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Dixie Cannonball

December 31, 2009 by USA Post 

Dixie Cannonball:On June 27, 1863, Confederate cavalry general Albert Gallatin Jenkins, a former U.S. congressman from western Virginia, led more than 1,000 mounted infantrymen through the heart of the Cumberland Valley from the Carlisle vicinity on Trindle Road toward Mechanicsburg, camping some five miles from the latter central Pennsylvania town. The veteran officer had sent numerous patrols scurrying in all directions to scour the countryside for fresh horses, supplies, food, and forage, and scores of Cumberland County farmers and residents would later file border claims with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for damages incurred by the Rebels from Dixie. His movements can be traced by comparing these claims to old road maps and atlases. In some cases, minor skirmishing occurred with Union patrols.

York County farmer John Hutton provides some very interesting clues to the route of one of these roving patrols in his damage claim. Claimants had to file a sworn deposition as to what the Confederates took, provide any eyewitness testimony, and describe the circumstances of the theft. In his filing asking for $375 in compensation for lost 3-year-old and 6-year-old bay horses, the farmer added an unusual but enlightening passage. The raiders were from Jenkins’ cavalry, and the patrol was on a raid from Mechanicsburg to Lisburn and on to Sidneytown before going on to Dillsburg. It’s one of the very few border claims that delineates the exact route the Rebels took to reach a farm. Sometime late on Saturday afternoon, the patrol reached his farm and took his horses.

That unknown scouting / foraging patrol was one of the first units of Jenkins’ command to enter York County.

It would not be the last.

We don’t know precisely which company of which (West) Virginia regiment/battalion stopped by Hutton’s farm, but they were quite active in the area of Lisburn, as several Cumberland County claims confirm the route that Mr. Hutton stated that the raiding party used to reach Monaghan Township in northwestern York County.

Another victim of this late afternoon patrol was George S. Baum of Washington Township. He was traveling on an unspecified country road when he was overtaken by “a body of armed Rebels,” who confiscated his black mule, spring wagon, the harness and gears, two bridles, two halters, and two collars. He watched ruefully as the Southerners rode off with his wagon. Presumably, it was used to haul supplies from neighboring farms.

There are no known contemporary Confederate accounts of the Saturday initial raid into York County. In fact, first person Rebel narratives of June 27 are not common for any of Jenkins’ men. One officer in the 14th Virginia Cavalry, German-speaking Lt. Hermann Schuricht, later translated his dairy into English and published it in the Richmond Dispatch on April 5, 1896. It later appeared in the Southern Historical Society Papers from which I quote the diary entry for June 27, as it provides some context for Jenkins’ movements of that day…

“June 27th.–The entire brigade moved on to Carlisle, and after some skirmishing with Pennsylvania militia on horse we passed the obstructions and fortifications, and occupied the city at 10 o’clock. About 3 o’clock General Ewell’s Corps arrived. We advanced towards Mechanicsburg, Pa., and camped during the night about five miles distant from the town. Our pickets were attacked several times.”

Apparently at least one patrol left this camp, skirted Mechanicsburg, and took a circuitous route down into York County before returning to the brigade before nightfall.

For York Countians, the raid on Hutton and Baum and their fellow citizens was only a warm-up for the next act in the drama, for Sunday June 28, 1863 would prove to be a very busy day for Jenkins’ Brigade both in Cumberland County and in neighboring York County.

The next few entries in this series will cover some of the highlights of Jenkins’ diverse activities in the region on that long ago Sabbath.

Adapted from an article being developed for the Gettysburg Magazine for future publication.

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