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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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plies. The stirring town presented a strange
contrast to the silent gloom which had hung
over it for a week. Centre Square was tilled
with wagons, packed by willing hands with
supplies of every description. A train of
forty wagons was soon ready to start. By 3
o'clock in the afternoon horses were brought
back, and the last wagon soon disappeared
over the hills to carry relief perchance to the
very men who a week before had marched
into our midst with flying colors and martial
; music, now wounded prisoners left to the
mercy of their foes. Thus ended one of the
I most thrilling events in the annals of York.
I After the withdrawal of the Southern
j troops arrangements were made for the recep-
ti<3n of patients from Gettysburg. A large
j number of tents were jiut up. Every day
! brought trains filled with patients, as they
were removed from the field hospitals. We
had a few prisoners here from a North Caro-
lina regiment. They were quartered in the
Odd Fellows' Hall. We found them grate-
ful, quiet and respectful in deportment.
Great care was taken to preserve the limbs
of the patients, and many a man left the
hospital unmaimed, who would have been
laid upon tlie amputation table but for the
extreme caution of the surgeons. At one
time seventy two men with compound frac-
tures of the thigh were transferred to York
from the field hospital at Gettysburg. They
were treated by ''conservative surgery"; in
most cases the cure was complete, although
the patient ever after bore the mark of his
honorable wounds.

As the autumn winds again blew across the
stubble fields the boys were again shut up in
the hospital. Some who had left here in the
spring, able for active service, Avere returned
to swell the ranks of the wounded and invalid
corps. The familiar scenes and well known
faces of old friends in attendance upon the
hospital wards, were greeted with pleasure
by the poor fellows, and they exerted them-
selves to make a home-like place of their
quarters. Pictures, flags, and crayon
: sketches adorned the white-washed walls.
Flowers and vines blossomed and tln-ived in the
little casements, and a general air of comfort



reigned throughout the x^remises. In Novem-
ber, 1863, Dr. Blair returned to the work in
York, and was made executive officer. After
leaving Columbia he had gone to the Army
of the Potomac, and while there had a severe
attack of bilious fever, which rendered him
incapable of duty for a time. Dr. Blair was
bora in Strasburg, Lancaster County. (His
father shortly after left Strasburg for Har-
ford County, Maryland.) He received a |
thorough education at the classical academy
in New London, Penn. He was a student in
the office of Dr. Theodore Haller for some
time; was a graduate of the Jefferson Medi-
cal College, at Philadelphia. In 1S53, he
commenced practice in York, with flattering
prospects. He took a lively interest in com-
mon schools and the cause of popular educa-
tion. He was elected county superintendent
in 1S55, and continued to fill the office with
general approval until 1862, when he resigned
to enter the volunteer service as a sur-
geon. He continued his work with unsel-
fish devotion until the close of the war, when
he resumed practice in York. In 1864 he
married Cassandra M. Small, third daughter
of Philip Small. As executive officer, Dr.
Blair was most happy in resources to relieve
the tedium of the monotonous life. His
hands were sustained by an efficient corps of
surgeons. Amusements and employments
for the mind were provided for as carefully
as for the healing of bodily diseases.

As time wore on, the constant demand
upon the eommuuity for funds for the sani-
tary commission, developed jjlans for raising
them. A fair was held in the Odd Fellows
Hall. It was a gratifying success. The
whole was beautifully decorated with ever-
greens and draped with flags of the national
colors, and those of different nations. Por-
traits of military and naval heroes, framed
in laurel wreaths, adorned the walls. A pro-
fusion of flowers and fancy work embellished
the tables. Booths, representing various
nations, with attendants in appropriate cos-
tumes, contained curiosities to tempt the
lover of bric-a-brac. The lunch and supper
tables were supplied with the choicest viands,
donated by the citizens. A grand entertain-
ment of music and tableau.r a'vanis was a
popular feature of the week. (The county
commissioners granted the use of the court
house for the exhibition.) The fine amateur
talent, for which York has always been cele-
brated, was brought out, and the stage repre-
sentations were fully equal to professional
effort. The soldiers who were alDle, entei-ed
the work with great zeal, and made themselves
generally useful. The proceeds of the fair
amounted to 14,675.

