York County ties to the fighting on the Second Day at Gettysburg
Did you know there are some York County PA connections to the bitter late afternoon and early evening fighting on the Second Day of the battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863?
Here are a few of those local ties…
Jubal Early, John B. Gordon, Harry T. Hays, and William “Extra Billy” Smith were the four Confederate infantry generals whose troops occupied central York County from June 28-30, 1863, just prior to the battle of Gettysburg. More than a full third of the 6,600 Confederate infantrymen who visited York and/or Wrightsville were subsequently wounded, killed, or captured at Gettysburg, mostly on the second day.
As part of Early’s veteran division attacked East Cemetery Hill on the evening of July 2, Federal commanders were able to shift Second Corps reserve troops from the Cemetery Ridge defensive line to help repulse Early’s hard-hitting, but largely unsupported attack. The major reason these Union troops (including my three great-great-uncles in the 7th West Virginia Infantry, the Chambers boys) were available for this sudden counterattack was that much of Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson’s Confederate division did not aggressively push eastward from Seminary Ridge toward Cemetery Ridge. If they had done so, then my ancestors and the rest of Red Carroll’s “Gibraltar Brigade” likely would have been frozen in place and not available to reinforce the hard-pressed defenders on Cemetery Hill.
Here are some more local ties to the Second Day’s fighting.
- Numerous accounts exist in York County of residents late on July 2 listening to the fearful sound of the artillery emanating from the west. They had heard the dull roar the previous day during the First Day’s fighting, but most accounts suggest the artillery fire was much more concentrated and heavier on July 2 than on the 1st. The ground shook in many parts of York County, rattling windows and unsettling nerves. Among those locals who later commented on the cannonade was Martin L. Van Baman, a 12-year-old boy who had been visiting his favorite swimming hole with several friends.
- Several men from York County contributed to the roar coming from the artillery at Gettysburg. Abraham Rudisill and almost a dozen other Yorkers were in an artillery battery firing from Culp’s Hill during the July 2 fighting. All survived the battle. Rudisill, later a well-known preacher who helped found Harmony Grove near Dover, wrote an interesting book on his war experiences including his service during the battle of Gettysburg.
- Even as the fighting raged on July 1 and 2, refugees and travelers from Gettysburg were still on the road toward safety across the Susquehanna River. They brought word to York’s residents and leaders as to the events at Gettysburg. Yorkers began organizing relief efforts. At least one resident, the impetuous businessman A. B. Farquhar, had taken immediate action. He jumped into his carriage early on July 1 and galloped to Gettysburg to lend his aid. In doing so, he retraced his earlier, shorter westward journeys the previous Saturday, June 26, when he had first met with General Gordon at Abbottstown and then again later at Farmers to negotiate York’s surrender to the oncoming Rebels.
- Here is Farquhar’s account of his activities at Gettysburg on July 2 while the savage events described in my new book were unfolding on the battlefield: “We knew a great battle was impending. In a little while we learned it had begun on the hills about Gettysburg. I was always interested in hospital practice and the best way that I knew of to be of help was in the Hospital Corps. I drove up to Gettysburg in my buggy, being enabled to pass through the Confederate lines by using the passes given me by Generals Early and Gordon some days before. On the second day of the battle, I entered that part of the Union lines which was in [the] command of General [H. Judson] Kilpatrick. Having been seen coming out of the Confederate lines, I was arrested, but fortunately, as I seldom go anywhere without meeting someone I know, a soldier who knew me told the officer by whom I had been arrested that I was all right. The officer said: ‘Then you had better see General Kilpatrick mighty quick. He is about fifty yards away. You run for him and I will follow.’ I jumped out of my buggy and started for the General, the officer closely following. After saluting, my officer friend told the General my mission, and upon hearing my reason for being there and how I got there, remarking gruffly, ‘If you are an impostor, you are more dangerous than Jeff Davis,’ he [Kilpatrick] not only released me but permitted me to join his division in the Medical Corps.”
- In the early evening exhausted Farquhar caught some sleep near the general, but both awoke during Early’s attack on Cemetery Hill. Farquhar’s horse and buggy were taken to use to transport the wounded; the Yorker never saw them again. He was later told that a smashed buggy had been found on the battlefield containing Farquhar’s papers under the seat.
Farquhar’s quotes are taken from his book, The First Million the Hardest.