A Regular Slave Hunt: The Army of Northern Virginia and Black Civilians in the Gettysburg Campaign. by Ted Alexander.  North and South: Volume 4, Number 7.

Blacks & Abolitionists


 In Days of Darkness, William G. Williams places the black population of Gettysburg between 50 and 300. (By the way one was a SHOEMAKER!). He places the "black" section of town in the southwest portion behind Salome Meyer's house. A recent document I read said there were four homes of black families on the battlefield. The first is easy - The Bryan farm by the angle. I wonder if anybody has any idea who/where the other three might be located? Or underground Railroad documentation for McCallister Mill or Thadeus Steven's Iron Works.


From: nikki@prolog.net (Nikki Roth-Skiles)


 Glenn Banner wrote a "fiction" book called _Flames Across the Susquehanna_ which was about the burning of the Wrightsville bridge. The book goes somewhat into detail about the Underground Railroad in Lancaster County - including the Wright Mansion and the Wright family's involvement. One of his sources was: Smedley, R.C.; _History of the Underground Railroad_; Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Office of the Journal; 1883. I assume this is a history of the Underground Railroad in Lancaster County. He also uses sources such as the histories of Lancaster and York Counties. Maybe the History of Adams County - if it exists - would contain the info on Gettysburg. Also, since he seems to have delved into the history of it, maybe he would know the sources you are asking about. You can probably contact him through the publisher or the Columbia Historical Preservation Society, P.O. Box 578, Columbia PA 17512. I didn't look in the phone book since I doubt he is listed - the reason he had time to write and research is he won one of the biggest lottery jackpots ever won in Pennsylvania.

 Quick question - I never heard that Thaddeus Steven's Iron Works was used as part of the Underground Railroad. I had always assumed since he was so vocal in his abolitionist views it would not have been a logical place to use. Do you know for a fact that it was?


CSVZ07A@prodigy.com ( TERRY MOYER) says:


 In answer to your other question regarding black families living on the Gettysburg battlefield; Frass once again comes to the rescue in 'Early Photography' with his description of 'The Former Bryan house and Barn' (view number 83 - see esp page 234) when he says:

"As a matter of cultural demographics, it is relevant to note that according to the 1860 census, at least five black families (including Bryan's) resided in this immediate area on the southern outskirts of town, or in the vicinity of the neck of land bounded by the Emmitsburg and Taneytown Roads. One of these families, believed to have been living in 1860 in a small one-story tenant house (then owned by Bryan) on the Emmitsburg Road, was that of Alfred Palm, a brickmaker, aged 25. Residing with Palm was a 24-year old 'mulatto' woman named Margaret Divit and, presumably their son, a one-year-old 'mulatto' boy named Joseph F Palm. Whether for racial or moral reasons, or perhaps a combination of the two, the census taker who visited the Palm household in June 1860 did not approve of their living arrangements, and boldly described Margaret Divit's occupation as a 'Mistress-Harlot' in the official census.
Another of Bryan's neighbors on the Emmitsburg Road was J.Worley Jones, a black man whose name appears on the 1858 map of Adams County as 'W. Jones.'... Both Palm and Jones apparently lived in different houses on the Emmitsburg Road. While the tenant house was noted in Bryan's damage clain, and shows up (unnambed) west of the Bryan house on Bachelder's map of 1863 as well as on the warren map of 1868-1869, it was never specifically photographed..." I believe Tom Desjardin mentioned to me during a recent visit to the library that the park had just recently discovered the site of the well belonging to this tenant building on the park land.

 . Terry Moyer

Martjim@aol.com says:

 In a message dated 96-05-11 03:47:47 EDT, you write:

 >In answer to your other question regarding black families living on the >Gettysburg battlefield;

 there was also another black family..the Swisher's...they lived on the taneytown rd just south of the granite school house lane.......check the warren map for the location of the house...this house was mentioned in Richard Moe's book on the 1st Minn.....one of the 1st Minn soldiers was buried by his brother not far from the Swisher place.

 jim martin

lawrence@tyrell.net (Dennis Lawrence) says:


 I asked about whether or _Days of Darkness_ placed Carrie Sheads in a school house separate from her home. Terry Moyer is right in his assumption that the sentence stating the 'brick house her father, Elias, built just for that purpose.' does not preclude that the brick house was also Carrie's residence. Later Williams has the whole sword hiding episode take place in this school/house, lending credence to Terry's reading and disemboweling mine.

Nikki asks if I had any proof that Thadeus Stevens' iron works was a part of the underground railroad.

