Historical Markers
Confederate Conference Historical Marker
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Confederate Conference

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Southwest section of town square, Chambersburg

Dedication Date:
August 10, 1953

Behind the Marker

Artist's sketch captures the June 26, 1863, conference between General A.P. Hill and Robert E. Lee in the town "diamond" in Chambersburg.
Conference between General A.P. Hill and Robert E. Lee in the town "diamond"...
When Confederate General Albert G. Jenkins' cavalry brigade made its markerfirst entrance into Chambersburg on June 15th, its stay was brief. Fearful of a Union attack they made a quick retreat two days later. When Jenkins and his men rode into Chambersburg for a second visit on June 24, they had no such fears. Close behind them came the infantry division of Robert Rodes, which marched through town with flags flying and bands playing, then halted at Shirk's Hill north of town, where the division set up camp. The following day Edward Johnson's brigades also passed through Chambersburg and encamped near Rodes' veterans.

On Friday, June 26, General Richard S. Ewell's two divisions north of town broke camp and headed north up the Cumberland Valley toward markerCarlisle. About eight o'clock on the morning of June 27, Harry Heth's Division of Lee's Third Corps marched into Chambersburg, turned east in the square, then headed out the Gettysburg road as far as Fayetteville, where the men made camp.

An hour later, Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill, the commander of the Third Corps, rode into the square with his staff, dismounted, and hitched his horse in front of a general store. There the general struck up a conversation with some of the onlookers about the halcyon days before the war, days when he had been stationed at Carlisle as a member of the United States army.
Etching of Benjamin Huber
Benjamin Huber

Some time thereafter General Robert E. Lee and his staff rode into the square. Seeing their approach, Hill mounted and rode to greet Lee. The two generals then edged away from their staff officers to confer in private.

Throughout south-central Pennsylvania, a fairly large network of civilians had already been recruited to watch for enemy military activity and to report what they saw. A number of folks in the crowd around the square, naturally, were very interested in the generals' meeting. And among these was store clerk Jacob Hoke who noticed Benjamin Huber standing nearby. Huber was one of these civilian agents.

"There, Ben, is perhaps the most important council in the history of this war," Hoke told Huber, "and the fate of the Government may depend upon it. If General Lee goes on down the valley, then Harrisburg and Philadelphia are threatened; if he turns east, Baltimore and Washington are in danger, and the Government ought to know which way he goes as soon as possible."

Huber, just back from Harrisburg and exceedingly tired, concurred. The two men continued to watch as Lee and Hill talked. When the conference ended, Lee rode to the middle of the square then headed his horse eastward, toward Gettysburg. Hoke turned to talk to Huber, who was already moving away through the crowd.

Heading cross country towards the north, Huber successfully eluded the Confederate pickets stationed along the way. At Roxbury, in Franklin County, he found a local guide who led him across the mountain into Perry County, where he located a horse. Huber hurried to Germantown, fed his horse, then rode the forty-two miles to Newport without dismounting.

It was now three o'clock in the morning of June 27 and rather than awaken the telegraph operator in Newport Huber hopped a southbound train. He reached Harrisburg shortly after daybreak, ran into an officer who recognized him, and made his way into the capitol where he presented his news to markerGovernor Andrew Curtin, and Generals Darius Couch and William F. Smith.

To this day, no one knows what Lee and Hill discussed in the Chambersburg Square on the morning of June 26, 1863. Nor do we know how Governor Curtin or his generals responded to Huber's news that Lee was heading east.

Today, historians do know that on June 26th Lee had not yet decided to move his Army of Northern Virginia east to Gettysburg, and to the great battle that would take place there only a few days later. For on that day he had no firm information on the location of the Army of the Potomac. Much of his own cavalry was off on a raid, and Lee had not yet received word that the Yankee army was moving north of the Potomac River and closing rapidly with his own scattered units. We also know that the citizens of Chambersburg who saw Lee that day would remember his visit for decades to come, and that their descendants would consider his visit so important that it was deserving of a permanent commemoration by a state historical marker, placed on their town square on August 10, 1953.
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