In March, 1864, the first number of the
Cartridge Box was issued, edited and printed
by the soldiers. It was a spicy little sheet,
brimming over with fun and patriotism. It
was published weekly, and was continued
until the close of the hospital.

In the month of April, 1864, many vacant
places were left by the boys, who returned to
their regiments. Those who were still
unable for field duty, took great delight in
improving the external appearance of their
temporary' home, and showed much pride in
keeping the grounds neat. They had a fine
garden with vegetables and flowers.

In May, preparations were ordered for the
reception of 1,500 patriots. One hundred
additional tents were put up. At that time
there were 2,500- patients with twenty-two
surgeons. The ward committees redoubled
their, exertions in behalf of the suffering mul-
titude. The liberal citizens always were equal
to the emergency. The farmers in the
vicinity and the neighboring towns of Lan-
caster and Columbia sent timely contribu-
tions of clothing, bedding, old linen, band-
ages and lint, and a great abundance of dried
fruit, vegetables, butter, eggs, in fact, every -
thing needed by the patients requiring
special diet. The demand upon the general
hospital fund was much less than in any
other hospital. A large surplus fund was
accumulated and sent to supply the deficien-
cies in other hospitals.

The bloody battle of the Wilderness fur-
nished many recruits to the invalid ranks.
They reached here in a most deplorable con-
dition, many of them were reduced with
chronic diseases, and in some cases, gangrene
had appeared. A marked improvement was
soon apparent. The high situation and pure
. atmosphere of the hospital in York had a sal-
utary influence upon the health and spirits.
In June a thousand additional patients were
sent. Under the excellent management of
the officer, the condition had continually
improved. The mess table seated 800.
and was filled three times at each meal.
A track was laid through the center of the
table, with miniature cars to convey the
food ; this model invention was much admired
by the visitors. But few deaths occurred
during the summer. Some hopeless cases
appealed to our sympathies, and day by day
we saw the night approaching, which would
end the last struggle of the gallant boys.

In July. 1864, the border towns were in
imminent danger of another invasion, and
droves, of cattle, and wagons piled with
household goods, and farming implements,
continually passed through the town on their


way to safe regions beyond the river. The
military authorities at the hospital called on
the citizens to defend their homes from the
invaders. The call was answered by 501)
men. Three hundi-ed and fifty were
sent to Glen Rock to guard the Northern Cen-
tral road. A dispatch from Gen. Couch
to the surgeon in charge at the hospital,
expressed his great satisfaction at this prompt
and patriotic action on the part of the citi-
zens of York, and his desire that the organi-
zation might be kepf. up, and thus constitute
a reliable force for any future emergency.

In September, Surg. Palmer was grant-
ed a furlough of sixty days to recruit his
health. Before leaving. Dr. Palmer addressed
the following circular to the officers and
attendants under his command.

United States Army. General Hospital,
York, Penn.. Sept. 7,
To the officers and attendants of the United States

Army General Hospital. York, Penn.

In taking my leave of absence for si.Kty davs,
allow me to express to you my sincere thanks for
the energetic, faithful manner the duties assigned
you have been performed, since we have been asso-
ciated together at this hospital.

The duties you have been ordered to perform have
been laborious, and at times unpleasant, but the
promptness and cheerfulness with which every order
has been obeyed; your hearty co-operation In every
movement to relieve thesuflEcrings and increase the
comfort of your sick and wounded fellow soldiers,
entitles you to the confidence and esteem of those
who have been under your care, and the thanks of
the surgeon in charge. Hexry Palmer

Surgeon. United States Army.
Drs. Blair. Smyser, Rouse and Ker were
included in the corps of physicians. Dr.
Palmer was succeeded by Dr. St. John Min-
zer, who continued the improvements of the
buildings and grounds. He laid out i-egular
streets, planted trees, erected a fountain, and
beautified the grounds with flower and foli-
age beds.

On the 27th of September, the Eighty -sev-
enth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers
returned. This regiment was principally
recruited from the town and county ; the men
were royally welcomed with a grand proces-
sion, speeches, and a sumptuous dinner
served in the chapel, which was hung with
flags. In January, 1S65, the beautiful
chapel was dedicated. The library was
removed to the eastern part, which was used
as a reading room, and furnished with con-
veniences for writing. The west end was
utilized as a school room. Competent teachers
were employed, the head-master was a grad-
uate of Yale college. The curriculum
embraced the full English course, and a class
in German. The school was fully attended
by the boys, many of whom had left their
studies to enter the service, and who gladly

improved the opportunities to make good
their lost advantages.

