Countdown to 1864: 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.


Kimberly Ann Zimmerman 1960~2023

Kim was always a very outgoing person who loved the outdoors and spending time at her campsite she enjoyed life to the fullest and had an overabundance of friends.

Linda K Ditzler obituary 1953~2023

Linda was a counselor at TruNorth Counseling Services. She also was employed at Wilderness Lodge Leather’s & Hat Shop and The Horse You Rode In On.

John J Durkan obituary 1939~2023

Born in Brooklyn, New York on July 3, 1939, John will be remembered as a man of great faith, unwavering integrity and endless generosity.