York County tavern owners suffered at Rebels’ hands
The John Scott Hotel (left) proved to be a popular watering hole and rest stop for weary travelers at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania, while awaiting trains to Gettysburg, Baltimore, or York. The owner’s family staffed the hotel / tavern, augmented by at least one young woman from the nearby town of Seven Valleys (teenaged Amanda Gladfelter).
The establishment proved to be popular not only with railroad passengers, but also with thirsty Confederate horsemen during the Gettysburg Campaign.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Taken in November 1863 while dignitaries await their train to Gettysburg to attend the dedication of the National Cemetery. President Abraham Lincoln would also pass through here en route to deliver what became famed as the Gettysburg Address.
The Alexandria Gazette, a leading Virginia newspaper, on July 1, 1863, ran the above piece mentioning how about 150 Confederate cavalrymen a few days earlier had “dashed in without notice, surrounded the house of Captain John Scott, drank all the whiskey in the place, took two or three horses,” before destroying a nearby railroad bridge with coal oil seized from the railroad buildings. Mr. Scott did not file a post-war damage claim for his lost whiskey or horses (insurance may have covered his losses, or he simply did not care to revisit the subject and file the legal paperwork). The Rebels were from the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Elijah V. White. The raid on Hanover Junction took place in the afternoon of Saturday, June 26, just a few days before the Battle of Gettysburg.
White’s small-scale raid on Hanover Junction proved to be a mere prelude to the invasion of York County the following day when more than 6,000 Rebels under Major General Jubal A. Early marched into the York region and established a series of camps. While General Early posted guards at the drinking establishments, several accounts and post-war border claims suggest that his men still managed to locate alcohol.
Several tavern owners throughout York County fell victim to passing Confederate columns on June 28 and 29, including David Gartman. He locked his store in downtown York on Sunday the 28th, but Rebels broke in and cleaned out his shelves of all the brandies, gins, wines, and whiskey they could drink or carry off. They also walked off with all of his supply of vinegar.
Many farmers in the region operated small distilleries, and the Confederates were quick in locating these as well. Jacob Brillinger reported being forced to feed 300 Rebel cavalrymen who camped on his farm near today’s E. Market Street in what was then Frystown (now part of East York). They washed down their meals with six 40-gallon barrels of whiskey. At least four other nearby farmers also reported losing large quantities of bulk whiskey, including another Brillinger, John, who lost two barrels.
On June 30 and July 1, J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry rode through York County. They, too, found plenty of strong drink. Rossville merchant William R. Smith filed a border claim after the war that Stuart’s troopers had taken three barrels of whiskey (totaling 126 gallons), as well as 20 gallons brandy, 10 gallons ginger brandy, 10 gallons wine, 5 gallons old rye whiskey, and 5 gallons cherry brandy, as well as almost all of his merchandise from his well stocked store along the Carlisle Pike.
One human interest story told in the months after the Confederate occupation of York County bears retelling. Here is an excerpt from Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg Campaign.
Near one York County town, the proprietor of a well-stocked country tavern to his dismay watched as ravenous Southerners devoured his entire stock of bacon, beef and poultry. They forced his wife to use up all of his remaining flour to bake them bread and pies. Soldiers took all of his forage for their horses, and many catnapped on his beds. Perhaps most annoying to the innkeeper, his inventory of 10-12 barrels of liquor had been reduced to a few mere pints remaining as the unwelcome guests finally took their leave, hauling away what alcohol they had not guzzled.
A colonel, perhaps with a tinge of guilt for all the food and drink the men had consumed, loudly stated that it was a pity that no one else had offered to the distraught hotel owner any compensation for his loss. He stepped to the bar and laid down a Confederate 20-dollar bank note, looking around at his comrades as he intoned, “There, my good fellow, take that as my share of our indebtedness.”
The quizzical proprietor, in a thick German accent, inquired, “Vot kind of monish is dat?” to which the officer calmly replied, “That, Sir, is a greyback; in other words, a note of the Confederate States of America.”
“O stranger,” retorted the vexed saloonkeeper, “if you hash not got no petter monish dan dat, you’ll better keeps it. I don’t vont none of it; it is good for nix; no petter dan plank paper!
“Sir,” rejoined the somewhat indignant officer, “I advise you to take it and be glad for the opportunity. You will soon find that it is the best money in the world. Keep it, Sir, keep it, by all means.”
“Nein, nein,” shot back the persistent innkeeper, “dat monish will never be wort anything here nor anywhere. I would not give von silver thaler for a breadbasket full. I von’t be seen mit it in my hand; and if you don’t take it along, I rolls it up, holds it at the candle, un lites my pipe mit it.”
The Rebel quickly snatched up the banknote and returned it to his wallet before leaving.
Adapted from Richard Miller, The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion, Civil, Military, Naval and Domestic (Hartford, CT: Hartford Publishing Company, 1867).