Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Countdown to Gettysburg: June 26th 1863 -- Tillie Pierce Witnesses Ewell's Troops Occupy Gettysburg

Friday, June 26, 1863—Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 3:15 pm

  “The Rebels are coming! The Rebels are coming!” Matilda “Tillie” Pierce looked up from her schoolwork as the shout went from room to room. Rushing to the door, she and the other girls gathered on the front portico of their school. In plain view, marching toward Gettysburg on the Chambersburg Pike, was a dusty mass of Confederate infantry. The teacher, Mrs. Eyster, turned to her students and ordered, “Children, run home as quickly as you can!”

Matilda "Tillie" Pierce

  Tillie ran for her father’s house on Baltimore Street as Confederate riders entered the town. As she reached the front door, men on horseback appeared on her street.

  I scrambled in, slammed shut the door, and hastening to the sitting room, peeped out between the shutters.

What a horrible sight! There they were, human beings! Clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly, pell-mell down the hill toward our home! Shouting, yelling most unearthly, cursing, brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left. I was fully persuaded that the Rebels had actually come at last.

Soon the town was filled with infantry, and then the searching and ransacking began in earnest. They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away.
Nor were they particular about asking. Whatever suited them they took. They did, however, make a formal demand of the town authorities, for a large supply of flour, meat, groceries, shoes, hats, and ten barrels of whiskey; or, in lieu of all this, five thousand dollars. But our merchants and bankers had too often heard of their coming, and had already shipped their wealth to places of safety.

  The soldiers rounded up all the horses in town, including the one owned by Tillie’s father. Then they returned to the house and asked for something to eat. Mrs. Pierce scolded them, saying, “Yes, you ought to come back and ask for something to eat after taking a person’s horse!” She nevertheless gave them some food. As Tillie recalled, “Mother always had a kind and noble heart even toward her enemies.”
  Michael Jacobs, a professor at Pennsylvania College, witnessed the arrival of Confederate soldiers. Of the 5,000 troops of Brigadier General John B. Gordon’s brigade, most of them “were exceedingly dirty, some ragged, some without shoes, and some surmounted by the skeleton of what was once an entire hat, affording unmistakable evidence that they stood in great need of having their scanty wardrobe replenished; and hence the eagerness with which they inquired after shoe, hat, and clothing stores, and their disappointment when they were informed that goods of that description were not to be had in town.”
Major General John Brown Gordon
  In exchange for supplies that could be found, the troops often paid with Confederate money—
printed bills not worth the paper they were cut from, unless of course, the South won the war. By evening the raiders had moved all the freight cars near Gettysburg out to the railroad bridge east of town, then set it all on fire. In the morning the infantry was gone, marching twenty-five miles northeast toward York where General Ewell hoped to capture a bridge over the Susquehanna River. The townspeople wondered if they would return. 

Confederate Soldiers Raid a Norther Store (Harper's Weekly)
  Were other Confederates likely to pass through Gettysburg? And where was the Union army?

(to be continued...) 

Read more about the Tillie Pierce and the Gettysburg campaign my new book for teens just published by Sky Pony Press, Gettysburg: The True Account of Two Young Heroes in the Greatest Battle of the Civil War, available at Amazon and

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