I have seen it referenced as such in a book not concerned with Gettysburg, but with abolitionism in general. Hence my question about whther any one had any documentation.

 "The Historical Portrait Collection" pamphlet put out by Gettysburg College has some info on white and black Gettysburg abolitionists. I find it very interesting reading. I assume there is a portrait collection at the college to go with this pamphlet?

Stevens was one of the most radical of the abolitionists. He lived with his common law wife, Lydia Hamilton Smith, a mulatto born in Gettysburg. She was an active member of the Lancaster Underground Railroad. It would seem that the common interest these two shared in abolition might make the use of the iron works as a safe haven possible. But again, I have no documentation.

 Probably the most famous civil war era black citizen lived in Chambersburg - just down the pike - until he was 19. He was active in the underground railroad with Frederick Douglass before the war. He became Major Martin Delaney in the Civil war, the first "Negro Field Oficer" in the Civil War. (Claims of "first" always scare me.)

 The Martin Delany Post, G.A.R. was established in Chambersburg in 1885 as a tribute to him.

 One other claim made in the pamphlet concerns Samuel Schmucker founder of both the Lutheran Seminary and today's Getysburg College. He too was of an abolitionist bent and the pamphlet claims that Confederate soldiers ransacked the seminary looking for him during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Is there any documentation that ANY Confederates were looking for ANY specific Gettysburg civillians during the battle?


Esteemed member Chrras contributes:

 Esteemed member Dennis Lawrence contributes:


I was looking in Commanger's blue & gray last night when I came across the following letter by William S. Christian to his wife. I thought it might be of interest to the group, and then I saw your post this afternoon. Am I correct in assuming that this is the letter mentioned in you post?


Camp near Greenwood, Pa., June 28, 1863.

-My own darling wife: You can see by the date of this that we are now in Pennsylvania. We crossed the line day before yesterday and are resting today near a little one-horse town on the road to Gettysburg, which we will reach tomorrow. We are paying back these people for some of the damage they have done us, though we are not doing them half as bad as they done us. We are getting up all the horses, etc., and feeding our army with their beef and flour, etc., but there are strict orders about the interruption of any private property by individual soldiers.

 Though with these orders, fowls and pigs and eatables don't stand much chance. I felt when I first came here that I would like to revenge myself upon these people for the desolation they have brought upon our own beautiful home, that home where we could have lived so happy, and that we loved so much, from which their vandalism has driven you and my helpless little ones. But though I had such severe wrongs and grievances to redress and such great cause for revenge, yet when I got among these people I could not find it in my heart to molest them. They looked so dreadfully scared and talked so humble that I have invariably endeavored to protect their property and have prevented soldiers from taking chickens, even in the main road; yet there is a good deal of plundering going on, confined principally to the taking of provisions. No houses were searched and robbed, like our houses were done by the Yankees. Pigs, chickens, geese, etc., are finding their way into our camp; it can't be prevented, and I can't think it ought to be. We must show them something of war. I have sent out today to get a good horse; I have no scruples about that, as they have taken mine. We took a lot of Negroes yesterday. I was offered my choice, but as I could not get them back home I would not take them. In fact my humanity revolted at taking the poor devils away from their homes. They were so scared that I turned them all loose.

 I dined yesterday with two old maids. They treated me very well and seemed greatly in favor of peace. I have had a great deal of fun since I have been here. The country that we have passed through is beautiful, and everything in the greatest abundance. You never saw such a land of plenty. We could live here mighty well for the next twelve months, but I suppose old Hooker will try to put a stop to us pretty soon. Of course we will have to fight here, and when it comes it will be the biggest on record. Our men feel that there is to be no back-out. A defeat here would be ruinous. This army has never done such fighting as it will do now, and if we can whip the armies that are now gathering to oppose us, we will have everything in our own hands. We must conquer a peace. If we can come out of this country triumphant and victorious, having established a peace, we will bring back to our own land the greatest joy that ever crowned a people. We will show the Yankees this time how we can fight. Be of good cheer, and write often to your fondly attached husband.

Noah Trudeau has a new book out-"Like Men of War". It's a history of Black/African American/Colored/Negro troops during the war. Yes, he used all of those terms-on one page. That is a statemnet on what a tpugh subject this one is. From what I skimmed, it looks pretty good. just lays out the story.

 Two references on Gettysburg. Surprisingly (to me) the first one was on the Wrightsville Bridge. Seems there was a company af men of color (his words) raised at the order of the govenor, and they were made part of a battalion, three white companies, one black. i did not know this.

