York Surrenders to Save the City

In 1863, York became the largest Northern town occupied by the Confederate Army. The center of one of the richest farming regions in the Union, York was virtually defenseless as the Rebels approached. When Major General Jubal A. Early's division neared, the mayor and a committee of citizens met them to surrender the city. On June 28, Early moved into the court house and his brigades took over the U.S. Army Hospital on Penn Common, the York Fairgrounds, market sheds, and the mills north of town. Early wanted supplies for his troops, so he demanded bread, sugar, coffee, molasses, meat, socks, hats, 2,000 pairs of shoes, and $100,000 from the citizens of York. If they failed to meet his demands, he threatened to sack the town. The townspeople found most of what he had asked for, except they could scrape together only $28,600. Early was satisfied and spared the town. York's leaders had agreed not to resist in return for peaceful occupation. As a result, the Confederates allowed Yorkers to pass freely within the town. The residents interacted regularly with their occupiers, most of who came from Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Louisiana. In correspondence with her cousin, Cassandra Small, a York resident at the time, described the invasion as “...almost more than human nature could bear, to see such a ragged horde marching up our street and know that they were our enemies - panting to revenge themselves.”