A Highly interesting Yankee account of Stuart's raid into Chambersburg — the Entrance of the rebels — their Behavior, &c.
It will be recollected that most of the dispatches apprising Gov. Curtin
of the Confederate
dash into Pennsylvania
were signed ‘"Col. A. K. McClure
"’--That officer has communicated his experience to a friend in a long letter, written in a style that shows the Colonel
can appreciate a good joke.
He was in command of the post at Chambersburg
The following is an extract from his account:
The "Butternuts" Arrive.
I had just got word of the movement to Governor Curtin
and General Brooks
, when I was sent for to meet the distinguished strangers.--A hasty message to Hagerstown
, stating that the town was about to be surrendered, closed telegraphic communication, and Mr. Gilmore
, the operator, prepared at once for the advent of his successors, and struck out at once along the line toward Harrisburg
with his instrument.
I went up town to meet the flag of truce, and found a clever looking ‘"butternut,"’ dripping wet, without any mark of rank, bearing a dirty white cloth on a little stick.
He politely stated that he sought the commander or authorities of the town, and in the name of the General
commanding the Confederate forces he demanded the surrender of the village.
He refused to give his name, or the name of the general commanding, and he could not state on what terms they would accept a surrender.
As I had no command other than the scattered and bewildered home guards--all brave enough, but entirely without drill or organization — and about three hundred wounded men in the hospitals, I acted with the citizens as one of them, and it did not require a protracted council to determine that we could not successfully resist cavalry and artillery.
So we concluded that the venerable village had to be consigned over to rebel keeping.
We had been kindly allowed thirty minutes to decide, at the end of which time we were informed rebel artillery would demand submission in rather unpleasant tones.
Col. T. B. Kennedy
by political brevet, like myself,) Judge Kimmell
, Provost Marshall
and your humble servant, mounted three stray horses and filed in with the rebel escort, amidst a thunder of cheers for the Union
and groans for the rebels to meet we did not know whom, and to go we did not know where.
Without umbrellas or over coats we had the full benefit of a drenching rain, and I must admit that we were treated with the utmost courtesy by our new associates.
They conversed freely and without manifesting any degree of bravado.
After travelling a mile westward we were brought to a halt by a squad of mounted men, and were informed that General Hampton
was one of the party, to whom we should address ourselves.
It was so dark that I could not distinguish him from any of his men. Upon being informed that we were a committee of citizens, and that there was no organized force in town, and no military commander at the post, he stated, in a respectful and soldier like manner, that he commanded the advance of the Confederate
troops — that he knew resistance would be vain, and he wished the citizens to be fully advised of his purpose, so as dneedless loss of life and wanton destruction of property.
He said he had been fired upon at M g and Campbell
own, and had great difficulty in restraining his troops.
He assured us that he would pulously protect citizens — would allow no soldier to enter public or private houses unless under command of an officer, upon legitimate business — that he would take such private property as he needed for his Government or troops, but that be would do so by men under officers who would allow no wanton destruction, and would give receipts for the same, if desired, so that claim might be made therefore against the United States Government.
All property belonging to or used by the United States
, he stated, he would use or destroy at his pleasure, and the wounded in hospitals would be paroled Being a United States
officer myself, I naturally felt some anxiety to know what my fate would be if he should discover me, and I modestly suggested that there might be some United States
officers in the town in charge of wounded, stores, or recruiting offices, and asked what disposition would be made of them.
He answered that he would parole them, unless he should have special reasons for not doing so, and he instructed us that none such should be notified by us to leave town.
Here I was in an interesting situation.
If I remained, there might, in Gen. Hampton
's opinion, be ‘"special reasons for not paroling me,"’ and the fact that he had several citizens of Mercersburg
with him as prisoners did not diminish my apprehensions.
If I should leave, as I had ample opportunity afterwards to do, I might be held as violating my own agreement, and to what extent my family and property might suffer in consequence conjecture bad a very wide range.
With sixty acres of corn in shock and three barns full of grain, excellent farm and saddle horses, and a number of bast blooded cattle, the question of property was worthy of a thought I resolved to stay, as I felt so bound by the terms of surrender, and take my chance of discovery and parole.
Stipulations for surrender.
The committee went through the form of a grave but brief commutation, somewhat expedited, perhaps, by the rain, and we then solemnly and formally surrendered the town upon the terms proposed.
