Historical Markers
Caledonia Furnace Historical Marker
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Caledonia Furnace

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Junction US 30 and PA 233, Caledonia State Park, East of Fayetteville

Dedication Date:
August 25, 1947

Behind the Marker

Early on the morning of June 26, markerGeneral Jubal A. Early's division of Richard Ewell's Second Corps left its bivouac around the village of Greenwood and headed east, quickly descending the South Mountain toward Gettysburg. A scant two miles brought the head of the column to Caledonia Furnace, an iron works that dated back to 1837.
Black and white image of the furnace.
Caledonia Furnace

Caledonia was owned by seventy-one-year-old markerU. S. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens. Born in Vermont with a clubfoot, Stevens had moved to Pennsylvania after graduating from Dartmouth, opened a law practice in Gettysburg, entered politics, and quickly rose to fame as a lawyer who vigorously defended runaway slaves.

An advocate of land reform and public education for the children of mountain families in rural Pennsylvania, Stevens was also a successful businessman, and former president of the markerCumberland Railroad. Stevens moved to Lancaster and helped to found the Republican Party in the Commonwealth. In 1858, he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives. Since the outbreak of the Civil War he had been a prominent war hawk, calling for the complete defeat of the Confederacy.

A self-contained village, the Caledonia iron works included a large charcoal furnace, rolling mill and associated buildings, stables, storehouses, a company store, and cottages for its 200 workers and their families. Confederate horsemen from Albert Jenkins' brigade had visited the furnace on June 16. In return for the impressment of forty horses and mules belonging to the works, the Rebels had not burned the furnace.

But today was different. Hearing rumors that the Confederates were threatening to burn the furnace, John Sweeney, the business manager at Caledonia, had located General Early and tried to lie his way out of the destruction. The furnace was unprofitable, he said. His boss, Thaddeus Stevens, would have closed the place years ago if he hadn't cared so much for its poor workers and their families. If the southerners burned the furnace, said Sweeney, all these dependent families would suffer.
Black and white photograph of Thaddeus Stevens.
Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, photograph by Matthew Brady, circa...

"That is not the way Yankees do business," retorted the general. "They do not go on unless they make money. Then, Mr. Stevens is an enemy of the South. He is in favor of confiscating their property and arming the Negroes. His property must be destroyed."

And destroyed it was. Colonel Milton J. French's 17th Virginia Cavalry burned all the company buildings to the ground, and smashed the windows in the workers' cottages. The Rebels looted the company store, taking provisions worth perhaps $10,000, hauled away all of the bar iron, appropriated the corn and grain in the mills, and destroyed eight tons of grass used for fodder. "They could not have done the job much cleaner," Stevens later lamented. "It is rather worse than I expected."

On July 1st General Robert E. Lee rode past the ruins of the furnace on his way to Gettysburg. Upset at the destruction, he told Mr. Sweeney that the families who had suffered could be supplied by the general's own commissary director.

Stevens never rebuilt the Caledonia Furnace. When asked in 1886 why he had burned the Caledonia works in spite of General Lee's orders to the contrary, Early stated that the destruction was in retaliation for similar depredations by Union soldiers in the South, and for Stevens' political speeches in Congress. "Mr. Stevens had exhibited a most vindictive spirit toward the people of the South, as he continued to do until the day of his death."

A leader of what became known as Radical Reconstruction after the end of the war, Thaddeus Stevens died in 1868. The Caledonia Furnace never reopened. In the late 1920s, the Pennsylvania Alpine Club reconstructed the stack and blacksmith shop as visible reminders of the original iron works.
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