York Woman Tells of Panic in Hanover
Henrietta Stroman was born in York, Pennsylvania on August 26, 1830, the daughter of Henry Stroman. At the age of 24 she married Daniel F. Stair and moved across York County to Hanover. He was probably the Daniel F. Stair that served in Company A of the Sixteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War and was a cigar manufacturer after the war.
News of the firing on Fort Sumter, igniting the Civil War, on April 12, 1861 had quickly reached southern Pennsylvania. Henrietta Stair shared her lucid memories of that tense April, and ensuing panic among the citizen of Hanover, in a York Gazette article in 1908.
See below for my recent York Sunday News article based on Mrs. Stair’s recollections:
York County Reacts to Baltimore Civil War Riots
Forty-seven years after the start of the Civil War, the April 26, 1908 York Gazette published the vivid memories of Mrs. Henrietta Stroman Stair. She told of confusion and fear in Hanover, as well as other parts of York County, when war first broke out in April 1861.
Events happened fast after the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12. President Lincoln called for troops on April 15. Answering that call on April 19, the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment found themselves having to transfer from one railway station to another in a deeply divided Baltimore. Rock throwing crowds tried to stop the soldiers. Shots were fired, killing a soldier and drawing return fire from the troops.
News of the rioting flew quickly over the short distance to York and Hanover. According to Mrs. Stair’s account, on Sunday morning the 25th Gen. George Hay, state militia division commander, telegraphed the Hanover militia companies to report to York right away.
Many of the residents of Hanover were in church, so a messenger was sent to every church to have the order read by each minister to his congregation. “The consternation and excitement caused by the news from Baltimore was now intensified, and the wildest speculations and rumors were afloat.” Families hurried home to help the militia men pack up. “The volunteers were soon ready, and nearly all the citizens of the town followed as they marched along with the steady steps of veterans, timed by the music of the drums and fifes sending forth the plaintive train of ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.’ Everywhere the stars and stripes floated, and when the soldiers reached the station, a special train awaited them.”
Mrs. Stair describes a community nearly paralyzed the next day, with little business being conducted and even “the housewives, noted for their thrift and industry” standing around waiting for news.
In the meantime, the papers had reported that a Captain Jenifer, stationed at Carlisle with the regular army, had deserted and was on his way south. About noon on the 26th, this captain rode into the center of Hanover and surprised a crowd of citizens who were meeting in the square to form a home guard. He surrendered to the town elders and was locked in a Central Hotel room until authorities could come get him.
A few hours later, a new rumor “flew like wild fire over the town that an armed mob of secessionists from Baltimore, knowing that two full companies of troops had left to protect the railroads and bridges from their ravages, were marching on the town to revenge themselves by robbing the banks, pillaging and burning, and that Captain Jenifer was to be their leader.”
In the ensuing chaos weapons were gathered: “Old muskets, hoes, clubs, sickles, rakes, crowbars, pitchforks, everything available, while some of the women, pressing their children into service, carried stones to the upper stories and attics” (to have them ready to throw down).
After realizing the futility of resistance, many decided it would be more prudent to take their children and seek safety in the county. They fled “in every direction, except…toward Baltimore, until every farm house within miles…was filled with fugitives, and some even sought refuge in the woods.” One woman was reported to be so affected by fleeing with her children, provisions, clothing, and blankets in a wheelbarrow to the Pigeon Hills that she didn’t recover from the fright for years.
Barricades were put up in Baltimore Street and a “determined citizen…seated himself in the fork of a tree on the Westminster road to give the alarm by a shot” (from his old flint-lock musket).
Another couple of hours passed, “When a rider and his horse covered with foam galloped into the square and seemed much surprised that the beautiful little town was still intact, and that no charred ruins disfigured the streets.” The virulent rumors that a marauding mob was on its way from Baltimore to Hanover had reached York. The soldiers mustering there, including those from Hanover, were demanding to come defend the town, so the scout had been sent to see what was happening.
Mrs. Stair relates that the people of Hanover still spent that night in “great anxiety” until the next day brought the realization that they were not going to be raided. She closes her account with the opinion that: “After that one season of fright and anxiety, nothing seemed to cause any needless panic or excitement, and when the battle raged through the streets of Hanover two years later, and the clash of sabres, the reports of carbines, the shouts of contestants, and the whistling of shells over our heads, all was calm as if it were a sham battle gotten up for their especial entertainment.”
Click here to read more about Captain Jenifer, who caused the panic.
Click here for a teenager’s memory of the Confederate invasion.
Click here for Civil War excitement at the Brogue.
Follow the links below for more Civil War connections with Hanover.
New York Civil War veteran wants Hanover wife.
Confederate sword found in Hanover.