Historical Markers
Peace Church Historical Marker
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Peace Church

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Pennsylvania Route 641 (Trindle Road), at St. John's Church Road, west of Camp Hill

Dedication Date:
August 4, 1947

Behind the Marker

Peace Church is now a small oasis of tranquility, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of modern urban living as thousands of automobiles and trucks rush by every day, carrying drivers and passengers who are unaware of the church's history. Back in the summer of 1863, however, this quiet stone structure was the center of a Confederate line of battle as Rebel horse soldiers and their cannon dueled with Yankee militia defending Harrisburg.
Peace Church
Peace Church

On the afternoon of June 28, 1863, elements of General Albert G. Jenkins' brigade rode up to the church and halted on its slight knoll. There, in front of the church, the 2nd Baltimore Light Artillery, under Captain W. H. Griffin, unlimbered its four 10-pound Parrott rifles and pointed their black barrels toward distant Yankees, who could be seen about a mile ahead at markerOyster Point, where the Trindle Spring Road and Carlisle Pike came together.

Two cavalry units, the 14th Virginia Cavalry and the 34th Virginia Cavalry Battalion, deployed to support Griffin's cannon as scouts rounded up local civilians and interned them in the church to keep them from telling the Yankees about their strength and position. Griffin's guns then opened fire, scattering Yankees, who ducked out of sight of the screeching Parrott shells.

Soon, a Pennsylvania militia battery returned fire, but their smoothbore cannon failed to cause any damage to the Southerners. As darkness fell, the artillery barrage, noisy but ineffective, ended, and Jenkins pulled his men back to the vicinity of the markerRupp House to bivouac.

Shortly after dawn on June 29, Jenkins again moved his men into position around Peace Church. During the day, Griffin's cannon occasionally fired at the distant Yankees. Farther north, the other half of Jenkins' brigade under the command of Colonel Milton J. Ferguson took up positions on Carlisle Pike. His artillery, positioned at Samuel Epply's house near Orr's Bridge, fired at the Union line around Oyster Point.
Photograph of Albert Jenkins
Albert Jenkins

The artillery firing caused no serious damage, although some local buildings suffered slight damage; the toll gate at the point was also hit. The noise of the artillery and the incessant skirmishing between the opposing forces, did however, mask the reconnaissance undertaken by the Rebels.

General Jenkins, accompanied by three of Ewell's staff officers, and protected by a company of the 14th Virginia Cavalry, rode south beyond the battle area, through the small village of Shiremanstown, then east to Slate Hill. There, on the highest ground in the area, Jenkins and his officers had a fine view of the Yankee positions west of the Susquehanna, and a panoramic view of Harrisburg beyond.

The Rebel officers could clearly see the earthwork fortifications–markerFort Couch and Fort Washington atop Washington Heights due north of them. After fifteen minutes, the officers rode back to Carlisle and informed General Ewell of their findings. Ewell then ordered General Robert Rodes to march his infantry division forward, push the Yankee militia out of the way, cross the river, and seize the Pennsylvania capital.

That night, Jenkins again pulled his column back to the Rupp House to bivouac. On the morning of the 30th, unbeknownst to the general, General Rodes marched his infantry out of Carlisle, but headed south toward Cashtown instead of east to Harrisburg. Informed by a spy that the Army of the Potomac was heading into Pennsylvania, General Robert E. Lee had recalled his scattered units and decided to concentrate the army near Cashtown, on the eastern edge of South Mountain.

When Jenkins received word of the recall later that day he, too, retreated to Carlisle. Colonel Ferguson's column fell back slightly to markerSporting Hill before heading off to find Jenkins. The Confederate retreat encouraged the Yankee militia to move out on a reconnaissance, which led to more fighting that afternoon at Oyster Point.

Years after the war, as historians began to write about the Gettysburg Campaign, they realized that Harrisburg was saved from capture because of General George G. Meade's adroit handling of the Army of the Potomac. General Albert Jenkins' Rebel troopers, at the forefront of Lee's invading army, had indeed reached a Confederate high tide when they approached the Yankee defenses of Harrisburg.
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