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Civil War’s Battle of Wrightsville: Looking to honor an unsung, unknown Union defender


This diorama of the Battle of Wrightsville, part of a museum in that York County, Pa., river town, shows Blue and Gray troop positions on Sunday, June 28, 1863. An audio presentation describing the diorama tells of the unknown black man killed in the Confederate assault on the Susquehanna River bridgehead. No monument stands to honor this Union defender. Interestingly, a grave marker for an unknown Rebel soldier was recently dedicated up river from Wrightsville. Interest is growing in a marker to recognize the Union defender. Also of interest:  Wrightsville’s Burning of the Bridge diorama tells story of adventure, history and Check out this aerial photographic overlay showing Wrighsville troop positions.



A recent York Daily Record/Sunday News editorial –  Wrightsville historical marker needed –  effectively summarized the interest in securing a marker to observe the heroism fighting in the trenches against John B. Gordon’s grayclads in the Battle of Wrightsville.

It did so in 272 words, the length of the Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

During the June 28, 1863, Rebel attack on Wrightsville, dozens of shells were launched at a town that stood as the gateway to the covered bridge crossing the Susquehanna River.

Amazingly, just one person died in the attack.

He was a black man from Columbia, across the river. He’d been digging trenches as part of a volunteer unit to help defend the bridge, which the Rebels coveted as a path to Harrisburg. When the bombardment started, he took up arms.

A shell decapitated this defender of Wrightsville, whose name today is unknown. Today, there is no monument to his sacrifice – no known gravestone honoring his bravery.

It’s an oversight that must be rectified.

Not long ago, a group of historians and re-enactors in full regalia dedicated a grave marker for an unknown Rebel soldier not far from Wrightsville. This unknown black defender deserves at least that much.

The question is what will be done – and who will take the lead?

A monument could be placed near the spot of the defender’s demise.

A special exhibit could be added to the Historic Wrightsville Museum.

A historical marker sign could be erected.

Any or all of those suggestions could be pursued.

But someone – or some entity – would have to take ownership of this effort. It would make sense for Wrightsville, along with the borough’s historical society and Columbia to lead such an effort.

Local historians have recently discussed applying for a Pennsylvania historical marker. That program requires a sponsor such as a borough – in this case, Wrightsville. That would be a start.

Let’s get marching on a long-overdue honor in this 150th anniversary year.

Also of interest:

Cannonball’s Scott Mingus writes about another Wrightsville casualty – news of Col. Robert G. March’s death was premature.


A remembrance ceremony is set for today to honor a York County Civil War Medal of Honor winner, Sgt. John Henry Denig.