STUART'S FAMOUS CHAMBERSBURG RAID
 OF all the minor operations of the Civil War, the one most marked at once by daring and
success was the pioneer invasion of the Northern States, the notable Chambersburg raid of
the most famous cavalry leader of the Confederacy, General J. E. B. Stuart. This story of
bold venture and phenomenal good fortune, though often told, is worth giving again in its
The interim after the battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam was one of rest and recuperation in
both the armies engaged. During this period the cavalry of Lee's army was encamped in he
vicinity of Charlestown, some ten miles to the southward of Harper's Ferry. Stuart's
head-quarters were located under the splendid oaks which graced the lawn of "The Bower,"
whose proprietor, Mr. A. S. Dandridge, entertained the officers with an open-hearted and
genial hospitality which made their stay one of great pleasure and enjoyment.
There were warriors in plenty who would not have been hasty to break up that agreeable
period of rest and social intercourse, but Stuart was not of that class. He felt that he
must be up and doing, demonstrating that the Army of Northern Virginia had not gone to
sleep; and the early days
 of October, 1862, saw a stir about head-quarters which indicated that something out of the
ordinary was afoot. During the evening of the 8th the officers were engaged in a lively
social intercourse with the ladies of "The Bower," the entertainment ending in a serenade
in which the banjo and fiddle took chief part. Warlike affairs seemed absent from the
thoughts of all, with the exception that the general devoted more time than usual to his
With the morning of the 9th a new state of affairs came on. The roads suddenly appeared
full of well-mounted and well-appointed troopers, riding northward with jingling reins and
genial calls, while the cheery sound of the bugle rang through the fresh morning air.
There were eighteen hundred of these horsemen, selected from the best mounted and most
trustworthy men in the corps, for they were chosen for an expedition that would need all
their resources of alertness, activity, and self-control, no less a one than an invasion
of Pennsylvania, a perilous enterprise in which the least error might expose them all to
capture or death.
On reaching the appointed place of rendezvous, at Darksville, Stuart issued an address in
which he advised his followers that the enterprise in which they were to engage demanded
the greatest coolness, decision, and courage, implicit obedience to orders, and the
strictest order and sobriety. While the full purpose of the expedition must still be kept
secret, he said, it was one in which success would
 reflect the highest credit on their arms. The seizure of private property in the State of
Maryland was strictly prohibited, and it was to be done in Pennsylvania only under orders
from the brigade commanders, individual plundering being strongly forbidden.
These preliminaries adjusted, the march northward began, the command being divided into
three detachments of six hundred men each, under the direction of General Wade Hampton,
Colonel W. H. F. Lee, and Colonel W. E. Jones. A battery of four guns accompanied the
expedition. It was with high expectations that the men rode forward, the secrecy of the
enterprise giving it an added zest. Most of them had followed Stuart in daring rides in
the earlier months of the year, and all were ready to follow wherever he chose to lead.
Darkness had fallen when they reached Hedgesville, the point on the Potomac where it was
designed to cross. Here they bivouacked for the night, a select party of some thirty men
being sent across the river, their purpose being to capture the Federal picket on the
Maryland side. In this they failed, but the picket was cut off from its reserve, so that
the fugitives were not able to report the attack. Day had not dawned when all the men were
in their saddles, and as soon as word of the result of the night's enterprise was
received, the foremost troops plunged into the river and the crossing began. It was
completed without difficulty, and Colonel Butler, leading the advance, rode
 briskly forward to the National turnpike which joins Hancock and Hagerstown.
Along this road, a few hours before, General Cox's division of Federal infantry had
passed, Butler coming so close to his rear that the stragglers were captured. But a heavy
fog covered the valley and hid all things from sight, so that Cox continued his march in
ignorance that a strong body of Confederate cavalry was so close upon his track. On
Fairview Heights, near the road, was a Federal signalistation, which a squad was sent to
capture. The two officers in charge of it escaped, but two privates and all its equipments
Yet, despite all efforts at secrecy, the march had not gone on unseen. A citizen had
observed the crossing and reported it to Captain Logan of the Twelfth Illinois Cavalry,
and the news spread with much rapidity. But there was no strong force of cavalry available
to check the movement, and Stuart's braves passed steadily forward unopposed. Their line
of march was remote from telegraph or railroad, and the Pennsylvania farmers, who did not
dream of the war invading their fields, were stricken with consternation when Stuart's
bold riders crossed Mason and Dixon's line and appeared on their soil.
