McLean Tannery

In late June 1863 in Shippensburg, rumors about the Confederate advance were rampant. Citizens expected the Rebels any moment. On June 24, they crowded Shippensburg's roofs to watch for invaders. That afternoon Captain William Boyd's Union cavalry raced into the town from the south, pursued by Confederate Brigadier General Albert Jenkins's cavalry. A running fight flared along the main street as the Yankees were driven out of town. Within an hour, the Confederates had taken Shippensburg. Jenkins soon demanded food and forage for his army from the townspeople. Meanwhile, the Rebels went about confiscating what they needed. Hardest hit was gristmill owner Thomas P. Blair. The Rebels seized approximately $30,000 worth of his grain and flour. Tannery owner William McLean managed to avoid such a heavy loss. Sure that the enemy would commandeer his finished leather hides, McLean instructed his workers to conceal them under false bottoms in the tanning vats. However, before all the stock could be hidden, word arrived that the Rebels were on their way. Thinking quickly, McLean told his employees to bury the rest under cordwood. The ruse worked. The Confederates never suspected that valuable leather lay hidden throughout McLean's tannery.