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Town Burned, Leaving More than 2,000 Homeless

Yesterday, we left off our story with attorney J.W. Douglas, being provided a copy of General Early’s order. He was sent to tell the townspeople that the rebels would burn the town if they did not provide the required ransom.

Douglas recalling his journey

“I then went up Market Street” and told everyone I met of the rebel demand. Douglas later recalled. “ They generally laughed at first, and when I spoke earnestly about the terrible alternative, they said they were trying to scare us and went into their houses. I then went up Main street in the same manner and with the same results.

Could not pay the ransom

Other detainees have told McCausland that bank funds had already been removed and sent north for safekeeping. When Douglas informed McCausland that he could find no money, the general had the courthouse bell rung to call the citizens to the square and then ordered his troops to burn Chambersburg. They waited for six hours, to give a formal expiration, and the soldiers sieged through town. 

Rampaging through the town, confederate soldiers broke into houses and evicted residents, smashed furniture, heaped the pieces into a pile and then set them on fire. By 8 am the city was in flames. As the city burned,renagade soldiers robbed citizens, looted stores, and drank whatever liquor they could find. 

Members of Chambersburg failed to raise the ransom, and so the cavalrymen burned the town down, destroying more than 500 structures and leaving more than 2,000 homeless, Damage was estimated at more than 1.6 million, and Chambersburg was left the only Northan town that the confederates destroyed. 

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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.


Samuel R Welsh 1945-2024

Samuel was an avid sportsman all his life and enjoyed both playing sports and watching them on the television. He enjoyed playing golf.

Betty Marie Miller 1937-2024

Betty worked for 36 years in the Alumni office of The Mercersburg Academy. She enjoyed travel, knitting, and spending time with family and friends.

M Marie Trostle 1919-2024

She enjoyed sewing, baking, cooking, babysitting and crocheting. She especially enjoyed quilting, where she made over 40 quilts and gave them to her family.

John Harvey Hoffman 1941-2024

John enjoyed target shooting, fishing and was known for telling great stories. He was also very proud of his family and enjoyed spending as much time with them as possible.

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The Franklin County Free Press, established by Vicky Taylor in 2019, emerged as a beacon of local journalism for the residents of Franklin County. Under Vicky's leadership, it quickly became an essential source of news, particularly at a time when major newspaper publications were increasingly overlooking local coverage.

On January 1, 2022, the torch was passed to Nathan Neil and his firm, Neil Publishing, LLC. Neil, a local entrepreneur with multiple thriving businesses in Chambersburg, shares Vicky's fervent commitment to both the community and the world of local journalism.

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