Antietam aftermath: Rail car floors ran with blood
York officials produced this broadside to awaken the citizenry when Confederate forces approached the Mason-Dixon Line in August and September 1862. (Courtesy, York County Heritage Trust)
The Battle of Antietam raged near Sharpburg, Md., but its impact was felt –and heard — about 75 miles way in York.
Here are some of the connections between Antietam and York, adapted from my “East of Gettysburg”:
— In early September, Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin warned state residents to be prepared for a Confederate invasion if Union forces did not check the rebel advance northward.The threat was so severe that some York merchants boxed up their goods and sent them across the Susquehanna. Family members were sent to safer places, too.
— York organized its Committee of Safety, an ad hoc group whose mission was to handle all decisions prompted by the possible rebel invasion. The group would meet in 1862, but was particularly taxed when the Confederates actually cross into Pennsylvania and onto York’s streets the next summer. It was this group that surrendered York in late-June 1863.
— York businessman A.B. Farquhar rode ahead of his volunteer Union cavalry unit and met with Confederate cavalry commander Fitz Lee. This solo ride was a precursor to Farquhar’s unauthorized meeting with invading Confederates in 1863, a meeting that catalyzed York’s surrender.
— Cannonading from fighting at Antietam was heard in York County, causing angst in families who had loved ones in uniform. Groups of county residents and a team of doctors traveled to Sharpsburg to aid the wounded. The residents returned to York with the names of the dead and wounded. The 130th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, with four companies of county residents, sustained heavy casualties in fighting. Twelve county residents were killed and 35 sustained wounds.
— Locomotives pulling rail cars full of wounded soldiers rushed to York directly from the battlefield to York’s military hospital, the floors of the cars ran with blood. See military hospital.
The impact on York was so great, it leads to questions:
Why was York so lethargic in defense and troop mobilization the next summer when the Confederates again threatened?
Did the stalemate at Antietam give local citizenry false assurance that the rebels would not break through the blue screen?
(For a collection of human interest stories on Antietam, see: ‘Confederate cow’).