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June 24, 1863: Confederates strip southern Pa. clean

Jun. 24, 2013 - 01:55PM   |  
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MERCERSBURG, PA. — Despite top-level orders to the contrary, supply-starved Confederate troops occupying parts of southern Pennsylvania are wasting little time stealing food, clothing, ammunition and other gear from local merchants and farmers.

“All of our stores have been ransacked,” said William Heyser, a Mercersburg resident, just after an entire corps of rebel troops pushed through this town along Pennsylvania’s border with Maryland, about 75 miles southwest of the state capital of Harrisburg.

There was “probably some 10,000 men with an immense train of artillery and army wagons. Among them many farm wagons and teams they acquired along the way. The men looked well, but lacked uniforms, being an array of all shades and colors. No two hats alike and their shoes could hardly be called that. It was hard to distinguish the officers from the men, except those of high rank,” said Heyser.

“They sang and cheered lustily as they marched along.”

By early afternoon, he said, “the pillage of our stores began. Not a place escaped, never in the history of our boro was there such a scene.”

Not everyone, however, was stripped clean and some were paid well, though with Confederate money.

“My neighbor, Widow Murphy, who kept a small store, did succeed in having her place exempt from being robbed. Some of the Rebel officers were very considerate. My son’s mill and warehouse has suffered much from confiscation for which they gave him $800.”

Meanwhile, Union reinforcements are surging into the region.

In Upton Hill, Va., for example, one regiment was preparing to move north as pontoon boats were moved up the Potomac River.

“There seems to be a general spirit of satisfaction among the men of the Army that the enemy have attempted an invasion of the Northern states,” said James D. Chadwick, a clerk with the Allegheny College Volunteer Company from Pennsylvania.

“The only fear has been that they would not go far enough or stay long enough to arouse the people to a true sense of danger and unite factions, cliques and parties into one aggregate, having for the only idea and aim the unconditional restoration of the Union of the States.”

Chadwick said there is a growing sense of anticipation in the air that something big is about to happen.

“The next few days or weeks will disclose startling news no doubt.”

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