When Jubal Early’s Confederates came to Gettysburg on June 26, 1863, it was, for many local residents, the first time they had seen the Southern troops firsthand. Reactions varied from excitement to apprehension.
Gates Fahnestock, who was nine years old and lived at the corner of Middle and Baltimore Streets, found it highly entertaining: “The boys looking through the slatted shutters on the second story saw and enjoyed it as much as a wild west show.”
Sarah Broadhead lived on the west end of town on Chambersburg Street, and was significantly less pleased: “We all stood in the doors whilst the cavalry passed, but when the infantry came we closed them, for fear they would run into our houses and carry off everything we had, and went up stairs and looked out of the window…They were a miserable-looking set.”
Fannie Buehler, who lived on Baltimore Street almost across from the courthouse, shared Sarah’s opinion: “I never saw a more unsightly set of men…I wondered what this coming meant; what they were going to do and how long they were going to stay…”
Tillie Pierce lived with her family on the corner of Baltimore and Breckenridge streets, and recalls this incident:
While the infantry were moving about the town in squads searching for booty, and while we were all…wondering what they would do next, I remember my mother, not noticing any in the immediate vicinity, spoke to a neighbor on the opposite side of the street, saying:
‘What a filthy, dirty looking set! One cannot tell them from the street.’ Father said: ‘You had better be careful; there is one of them at the curb-stone right in front of us tying his shoe.’
Hettie Shriver lived next door to the Pierce family, and found herself in the unenviable position of being alone in the house with her two daughters, Sadie and Mollie, without benefit of male protection; her husband, George, a soldier in Cole’s Cavalry, was off fighting the war on a different field. Though Hettie has not left a record of her own thoughts that day, for a mother solely responsible for the welfare of her young children, seeing enemy soldiers so close at hand must have been unsettling at the least. These particular troops left town the next morning causing only minimal physical damage, but they did leave some emotional scars. As Robert Bloom writes, in We Never Expected a Battle: The Civilians at Gettysburg, 1863: “The town’s inhabitants had had a brief experience under enemy occupation which reminded them of their exposed situation and provided a foretaste of what they were to encounter in larger measure less than a week later.” It is likely that the anxiety this first encounter stirred for Hettie Shriver played an important role in her decision to flee her home with Sadie and Mollie when the Confederates returned on July 1.
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