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Department 1

Civil War Institute


On June 15, 1863, Albert Jenkins’s Confederate cavalry brigade became the first of Lee’s men to enter the North when it crossed the Potomac River and headed for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Lee had issued strict orders forbidding his men to damage or confiscate private property unless it was a requisition made for necessary supplies, and overseen by authorized Confederate staff. Jenkins’s men half-heartedly obeyed, and scoured the area for anything valuable, including African Americans, fugitive or legally free, who might be sold into slavery. One horrified Chambersburg resident watched local blacks attempt to hide in cornfields only to have troopers chase them down through the young stalks. Others capitulated after troopers fired at them. When Lee arrived in Chambersburg on June 27, his horror at scenes of looting and robbery compelled him to reissue his order concerning private property. But he made no mention of over 200 captured African-Americans – some of whom had been born in Chambersburg – removed south by Jenkins’s cavalry. On the same day in nearby Mercersburg, one startled local watching fugitive-filled wagons roll towards Maryland asked a guard how he could do such a thing. Confederates, he replied, were simply “reclaiming their property.” [excerpt]


This blog post originally appeared in The Gettysburg Compiler and was created by students at Gettysburg College.