Historical Markers
Gettysburg Campaign [Chambersburg] Historical Marker
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Gettysburg Campaign [Chambersburg]

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
US 11 at south end of Chambersburg

Dedication Date:
December 5, 1947

Behind the Marker

Fleeing the Confederate Invasion
Fleeing the Confederate Invasion
Sometime around eleven on the night of June 15th, the first Southerners silently rode into Chambersburg and entered the square. As two Confederate lieutenants circled the square in opposite directions both were seized, disarmed, and taken prisoner by a few recently-discharged Union soldiers who had returned home. Even as the veterans were grabbing the two officers, the Confederate advance guard thundered into town, weapons at the ready.

As they neared the square, the darkness-pierced only by the glow of gas-powered street lights– prevented them from seeing a bed of wet mortar in the street, mixed there by construction workers earlier in the day who were cementing building stones together on a nearby house. The soft earth quickly disrupted the charge. One man's horse lost its footing and fell, throwing its rider, whose carbine went off as it hit the ground.

The clatter of hooves and the sharp bang of the weapon caused Mr. J. H. Brand to open a second-story window of his house to see what was going on. Spying the man, the Confederates assumed he had fired the shot. Fearing for his life as they pointed up at him, Brand headed for his attic to hide. As daylight came, the attic heated up, so he looked elsewhere for concealment. Afraid that if found, the Rebels would ransack his home, Mr. Brand, disguised in his wife's finest clothing, snuck out the back door and walked away to a neighbor's, undisturbed by Rebel patrols.

Following the vanguard came Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins' Rebel cavalry, over 1,300 strong. The column rode through town to its northern edge, where Jenkins commandeered the fine home of Alexander K. McClure, a local lawyer, politician, and publisher, who was also active in Union intelligence gathering. McClure had already departed for Harrisburg, but his wife stayed behind to watch their property. She politely served Jenkins and his officers a "bountiful" supper and offered use of an outbuilding as a hospital for any sick men he might have.
Confederate troops charging Chambersburg.
Confederate troops charging Chambersburg.

The next morning, June 16, Jenkins rode back into town and established his headquarters at the Montgomery House hotel. Part of his command moved north four miles to Shirk's Hill, which overlooked the flatter terrain in the vicinity. A detachment of this column burned the railroad bridge nearby to sever communication with towns farther north. As men deployed to watch for Yankees, detachments of the brigade fanned out in all directions to secure food and fodder.

Back in Chambersburg, General Jenkins summoned the mayor and town council, then demanded that the horses and equipment taken from his two officers captured the night before–they had been rescued when the vanguard charged–be turned over to him. Since the Yankee soldiers had already fled, the best the council could do was reimburse the Confederates for the cost of their missing property.
Alexander K. McClure
Alexander K. McClure

Jenkins also ordered that all weapons in town be deposited in front of city hall; if not, he threatened, his men would conduct a house-to-house search. Enough residents complied so that the search was never carried out. The day then passed without any major incidents.

Shortly after dawn on June 17, Jenkins ordered all the shopkeepers to open their stores to allow his men to purchase items they wanted for personal use. The general issued instructions to his men to pay for everything, albeit in Confederate money. In at least one instance, when a man took some fabric without paying the store owner, Jenkins drew his saber and threatened the soldier unless he paid his bill. "We are not thieves," he proclaimed.

And then, just as quickly as they had arrived, General Jenkins and his men departed Chambersburg. In mid-morning, his pickets north of Shirk's Hill saw a cloud of dust on the horizon. Figuring that it must be the Yankee army, coming to attack them, they rushed back to town and spread the alarm. Jenkins assembled his men and ordered a retreat, for there were no friendly infantry anywhere nearby to help them, and his men surely would not be able to stand against so many Yankees.

The overwhelming mass of approaching Union soldiers, in fact, numbered no more than thirteen men who were scouting southward for signs of the Rebels. The great cloud of dust was created by the mass of local people who followed them, hoping to catch a glimpse of the invaders. And so Chambersburg was liberated by the morning mist and a handful of nervous Confederate sentries. The initial Confederate occupation of Chambersburg ended after one entire day and portions of two others. More serious actions, however, were soon to come.
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