Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jeff King: Loysburg Gap, Pennsylvania

What is the farthest north Gettysburg Campaign site? Lemoyne and Fort Couch, where some rebels reconnoitered? Perhaps the Oyster Point skirmish?

As we all know, the war was about control of railroads and rivers. One of Lee’s goals was destruction of the key railroad bridge at Harrisburg PA. One of the key railroad facilities in Pennsylvania was Altoona. Defenses were set up at Loysburg Gap, which was on the main road to Altoona from the Bedford Valley, to stop the Confederate advance if it went toward Altoona.

In a truly beautiful and remote location, the state marker and well preserved earthworks are on Lower Snake Spring Road between Everett and Loysburg Gap.

Perhaps the best way to see the gap is from the PA Turnpike approaching from the east. As you descend the hill just before the Breezewood Exit, look to the northwest. The solid mountain line just past Breezewood has a pronounced break, which is Loysburg Gap.

I found the best way to approach Loysburg Gap was from the south taking Lower Snake Spring Road north as it began just west of Everitt off the Lincoln Highway (US Route 30). Lower Snake Spring Road becomes Church View Road after the gap as it heads into the community of Loysburg Gap. The marker is at the military crest of Loysburg Gap and stands beside the earthworks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jeff King: Wrightsville, Pennsylvania

The last of Jeff's posts from the area around York PA.

A historic river town, Wrightsville was a key stop on the Army of Northern Virginia travels. Had events been different here, the war may have taken a very Southern turn for success.

As is often the case for me, the original monuments from decades ago are the neatest.

A dual cannon stone marker donated by the Federal government at the intersection of Fourth and Hellam streets commemorates the farthest eastern advance of Confederate troops. The Rewalt House and its storyboard are across the street at 247 Hellam St. It is refreshing that the story of Confederate kindness isn’t completely forgotten here.

Few Civil War stops are as enjoyable as the Diorama at 124 Hallam St. Was the first Black casualty of the War for Emancipation here at the Battle of Wrightsville? Why was the Wrightsville Bridge burned? Why did water buckets to fight the fire suddenly appear long after the Rebel request for them? The Diorama answers all these questions and tells the story of an overshadowed battle that just MIGHT have turned into a HUGE problem for Washington. Of course, historians don’t deal in ifs, maybes, and mights- have-been. Note the Diorama’s very limited hours: Sunday 1-4 p.m.

The Burning of the Bridge storyboard is another ridiculous adventure in patience and good luck. I spent half an hour driving up and down Front Street, and I know Wrightsville pretty well. How is an outside visitor supposed to find Commons Park? Ask at the Diorama that is open only three hours a week? 

Here's the place: One block east of Front Street at the intersection of Walnut, right on the bank of the Susquehanna River.

It is a breathtaking river and bridge view. The original footings of the burned bridge are clearly visible from this location, if you can stumble across it without the proper PA Civil War trails signage. It is a shame that such excellent hard work by local Civil War historians and enthusiasts has a chance to be overlooked. With this year's desperate PA state budget cuts, including 85 jobs in state tourism, and closing such sites as Washington Crossing, we can be assured that proper signage is a dead issue.

Jeff King: Hanover, Pennsylvania

Notes on more sites in southern Pennsylvania

Was the Battle of Gettysburg lost on these historic streets?

The Battle of Hanover delayed J.E.B. Stuart’s valuable eyes and ears from aiding the Army of Northern Virginia until late on the second day of the bloodletting in Gettysburg. Some consider Stuart’s tardiness Lee’s greatest issue.

I found Hanover to be a pleasant visit, although the city's center square is always hectic. My first stop was Mt. Olivet Cemetery, 725 Baltimore St. The Soldiers Monument near the northwest corner of the cemetery labeled as "Old Section B” is a tastefully done memorial -- Rolls of Honor to all the local men who served, much like the Honor Rolls at Carlisle and McConnellsburg. There are cannon and a special arched burial area with GAR graves well marked throughout the area.

Next stop is the Women Tending Wounded storyboard at 305 Baltimore St., in front of the Warehime-Myers Mansion (formerly Pleasant Hill Hotel).

Stuart’s state marker, 446 Frederick St., is near the street that bears his name. His famous jump to escape capture is outlined by a city sign at 419½ Frederick St. near the intersection with Stuart Street.

The City of Hanover has placed historical markers at several places including the Winebrenner Tannery, 283 Frederick St. A unique story of prisoner capture, to say the least.

More I saw:
  • The Civil War Trails storyboard of a Mother Losing Two Sons,  257 Frederick St.
  • The Daniel Trone house, 233 Frederick St, tells the story of the trickeration of the local telegraph operator who eventually would send the news of Gettysburg to President Lincoln.
  • The 2nd North Carolina Cavalry charge on the Forney Farms has a city marker near the intersection of Frederick and Forney streets.
Some I missed: For the wayside markers on Frederick and Broadway, you must obtain the historical location map at the Chamber of Commerce during business hours 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays. While those are extraordinarily visitor-friendly hours, it did me no good on my Sunday visit. If only more places would adopt the attitude of Beverly WV, where maps are available 24/7 outside the visitor center so no one need miss Stonewall Jackson’s sister’s home or information on the Battle of Rich Mountain. Why reinvent the wheel? Just use the best practices of the top Civil War sites -- be visitor friendly and make your information more accessible.

