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A strong appeal to enlist and defend York County–June 1863


The January 23, 1863 weekly York Gazette carried an eloquent plea for immediate enlistment to defend the area from the invading Confederate army. The writer simply signed himself “YORK.” It is transcribed below in its entirety, along with the author’s probable identity:

For the York Gazette
A few practical reasons why the People of the Border Counties of Pennsylvania should respond to the last call of the President for Volunteers.

For more than a week the soil of Pennsylvania has been desecrated by the presence of armed enemies, breathing vengeance for injuries that have been inflicted upon them in the attempt to restore the authority of the Union, their hearts fired with the view of the desolation which has been carried to their own States by the invasion of the Union armies.

Their foray has so far affected but a small proportion of your community, but you must not suppose from this fact that each individual of you will not soon feel the invasion in his own home. The object of the invaders hitherto has been to collect such property as will enable them to perfect their wagon trains, remount their Artillery and Cavalry, and mount Infantry. They have a large district of Maryland and the part of Pennsylvania that they have already overrun, in which to attain this object, and the advance of their army is now in the vicinity of the Potomac, near your own homes, receiving and applying the means which their foragers have taken from your neighbors. In a few days by this cheap process their Army will be in good condition to advance, and their necessities, the lust of plunder and of conquest, the hope of revenge, and the orders of their leaders will immediately push their Army forward, while plain common sense ought to teach you that they will advance as soon as they can, as far as they can, and will stay as long as they can.

Their first object will be cross the Susquehanna. To attain this end they will live upon the country through which they pass, and their passage will be marked by the entire destruction of all kinds of crops, the confiscation of all horses, cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry, and the destruction of all fences and farming property in the vicinity of their line of march. The mere passage of their army through the country will inflict an injury in money that cannot be made good for yeas. As our neighbors on the other side of the Susquehanna do not intend to permit the passage of that River without first putting forward all their strength to prevent it, it is likely that the invaders may be obliged to remain some time in the border counties. In that event, the line of devastation will become so broad, that these counties will be rendered worthless for a generation. The towns will wither, the lands will be woodless, unfenced and unproductive, the farming capital will have been nearly destroyed, and the desolation will be as complete as it now is in that part of Virginia which has already been the battleground of the rebellion. In addition to this, should our own friends succeed in preventing the enemy from crossing the Susquehanna, they will themselves soon appear on this side to drive the invaders beyond the Potomac, and your property will still have to support, or suffer from, another Army. You may rest assured that the destruction caused by a friendly army, is only second to that inflicted by a hostile army.

In fact the invasion, if it be successful or even partially so, will remove the seat of war to the Border counties of Pennsylvania.

The view that has been here presented is merely a material one, but it is eminently practical. It has no reference to the propriety of the war, to its object, to the manner in which it is prosecuted, or to the expenditure of men and money which have already been made. It refers entirely to the case as it stands. No fancy sketch has been presented. A powerful and vindictive enemy is preparing and is nearly ready to invade your county. His invasion will destroy your property, will degrade you and your country, and if allowed to proceed without strenuous resistance, will make you objects of contempt and scorn to your own country, and the remainder of the civilized world. It is in your power to prevent this invasion, to drive the enemy ignominiously beyond the Potomac and in so short a time that your absence from you homes will hardly be felt.

Therefore, men of the border counties of Pennsylvania! rise up at once for the protection of your homes. Repair to Harrisburg in compliance with the call of the President, and Governor, and as this attempt at invasion, had been allowed by gross mismanagement of those in authority to whom you have committed the direction of affairs, you have the power of constitutionally hurling them from the places which they have degraded, to the ignominy which they so rightly deserve.

This question does not admit of delay. While you are hesitating you may be ruined.

Mark Snell writes in Franklin’s biography, From First to Last: The Life of Major General William B. Franklin, that he found a copy of this appeal in Franklin’s handwriting in a collection of Franklin’s papers. He goes on to say that Franklin left for Philadelphia June 24, on the advice of his good friend, William F. “Baldy” Smith, who persuaded him that it would not be a good idea to stay and risk capture. A few days later, Franklin was ordered to report to Major General Banks’ headquarters at New Orleans with the “least possible delay.”

Click here for my previous posts on the Civil War.

Public opening–free admission Saturday: The Fiery Trial: York County’s Civil War Experience opening June 29 at York County Heritage Trust.