Jun 28, 2013

The burning of the Columbia - Wrightsville Bridge

(Wikipedia) ... To prevent the advance of Confederate troops across the river from the Wrightsville (York County) side during the Civil War, the bridge was burned by Union militia under Maj. Granville O. Haller and Col. Jacob G. Frick on June 28, 1863. Civilian volunteers from Columbia had mined the bridge at the fourth span from the Wrightsville side, originally hoping to drop the whole 200-foot (61 m) span into the river, but when the charges were detonated, only small portions of the support arch splintered, leaving the span passable. As Confederates advanced onto the bridge, Union forces set fire to it near the Wrightsville side. Earlier they had saturated the structure with crude oil from a Columbia refinery.
The entire structure soon caught fire and completely burned in six hours. Confederate generals Jubal A. Early and John B. Gordon had originally planned to save the bridge despite orders from General Robert E. Lee to burn it, and Union forces under the command of Colonel Jacob G. Frick had burned the bridge, originally hoping to defend and save it. Afterwards, the Columbia Bank and Bridge Company appealed to the federal government for reimbursement for damages incurred from the bridge burning, but none were ever paid. Conservative estimates put the cost of damages with interest today at well over $170 million.
In 1864, the bank sold all interest in the bridge and bridge piers to the Pennsylvania Railroad for $57,000. The bank eventually went out of business, although the original building is now being renovated into a museum at Second and Locust Streets.

Jun 26, 2013

Jeb Stuart's ride


(Wikipedia) Jeb Stuart enjoyed the glory of circumnavigating an enemy army, which he had done on two previous occasions in 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign and at the end of the Maryland Campaign. It is possible that he had the same intention when he spoke to Robert E. Lee following the Battle of Upperville. He certainly needed to erase the stain on his reputation represented by his surprise and near defeat at the Battle of Brandy Station.
The exact nature of Lee's order to Stuart on June 22 has been argued by the participants and historians ever since, but the essence was that he was instructed to guard the mountain passes with part of his force while the Army of Northern Virginia was still south of the Potomac and that he was to cross the river with the remainder of the army and screen the right flank of Ewell's Second Corps.
Instead of taking a direct route north near the Blue Ridge Mountains, however, Stuart chose to reach Ewell's flank by taking his three best brigades (those of Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, and John R. Chambliss, the latter replacing the wounded W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee) between the Union army and Washington, moving north through Rockville to Westminster and on into Pennsylvania, hoping to capture supplies along the way and cause havoc near the enemy capital. Stuart and his three brigades departed Salem Depot at 1 a.m. on June 25. Continued 

Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW 

Jun 22, 2013

150 years ago: The Gettysburg Campaign


(Wikipedia) The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and then (from June 28) by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, pursued Lee, defeated him at the Battle of Gettysburg, but allowed him to escape back to Virginia.
Lee's army slipped away from Federal contact at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on June 3, 1863. While they paused at Culpeper, the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war was fought at Brandy Station on June 9. The Confederates crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and moved north through the Shenandoah Valley, capturing the Union garrison at Winchester, Virginia, in the Second Battle of Winchester, June 13–15. Crossing the Potomac River, Lee's Second Corps advanced through Maryland and Pennsylvania, reaching the Susquehanna River and threatening the state capital of Harrisburg. However, the Army of the Potomac was in pursuit and had reached Frederick, Maryland, before Lee realized his opponent had crossed the Potomac. Continued