It was hard for them to believe it. One old gentleman, whose sorrel mare was taken from
his cart, protested bitterly, saying that orders from Washington had forbidden the
impressment of horses, and threatening the vengeance of the government
 on the supposed Federal raiders. A shoe merchant at Mercersburg completely equipped
Butler's advance guard with foot-wear, and was sadly surprised when paid with a receipt
calling on the Federal government to pay for damages. While nothing was disturbed in
Maryland, horses were diligently seized in Pennsylvania, the country, on both sides of the
line of march being swept clean of its farm animals. Ladies on the road, however, were not
molested, and the men were strictly prohibited from 'seizing private property—even
from taking provisions for themselves.
Chambersburg, the goal of the expedition, was reached on the evening of the 10th, after a
day's hard ride. So rapid and well conducted had been the journey that as yet scarce one
enemy had been seen; and when the town was called on to surrender within thirty minutes,
under penalty of a bombardment, resistance was out of the question; there was no one
capable of resisting, and the troops were immediately marched into the town, where they
were drawn up in the public square.
The bank was the first place visited. Colonel Butler, under orders from his chief, entered
the building and demanded its funds. But the cashier assured him that it was empty of
money, all its cash having been sent away that morning, and convinced him of this by
opening the safe and drawers for his inspection. Telegraphic warning had evidently reached
the town. Butler had acted with such courtesy that, the cashier now called the ladies
 of his family, and bade them to prepare food for the men who had made the search. That the
captors of the town behaved with like courtesy throughout we have the evidence of Colonel
A. K. McClure, subsequently editor of the Philadelphia Times, who then dwelt in the near
vicinity of Chambersburg. Though a United States officer and subject to arrest or parole,
and though he had good opportunity to escape, he resolved to stay and share the fate of
his fellow-townsmen. We quote from his description of the incidents of that night. After
speaking of an interview he had—as one of the committee of three citizens to
surrender the town—with General Hampton, and the courteous manner of the latter, he
"With sixty acres of corn in shock, and three barns full of grain, excellent farm and
saddle horses, and a number of best blooded cattle, the question of property was worthy of
a thought. I resolved to stay, as I felt so bound by the terms of surrender, and take my
chances of discovery and parole. . . .
"I started in advance of them for my house, but not in time to save the horses. I
confidently expected to be overrun by them, and to find the place one scene of desolation
in the morning. I resolved, however, that things should be done soberly, if possible, and
I had just time to destroy all the liquors about the house. As their pickets were all
around me I could not get it off. I finished just in time, for they were soon upon me in
 every horse in the barn, ten in all, was promptly equipped and mounted by a rebel
cavalryman. They passed on towards Shippensburg, leaving a picket force on the road.
"In an hour they returned with all the horses they could find, and dismounted to spend the
night on the turnpike in front of my door. It was now midnight, and I sat on the porch
observing their movements. They had my best corn-field beside them and their horses fared
well. In a little while one entered the yard, came up to me, and after a profound bow,
politely asked for a few coals to start a fire. I supplied him, and informed him as
blandly as possible where he would find wood conveniently, as I had dim visions of
camp-fires made of my palings. I was thanked in return, and the mild-mannered villain
proceeded at once to strip the fence and kindle fires. Soon after a squad came and asked
permission to get some water. 1 piloted them to the pump, and again received a profusion
of thanks. . . .
"About one o'clock, half a dozen officers came to the door and asked to have some coffee
made for them, offering to pay liberally for it in Confederate scrip. After concluding a
treaty with them on behalf of the colored servants, coffee was promised them, and they
then asked for a little bread with it. They were wet and shivering, and, seeing a bright,
open wood-fire in the library, they asked permission to enter and warm themselves until
their coffee should be ready, assuring me that under
 no circumstances should anything in the house be disturbed by their men. I had no
alternative but to accept them as my guests until it might please them to depart, and I
did so with as good grace as possible.
"Once seated round the fire all reserve seemed to be forgotten on their part, and they
opened a general conversation on politics, the war, the different battles, the merits of
generals of both armies. They spoke with entire freedom upon every subject but their
movement into Chambersburg. Most of them were men of more than ordinary intelligence and
culture, and their demeanor was in all respects eminently courteous. I took a cup of
coffee with them, and have never seen anything more keenly relished. They said that they
had not tasted coffee for weeks before, and that then they had paid from six to ten
dollars per pound for it. When they were through they asked whether there was any coffee
left, and finding that there was some, they proposed to bring some more officers and a few
privates, who were prostrated by exposure, to get what was left. They were, of course, as
welcome as those present, and on they came in squads of five or more until every grain of
brown coffee was exhausted. Then they asked for tea, and that was served to some twenty
"In the mean time a subordinate officer had begged of me a little bread for himself and a
few men, and he was supplied in the kitchen. He was followed by others in turn, until
nearly a hundred had been
 supplied with something to eat or drink. All, however, politely asked permission to enter
the house, and behaved with entire propriety. They did not make a single rude or profane
remark, even to the servants. In the mean time the officers who had first entered the
house had filled their pipes from the box of Killikinick on the mantel—after being
assured that smoking was not offensive—and we had another hour of free talk on
matters generally. . .
"At four o'clock in the morning the welcome blast of the bugle was heard, and they rose
hurriedly to depart. Thanking me for the hospitality they had received, we parted,
mutually expressing the hope that should we ever meet again, it would be under more
pleasant circumstances. In a few minutes they were mounted and moved into Chambersburg.
About seven o'clock I went into town. . . .
"General Stuart sat on his horse in the centre of the town, surrounded by his staff, and
his command was coming in from the country in large squads, leading their old horses and
riding the new ones they had found in the stables hereabouts. General Stuart is of medium
size, has a keen eye, and wears immense sandy whiskers and moustache. His demeanor to our
people was that of a humane soldier. In several instances his men commenced to take
private property from stores, but they were arrested by General Stuart's provost-guard. In
a single instance only, that I heard of, did they enter
 a store by intimidating the proprietor. All of our stores and shops were closed, and with
a very few exceptions were not disturbed."
This was certainly not like the usual behavior of soldiers on foreign soil, and the
incident at once illustrates the strict control which General Stuart held over his men and
the character of the men themselves, largely recruited, as they were, from the higher
class of Southern society. Though Colonel McClure evidently felt that the lion's claws lay
concealed under the silken glove, he certainly saw no evidence of it in the manners of his
Return was now the vital question before General Stuart and his band. Every hour of delay
added to the dangers surrounding them. Troops were hastily marching to cut off their
retreat; cavalry was gathering to intercept them; scouts were watching every road and
every movement. Worst of all was the rain, which had grown heavy in the night and was now
falling steadily, with a threat of swelling the Potomac and making its fords impassable.
The ride northward hid been like a holiday excursion; what would the rile southward prove?
With the dawn of day the head of the column set out on the road towards Gettysburg, no
damage being done in the town except to railroad property and the ordnance store-house,
which contained a large quantity of ammunition and other army supplies. This was set on
fire, and the sound of the
 explosion, after the flames reached the powder, came to the ears of the vanguard when
already at a considerable distance on the return route.
At Cashtown the line turned from the road to Gettysburg and moved southward, horses being
still diligently collected till the Maryland line was crossed, when all gathering of spoil
ceased. Emmittsburg was reached about sunset, the hungry cavaliers there receiving a warm
welcome and being supplied with food as bountifully as the means of the inhabitants
Meanwhile, the Federal military authorities were busy with efforts to cut off the
venturesome band. The difficulty was to know at what point on the Potomac a crossing would
be sought, and the troops were held in suspense until Stuart's movements should unmask his
purpose. General Pleasanton and his cavalry force were kept in uncertain movement, now
riding to Hagerstown, then, on false information, going four miles westward, then, halted
by fresh orders, turning east and riding to Mechanicstown, twenty miles from Hagerstown.
They had marched fifty miles that day, eight of which were wasted, and when they halted,
Stuart was passing within four miles of them without their knowledge. Midnight brought
Pleasanton word of Stuart's movements, and the weary men and horses were put on the road
again, reaching the mouth of the Monocacy about eight o'clock the next morning. But most
of his command had dropped behind in that exhausting ride of seventy-eight miles
 within twenty-eight hours, only some four hundred of them being still with him.
While the Federals were thus making every effort to cut off the bold raiders and to
garrison the fords through a long stretch of the Potomac, Stuart was riding south from
Emmittsburg, after a brief stop at that place, seeking to convey the impression by his
movements that he proposed to try some of the upper and nearer fords. His real purpose was
to seek a crossing lower down, so near to the main body of the Federals that they would
not look for him there. Yet the dangers were growing with every moment, three brigades of
infantry guarded the lower fords, Pleasanton was approaching the Monocacy, and it looked
as if the bold raider was in a net from which there could be no escape.
Stuart reached Hyattstown at daylight on the 12th, having marched sixty-five miles in
twenty hours. The abundance of captured horses enabled him to make rapid changes for the
guns and caissons and to continue the march without delay. Two miles from Hyattstown the
road entered a large piece of woodland, which served to conceal his movements from
observation from any signal-tower. Here a disused road was found, and, turning abruptly to
the west, a rapid ride was made under cover.
Soon after the open country was reached again a Federal squadron was encountered; but it
was dispersed by a charge, and from this point a rapid ride was made for White's Ford, the
nearest available crossing. All now seemed to depend upon whether
 this ford was occupied in force by the enemy. As Colonel Lee approached, it this question
was settled; what appeared a large body of Federal infantry was in possession, posted on a
steep bluff quite close to the ford. It seemed impossible to dislodge it, but foes were
closing up rapidly from behind, and if all was not to be lost something must be done, and
done at once.
To attack the men on the bluff seemed hopeless, and before doing so Lee tried the effect
of putting a bold face on the matter; He sent a messenger under a flag of truce, telling
the Federal commander that Stuart's whole force was before him, that resistance was
useless, and calling on him to surrender. If this was not done in fifteen minutes a charge
in force would be made. The fifteen minutes passed. No sign of yielding appeared. Lee,
with less than a forlorn hope of success, opened fire with his guns and ordered his men to
advance. He listened for the roar of the Federal guns in reply, when a wild shout rang
along the line.
"They are retreating Hurrah! they are retreating!"
Such was indeed the case. The infantry on the bluff were marching away with flying flags
and beating drums, abandoning their strong position without a shot. A loud Confederate
cheer followed them as they marched. No shot was fired to hinder them. Their movement was
the salvation of Stuart's corps, for it left an open passage to the ford, and safety was
 But there was no time to lose. Pleasanton and his men might be on them at any minute.
Other forces of the enemy were rapidly closing in. Haste was the key to success. One piece
of artillery was hurried over the dry bed of the canal, across the river ford, and up the
Virginia bluff, where it was posted to command the passage. Another gun was placed so as
to sweep the approaches on the Maryland side, and soon a stream of horsemen were rapidly
riding through the shallow water to Virginia and safety. With them went a long train of
horses captured from Pennsylvania farms.
Up came the others and took rapidly to the water, Pelham meanwhile facing Pleasanton with
a single gun, which was served with all possible rapidity. But there was one serious
complication. Butler with the rear-guard had not yet arrived, and no one knew just where
he was. Stuart, in deep concern for his safety, sent courier after courier to hasten his
steps, but no tidings came back.
"I fear it is all up with Butler," he said, despondently. "I cannot get word of him, and
the enemy is fast closing in on his path."
"Let me try to reach him," said Captain Blackford, to whom the general had spoken.
After a moment's hesitation Stuart replied,—
"All right! If we don't meet again, good-by, old fellow! You run a desperate chance of
being raked in."
Away went Blackford at full speed, passing the
 lagging couriers one by one, and at length reaching Butler, whom he found halted and
facing the enemy, in complete ignorance of what was going on at the front. He had his own
and a North Carolina regiment and one gun.
We are crossing the ford, and Stuart orders you up at once," shouted Blackford. "Withdraw
at a gallop or you will be cut off."
Very good," said Butler, coolly. "But how about that gun? I fear the horses can't get it
off in time."
"Let the gun go. Save yourself and your men."
Butler did not see it in that light. Whip and spur were applied to the weary artillery
horses, and away they went down the road, whirling the gun behind them, and followed at a
gallop by Butler and his men. As they turned towards the ford they were saluted by the
fire of a Federal battery. Further on the distant fire of infantry from down the river
reached them with spent balls. Ten minutes later and the rear-guard would have been lost.
As it was, a wild dash was made across the stream and soon the last man stood on Virginia
soil. The expedition was at an end, and the gallant band was on its native heath once
Thus ended Stuart's famous two days' ride. The first crossing of the Potomac had been on
the morning of the 10th. The final crossing was on the morning of the 12th. Within
twenty-seven hours he had ridden eighty miles, from Chambersburg to White's Ford, with his
artillery and captured horses,
 and had crossed the Potomac under the eyes of much superior numbers, his only losses being
the wounding of one man and the capture of two who had dropped out of the line of
march—a remarkable record of success, considering the great peril of the expedition.
The gains of the enterprise were about twelve hundred horses, but the great strain of the
ride forced the men to abandon many of their own. Stuart lost two of his most valued
animals—Suffolk and Lady Margrave—through the carelessness of his servant Bob,
who, overcome by too free indulgence in ardent spirits, fell out of the line to take a
nap, and ended by finding himself and his horses in hostile hands.
The value of the property destroyed at Chambersburg, public and railroad, was estimated at
two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; a few hundred sick and wounded soldiers were
paroled, and about thirty officials and prominent citizens were brought off as prisoners,
to be held as hostages for imprisoned citizens of the Confederacy.
On the whole, it was eminently a dare-devil enterprise of the type of the knightly forays
of old, its results far less in importance than the risk of loss to the Confederacy had
that fine body of cavalry been captured. Yet it was of the kind of ventures calculated to
improve the morale of an army, and inspire its men to similar deeds of daring and success.
Doubtless it gave the cue to Morgan's later and much less fortunate invasion of the North.