Correspondence of the Express.
Greencastle, Franklin Co.
July 8, 1863
Having been a spectator of many of the scenes of the last few weeks here, I shall endeavor to relate some of them without any coloring or exaggeration ; But a true history of all that has transpired in this valley would not be credited by those who were not witnesses ; hence there is no occasion to exaggerate. I shall not attempt to describe minutely all the scenes of the great drama which been enacted in this valley, but give the reader a bird's eye view of the scenes behind the curtain. I shall first of all notice the triumphant entry of General Lee's army into Pennsylvania, which occurred on the morning of the 25th of June-Gen. Ewell's corps being in the advance, followed by A. P. Hill's and General Longstreet's, Gen. Imboden bringing up the rear. Ewell's corps is the finest in the real army, being the best armed and equipped and the men appearing more respectable and under more restraint then any of the other corps. It numbered, according to Gen. Ed. Johnston, 80,000 men.
On the 26th Gen. A. P. Hill's corps passed through, and encamped two miles from town, followed the next day by Gen. Longstreet's. All of these two corps did not pass on the main road, a portion going by way of Mercersburg and Waynesboro. The army under Gen. Lee did not number more then 100,000 men, many of whom were not effective or available in battle. The men were in good spirts, and loud in their boosts of what they were going to do in Pennsylvania. They invariably denounced the Yankees as cowards, asking how far it was to Harrisburg, and how many "Dutch Militia" were there. Many would say "Here's your ragged rebels ; we are going to Harrisburg to capture your Dutch militia, and the boys that carry the big Knapsacks." Another said, "now that we are in the Union, guess you are satisfied." Others would give the man in front a push and say,"on to Richmond." The men were ragged and miserably dirty ; there is no uniformity of dress, every one wearing what he could get or steal. Many of the officers had no uniforms or any thing to distinguish them from the privates. Even gen. Ewell had no stars to designate his rank.
The army was well supplied with artillery, some two hundred pieces having passed over the main road, while quite a number of pieces passed by way of Mecerburg and Waynesboro. The wagon train was immense, and could not have numbered less then two thousand. The teams were in tolerable good condition and principally mules.
Gen. Lee and staff passed immediately in the rear of Gen. Hill's corps. His body guard were well mounted and well dressed and equipped. They number about fifty, and were fine looking men. Gen. Lee appears old, and has a troubled, careworn countenance. He wore a blue mantle over his gray suit, with an ordinary slouch hat, and was mounted on a fine black horse. He did not converse with any one, but appeared to be in deep meditation.
Gen, Ewell was reserved in conversation and dignified in appearance. General A.P. Hill was more communicative and agreeable, but had a very poor opinion of the Generals in the Union Army-in fact a general denunciation of the Union Generals and Officers was the predominant feature in the conversation of both officers and privates.
We have been told that the southern men are more cultivated and refined than those of the north-that chivalry and honor are the characteristics of the southern people. If highway robberies, profanity, vulgarity, filthiness and general meanness are the requisite qualifications for constituting a high-toned gentleman then indeed may the southern soldiers claim the appellation. Hardly a house that has not been robbed, many of them have been sacked two or three times, my own mother's being one of the latter. Every thing of value was taken, clothing of all kinds, men and woman's-even ladies under clothing, including hoop skirts : money, watches, jewelry, quilts, shawls, guns-every thing in the eating line, to the drinking of the slop out of the swill tubs, was appropriated by the First Families of Virginia.
It was no unusual thing while sitting in your house, or walking in the road, for a squad to ride up, presenting a pistol to your head, and demanding your money, hat, coat, boots, and pantaloons ; refuse and you would get a taste of real lead. Men were stripped of their clothing on the road, not only their hat, and coat, but pantaloons too, and forced to go home in a state of nudity. Mr. Strite, a peaceable and innocent man, was shot down in front of his barn for his money, and covered over with manure by his inhuman murderers. Many would terrify the women by demanding things which they conceived to have been hidden away, by lighting a match and threatening to fire the building. Deeds of property and other valuable papers were destroyed-a wheat field was generally taken in preference to a timothy or clover field for pasture for the horses-and wheat was frequently taken in preference to corn. It was no unusual thing to see a fine quilt as a horse blanket, and while these demons were devastating the country , and robbing your house, you were subject to the most vile abuse, such as "you d___ abolitionist, If we would do as your men done in our country, we would burn your house and barn, and turn you to the woods. Now d___ you, we are in the Union again, and we intend to make it the hottest Union this side of h___ ,"&c. But the fact that they entered the Poor House and robbed the paupers of their clothing, thoroughly illustrates the character of the real soldier.
Of the amount of damage done to the farming interest of this valley, those who have not seen, can form no conception of it. Hundreds of fields of fine wheat and grass are now a mixture of mud, broken wagons, dead horses, &c., while thousands of farmers have not a horse, cow, hog, chicken, wagon, harness, or a pound of meat or flour in the house.
