The Civil War experience while walking the Heritage Rail Trail near Hanover Junction
I was out for a walk on the rail trail this past week, when out in the distance I heard someone playing the fife. It was characteristic of tunes played on battlefields in many Civil War films or reenactments.
Then out in the distance, around the bend, I saw the fife player was dressed as a Union Civil War Soldier. He continued to play as we approached each other on the rail trail. When he got near, in a break between tunes, I complimented him on his playing. I continued on my walk, thinking, what a neat Civil War experience.
On my return trip as I got closer to the Hanover Junction Railroad Station, I heard the fife again. Upon arriving at the station, the soldier was giving an impromptu performance. He also explained that he would be part of the June 22nd reenactment skirmish being staged between the Confederate and Union troops at Hanover Junction as part of the 150th anniversary commemoration.
Notice that along the tracks are piles of wooden railroad ties. These will replace worn-out ties under the tracks between New Freedom and Hanover Junction by early May. That is so the Civil War-era replica steam engine, York No. 17, can start pulling excursion trains by about June 1st. The organization operating the excursions is Steam Into History, Inc.
The fife playing Union Civil War Soldier explained he will be playing the part of the telegraph operator during the June 22nd reenactment skirmish being staged between the Confederate and Union troops at Hanover Junction.
The Hanover Junction Railroad Station reenactment at 2:00 pm on June 22nd will include Confederate and Union reenacting soldiers. The telegraph operator will flee from the station and get captured by the rebels. The Confederates will also raid an old hotel near the station.
In the summer of 1863, the advance scouting elements of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia first crossed the Mason Dixon Line and made their way into Pennsylvania near Greencastle on June 15th. Several days later a small group of rebel scouts were captured in York County; this occurred as early as June 18th.
Rebels in a brigade of Georgians under the command of Brigadier General John Gordon were in the forefront of a push towards the Susquehanna River Bridge at Wrightsville. Gordon was under the command of Confederate Major General Jubal Early.
Within Gordon’s brigade were the first Confederates to occupy the Pennsylvania towns of Waynesboro on Tuesday June 23rd 1863 and Gettysburg on Friday, June 26th 1863. The push through York County towards the Susquehanna River bridge would occur on Sunday, but first on Saturday, Confederate cavalry was sent into York County to disrupt communications and transportation.
On Saturday June 27th 1863, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel Elijah White’s cavalry passed through eastern Adams County and Hanover with little resistance. Their objective was destruction of the important railroad and telegraph hub at Hanover Junction.
The north-south Northern Central Railroad at Hanover Junction was the main railroad from Baltimore to points north. The Railroad Station at Hanover Junction housed a key relay station on the Military Telegraph lines linking Washington, D. C. with northern states.
White’s cavalry entered Hanover Junction from the west, via the Hanover Branch Railroad tracks. They quickly overpowered the small force guarding the area. The telegraph wires were cut, the telegraph equipment was destroyed, railroad equipment was destroyed and railroad bridges over the Codorus Creek were burned. The Railroad Station was left intact, which is why we still have the original station today. This photo shows a view of the station from the rail trail on a recent spring day.
Other posts in this series include:
- Kick-Off of Civil War 150th Anniversary on YorksPast; 7-Years of Planning for the 100th and The York Water Company
- Looking Back on the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of The Battle of Gettysburg; Part 1
- Looking Back on the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of The Battle of Wrightsville; Part 1
- Prelude to Gettysburg, 2,000 Troops Participate in 1963 Re-enactment of the Battle of Hanover