True, the stipulations were but verbal, and but one side able to enforce them; but the time, the weather, the place, and our surroundings generally, were not favorable to a treaty in form, and history must therefore be without it. We asked permission to go a little in advance of his forces to prepare our people for the sudden transition from the Stars and Stripes to the Stars and Bars.
permitted my associates to do so, but detailed me to pilot his advance guard at once to the telegraph office.
I performed the duty assigned me with no great compunctions, as I had seen Mr. Gilmore
, the operator, begin to ‘"fix up"’ for them fully an hour before, and the rebel that outwits him must take a very early start.
proceeded to town to get the people to retire peaceably and prevent any provoking demonstrations; and so rebel rule began in Chambersburg
. --They marched in very orderly, and most of their force started out different roads to procure horses, forage and provisions.
A Whiskey Bout Spoiled.
I started in advance of them for my house, but not in time to have the horses.
I confidently expected to be overrun by them and to find the place one scene of desolation in the morning.
I resolved, however, that the thing should be done soberly, if possible, and I had just time to destroy all the liquors about the house.
As their pickets were all around me, I could not get it off. A barrel of best old rye, which, Senator Finney
had sent me to prove the superiority of the Crawford county
article over that of Franklin
, was quietly rolled out of a cellar side- door, and a good sized hole bored into it. A keg of Oberhoitzer's best, sent me several years ago, but never tapped, followed Finney
's testimonial to Crawford county
distillation; and a couple of cases of Presbury
's best Girard House importation had the necks of the bottles taken off summarily, and the contents given to the angry storm.
I finished just in time, for the were soon out upon me in force, and every horse in the barn--ten in all — was promptly equipped and mounted by a rebel cavalryman.
They passed on towards Shippensburg
, leaving a picket force on the road.
In an hour they returned with all the horses they could find, and dismounted to spend the night on the turnpike, in front of my door.
It was now midnight, and I sat on the porch observing their movements.
They had my best cornfield beside them, and their horses fared well.
In a little while one entered the yard, came up to me, and, after a profound how politely asked for a few coals to start a fire.
I supplied him, and informed him as blandly as possible where he would find wood conveniently, as I had dim visions of camp fires made of my palings.
I was thanked in return, and the mild-mannered villain proceeded at once to strip the fence and kindle fires.
Soon after, a squad came and asked permission to get some water.
Introduced to a pump.
I piloted them to the pump, and again received a profusion of thanks.
Communication having thus been opened between us, squads followed each other closely for water, but each called and asked permission before getting it, and promptly left the yard.
I was somewhat bewildered at this uniform courtesy, and supposed it but a prelude to a general movement upon everything eatable in the morning.
It was not a grateful reflection that my beautiful mountain trout, from twelve to twenty inches long, sporting in the spring, would probably grace the rebel breakfast table; that the blooded calves in the yard beside them would most likely go with the trout; and the dwarf pears had, I felt assured, abundant promise of early relief from their golden burdens.
About one o'clock half a dozen officers came to the door and asked to have some coffee made for them, offering to pay liberally for it in Confederate scrip.
After concluding a treaty with them on behalf of the colored servants, coffee was promised them, and they them asked for a little bread with it. They were wet and shivering, and seeing a bright open wood fire in the library, they asked permission to enter and warm themselves until their coffee should be ready, assuring me that under no circumstances should anything in the house be disturbed by their men. I had no alternative but to accept them as my guests until it should please them to depart, and I did so with as good grace as possible.
Hearts Warmed and Mouths opened.
Once seated around the fire all reserve seemed to be forgotten on their part, and they opened a general conversation on politics, the war, the different battles, the merits of Generals
in both armies, &c. They spoke with entire freedom upon every subject but their movement into Chambersburg
Most of them were men of more than ordinary intelligence and culture, and their demeanor was in all respects eminently courteous.
I took a cup of coffee with them, and have seldom seen anything more keenly relished.
They said they had not tasted coffee for weeks before, and then they had paid from $6 to $10 per pound for it. When they were through they asked whether there was any coffee left, and finding that there was some, they proposed to bring some more officers and a few privates, who were prostrated by exposure, to get what they left.
They were, of course, as welcome as those present, and on they came, in squads of five or more, until every grain of browned coffee was exhausted.-- they then asked for ten, and that was served to some twenty more.
On their good Behavior.
In the meantime a subordinate officer had begged of me a little bread for himself and a few men, and he was supplied in the kitchen.
