Some hugged rebels, others hated captors during York raid
Scott Mingus writes about the Confederate occupation of York County in the most recent edition of Gettysburg magazine.
Public reaction to the Confederate invasion of York was all over the map because emotions and political views of the citizenry were all over the map.
People were in disagreement over the surrender of the largely undefended town to the 6,000-plus invading Confederates in late-June 1863, in the first place.
And when the grimy, often shoeless soldiers marched into town, their entry was met with markedly different reactions.
Some people cried as the enemy camped throughout the town. Others openly socialized with their captors. Some hid behind closed shutters. Some reluctantly complied to the rebel requests, particularly their requisition of large quantities of food, clothing and money. Some complied out of expediency.
In an article in the most recent edition of Gettysburg Magazine on the occupation of York, Scott Mingus uncovers reactions not published up to this point:
– William Seymour entered the back door of a fancy store where he purchased a bottle of Cognac from the proprietor, a Baltimore woman who accepted worthless Confederate money. The inhabitants were “Copperheads,” he observed, opposed to the draft and furthering the war. “Not much faith to be placed in their professions; they are a mean, selfish, sordid people who would profess or do anything to save their money & property,” he wrote.
— John Cheek of the 52nd Virginia wrote: “The people treated us very kindly and the most of them seemed anxious for the war to end. Though I think that their kindness was more through fear than any thing else.”
–Artilleryman James Carrington wrote that his men were “treated with much kindness by many of its citizens, and there I met friends and acquaintances who were cordial and hospitable.”
In a post on his Civil War blog href=”https://yorkblog.com/cannonball”>Cannonball, Mingus tells of a wounded Union soldier recovering at the military hospital in York. The soldier left town to defend nearby Wrightsville, and upon his return to York, wrote: “The people of York were not of the Union loving kind before the rebs came, and the levies that were made upon them by the Confederates was rather a severe lesson to a sympathizer. If they did not relish the blue before, they did now and were were heartily welcomed.”
All this is a big topic but Carrington was optimistic in his view that York County’s citizenry was converted from Copperheads to Unionists.
York County re-elected the Democratic chief burgess who was among the group that surrendered the town in 1864 and numerous years after that. The county also supported McClellan over Lincoln in the 1864 presidential race.
As I’ve written before, York County was a border county in a border state in the mid-Atlantic area. Its economy and social fabric depended in a large part to Baltimore and points south. So, it was a hotbed of conflicting views. And some would say, still is.