Archives house the damage claims from York, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, and Fulton counties. The claims from Adams County are housed in the Lutheran Theological Seminary at the Adams County Historical Society. I have used them in the past, and I thank Timothy H. Smith for his considerate assistance in helping me locate pertinent claims related to Gordon’s brigade and Lt. Col. Elijah V. White‘s cavalry during the June 26, 1863, first Confederate occupation of Gettysburg.