Divine service was held on Sabbath morn-
ing and evening, and on Tuesday evening.
In the interim the chapel was used for public
entertainments, which were largely patron-
ized by the citizens as well as soldiers. The
best orators of the day were procured to
deliver lectures.

The hospital was a minature world in itself,
with postoffice, printing office, cabinet, car-
penter, paint and tinshops. All the work of
of the various departments was done and the
grounds kept in order by the convalescents,
without one dollar of additional expense to
the government, and not a man was employed
who was tit for field duty.

In the sjiring of 1865, the number of
patients was greatly reduced, the term of
enlistment of many of the men expired, and
they gladly exchanged the blue uniforms for
the citizen's dress.

The fall of Richmond, successive surren-
ders of the Confederate commanders ended
the war, and the mi.ssion of the York military
hospital was fulfilled. Although a score of
years have passed since its close, the recol-
lections of its benefits still live in many a
grateful heart.

It has, perhaps, the most gratifying
records of any general hospital in the coun-
try. Of 1,500 inmates during the three years
of its existence, but 200 deaths occurred, and
the general health was remarkably good.
The barracks have long since been
taken away. The scen-es which were once
a vivid reality, are now but a memory of



ON Tuesday morning, June 30, 1863, the sun
rose bright and clear, and began to send
forth his gentle rays over the quiet and inter-
esting town of Hanover, but not a citizen
then thought that day was to be the most
eventful one in the entire history of the
borough. The second northern invasion of
Gen. Lee's army was anticipated, after the
disastrous defeat of the Union Army at
Chancollorsville, Va., in May, but the
position of neither army was generally known
to the citizens of southern Pennsylvania on

* By George E. Prowell.



' I the day of the engagement at Hanover. For
' several days before this event, trains of wag-
{ ons and many people with valuable household
articles and horses passed through town
on their way beyond the Susquehanna River
to a place of security from the invading foe.
On Saturday, the 27th of June, Col. White,
commanding about 250 Confederate cavalry-
men, came into town from the west. In
the Public Square they halted a few miuutes;
he made a brief speech to the citizens who
had collected and inquired of them if there
were any Union soldiers about the town. He
seemed to be an excitable, impetuous sort of
personage, of large build and auburn com-
plexion. In his brief address, he claimed
1 that his soldiers were gentlemen, and would
be inofifensive to private citizens. His lan-
' guage, however, was more forcible than
elegant. Visiting stores and obtaining
articles of clothing, cutlery, etc., they went
to Hanover Junction, and destroyed the
bridges on the Northern Central Railway,
and from thence went toward York, where
they joined Early's army.

On the 28th of June, Maj. Gen. Kil-
patrick left Frederick, Md., leading the
advance of the Union Army; passing
through Taneytown, and Littlestown, he en-
tered Hanover about eight o'clock on the
morning of the 30th, at the head of his
army, consisting of the Eighteenth Pennsyl-
vania, First Virginia, Fifth New York, First
Vermont, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Michigan,
and other cavalry regiments, and two batteries
of artillery. The entire division numbered
about 5,000 men, brave soldiers, who had
participated in many a hard-fought battle
south of Mason and Dixon's line. Tired and
weary of their long and tedious marching,
their spirits were much enlivened by the en-
thusiastic welcome they received from the
people of Hanover, who for several days
were kept in anxious suspense, on account of
having no telegraphic communication with
the outside world. Regiment after regiment
passed up through Frederick Street, and halt ■
ed a few minutes in Center Square, where
they were generously fed by patriotic citi-
zens. Few of the soldiers dismounted, but
partook of the proffered food as they sat on
their horses. They were not retreating from
a dangerous foe, but, on the contrary, search-
ing for him, and were courageously led by a
bold, impetuous and skillful commander, in
whom every soldier had implicit confidence.
Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, the Confederate cav-
alry commander of Lee's army, with 'Gen.
Fitz Hugh Lee, second in command, had
crossed the Potomac Eiver, at Seneca, with

