Historical Markers
Farthest North of Confederates Historical Marker
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Farthest North of Confederates

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Pennsylvania Route 34, 1 mile north of Carlisle Springs

Dedication Date:
October 26, 1926

Behind the Marker

The Sterrett's Gap marker is one that modern researchers have been unable to document. The dearth of information about this marker provides a glimpse at the historian's craft and shows the limitations that prevent us from learning more about the events that took place during the Gettysburg campaign.
Steretts Gap Clipping
Steretts Gap Clipping

This marker, erected in 1929, is one of 149 markers that the old Pennsylvania Historical Commission placed between 1914 and 1933. In those days, the rules and regulations for markers were much less formal than the rigorous process in place today. Many of these early markers commemorated events of local significance rather than subjects of more statewide, or national, interest.

So what do we know? When the Confederates advanced up the Cumberland Valley in June of 1863, a cavalry brigade led by General Albert G. Jenkins was generally in the lead, screening the infantry units of Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps that followed. Jenkins and his men entered Carlisle on June 27, then continued eastward toward Mechanicsburg. General Robert E. Rodes' infantry division of Ewell's corps then marched into Carlisle, bands playing and flags proudly flying. General Ewell himself accompanied Rodes and selected the abandoned U.S. Barracks as the site of his headquarters.

On the 28th of June, Jenkins' brigade split into two columns and continued its eastward advance. One wing halted at markerPeace Church and exchanged artillery fire with Yankee militia in position at markerOyster Point. The other halted at Orr's Bridge and also fired at the distant Union soldiers. On the 29th Jenkins' scouts examined the Yankee fortifications on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, then withdrew the next day from Mechanicsburg. While doing so the Rebels fought with Union militia at markerSporting Hill before retreating to Carlisle.

Now according to this marker, at some point during the Confederate occupation of Carlisle, a detachment of Rebel soldiers rode north along present-day Route 34 toward Sterrett's Gap, scouting for Yankees and examining the terrain. But who were these Confederates? Were they a portion of Jenkins' command or perhaps some troopers from Captain Frank Bond's company of Maryland cavalry that was on duty in Carlisle, policing the town, and keeping Rebel soldiers out of trouble? Whoever they were, today their identity remains a mystery, for none of the surviving Confederate official reports of the Gettysburg Campaign include any mention of a reconnaissance to Sterrett's Gap.

Existing accounts from various soldiers who participated in the campaign also are silent on this issue. However, the absence of existing records does not mean that Confederates did not visit the gap.

In 1929, local residents were able to convince members of the Historical Commission that Confederates did visit this isolated part of Cumberland County. Perhaps a local resident or two who had been alive in 1863 recounted the event; perhaps the story had been handed down in family lore, or perhaps the story is based on anecdotal information supplied by local residents now long since dead.

When historians research the past, they can never be entirely accurate. But, when synthesizing existing accounts, they can draw inferences about past events by applying logic to their quest. It is possible that some Rebel officer, looking at a map of the area, could have sent a patrol to Sterrett's Gap to see if there were any Yankee militias, or to see if the gap provided a good invasion route across the mountains into Perry County.

In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, however, this marker will continue to commemorate a likely Confederate reconnaissance. Local residents did arm themselves and occupy the gap to watch for any patrolling Southerners; actions commemorated in a locally-erected historical marker at Sterrett's Gap.
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