He was followed by others in turn, until nearly a hundred had been supplied with something to eat or drink.
All, however, politely asked permission to enter the house, and behaved with entire propriety.
They did not make a single rude or profane remark, even to the servants.
In the meantime the officers, who had first entered the house, had ll d their pipes from the box of Kinnikinnick on the mantel — after being assured that smoking was not offensive — and we had another hour of a free talk on matters generally.
The proclamation Makes them Wince.
When told that I was a decided Republican, they thanked me for being candid; but when, in reply to their inquiries, I told them that I cordially sustained the President
's emancipation proclamation, they betrayed a little nervousness, but did not for a moment forget their propriety.
They admitted it to be the most serious danger that has yet threatened them; but they were all hopeful that it would not be sustained in the North
with sufficient unanimity to enforce it. Their conversation on this point bore a striking similarity to the speeches of Frank Hughes
and Charles J. Biddle
, and had you heard them converse without seeing them, you would have supposed that I was having a friendly confab with a little knot of Pennsylvania Breckinridge
Of the two, I am sure you would have respected the rebels the most; for they are open foes, and seal their conviction with their lives, and they openly avow their greater respect for open, unqualified supporters of war over these who oppose every war measure profess fraternal sympathy with the South
, and yet say they are in favor of preserving the Union
They all declared themselves heartily sick of the war, but determined never to be reunited with the North
They Quit a Hospitable Roof.
At four o'clock in the morning the welcome blast of the bugle was heard, and they rose hurriedly to depart.
Thanking me for the hospitality they had received, we parted, mutually expressing the hope that should we ever meet again, it would be under more pleasant circumstances.
In a few minutes they were mounted and moved into Chambersburg
About seven o'clock I went into town, and found that the First brigade, under Gen. Hampton
, had gone towards Gettysburg
sat on his horse, in the centre of the town, surrounded by his staff, and his command was coming in from the country in large squads, leading their old horses and riding the new ones they had found in the stables hereabouts General Stuart
is of medium size, has a keen eye, and wears immense sandy whiskers and mustache.
His demeanor to our people was that of a humane soldier.
In several instances his men commenced to take private property from stores; but they were arrested by General Stuart
's provost guard.
In a single instance only that I have heard of did they enter a store by intimidating the proprietor.
All our shops and stores were closed, and, with very few exceptions, were not disturbed.
Destroying public property.
There were considerable Government stores here — some two hundred pairs of shoes, a few boxes of clothing, and a large quantity of ammunition captured recently from Gen Longstreet
It was stored in the warehouse of Wunderlich
& Nead About eleven o'clock their rear guard was ready to leave, and they notified the citizens residing near the warehouses to remove their families, as they were going to burn all public property.
The railroad station house, machine shop, found house, and the warehouses filled with ammunition, were then fired and the last of the rebels fled the town in a little while a terrific explosion told that the flames had reached the powder, and for hours shells were exploding with great rapidity.
The fire companies came out as soon as the rebels left, but could not save any of the beddings fired because of the shells.
They saved all the others, however.
So ended a day of rebel rule in Chambersburg
.--They took some 800 horses from our people, and destroyed perhaps $100,000 worth of property for the Cumberland
Valley Railroad Company, probably $5,000 for Wunderlich
, and $150,000 for the Government
Our people generally feel that bad as they are, they are not so bad as they might be. I presume that the cavalry we had with us are the flower of the rebel army.
They are made up, mainly, of young men in Virginia
, who owned fine horses and have had considerable culture.
I should not like to risk a similar experiment with their infantry.
I was among them all the time here, and was expecting every minute to be called upon to report to Gen Stuart
, but they did not seem to have time to lock after prisoners, and a luckily escaped.
But from the fact that I can't find a horse about the barn, and that my fence is stripped of paling, to remind me of the reality of the matter, it would seem like a dream.
It was go unexpected, so soon over, that our people had hardly time to appreciate it.
They crossed the South Mountain
about 11 o'clock to-day, on the Gettysburg pike
; but where they will go from there is hard to conjecture.
They me evidently aiming to recross the Potomac
at or near Edwards's Ferry; and if so, Gettysburg
may escape, as they may go by Millerstown
If they should recross below Harper's Ferry
, they will owe their escape to the stupidity or want of energy of our military leaders, for they were advised in due season of the rebel route.
Hoping that I shall never again be called upon to entertain a circle of rebels around my fireside, believe me, truly thine, A. K. McClure