8,000 cavalry, on June 2Sth, at the same
time that Gen. Kilpatrick left Frederick
for Hanover. Stuart moved northeast to the
right of our army as far as Westminster,
Md., burned seventeen canal boats, robbed
and burned 168 Union Army wagons, and cap-
tured a number of straggling soldiers. From
Westminster his army moved toward'Hanover;
the main body encamped for the night of June
29tb, at Union Mills, Maryland. The ad-
vance had moved farther northeast and en-
camped a few miles southwest of Hanover.
On the evening of the 29th, from the hills a
distance south of the town, the Confederate
advance caught sight of the Union cavalry,
but the Union troops were unaware of the
near approach of the enemy. About nine
o'clock the next morning, a Union sharp-
shooter by deliberate aim picked off a Con-
federate officer, about three and one-half miles
south-west of the town. This was the first
bloodshed on free soil during the civil war
in an engagement, and was the first victim of
the day. The Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cav-
alry formed the last detachment of Gen.
Kilpatrick's army. They were at first attacked
in the rear by a squad of Confederate
soldiers, dressed in the national uniform, and
carrying an American flag. This occurred at
the union of Westminister and Littletown
roads and utterly demoralized the regiment,
which extended from the point of fii-st attack
to Center Square. The advance of this regi-
ment were in the center of the town, some of
them dismouuted, enjoying the hospitable
bounties of generous citizens. The square
and streets were lined with people, to feed
and welcome the Union soldiers, unconscious
of the fact that the enemy were attacking the
rear. At this instant, Major Hammond, of
the Fifth New York, mounted on a black
charger, rode across the Square and in loud
and measured tones exclaimed, "The citizens
will please go into their houses; the rebels
are about to charge into town." Confusion
and consternation followed, and in an instant
there was a clash of arms on Frederick Street,
and the enemy came dashing forward with a
terrific yell, capturing a number of the
Eighteenth Pennsylvania in the square; the
rest, becoming utterly demoralized, were
driven as far north on Abbottstown Street, as
the railroad.

On thisfii-st charge, a number of men were
killed and wounded on the streets of the
town, but providential it must have been, not
a single citizen was injm-ed, even though
balls were flying in all directions, and most
of them did not heed the advice of the officer
who requested that they should go in their



houses. Brig.-Gens. Farnsworth and Custer,
who had gone through town, soon came to
the rescue. A part of Gen. Farnsworth's
brigade, consisting of the Fifth New York,
the Eighteenth Pennsylvania, the First Vir-
ginia and the Tenth Vermont Regiments,
quickly counteraiarched, and with gi-eat cour-
age and impetuosity drove the Confederate
Army out of the town, and amid the shouts
of the other Fnion soldiers, pursued them in
hot baste to the Confederate artillery force,
a short distance out on the Westminster road.
There was then a lull of about half an hour.
In the meantime. Gen. Kilpatrick, who with
the advance guard of his army had gone as
far as Abbottstown. and when within a few
rods of the toll gate on the York turnpike,
east of that town, received a message that
Gen. Stuart bad attacked the rear of his
army. At this instant the booming of the
guns was heard at Hanover, when, quick as a
flash, the intrepid officer took in the whole
situation at one grasp; ordered his lines to
countermarch, and be, at the head of a small
band of heroic followers, to avoid the con-
fusion of returning to his rear on the turn-
pike, which was tilled with soldiers and wag-
on trains. dashed across the fields; his spirited
charger, by jumping the fences and ditches,
and passing through fields of full-grown
wheat and grass, conveyed his master with
inconceivable rapidity to the scene of action.
The faithful animal, though be perfomed an
important act. never afterward recovered
from the fearful strain. Kilpatrick in the
midst of the confusion located his headquar-
ters in room 24. of the Central Hotel, while
Gen. Custer was in the house of the late
Jacob Wirt (now Eobert Wirt's home), and
Gen. Farnsworth in the bouse of William
Wirt (now owned by William Boadenhamer).
In the meantime, the Eighteenth Pennsyl-
vania occupied the town, and were barricad-
ing York and Baltimore Streets to impede
the progress of the enemy in advancing on
another charge. A rebel cannon or two were
planted at a lime-kiln to the rear of Karl
Forney's barn, and a number of shots wei-e
fired into town. At the expiration of half an
hour from the time of the first charge,
another charge was made by the Confederates,
many of them coming from the direction of
Stuart's headquarters, west of the cemetery.
They entered the town through the alleys and
by-ways, and a confused hand-to-hand en-
counter again took place on the streets and
in Center Square. Farnsworth's brigade,
above mentioned, including two Michigan
regiments and the First Vermont, did valiant
service in repelling the Confederate troops