I will compliment Hanover Chamber of Commerce on their online map (www.hanoverchamber.com/New revised BOH brochure_web.pdf), but here again lugging around a laptop on a bright sunny day is no substitute for an easy-to-read printed map.

The Destruction of Private Property storyboard tells an accurate story of how both Union and Confederate troops were locusts stripping the communities they passed through. Jefferson’s state marker tells a similar tale. This storyboard is at 407 Carlisle near the Guthrie library where Battle of Hanover maps are also available – again during business hours.

The state marker for Lincoln’s short speech on the way to Gettysburg is at 206 Carlisle Ave.

Hanover Square at the intersection of Carlisle/Baltimore and Frederick/Broadway has several markers, signage, storyboards, artillery, historic Gettysburg Campaign iron placards, and “The Pickett,” a monument to the Battle of Hanover. Be sure and tour the entire Square. The spot where Gen. George Armstrong Custer received his promotion to General Officer is marked in the southeast corner with a star and four horseshoes.

My final stop, for a state marker about Early’s raid, was in front of Snyder’s of Hanover on State Route 116 one-half mile north of the intersection with State Route 216. The address is 1163 York St.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jeff King: Hanover Junction and Jefferson, Pennsylvania

More from Jeff's notes on the York PA area

This is an extremely significant Civil War location, and many feel it is York County’s most important.  It was raided by the Confederates, used to move supplies to and injured soldiers from Gettysburg, and of course was a changeover spot for Lincoln on his way Gettysburg. There is a tasteful flower garden with a Lincoln statue, a museum, and the very well restored period station building.  It is adjacent to the York County Rail Trail a walking/hiking/cycling/horse trail.  The four 3- inch cannon donated to York by the federal government have been moved from Penn Park in York to this location. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. There are two storyboards and a state marker.  Don’t miss this spot just off State Route 616 between Seven Valleys and Glen Rock!

If I understand correctly, this is where a great deal of JEB Stuart’s Cavalry bivouacked on 30 June 1863 after the Battle of Hanover. A new state marker discussing the price citizens paid for the armies visiting was dedicated on 27 June 2009 on the town square on State Route 516 southwest of Hanover Junction and northeast of Hanover.

Jeff King: York, Pennsylvania

York is the first of several posts from Jeff on this area of southern Pennsylvania.

The Prospect Hill Cemetery at 625 N George is very well worth the drive through. There is a beautiful Iraq War memorial with one American Flag for every person killed in the conflict at the entrance.
Proceed up the eastern edge of the cemetery past the administration building stop immediately at the first grass on your right hand side. There is a ground-level marker for the three deceased unknown Rebels buried here. Look carefully to find it. The first of several Civil War marker boards stands just up the hill to help you locate the marker. Proceed up the hill to its crest. This is the York Civil War Memorial known as Union Circle.

Leaving the circle on the left side, proceed from Civil War marker boards telling stories of many Civil War deceased and the role they played in the war.  About a quarter of a mile up that road on the right is York’s highest ranking general’s final resting spot. Gen. William Buell Franklin had much of the failure at Fredericksburg laid at his feet by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Mark Snell’s book “From First to Last” chronicles his life.

Several Civil War marker boards around the southeastern section of the cemetery are a very nice touch and would be fantastic at almost any historical cemetery.  My compliments to Prospect Hill and whomever did the research

Markers in York:
  • The state marker for Jubal Early’s Occupation of York is on West Market Street (State Route 462) about a ¼ mile west of the East Berlin Road (State Route 234) intersection.
  • Mural of William Goodridge, a key black citizen, 380 W Market St. 
  • PA Trails storyboard for Milling and Manufacturing, 220 W Princess, across from the Agricultural & Industrial Museum.
  • Railroad storyboard, 187 W Market, near the Codorus Creek and within site of the Colonial Courthouse.
  • York military hospital, at Penn Park, 131 W College Ave.
  • York’s Soldiers and Sailors’ Monument, also at Penn Park.  
  • Two PA Trails storyboards, York Continental Square, 12 E Market St. 
As advised for Hanover, Chambersburg and Carlisle, be sure to walk all four quadrants of the town square for information on the Underground Railroad and the surrender of the largest Northern city the South captured in the war. The York County Heritage Trust, 250 E Market St, houses a Civil War exhibit on the second floor. The William Goodridge home, 123 E Philadelphia, offers tours of the home of this black railroad owner and stationmaster on the Underground Railroad, available through the York County Heritage Trust.