Countdown to 1864: Witness Accounts of the Burning of Chambersburg

Confederate Soldier – Fielder C. Slingluff

“Of course, we had nothing personal against your pretty little town. It just so happened that it was the nearest and most accessible place of importance for us to get to. It was the unfortunate victim of circumstances. Had it been father off and some other town nearer, that other town would have gone and Chambersburg would have been saved.” 

Franklin Repository, August 24, 1864 – First printing after Burning 

“Dark as is the hour, let us not forget that it has the promise of future prosperity to our town. Let us, therefore, make common cause to restore Chambersburg; to help the needy; to encourage the desponding, and to give prompt and permanent aid to make the town better if possible than before. The man who erects the first good house on the ruins of his old one will be the best benefactor of our people, and every man who imitates his example will do a good deed alike for himself and for the many dependants around us. One and all let us resolve that Chambersburg shall be rebuilt, that her population shall again sit down in prosperity where rebel brutality made withering desolation, and when once resolved upon, the good work will be more than half done. “

Richmond Dispatch Newspaper 

“This howl of desolation and despair from the quarter in which it is heard comes on our ears like music on the waters. It is sweet beyond all earthly gratification.” 

Confederate Surgeon, Malcolm Fleming in a letter to his mother 

“As much as I hate Yankees, I could not stand it long. I believe somewhat in the old Mosaic Law- an eye for an eye & a tooth for a tooth, But we think we are going wrong.” 

Valley Spirit, August 31st, 1864 – First printing after burning 

“Our loss has been very heavy, fully $6000 our types, presses, and all other printing materials have been melted in the crucible of rebel barbarity; our subscription list being all that we saved from the wreck. This severe loss compels us to ask for immediate payment from those who owe us in order to meet the liabilities incurred by us in refitting the establishment. 

We would say in conclusion to our Democratic friends and to the suffering people of our county, be of good cheer. Indications of a brighter day are apparent. The day of misrule and misgovernment is near an end. The glorious spectacle of a prosperous re-united, and happy people will soon again be presented in this land, now so cursed by rebellion, tyranny, and war. God speed the dawn of this brighter day!” 

Reverend Benjamin Schneck in a letter to his sister

“Some of the rebel officers and men here did not expect this vandalism and they show good spirit. They did and would not fire any buildings and even helped people carry out things out of their houses. They denounced the whole procedure as outrageous and wicked.” 

Governor Joseph Ritner to Benjamin Schneck, recorded in Scheck’s letter to his sister

“The reality is fearfully beyond all my conceptions.” 

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.