American Heritage magazine, in an account of the burning, reported that the confederate captain said: “It was impossible at first to convince the people, the females, particularly that their fair city would (be) burnt; even when the torch was applied, they seemed dazed.
Terror was depicted in every face, women, refined ladies and girls running through the streets wild with fright seeking some place of safely.” Most fled from the scene though and went into surrounding fields to simply watch the devastating event take place.
Others were defiant. As civilwarseminars.org reports, “one elderly woman gave a soldier a thrashing with a broom.
Another woman extinguished the fire in her home three times before a confederate soldier put a pistol to her head and held it there while the fire spread to the point where the home could not be saved.” Some paid small ransoms in hopes of amnesty.
Recovered and Rebuilt
Chambersburg quickly recovered by 1866, the courthouse, homes, and businesses were rebuilt, with three-story buildings replacing the smaller buildings that existed before the war. Brick by brick, the town rose again to be stronger and more beautiful, with a fountain dedicated in the center of town on July 20, 1878, to commemorate the county residents who fought in the Civil War.
A two-hour parade took place, and an estimated 15,000 people attended the dedication. The fountain, currently being repaired from an automotive accident, will again stand in Chambersburg’s square.
The Confederate raid on Chambersburg had no impact on the military outcome of the war. But photographs of the burning circulated widely across the North and led to further calls of retaliation, this time for the South. A historical marker was dedicated on Us 30 for the burning on December 5, 1947.
Visit tomorrow for the next installment
In honor of 1864, the Ransoming, Burning & Rebirth Living History Re-enactment & Light Show, we will be publishing the story, accounts, and other historical information leading up to Saturday, July 16th. The Re-enactment and light show will occur at 9 pm after Old Market Day in front of the 11/30 Visitors Center.
Thank you to the Franklin County Visitors Bureau for providing the content for this series.