and driving them for the last time out of
town. During this charge many thrilling
and exciting hand to hand encounters took
place. The guns of the Union Army were
placed to the northwest of town, and the Con-
federate artillery on the Baltimore turnpike
and west of the cemetery. For a short time
rapid cannonading took place, exchanging
shots between the two batteries which caused
only a few casualties. The conflict continued
from 10 A. M.,to about noon, when Stuart
gave up the contest, taking with him his
wounded, whose number cannot accurately be
given, but was not less than the Union loss.
Leaving his dead lying scattered in the town
and surrounding country, be went south and
then east, crossing the Baltimore turnpike at
the Brockley farm, about three and one-half
miles south of Hanover." Here with some
Union citizens as prisoners, and captured sol-
diers, he marched toward Jefferson, from
thence to New Salem (Neffstown), arriving
there at 8 P. M., and remaining one hour,
long enough to receive the news from some
citizens, that Early and his Confederate
Army bad left York and was on his way to
join Lee, but Stuart did not know where his
commanding officer was. From New Salem
the army slowly plodded along, the last
arriving in Dover at sunrise next morning.
At this point all the Union prisoners were pa-
roled and they marched to York. It was now
the first day of July, the event of the first en-
gagement at Gettysburg. Stuart, however,
still uninformed as to the true situation of
affairs, and of the whereabouts of Lee,
moved on northwest through Warrington
Township, taking from the farmers all the
horses that could be captured, as they had done
all along the whole route. The number of
captured animals now numbered over a thou-
sand. He continued forward through Dills-
burg toward Carlisle, only to hear that it was
evacuated by the Confederates. He then
turned southward in time to take but a small
part in the great conflict of Gettysburg,
where his commanding general so much need-
ed help, a fact which Gen. Lee often lamented.
It will thus be seen that the engagement at
Hanover, which was the first battle in the
State of Pennsylvania, since that at German-
town in 1777, was really the beginning of
the great conflict at Gettysburg, and as such
should go into history. It had much to do
in deciding that great contest. Gen. Lee
many times said that what he so much need-
ed the first days of the battle of Gettysburg
was his cavalry. Stuart's absence, and Gen.
Lee's not knowing of his whereabouts, caused
much uneasiness on the part of the c
ing general.


Gen. Kilpatrick after the engagement
moved northward, to intercept the retreat of
Gen. Early toward Gettysburg to join Gen.
Lee. He struck the rear of Ewell's division
by the village of Hampton, about ten miles
north of Hanover, where a few shots were
exchanged. He then proceeded west, and on
the second and third days of the battle of
Gettysburg, located southwest of the town on
the extreme left of Gen. Meade's army. Gen.
Farnsworfch, one of his division commanders
at Hanover, was killed at Gettysburg.


On the evening of the 30th a messenger
bearing dispatches from the forces at Han-
over to Gen. Schenck, then in command at
Baltimore, was killed by mistake about 12
o'clock at night, in Codorus Township, on his
way to Baltimore. He was mistaken for a
Confederate straggler or sjay. On the even-
ing of June 30th, the Sixth Army Corps,
under command of Gen. Sedgwick, and the
Fifth Corps, under Gen. Stykes. encamped at [
Union Mills, eight miles southwest of Han-
over. On the following night Sedgwick's
corps encamped a few miles west of Hanover
and Stykes' corps, which occupied the ex-
treme right of Gen. Meade's army, moved
toward Hanover. He had 15,400 men, with
an immense train of wagons, containing pro-
visions, munitions of war, and artillery. He
encamped for a short time on the meadows,
west of tpwn, and on the level fields adjoin-
ing Plum Creek, intending to rest his horses
and soldiers, when a dispatch-bearer brought
a message to him from Gen. Meade, asking
him to hasten to Gettysburg as soon as pos-
sible, which he accordingly did, arriving on
the field of battle at 3 o'clock P. M., on
July 2nd.


Gen. Sedgwick was killed in the battle of
the Wilderness, in Virginia, in May of the
next year, as was also the aged veteran, Gen.
James S. Wadsworth of New York. Gen.

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 45 of 218)