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York Gazette claims partisan politics reason for Civil War era arrests


What else was going on in York County in June 1863? Animosity was not limited to the battlefield. Here is another item from the June 2 Democratic paper, the York Gazette:

Illegal Arrests in York County
S. G. Hildenbrand, a son of Capt. J. N. Hildenbrand, and a resident of Heidelberg Township, was arrested last week by an Administration official and taken to Baltimore.

He was taken before Provost Marshal Fish and accused of making speeches through York County against the conscription and belonging to the “Wooden Horse Society.” Of course these were false charges as Mr. Hildenbrand is a private citizen and never made a speech in his life and knew nothing of the “Wooden Horse.” He indignantly protested his loyalty and innocence, and denounced the accusations as false. Not a particle of evidence was produced against him, and upon taking the oath of allegiance he was discharged and returned to his home. No doubt his arrest was brought about by some low, mean speaking abolitionist who had not the courage to face him before the provost Marshall and sustain his slanderous charges knowing that they were without a shadow of foundation. —His only offence was his well know Democracy.”

The writer goes on to say that the same thing has happened to “quite a number of citizens of York County.” He just heard from Simon B. Anstine of Windsor Township that he too “was arrested last week by Messrs. Kendig and Ervin, ‘Government Detectives’ and carried to Baltimore by them into the presence of Marshall Fish,” who released him. The writer says: “We are informed that even Marshal Fish expressed his disgust and disapprobation at the course of his deputies in Pennsylvania who are constantly arresting persons who are guilty of no offence, and taking them to Baltimore.” [Anstine was a prominent local Democrat.]

I don’t know what the “Wooden Horse Society” reference means. Perhaps someone can help me out with that. The only references I can find to a “wooden horse” during the Civil War period describe a quite unpleasant method of disciplining soldiers. In the Hildenbrand instance, the term seems to have something to do with being against the draft.

Click here for my previous posts on the Civil War.

Only three more weeks: The Fiery Trial: York County’s Civil War Experience opening June 29 at York County Heritage Trust.