York Gazette described the Confederate invasion
During the Gettysburg Campaign, more than 6,000 Confederate troops occupied the vicinity of York, Pennsylvania, for 3 days and 2 nights (June 28-30, 1863). A few citizens left letters or diary entries concerning the Rebels in their midst, but with a population of more than 8,000 citizens, the number of accounts is proportionally very small. Perhaps other accounts have survived and are awaiting discovery?
One of the first public accounts of the invasion was the town’s Democratic newspaper, the Gazette. The chief burgess, David Small, was the editor and main writer. He was a classic example of being in the middle of the story he was covering, considering his joint role as mayor and leading newsman.
Here is his paper’s recounting of the Rebel occupation of York from later in the day after the soldiers departed westward on Tuesday, June 30.
The Invasion–Occupation of York by the Enemy.
News of the advance of the forces of the enemy upon York reached this place on Friday last, and although it was believed to be only a cavalry raid, on Saturday it was discovered by a Union scout that the force was large, numbering some ten thousand. Mr. Arthur Farquhar, a citizen of this place, entered their lines some distance from town and obtained permission to inform the citizens of York of their approach, on the condition that he should return to their command and inform them whether or not our forces would make any resistance to the occupation of this place.
A meeting of the Safety Committee was called, and it was then determined, on account of the strong force of the enemy, to make no resistance; and Chief Burgess Small and George Hay, Thomas White, and W. Latimer Small, members of the Committee, accompanied by Mr. Farquhar, went out to meet the advance to inform them of the decision of the Committee, and ask the protection of the private property and unarmed citizens.
They met General Gordon, or Early’s division, and informed him that having no sufficient force to resist their advance they were authorized to ask that no injury be done the citizens, in their persons or private property. General Gordon heard their request and assured them that no injury should be done to either.
On Sunday morning about ten o’clock the vanguard of the enemy approached in three columns, the centre through Main street. Gordon’s brigade passed through town and encamped on the turnpike about two miles east of town. General Early next arrived with another brigade, of his division, and after an interview with the Chief Burgess took possession of the Fair Ground and Government Hospital. Thither the forces were stationed with their Artillery, consisting of some fourteen pieces, together with their infantry, mounted riflemen, cavalry, &c. Head-Quarters were established in the Court House, Gen. Early occupying the Sheriff’s office, the Provost Marshal the Register’s office, and other members of the Staff of the General commanding other offices.
The following requisitions were made upon the citizens by General Early
“REQUIRED FOR THE USE OF EARLY’S DIVISION.
One hundred and sixty-five barrels flour, or twenty-eight thousand pounds baked bread,
Thirty-five hundred pounds sugar,
Sixteen hundred and fifty pounds coffee,
Three hundred gallons molasses,
Twelve hundred pounds salt,
Thirty-two thousand pounds fresh beef, or twenty-one thousand pounds bacon or pork.
The above articles to be delivered at the Market House on Main Street, at 4 o’clock P.M.
WM. W. THORNTON ,
Capt. & A.C.S.
REQUIRED FOR THE USE OF MAJ. GEN’L EARLY’S COMMAND.
Two thousand pairs shoes or boots,
One thousand pairs socks,
One thousand felt hats,
One hundred thousand dollars in money.
Maj. & Chf. Q.M. Early’s Div.
June 18th, 1863.
Approved, and the authorities of the town of York will furnish the above articles and the money required, for which certificates will be given.
Maj. Gen’l Commanding.
A meeting of the citizens was called and every effort was made to fill the requisition. Upon the representation of the Committee appointed to see to the obtaining of the required articles, that they had done the best in their power to do, General Early signified his satisfaction and agreed to accept their offer.
On Sunday afternoon Gordon’s Brigade reached Wrightsville and after a slight skirmish our forces consisting of several regiments of New York and Pennsylvania militia fell back across the Susquehanna, destroying the bridge in their rear by fire. The fire was distinctly seen from town and we regret to learn destroyed a considerable portion of both Wrightsville and Columbia. We have not yet reliably heard the extent of the loss, but hope it is exaggerated.
On Sunday the bridges on the Northern Central Railway north to near Harrisburg and south to below Hanover Junction were burned by the enemy’s forces. We are also informed that some bridges on the Wrightsville Rail Road were burned, and the large bridge over the Conewago on the Harrisburg turnpike.
Last evening General Early visited the Rail Road property and machine shops in this borough, in company with the Chief Burgess and other citizens to see what should be destroyed, but upon their urgent request abstained from burning them because their destruction would have endangered the safety of the town. General Early immediately issued the following address to the people and ordered it to be printed:
“YORK, PA. June 30th, 1863.
To the Citizens of York:
I have abstained from burning the rail-road buildings and car shops in your town, because after examination I am satisfied the safety of the town would be endangered; and, acting in the spirit of humanity which has ever characterized my government and its military authorities, I do not desire to involve the innocent in the same punishment with the guilty. Had I applied the torch without regard to consequences, I would have pursued a course that would have been fully vindicated as an act of just retaliation for the many authorized acts of barbarity perpetrated by your own army upon our soil. But we do not war upon women and children, and I trust the treatment you have met with at the hands of my soldiers will open your eyes to the monstrous iniquity of the war waged by your government upon the people of the Confederate States, and that you will make an effort to shake off the revolting tyranny under which it is apparent to all you are yourselves groaning.
Maj. Gen’l C.S.A.”