Telegraph Operator in Greencastle recounts Burning

Account of H. R. Fetterhoff, a medical doctor, who at the time of the war was a telegraph operator at Greencastle.

In the evening of Friday, July 29th, 1864, about 8 o’clock, General Averell’s command passed through Greencastle on their way from Hagerstown toward Chambersburg and bivouacked for the night a short distance north of the town along the road leading to Chambersburg.

The general sent three or four orderlies to my office and informed me of his whereabouts. The scouts reported that the Confederates had built campfires in the neighborhood of State Line, four miles south of Greencastle, and it was supposed that they camped there for the night.

Telegraph lines cut

About midnight or perhaps a little later the telegraph lines west of Chambersburg on the Pittsburgh Turnpike had been cut, showing that the enemy, after building the campfires at the State Line as a blind, had moved in the direction of Upton and Bridgeport on General Averell’s left flank.

About 1 o’clock A.M. July 30th, General Couch sent an order to Averell, directing him to “move on to Chambersburg at once.” I immediately sent this message to an orderly but never heard from him again. In about a half-hour, General Couch repeated the message in the same words and I sent another orderly with the message but still no answer.

The same order was repeated about every half hour until my orderlies were all gone and I had no one to carry the message.

Search for General Averell

I then learned that when I had sent Averell the information that the Confederates were in his rear or on his flank, he moved his headquarters from the rear of his line, where it had been, up into the line without informing the orderlies or anyone else, consequently, no one knew where to find him and the messages had not been delivered.”

When Averell was located and given the message, the Confederates were entering Chambersburg.

READ: Countdown to 1864: Town Burned, Leaving More than 2,000 Homeless

READ: Countdown to 1864: Masonic Significance of the Burning of Chambersburg

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.


Richard J Murphy 1929-2023

Dick served with the United States Army until his honorable discharge. Dick was employed as budget analyst in the civil sector of the Army in Korea.

Bradley Miller 1980-2023

Born December 7, 1980, Bradley enjoyed drawing, playing video games, reading, and comic books. Bradley had the best sense of humor.

Jerome Edward Foreman Jr.

Jerome served in the U.S. Army 1959 to 1962. He retired from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as Director of Engineering.

Lori A Voce 1964-2023

Lori will be remembered as an amazing wife and mother, who selflessly dedicated herself to ensuring the best life for her family.

Helen F Hykes 1928-2023

Early in life, Helen worked at Fishers Florist, Shippensburg, prior to having her two sons. Afterward she became a consummate homemaker.

Steven Dietrich Gotham 1942-2023

Steve also loved to dine out. However, his most cherished time was spent with his children and grandchildren, who he loved beyond measure.

Shirley Ann Hudson 1932-2023

Shirley never met a stranger; everyone was just a friend she hadn’t met. She was a devoted member of St. John’s United Church of Christ.

Daily Forecast, December 5, 2023

Franklin County Forecast: In the forecast for today, we are expecting overcast clouds, with a high of 41.95°F and a low of 31.62°F. The humidity

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