York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Who was that slain Yankee messenger at York County’s Green Ridge?

A Union soldier who killed by a farmer near Green Ridge in Codorus Township around midnight on June 29, 1863. A discussion about this incident appears in a recent Codorus Valley Area Historical Society newsletter. The society is seeking to identify the messenger. This clipping comes from Scott Mingus’ Cannonball blog. Background posts: Archivist’s finding sheds light on famous note among the roses and Unsung farmhouse shaping moment for York.

The east-bound courier came to a fork in the road near Green Ridge, in a remote area of Codorus Township in southern York County. He headed toward a farmhouse to gain directions and perhaps some grain for his horse.
George Bair, often “Bear” became frightened when the mounted courier called on him.
Bair, a German who did not understand English, thought the horseman was one of the Confederates, raiding the county in these days before the Battle of Gettysburg.
One confusing thing led to another, and George Bair loaded his gun, aimed it at the stranger and squeezed the trigger… .

The shot killed the stranger instantly.
The distressed gunman soon realized his mistake – the horse was a Union courier, not a rebel – and surrendered to military authorities.
The messenger was trying to find a telegraph operator for transmission of information from Union Commanding Gen. George Meade to General-in-Chief H.W. Halleck. Meade’s plan for movement follows:
His Army would track down Lee by moving toward Gettysburg instead of eastward toward York, keeping his men between Lee and Washington. If Lee fronted Harrisburg, Gen. Darius Couch’s men must delay the enemy until Meade’s men could fall upon the rebel rear.
The Codorus Valley Area Historical Society wants to identity of the messenger, according to its newsletter, the “Codorus Valley Chronicles.”
Members believe he was from the 5th Corps, Meade’s former unit and the corps closest to Meade near Middleburg, Md. In searching 5th Corps records, society members have identified three regiments as possible units from which the messenger, believed to hail from New York, was detached: the 44th New York, 140th New York and 146th New York.
The society is locating rosters of these regiments to determine members, those killed and where they were slain.
Readers with information on the soldier or those regiments may contact the society at: P.O.Box 10, Codorus, Pa. 17310-0010.
Incidentally, Bair was exonerated from all blame in the shooting, and his house stands today in Green Valley. The messenger was buried in Stone Church cemetery.
(The above account of the slain messenger comes from my book, “East of Gettysburg”).