He puts a little slant on it. The bridge was choked with pa. civilians, fleeing the invasion. But its a toll bridge and the toll keeper insists on charging everyone the toll. Eventually, some union officers straightened that out, but it must have been quite a scene. anyway, What he ca;;s C.S. partisan rangers show up and start capturing free blacks. About 50 are shipped south into slavery. No wonder they were able to get a company of black volunteers. anyway, the story is that these volunteers are ordered to dig some fortifications, which the white volunteers refused to do. the black unit does dig, until the ANV arrives. At that point they pick up their weapons and prepare to defend the bridge.

 of course, Frick orders the retreat across the bridge and they try and blow it while crossing. According to Trudeau, they use explosives to drop the center span, but that doesn't waork and the whole thing ends up burning. The 19th century equivalent of a surgical strike.

i didn't know any black troops were involved in the campaign. according to the footnotes, they were cited-OR 27/2:279. Since I just spent 1/2 the money i was going to use on the ORs on this book, I'd appreciate it if somebody would e0mail me that one. Thanks.

 Other G'burg connection is the 75th anniversary. The last surviving member of the 54th Mass. showed up.

Here is the reference -- the "negro" soldiers are mentioned in two places -- once near the beginning and once towards the end where Frick singles them out for praise. Now, quick -- save up some money to buy yourself the OR's on CD! (Seriously, the Guild Press CD of the OR's is the best Civil War buy I have ever made -- and that is in over 30 years of buying books and such. It is an extraordinary research tool.)

JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
No. 419.--Report of Col. Jacob G. Frick, Twenty-seventh Pennsylvania Militia,
of operations June 24-30.

 [ar44_277 con't]


 Columbia, Pa., July 1, 1863.

 CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that, in compliance with General Orders, No. 14, from the Department of the Susquehanna, I left Harrisburg on the morning of the 24th ultimo, and arrived here on the afternoon of the same day, and immediately sent four companies, in command of Lieutenant-Colonel Green, over the river.

On the morning of the 25th ultimo, I sent four more companies to that officer, with instructions to take up a position near the York turnpike, about a half mile from Wrightsville.

Hearing, on the afternoon of the 27th, that the enemy were in the vicinity of York, I ordered my two remaining companies to report to Lieutenant-Colonel Green that we might be prepared to resist any sudden attempt by the enemy to get possession of the bridge at this point.

Late in the evening of the same day, I crossed the river, assumed command, and disposed my force for defense.

 During the night, our force was increased by four companies from Columbia (three white and one colored), numbering about 175 men.

 Very early next morning, having obtained intrenching tools from citizens of Columbia and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, my own men and the negro company (the other three companies from Columbia having left for their homes) dug rifle-pits on either side of the turnpike.

 During the morning, a detachment of convalescent soldiers from York, and the Patapsco Guards, in all about 250 men, joined me, and they were posted on the left of the town, protecting the left flank of my position. They were placed under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Green. We were also joined by scattered fragments of the Twentieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, under Lieutenant-Colonel Sickles, during the morning, which I posted on the right of the town as a protection to the right flank.

 The work of intrenching was continued until the approach and attack of the enemy, about 5.30 p.m., and, while the work was in progress, I selected, with the assistance of Major Hailer, aide-de-camp to the commanding general, the several points at which to post my limited number of men.

 The main body of the enemy, about 2,500 strong, composed of cavalry, artillery, and infantry, took up their position about 6 p.m. on the turnpike in our immediate front, and within three-quarters of a mile of our rifle-pits. A force of cavalry and infantry moved down the railroad on our left, and attacked our skirmishers, who, after replying to their fire for a short time, retired to the main body, which kept up a steady fire, and held the enemy in check until they received orders to retire to the bridge. The rebels succeeded in getting a battery in position on the elevated ground on our right and a section in our immediate front. These guns were used most vigorously against those of my command occupying the rifle-pits.

In the meantime, they sent a column of infantry, under cover of a high hill on our right, within a few hundred yards of the river. None but their skirmishers approached within range of the guns of the men occupying the rifle-pits, and these being in a grain-field, and obscured from our view, excepting when they would rise to fire, it was difficult to do then much harm or dislodge them. They depended exclusively upon their artillery to drive us from our position here. Having no artillery ourselves on that side of the river with which to reply, and after retaining our position for about one and a quarter hours, and discovering that our remaining longer would enable the enemy to reach the river on both of my flanks, which I was unable to prevent because of the small number of men under my command, and thus get possession of the bridge, cut off our retreat, and secure a crossing of the Susquehanna, which I was instructed to prevent, I retired in good order, and crossed the bridge to the Lancaster side.

