Historical Markers
Gettysburg Campaign [Carlisle] Historical Marker
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Gettysburg Campaign [Carlisle]

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
SR 3023 (Walnut Bottom Road), .5 mile southwest of Carlisle, near I-81.

Dedication Date:
July 29, 1947

Behind the Marker

Photograph of Joseph Farmer Knipe,in uniform.
General Joseph Farmer Knipe
Saturday, June 27, 1863: General Richard S. Ewell's two divisions broke their camps just south of Shippensburg in Pennsylvania's markerCumberland Valley and began their northward march toward the next objective-Carlisle, county seat of Cumberland County. Edward Johnson's Division, followed by the Second Corps supply wagons and reserve artillery, marched up the valley pike (present day US Route 11), while Robert Rodes' men moved up the Walnut Bottom Road. Ahead of them, as usual, were the horsemen led by General Albert G. Jenkins.

As the Confederates approached, Carlisle was largely undefended. Shortly after Jenkins' first invasion and occupation of markerChambersburg, on June 15-17, Pennsylvania Railroad officials had gathered supplies to rebuild a railroad bridge that the southerners had destroyed near Scotland, north of Chambersburg. To protect them, General Darius N. Couch, the Union commander at Harrisburg, detailed two New York militia regiments-the 8th and 71st-to move by rail as far as Scotland. In command of these men was Brigadier General Joseph F. Knipe, who was home, still recovering from a wound he had received at the battle of Chancellorsville in May.
Painting of Union troops entering Carlisle, July 1, 1863, by Charles B. Cox, 1886.
Union troops entering Carlisle, July 1, 1863, by Charles B. Cox, 1886.

Knipe's men remained in the Chambersburg area until alerted by Captain William Boyd that the enemy was coming. Knowing his militiamen would never be able to stop the Confederates, Knipe withdrew his brigade to Carlisle. There, the New Yorkers bivouacked on the fairgrounds, then moved to the western side of town to man rifle pits dug by local African Americans along Rocky Ridge, a limestone outcrop a mile from the town square.

Both the Walnut Bottom Road and Chambersburg Pike were obstructed by barricades to prevent a sudden cavalry attack. Two local companies of militia bolstered the defenses, while a new cavalry company helped patrol the roads. But even with artillery support provided by a newly-arrived Philadelphia militia battery, Knipe knew the Confederates could overwhelm his men.

After nightfall on June 25, Captain Boyd informed Knipe that his pickets were beginning to fire more often. To Boyd, this meant that the enemy was preparing to advance north. And even though the Rebels actually did not begin their move until June 27, Knipe had decided to evacuate Carlisle and fall back to Harrisburg's defenses. In his diary, Lieutenant William Robinson of the 8th New York chronicled his company's last two days in Carlisle:

"Wednesday, June 24. Reville 4 A.M. Officer of the Day. dress parade 6 P.M. Regt ordered to take up position to repel the enemy. Planted cannon and took position ½ mile out of town. Stackt arms and slept close by our muskets without tents expecting to have a fight before morning. No alarm during the night.

Thursday, June 25. Reville 4 A.M. Regt drill 12 m. Regt drawn up in line prepared for battle from 1 P.M. till dusk. Then most of the Regt deployed as sharp shooters. 10 P.M. ordered to retreat back to Harrisburg. Marched back to Kingston in heavy rain and halted for the night compleatly worn out. heavy rain all night."

When Jenkins approached Carlisle in force on June 27, Captain Boyd warned local officials that the enemy was coming, then withdrew through town. A deputation led by Mayor William M. Penrose went out under a flag of truce, located General Jenkins, assured him that there were no armed Yankees in Carlisle, and requested that the Rebels not charge through the streets and alarm the populace. Amused by the fearful civilians, Jenkins assured his guests that he and his men were not barbarians and would not harm those who remained quiet.

As promised, General Jenkins and his men rode peacefully into Carlisle, stopping in the town square to demand food and forage for his men and horses. Leaving a detail behind to secure the promised foodstuffs, he then marched the brigade eastward on the Trindle Road and deployed his men to screen the approaches and watch for Yankees. General Johnson's troops halted west of Carlisle and went into camp about three miles from town along Cedar Spring Run (now Alexander's Spring Run).

Behind him, the bulk of the Confederate infantry came into Carlisle along the Walnut Bottom Road. General George Doles' Georgia brigade bivouacked on the Dickinson College campus, while Colonel Edward A. O'Neal's Alabamians bedded down on the eastern edge of the town. General Rodes' remaining three brigades moved into the abandoned Carlisle Barracks, the cavalry recruiting and training station, where General Ewell had been stationed after his graduation from West Point. Ewell made himself at home in the post commander's quarters while his subordinates commandeered other suitable quarters on the barracks grounds.

Soon after occupying Carlisle, Ewell directed Jenkins to continue moving east toward Harrisburg. By night fall, the cavalry commander had moved his men halfway to the next town, Mechanicsburg. Union cavalry pickets contested his advance, indicating that perhaps more enemy soldiers could be found ahead, protecting the approach to Harrisburg. Although he did not know it at the time, Jenkins' advance was the Confederate High Tide.
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