Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

EYEWITNESS:1862 REBELS VISIT CHAMBERSBURG IN 'THEIR SUNDAY CLOTHING' Series: EYEWITNESS

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

EYEWITNESS:1862 REBELS VISIT CHAMBERSBURG IN 'THEIR SUNDAY CLOTHING' Series: EYEWITNESS

Article excerpt

Editors of the Pittsburgh Gazette couldn't seem to make up their minds about the accuracy of the latest news from Franklin County.

The main headlines on Oct. 14, 1862, "EXCITING RUMORS!" and "Franklin County Invaded by Thirty Thousand Rebels," were followed by the warning "THE STORY PROBABLY A HOAX."

While there was no mass invasion, it's understandable that journalists were nervous. Chambersburg, the Franklin County seat, had been occupied the previous weekend by 1,800 Confederate cavalrymen commanded by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.

That same edition of the paper had a story from Frederick, Md., describing the success of the secessionists' surprise foray. "The principal object of the rebel raid was to get horses, in which they succeeded, taking back from 800 to 1000 of those, which were seized indiscriminately from the stables of farmers in Pennsylvania. The men also supplied themselves with shoes and clothing from the stores in Chambersburg."

Residents had been taken by surprise when the Confederates arrived on the dark and rainy evening of Oct. 10. Minutes earlier, a messenger rode into town and said he had been chased by Stuart's cavalry through St. Thomas Township, a few miles west of the borough.

"There was an immediate call to arm" but "the rebels were upon us, a detachment having entered under a flag of truce to demand surrender of the place within thirty minutes," according to a Oct. 15 Gazette story. About 50 local defenders, known as the "Phil Kearny Infantry," faced the enemy, and their temporary commander, Capt. John Eyster, told the Southerners to "Go to h--l!" the story said.

Just before the truce was set to expire, three Chambersburg civilians met with Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton III, one of Stuart's subordinates, and reached terms. "It was agreed that the town should be surrendered on condition that the rights of personal property should be respected," but the secessionists could take "horses, hats, shoes, and such articles as might be useful to them . …

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