Historical Markers
Gettysburg Campaign [Corporal Rihl] Historical Marker
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Gettysburg Campaign [Corporal Rihl]

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
US 11 just north of Greencastle

Dedication Date:
November 2, 1964

Behind the Marker

Oil on canvas of soldiers firing from a field ajacent to a farm house.
Death of Rihl, by Pennsylvania artist Mark Twain Noe.
Themarker main Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania began on the morning of June 22, when Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia vacated their camps in Maryland and headed north across the Mason-Dixon Line. On that day, Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins' cavalry brigade again was the advance force that crossed the border into the commonwealth.

They rode into an undefended Greencastle early that morning, then halted to await the slower advance of General Robert E. Rodes' foot soldiers. Some time that morning, one of Jenkins' patrols encountered D. K. Appenzellar, a young Pennsylvanian who was on his way to markerChambersburg to enroll in the militia. When asked by Jenkins' men whether he knew of any Yankee military movements in the area, Appenzellar lied. He said that while in Chambersburg the day before he had learned that the Army of the Potomac's first popular commander, General George B. McClellan, had been placed in charge of the state's defenses and was marching south from Harrisburg with 40,000 men.

The thought of tens of thousands of Yankee soldiers somewhere to the north made Jenkins move with greater caution. In advance of his brigade was Captain J. A. Wilson with his Company I, 14th Virginia Cavalry. When his column rode north out of Greencastle, Jenkins ordered Wilson to watch for any oncoming Yankees. If he saw any, said Jenkins, his men were to withdraw quickly and try to entice the Yanks into following them south where the rest of the brigade would set up an ambush.

Soon, Wilson's men captured two Yankee cavalry troopers who were having their horses shoed at a blacksmith shop along the road north of Greencastle. Spying a body of Federal cavalry coming down the road toward his men, Wilson ordered a withdrawal. The Southern horsemen outdistanced their pursuers, and when they spied the rest of Jenkins' brigade forming a line of battle to repel their pursuers, Wilson ordered a quick halt. His men dismounted and took cover behind the wooden fences that bordered the road near the William Fleming farm.

As the Yanks came up to their position, Wilson's men fired at close range, and sent the Yankees into a hasty retreat. Edging cautiously forward, Wilson's men found one Union soldier dead and another wounded. They buried the slain enemy by the roadside, and helped the wounded man into a nearby house. The first combat action on Pennsylvania soil had resulted in two casualties.

Wilson's opponents proved to be Captain William H. Boyd and his Company C, 1st New York Cavalry; the same troops that had been harassing Jenkins' brigade for the past week. Recruited in Philadelphia in 1861, even though they were part of a New York regiment, Boyd's men were hardcore veterans of two years of military service. Having ridden by train from Harrisburg to Chambersburg, Boyd and his company had headed south to look for Rebels, and found them that day.

When they reached the Fleming farm, Boyd saw Confederate artillery going into position on a low ridge ahead of him. Surely this must mean that infantry or dismounted cavalry was nearby. While Boyd pondered the situation, some of his men rode out into the open to get a better view of the enemy, and it was then that they rode into Wilson's ambush. The Confederates' fire hit Sergeant Milton Cafferty in the leg and Corporal William Rihl in the head, killing him instantly. Boyd's men fired back, but quickly retreated on Boyd's order. The skirmish was over almost as soon as it had begun.

Jenkins' men buried Corporal Rihl in a shallow grave near where he fell alongside the road. Sometime after the Gettysburg campaign was over, local citizens dug up Rihl's remains and buried them in the Greencastle Lutheran Church graveyard. On June 22, 1886, local residents again moved Rihl's remains back to where he had fallen in combat, and marked the scene by the small monument one can still see alongside Route 11. Years after the war, when the local Grand Army of the Republic post in Greencastle was formed, the veterans took Rihl's name for their post, honoring the first soldier to fall in Pennsylvania.

After his skirmish with Wilson's company, Boyd retreated to Chambersburg, where he informed the commander of a militia brigade that the enemy was coming. Realizing that his men would never be able to stop Lee's veterans, the brigade commander-General Joseph F. Knipe, a brigade leader in the Army of the Potomac who was home recuperating from wounds–ordered the militia to fall back to Carlisle without engaging the enemy. This would be a scene repeated several times during this campaign. The lower Cumberland Valley was now open to the invading army.
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