While the rebels were advancing into Pennsylvania all were in a joyful mood ; they indulged freely in the speculations of the movement of Gen. Lee. Many spoke of the grand results that were sure to follow the capture of Harrisburg, then the advance on Baltimore and its capture-then the surrender of Washington, Followed up by a speedy peace. When reminded of the uncertainty of victory, of the danger of the undertaking, of the disaster that was sure to follow should they be defeated, and compelled to retreat, the answer generally was that Gen. Lee knew his own business-that they had staked all on this movement, and that they would all die before they would leave Pennsylvania, &c. But alas the Real expectations; how grievously did their bright anticipations come to naught, and how many found a grave in place of victory and plenty.
The battle fought near Gettysburg, and its crowing victory changed the programme, and if we were mortified and grieved to see the rebels march on in triumph through our country, we hailed their disastrous retreat with a pleasure that language is inadequate to describe.
Of the retreat of the Rebels I shall now speak, but how shall I describe it; my descriptive powers fail me ; the mind is bewildered by the scenes of the last few days, and one scarcely knows whether it was a dream or reality. On Sabbath morning last about 2 o'clock the Rebels entered town on their retreat towards the Potomac, the infantry and part of the supply train going along the mountain, while the principal part of the train and the wounded passed through this place, and perhaps from five to ten thousand stragglers on foot, most of them without shoes, having lost them in the mud. Many had their shirt sleeves torn off for bandages, some without a hat, others with heads tied up, others with one leg of their pantaloons torn off, Add to this some six to ten thousand mounted infantry and cavalry on worn out horses struggling in the mud, with here and there a stray piece of artillery, and the wagons and ambulances, and you have some idea of the panorama as it moved along.
For thirty-six hours did they pour over the roads and fields, wending their way towards the Potomac. Oh, what a scene ! The teamsters with horrid oaths pounded the poor exhausted horses and mules, while the road was strewn with dead horses and broken wagons. Here and there you could see a team fast in the mud with men prying at it with rails, while by the way-side, against trees, stumps, and in the mud, sat the exhausted wounded unable to go any further. Thousands More fortunate than these poor wretches were endeavoring to make their escape on the worn-out horses which they had stolen, who when requested by some exhausted wretch to leave him ride for a few miles or so, would turn a deaf ear to the supplications of his companions in arms ; for in the vortex and confusion all sense of feeling was lost. Misfortune had placed officers and privates on a level. The stolen goods where freely exchanged for a small piece of bread or cake.
The road was strewn with cast-off clothing, blankets, knapsacks, guns and empty haversacks. But amid all the confusion and noise could be heard the moans of the wounded in the wagons and ambulances, as they were hurried over the rough, muddy roads. Many died on the way, and were thrown into the woods and barns for the citizens to bury. When a wagon would brake down, the wounded would be left to their fate. Oh, how they would beg and entreat those around them not to leave them there to die, far from their friends and homes ! But their supplications and tears were lost upon men who, hardened by the misfortunes with which they were surrounded, made the old maxim "self-preservation is the first law of nature," their guide. When a team would give out or a horse become exhausted, they would lighten the wagon by throwing one or two of the wounded out, who, with tears in their eyes, would beg for mercy ; but humanity had left the teamster, and he heard them not. Thousands of-them would enquire, "How far to the river ?" "How far to the Maryland line?" "How far to Williamsport ?" When answered that it was twenty miles to the river, they would look bewildered, and say " I cannot walk that far." Others would sit down, yielding calmly to their fate. Others again would beg for medical aid, but it was not to be had.
While I looked at the miserable wretches striving to reach the Potomac, I could distinctly hear our artillery preventing the advance from crossing, and I thought of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, and hoped that the Potomac might prove as disastrous to the rebels as the Beresina did to his army.
On the road you can see large quantities of ammunition-powder, shell and shot, which has been abandoned. In less than a half a mile I counted three dismounted guns. Whole wagon loads of small arms were burnt, or rendered useless by bending them over wagon wheels.
From all I can learn Gen. Lee's remnant of an army is lying along the river from Williamsport to Sharpsburg, unable to cross the river. They hold possession of Hagerstown. Their pickets are at Middleburg four miles from Greencastle. We know little in regard to the late battle near Gettysburg, but what we have been able to learn from real sources, They all admit that they were badly beaten, many estimating their loss at 60,000 men-they all agree that the Union soldiers fought well, saying that the Yankees fight better on their own soil than in Dixie.
I forgot to mention in the proper place, that the Copperheads did not fare well. They claimed protection from the Rebels on the ground that they voted for Breckinridge. But it was no go, they told them they did not care a d__n who they voted for, but saying. "If you are for us, why not help us by falling into the ranks." The copperheads have learned a lesson, and are now good Union men.
We cannot get a paper-have seen no Eastern papers for two Weeks-but hope our mail will soon be along.
.J. S. H.