 Before the enemy had left York for the river here, I made, as I supposed, every necessary arrangement to blow up one span of the Columbia Bridge. When they got within sight, the gentlemen charged with the execution of that work repaired promptly to the bridge, and commenced sawing off the arches and heavy timbers preparatory to blowing it up with powder, which they had arranged for that purpose. After an abundance of time was allowed, and after I supposed every man of my command was over the river, and when the enemy had entered the town with his artillery, and reached the barricade at the bridge- head, I gave the order to light the fuse. The explosion took place, but our object in blowing up the bridge failed. It was then that I felt it to be my duty, in order to prevent the enemy from crossing the river and marching on to Harrisburg in the rear, destroying on his route railroads and bridges, to order the bridge to be set on fire. The bridge was completely destroyed, though a vigorous attempt was made to save a part by the soldiers.

I was materially assisted in my operations by Captain Strickler, who had charge of a small force of cavalry, acting as scouts. I feel indebted to him for much reliable information as to the movements and force of the enemy.

Major [Charles C.] Haldeman, formerly of the Twenty-third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, volunteered his services, and rendered me very efficient aid. Lieutenant-Colonel [David B.] Green, who had charge of the left flank of the position, with a force of 250 men, and Major [George L.] Fried, who took charge of the left wing of the Twenty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, behaved with accustomed coolness and gallantry, and brought off their forces in most excellent order.

Great praise is due to Captain [Joseph] Oliver, Company D, Twenty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, commanding a body of skirmishers of about 70 men, for the skillfulness and boldness with which he handled his men.

The officers and men of my command generally did their whole duty.

Before closing this report, justice compels me to make mention of the excellent conduct of the company of negroes from Columbia. After working industriously in the rifle-pits all day, when the fight commenced they took their guns and stood up to their work bravely.

They fell back only when ordered to do so.

I herewith inclose a list of casualties.(*)

The prisoners taken--18 in number--were all from the Twentieth Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, including Lieutenant-Colonel [William H.] Sickles, of that regiment. From information received since the engagement, I feel convinced that if my orders had been promptly obeyed, no prisoners would have been taken.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Department of the Susquehanna.

 Bruce Trinque

 Niantic, CT

Esteemed member Richard Rollins contributes:

 The thought crosses my mind that perhaps the stories we do have are about the blacks captured at WRightsville. If they were sent south, they would have been sent a prisoners of war, not as escaped slaves sent back to slavery. That would be an interestings slant.

 Didnt someone past something once to the effect that NPS people at Antietam had foudn some evidence that pertained to this story?


Esteemed member "C. W. Wachsmuth" contributes:

 While Dennis Frye was still Chief historian at Harpers Ferry mention was made of records from that area showing several thousand blacks sent south. I personnaly have never followed that thread up, but in Nye's Here Come the Rebels he relates incidents of this kind in the Chambersburg area on page 144 and uses the following references in the notes: Hoke, The Great Invasion, 108; Shaff, Gettysburg Week, Scribner's (July 1894) pp 22-23; Moore, Rebellion Record, VII 325 and from the last source a letter from Capt. W.S. Christian to his wife quoted on the same page (325) of the RR

 The incidents described are attributed to Jenkins cavalry.


 Diary of the Rev. Thomas Creigh, D.D. (Mercersburg):

 The entry for Friday, June 26, (1863) is interesting, "A terrible day.
 The guerillas passing and repassing, one of the saddest of sights,
 several of our colored persons with them, to be sold into slavery,
 John Philkill and Findlay Cuff. The officer with a squad of men has
 just passed up street making proclamation of something. I have just
 been to the door to inquire what it is. It is that they intend to
 search all houses for contrabands and fire arms and that wherever
 they discover either they will set fire to the house in which they
 may be found."

 Saturday, June 27th: "This morning the guerilla band which was
 encamped up the pike took their departure through town toward
 Greencastle taking with them about a dozen colored persons,
 mostly contrabands, women and children; a large flock of sheep
 and horses and barouche. Sad that we can make no resistance
 and that the Government has sent us no help. Here we are as in a
 port or a prison, beleaguered on all hands and can receive no
 reliable intelligence in regard to the movements of our army.
 Reports we have in abundance, but they are so vague, and so
 conflicting that we can repose no confidence in them."

Theresa Stinson