Why the Discrepancies in Civil War Records? Part 1: Robert Crane records on Burning of The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge
Thanks to my readers for all the nice comments about my post A Personal Connection to the Burning of The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge 150-Years-Ago. I’ve always been amazed at the number of readers of YorksPast that recognize me in public and comment, especially all who spoke to me Friday night in Wrightsville prior to the lighting of the piers.
This week I’m delving into the slight discrepancies between the accounts about the bridge burning; especially focusing on the list of names in the force of civilian carpenters and bridge-builders employed by Robert Crane.
- Part 1 focuses on the Robert Crane report of June 29th 1863 and deposition of July 20th 1863
- Part 2 focuses on a section of the 1887 book “The Great Invasion of 1863” by Jacob Hoke
- Part 3 focuses on an article appearing in George R. Prowell’s 1907 History of York Co., PA
- SUMMARY & Part 4 finishes with a circa 1890s newspaper article in the Wrightsville Star
My post last Wednesday included the June 29th 1863 report by Robert Crane detailing the destruction of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge to halt the eastward invasion of the Rebels through Pennsylvania. This report is from The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Volume 27, Part 3 (Gettysburg Campaign), Pages 410 & 411, Published in 1889 by the United States War Department.
The July 20th 1863 deposition of Robert Crane was published in at least two newspapers. The newspaper article shown at the right appeared in the January 26, 1886 issue of the Gettysburg Compiler; it starts at bottom of a column on front page and continues at top of next column. It is not noted as the July 20th 1863 deposition of Robert Crane, however a recent document find confirms this is his deposition. An original of the of July 20th 1863 deposition was recently discovered by members of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society when they took ownership of the records granted to them by a branch of M&T Bank upon its closing in Columbia. The original copy of the deposition can be found at the Columbia Historic Preservation Society at 19 North Second Street in Columbia, PA.
Early in 1886 Robert Crane (or the Columbia Bank?) must have made a copy of the deposition available to a newspaper in Columbia, Lancaster County; the Columbia Herald. The lead-in to the article in the Gettysburg Compiler noted: “The following, taken from a recent issue of the Columbia Herald, will be read with interest, and calls for a place in the average scrap-book.”
Many articles about the Columbia Bridge burning solely focus on the four men in charge of lighting the fuses, as does this deposition. Robert Crane does note that he “engaged a company of bridge builders, carpenters and other persons for the purpose of cutting and throwing the fourth span of the west end of the Columbia bridge across the Susquehanna between Columbia and Wrightsville.” Robert Crane does not name these carpenters and bridge-builders in his deposition, as he does in his June 29th 1863 report.
This 1886 publication of Robert Crane’s deposition does make public, maybe for the first time, the name of the “old Negro who sat coolly on the edge of a bridge pier smoking a cigar.” He was Jacob Miller, one of the four men in charge of lighting the fuses. The other three men, in charge of the fuses, were John Q. Denney, John Lockard and Jacob Rich. John Q. Denney was involved with the Henry Clay Furnace, north of Columbia. John Lockard was involved with a quarry just above Henry Clay Furnace. Were Jacob Miller and Jacob Rich employed at either of these concerns? If anyone knows details about these gentlemen, please comment.
There are a few instances where the full list of carpenters and bridge-builders are listed. Besides the Robert Crane report of June 29th 1863, I’ve found three instances; an 1887 book (thanks to reader Karl Berger), a circa 1890s newspaper article, and a 1907 county history.
Continuing this week I’m delving into the slight discrepancies between theses four accounts about the bridge burning; especially focusing on the list of names in the force of civilian carpenters and bridge-builders employed by Robert Crane. Besides spelling differences in the names between the four accounts, three names do not show up on every version.Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts