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Rachel Cormany Diary
Rachel Cormany
Chambersburg During the Gettysburg Campaign June 14-July 6, 1863

[Chambersburg lay squarely in the middle of the valley up which Lee launched his second and last grand offensive in June 1863. The evacuation of local militia units left the town undefended, and it was rapidly occupied by the advancing Southern army. Chambersburg was used as a central staging area by the Confederates; its importance to their operations increased when the massive confrontation began to develop in Gettysburg, approximately twenty-five miles east across the South Mountain ridge. Following their defeat at Gettysburg, the Confederates withdrew from Chambersburg toward the Potomac River. Hot in pursuit was Samuel's regiment, and Samuel himself was among the first Union soldiers to reenter the town.]

June 14, 1863

Read the R. Telescope & wrote letters this A.M.--P.M. went to S. School, took Cora along--she did pretty well--was in Bro. Hokes Bible class. How much better I feel to get out to religious gathering. Intend to go more. Mrs. Dulany was there with her little one too. I got such a good book to read. Some excitement about the rebels come. Evening the excitement pretty high.

June 15, 1863

Monday. This morning pretty early Gen Milroys wagon train (so we were told) came.[l] Contrabands[2] on ahead coming as fast as they could on all & any kind of horses, their eyes fairly protruding with fear--teams coming at the same rate--some with the covers half off--some lost--men without hats or coats--some lost their coats as they were flying, one darky woman astride of a horse going what she could. There really was a real panic. All reported that the rebels were just on their heels. Soon things became more quiet--& all day government wagons & horses were passing through For awhile before dark the excitement abated a little--but it was only like the calm before a great storm. At dusk or a little before the news came that the rebels were in Greencastle & that said town was on fire. Soon after some of the our guard came in reporting that they had a skirmish with them. Soon followed 100-200 cavalry men--the guard. Such a skedadling as their was among the women & children to get into the houses. All thought the Rebels had really come. The report now is that they will be here in an hour. If I could only hear of My Samuels safety--Many have packed nearly all of their packable goods--I have packed nothing. I do not think that we will be disturbed even should they come. I will trust in God even in the midst of flying shells--but of course shall seek the safest place possible in that case--which I hope will not come to us. I have just put my baby to sleep & will now sit at the front door awhile yet-then retire, knowing all will be well.

June 16, 1863

Retired at 11 oclock. All was very quiet, so we con- cluded that all those reports must be untrue about the Reb's being so near, or that they had struck off in some other direction. Mr. Plough took his horse away so as to be on the safe side. So Annie and I were all alone. At 11 1/2 I heard the clattering of horses hoofs. I hopped out of bed & ran to the front window & sure enough there the Greybacks were going by as fast as their horses could take them down to the Diamond. Next I heard the report of a gun then they came back faster if possible than they came in. But a short time after the whole body came. the front ones with their hands on the gun triggers ready to fire & calling out as they passed along that they would lay the town in ashes if fired on again. It took a long time for them all to pass, but I could not judge how many there were--not being accustomed to seeing troops in such a body--At 2 oclock A.M. all was quiet again save an occasional reb. riding past. We went to bed again & slept soundly until 5 the morning. All seemed quiet yet. We almost came to the conclusion that the reb's had left again leaving only a small guard who took things quite leasurely. Soon however they became more active. Were hunting up the contrabands & driving them off by droves. O! How it grated on our hearts to have to sit quietly & look at such brutal deeds--I saw no men among the contrabands--all women & children. Some of the colored people who were raised here were taken along--I sat on the front step as they were driven by just like we would drive cattle. Some laughed & seemed not to care--but nearly all hung their heads. One woman was pleading wonderfully with her driver for her children--but all the sympathy she received from him was a rough "March along"--at which she would quicken her pace again. It is a query what they want with those little babies--whole families were taken. Of course when the mother was taken she would take her children. I suppose the men left thinking the women & children would not be disturbed. I cannot describe all the scenes--now--Noon--The Rebel horses with just enough men to take care of them & their teams, have just pased through town again on the retreat. Wonder what all this means. Just now the news came that the dismounted rebs are drawn up in line of battle out at McClures & expect a fight--so they sent their horses to the safe side of town in case a retreat is necessary. Some are walking or riding by every few minutes. The horses & wagons were taken back again. Evening--Had a good sleep this P.M. So had Pussy, & will retire trusting in God for safety.

June 17, 1863

Had quite a visiter last night. She came and aske whether I was Mrs Cormany. I told her I was. she then told me she was preacher Millers daughter, & that they had fled from the Reb's & she had no place to stay. So of course I told her I would keep her. I afterwards learned that she was a thief &c but I had promised to keep her so I put all little things out of reach, & frightened her by telling her I always had a loaded pistol near so I could shoot if anyone molested me. She acted quite strangely--before going to bed--wanted me to blow the light & get in bed & she after having shaken off her fleas would lock the door & come too--but I let her know that I lock my own door & that she is to get into bed--she slept all night & left early this morning. All was so quiet during the night that I veryly thought the Reb's had left--but they are still here. All forenoon they were carrying away mens clothing & darkeys. shortly after dinner their horses & wagons were taken on the retreat again. Yes Generals and all went. Saw Gen Jenkins,[3] he is not a bad looking man--Some of the officers tipped their hats to us I answered it with a curl of the lip. I knew they did it to taunt us. The one after he had tipped his hat most graciously & received in answer a toss of the head & curl of the lip took a good laugh over it. There were a few real inteligent good looking men among them. What a pity that they are rebels. After the main body had passed the news came that our soldiers were coming & just then some doz reb's flew past as fast as their horses could take them. we learned since that one of them fired Oaks warehouse & that he was very near being shot by the citizens.[4] Among the last to leave were some with darkeys on their horses behind them. How glad we are they are gone--None of our Soldiers came.

June 18, 1863

Was up early & commenced washing. Got done til noon. Quite a number of the neighbors washed--Soon after dinner the town was all in excitement again--the report came that the reb's are coming back. Plough was so badly frightened that he fairly shook. Talked so snappy & ugly when I asked him anything. I do not like to be snubbed by him or anybody--but guess it's best to bear all. I have not been frightened yet.

June 19, 1863

The excitement is still high. I have slept well every night so far knowing that my Heavenly Parent watches over me at all times. Ironed this morning & baked a loaf of brown bread. feel a little blue. I feel troubled about Mr. Cormany--we are penned up so here that we can hear nothing. All kinds of reports are flying about--still the excitement has abated considerably. Mended all my clothes & put every thing away. Read about the great revivals of ,56 & ,57. felt much happier than in the forenoon, enjoyed a sweet season of prayer.

June 20, 1863

Went to bed early & slept well all night. This morning there is great excitement again. The report came last night that 40,000 or 50,000 infantry & some artillery have taken possession of Hagerstown--that the camps extend nearly to Greencastle--things surely look a little dubious.[5] If we could only have regular mails. a mail came last night--but was not opened until this morning--Got a letter from My Samuel. it is but short. He is still safe--but were under marching orders again. it has been over a week on the way--I almost feel like getting out of this to some place where the mail is uninterupted, but then I fear, My Samuel might chance to come here & I would not see him so I shall stay--Will write to him now-.

June 21, 1863

All was pretty quiet until near noon The news came that the rebels are near here--which caused great excitement again. soon after a reg. of the N.Y. Greys came (militia) so all excitement died away--Wrote a letter (or finished it rather) to My Samuel. Read such a pretty S. School book

June 22, 1863

This A.M. the N. Y. 71St (militia) came & one battery.[7] we felt safe then. the mail came again, but this evening every soldier left us again & the rebels are reported within 8 or 10 miles.[8] Guess there will be nothing to hinder them from coming now--suppose they will be on here by tomorrow which will stop our mail again for some time. I do indeed feel like getting out of this place on that account but do not like to leave everything behind. do really feel like leaving. Old Plough still wants to take Annie off leave me all by myself--not a word does he say to take me along. Oh he does seem the meanest pile of dirt I have seen for some time. He seems too mean for any use. Indeed I believe I shall pack up & leave in the morning. I cant bear to think of being shut up without any news another week.

June 23, 1863

I packed my trunk last evening ready to start to Phil'dia not knowing whether I could get away or not--went to bed at midnight & slept well till after six this morning. I expected to find the town full of rebels but not a rebel could I see--none had come-So after breakfast I took Cora on my arms & started out for a walk. met Mrs Clippinger at her door, asked her to go along for a walk, so we walked on until we saw where our men threw up breastworks but did not go near enough to examine them. Met quite a number of people (men & boys) going out as we came in[9]--we sat down by the roadside & rested a little while then started on. just as we got to the edge of town or near it--two men came riding in fast as their horses could go--one said "The d--d buggers fired on us. the other looked as pale as death his mouth wide open--his hat lost--he was too badly frightened to speak. They me[t] a few our Cavalry at the edge of town--they whirled & put off. I got a little frightened when those two men made so ugly & the cavalry men warned us to go into the houses, looking so fierce with their hands on the gun triggers ready to shoot--all at once I got so weak I could scarcely walk, but that was over in a few minutes & I could walk faster than before. The people were wonderfully frightened again, such a running. The streets were full-It was not long until the reb's really made their appearance--I do not think that they are Cav. but mounted infantry--they most of them have nothing but a musket to fight with. They rode in as leisurely as you please each one having his hand on the trigger though, to fire any minute--now I judge we are shut out again for awhile--I just wonder what they want this time. They are part of those that were here last week. P.M. just ate a piece & fed my baby--both of us took a good nap after our walk. Evening--The Reb's have een cutting up high. Sawed down telegraph poles, destroyed the scotland bridge[10] again took possession of the warehouses & were ealing out flour by the barrel & mollasses by the bucket ful--They ade people take them bread--meat--&c to eat--Some dumb fools carried them jellies & the like--Not a thing went from this place.[11] Three canno[ns] went through when they came--but just now they took them back. wonder what that means again. from 7 to 15 thousand infantry are expected on tonight. they are reported to be at Greencastle by a man just from there. Well whatever betides us the good Lord is able to protect us. And He will protect us. Old Plough wanted Annie to go with him to the country but she would not go & leave me here alone. That was mean in Plough. Annie told me herself--It shows what a great heart he has.

June 24, 1863

Another eventful day has passed--All morning there was considerable riding done up & down street. At 10 A.M. the infantry commenced to come & for 3 hours they just marched on as fast as they could. it is supposed that about 15,000 have already passed through, & there are still more coming. Ewel's brigade has pas. I do not know what others. Longstreet & Hill are expected this way too. It is thought by many that a desperate battle will be fought at Harisburg. This P.M. the Rebs are plundering the stores. some of our merchants will be almost if not entirely ruined--I was sitting on Jared's poarch[12] when a young man (rebel) came & shook hands with Mr. Jared--a relative, his brother is in this army too. He was raised here--His mother is burried here--Mr. Jared told him he ought to go & kneel on his Mothers grave & ask for pardo[n] for having fought in such a bad cause. against such a good Government. tears almost came, he said he could not well help getting in, but he would not fight in Pa. he told his officers so, he was placed under arrest awhile but was released again. Now he said he is compelled to carry a gun & that is as far as they will get toward making him fight. He was in Jacksons Brig. Says Jackson was a christian & means it honestly & earnestly.[13] Some of the Rebs seemed quite jolly at the idea of being in Pa. All is quiet this evening so I shall retire after having committed myself to my maker.

June 25, 1863

Slept well last night. Got up at 6 l/2 A.M. Got Emma Jarrett to go down street with me & got the dried fruit, paper, envelopes & stamps that I had left at Dr MtGomerys,[14] then went up the back st. to Ditmans[15] & got 4 bbs of brown sugar for 50 cts--when I got home Cora was sitting in the cradle playing. The streets are pretty clear this morning still there are plenty Greybacks about. 2 more divisions are expected on here today & tomorrow. Evening The other division that was to come today did not come, but those here have not been idle. They must surely expect to set up stores or fill their empty ones judging from the loads they have been hauling away & they take every thing a body can think of--I was across the street for water & at Aunt Maria's two rebs were talking. one was telling about the battle at Chancelorville. A body would think by his talk that he did about all that was done, at least the greatest part--he told how mean our me[n] acted in Dec. battle at Fredricksburg--he said they sent in a flag of truce to have time allowed them burry their dead. well he helped to "toat" (as he said) off dead wounded & behold when they came to where our men were. instead of digging graves they were throwing up breastworks, & instead of burrying the dead they left them lie where they were laid & sneaked off over the river in the night--Lee then sent a flag of truce for a detail of men to burry those dead--which was complied with but the way they were burried, hands & feet were sticking out they (rebels) had to burry them over--He saw that did not take, so he said that both sides were to blame--& that they were too hasty firing on Fort Sumpter--if they had waited a little longer he believed Pa. would have seceeded too. That did me for bragadocio so I left--It made my blood fairly boil to have to take that & not dare to tell him he lied. Plough was home this afternoon but left again. I made an apron for my baby today. Pretty reliable reports have reached us that McClellan has a heave force (80,000) at Harisburg ready for the Reb's. Also that Stoneman is at Harpers Ferry or near there with 15,000 Cav.[16] I wish every one of these would be taken. Hope this is the beginning of the end.

June 26, 1863

12 1/2 oclock Cannon-waggons & men have been passing since between 9 & 10 this morning--42 Cannon & as many amunition waggons have passed--so now there are 62 pieces of artillery between us & Harrisburg & between 30,000 & 40,000 men.[17] O it seems dreadful to be thus thrown into the hands of the rebbels & to be thus excluded from all the rest of the world--I feel so very anxious about Mr. Cormany--& who knows when we will hear from any of our friends again. It is no use to try to get away from here now--we must just take our chance with the rest--trusting in God as our Savior then come life come death if reconciled with God all is well--My God help me--I do wish to be a real true & living christian. Oh for more religion. Evening--called at Mrs Dickson a few minutes. Also at Mrs Clippingers. Numerous campfires could be seen on the fair ground.

June 27, 1863

Got up early & wakened Annie. And we flew round & put away our best bedclothes--before I got my things in order again Mrs. Clippinger came to go to Hokes where we got syrup & sugar. I also got me a lawn dress. Before we got started the rebels poured in already. they just marched through. Such a hard looking set I never saw. All day since 7 oclock they have been going through. Between 30 & 40 pieces of canno[n]--& an almost endless trail of waggons. While I am writing thousands are passing--such a rough dirty ragged rowdyish set one does not often see--Gen's Lee & Longstreet passed through today. A body would think the whole south had broke loose & are coming into Pa. It makes me feel too badly to see so many men & cannon going through knowing that they have come to kill our men--Many have chickens as they pass- There a number are going with honey--robed some man of it no doubt--they are even carrying it in buckets. The report has reached us that Hooker & Sickel & Stoneman are after them. & at Harisburg the north has congregated en masse to oppose the invaders. Many think this the best thing in the wor[l]d to bring the war to close--I hope our men will be strong enough to completely whip them--Now it is on our side--While down there our army was in the enemys country & citizens kept the rebels posted in our army movements--now they are in the enemys country. Scarcely any are willing to give them anything--in fact none give unless the have to except perhaps the Copperheads[18]--The cavalry had an engagement at not far from Carlisle--& the Reb's were driven back. This seems to be headquarters. A hospital has been established in the schoolhouse where the sick are put in & the wounded. Two of the Generals are reported killed in that picket skirmish. They are going rather fast--wonder whether there is not fighting going on in front.They are poorly clad--many have no shoes on. As they pass along they take the hats off our citizens heads and throw their old ones in exchange. I was at the window up stairs with my baby nearly all day looking at them--at one time one of them said something that I did not like so I curled my lip as disdainful as I could & turned away just look at he[r] he said to another I saw a lot looking up, so I just wheeled & left the window at which they set up a cheer. Once before the same was enacted except the general cheer. I did wish I dared spit at their old flag--I pity some of the men for I am sure they would like to be out. At Dicksons they told me that 400 went at one time--gagged the guards & got off to the mountains & on to Harisburg to help our men. Or I believe J. Hoke told me this morning. He said too that about 1000 had deserted. I hope that all the rebels have passed that intended to pass hrough--After they quit coming once then I shall look for our men.

June 28, 1863

Slept well. Nowadays our cooking does not take much time--nowadays being we do all our eating by piecing. At 8 A.M. the rebels commenced coming again. Ga. troops. I was told this morning of some of their mean tricks of yesterday & before. They took the hats & boots off the men--Took that off Preacher Farney. Took $50. off Dr. Sneck & his gold watch valued very highly--took the coats off some, tetotally stripped one young fellow not far from town--Mr. Skinner. We have to be afraid to go out of our houses. A large wagon train & 500 or 600 Cavalry have just passed & it is now about 3 1/2 oclock. hope all are through now. Many of the saddles were empty, & any amount of negroes are along. This does not seem like Sunday. No church.

June 29, 1863

Got up early & washed was done & dressed by ten oclock, had such bad luck this morning--first the washboard fell & broke--next the water boiled down in the boiler it got empty the tin melted off so it leaks & I cannot get it fixed as long as the rebels are here. I feel too badly about it--After I was dressed I put the baby to sleep then went to Ditmans & got a Gallon molasses for 50 cts--Also to Hok[e]s & got 3 qts syrup for 45 cts--Hoke told me that the Reb's had taken about 500 $ worth of sugar & molasses--they went into the private cellar & took Mrs Hokes canned fruit & bread--Mr H looks down this morning. The news reached us this A.M. that Stoneman & Stuart had a fight last week in which Stuart was whipped & ten pieces of artillery were taken from him.[19] Also that our men hold Hagerstown again. Also that the rebel mail carryer could not get through the lines. If our men hold Hagerstown it will not be long before they will be here. Evening. A large waggon train headed by 10 pieces of artillery & I judge a regiment of of infantry just passed. The wagons were all well loaded. I judge they are bound for Dixie--It looks as if they expected some opposition. It is reported too that the Reb mail carrier, mail & all have been captured. hope its true. I felt real badly to see those poor men going through as they did. likely many of them will be killed. There certainly is something on foot, for the ambulances were filled with sick, taking them away.

June 30, 1863

Nothing special transpired today. The Rebs are still about doing all the mischief they can. They have everything ready to set fire to the warehouses & machine shops--Tore up the railroad track & burned the crossties--They have cleared out nearly every store so they cannot rob much more--Evening--Quite a number of the young folks were in the parlor this evening singing all the patriotic & popular war songs. Quite a squad of rebels gathered outside to listen & seemed much pleased with the music--"When this cruel war is over" nearly brought tears from some. they sent in a petition to have it sung again which was done. they then thanked the girls very much & left--they acted real nicely.

July 1, 1863

It is very muddy this morning of yesterdays rain--in fact I believe it has rained every day this week. I was out hunting [y]east & got some at last I have not a bit of bread left my [y]east got sour, so of course the [y]east I set last evening is sour & not fit to use. It is reported that Gen. Jenkins is wounded & a prisoner. Also that the rebel pickets were driven in this side of Greencastle--& that McClellan drove them to this side of Carlisle & that Milroy & Sigel are making a junction over by Strasburg--A darkey, Colonels waiter heard him say that he thought that Lee made a bad move this time--he (darkey) also said that that large wagon train was hid in the woods &c that they could not get out, that they are watching their chance to slip out--he said too that the officers were very uneasy--Every one can see by their actions that they do not feel quite as easy as they would like.[20] They are chopping &c at a great rate over at the R.R. all morning. I judge they are breaking up the iron by the sound. Must now go & set my bread. Evening. Got good bread. Mrs. Fritz was here & told us of Emma Plough being sick from the fright & how the rebels have been carrying on out there. They robbed the country people of nearly everything they had and acted very insultingly.

July 2, 1863

At 3 A.M. I was wakened by the yells & howls of this dirty ragged lousy trash--they made as ugly as they could--all day they have been passing--part of the time on the double quick. At one time the report came that our men had come on them & that they were fighting--the excitement was high in town--but it was soon found out to be untrue--but the shock was so great that I got quite weak & immagined that I could already see My Samuel falling--I feel very uneasy about him--I cannot hear at all--They had quite a battle with Stuart--I almost fear to hear the result in who was killed & who wounded--still I want to know.

July 3, 1863

Started out with Cora & a little basket on the hunt for something to eat out of the garden. I am tired of bread & molasses--went to Mammy Royers & got some peas & new potatoes--Cora gotas many raspberries as she could eat. Came home put Cora to sleep then went to Mrs McG's for milk. got a few cherries to eat also a few for Cora when I got back Daddy Byers [ba] was standing at the gate. he came to see how I was getting along & told me how the rebels acted--they robbed him of a good deal--they wanted the horse but he plead so hard for him that they agreed to leave him & while one wrote a paper of securety others plundered the house. I guess Samuels silk hat & all that was in the box is gone. took Ellies best shoes--took towels sheets &c &c--After they were gone others came & took the horse too yet--they did not care for his security. Other of their neighbors fared worse yet. He would not stay for dinner. After dinner Henry Rebok [pa] came--he walked part of the way had an old horse but feared to bring him in--they were robbed of their horses and cattle up there--many had their horses sent away--one of J. Cormanys [d] horses was taken.[21] Henry wanted me to go along home with him but I could not think of leaving now--Samuel might come this way & if I were out there I would not get to see him. He said he had started for me when they first heard of the rebels coming but when he came to Orrstown two were there already. There are no rebels in town today except the sick--& two or three squads passed through, in all not much over a hundred if that many. One squad asked the way to Getysburg & were sent towards Harisburg. they did not go very far until they asked again, when they were told the truth they came back very angry & wanted the man that sent them the wrong way but he was not to be found. Canonading was heard all day.[22]

July 4, 1863

At daybreak the bells were rung--Then all was quiet until about 8 oclock when a flag was hoisted at the diamond. Soon after the band made its appearance & marched from square & played national airs--two rebels came riding along quite leisurely thinking I suppose to find their friends instead of that they were taken prisoners by the citizens--some 13 more footmen came and were taken prisoners. those were willing prisoners they had thrown their guns away before they reached this. The report has reached us that 6000 prisoners had been taken yesterday in Adams Co. near College Hill-- also that Carlisle was shelled. It is getting very dark cloudy--I judge we will have a heavy rain. That Will Wampler does yell and cry like a panther. Evening We have had a powerful rain. Wild rumors of a dreadful fight are numerous.

July 5, 1863

I was roused out of sleep by Mr Early coming into Wampler & telling him something about wounded prisoners. so I got up took a bath dressed & went for a pitcher of water when I was told that 10, 4 or 6 horse waggons filled with wounded from the late battle were captured by citizens & brought to town--the wounded were put into the hospitals & the waggons & drivers were taken on toward Harisburg. Was also told that a great many more were out toward Greencastle--some went out to capture those but found that it was a train 20 miles long. P.M. A report has reached us that the whole rebel army is on the retreat--later that they are driven this way & are expected on soon--Have church S. School here today--seems like Sunday again Evening. At or after 4 P.M. I dressed myself & little girl and went to Mrs. Sulenbargers & while there we heard a fuss outside & when we got out lo our (Union of course) soldiers were coming in--she came along upstreet then to see them. They are of Milroys men[23]--Just at dusk they went out the Greencastle road enroute to capture the waggon train which is trying to get over the river again. It is frightful how those poor wounded rebels are left to suffer. they are taken in large 4 horse waggons--wounds undressed--nothing to eat. Some are only about 4 miles from town & those that are here are as dirty and lousy as they well can be. The condition of those poor rebels all along from Getysburg to as far as they have come yet is reported dreadful. I am told they just beg the people along the road to help them--many have died by the way.

July 6, 1863

I was sitting reading, Pussy playing by my side when little Willie Wampler came running as fast as he could to tell me a soldier had come to see me & sure enough when I got to the door Mr Cormany just rode up. I was so very glad to see him that I scarcely knew how to act. He was very dirty & sweaty so he took a bath & changed clothes before he got himself dressed A. Holler & Barny Hampshire called--next Rev. Dixon & Dr Croft & others. Eve we went down into the parlor to hear some of the girls play--Mr. C was very much pleased with the music.