much has been written about Stuart's '62 Raid
into Pennsylvania, and the subsequent political
repercussions, little has been noted about
the role the town of Mercersburg and its environs
played, unwittingly, in the success of that
the 10th of October 1862, Stuart and 1800
mounted cavalry and four cannons crossed into
Pennsylvania and by 12:00 noon they entered
Mercersburg. At 2:00 o'clock they left Mercersburg,
taking with them a number hostages, leather
goods including hundreds of pairs of shoes,
and hundreds of horses from nearby farms.
Twenty seven hours later, after stopping in
Chambersburg, they slipped back across the
Potomac with hundreds of horses, and uniforms
and shoes for over 2,000 soldiers.
the year before J.E.B. Stuart's Raid through
Mercersburg, the war had not gone particularly
well for the Union. Following the Union surrender
at Fort Sumter, Confederate forces routed
an overconfident Union force at Manassas.
The early optimism at the yet to be completed
"White House" had turned to concern
and President Lincoln's, political fortunes,
were shaky at best.
fall of '62, however, the fortunes of war
had changed. Grant had prevailed at Shiloh
and in September, at the battle of Antietam,
although each side suffered staggering casualties,
the Union, by most accounts, "Won"
the day, and had regained the their momentum.
shocked and saddened by the loss of life at
Antietam, Lincoln was encouraged by the progress
of the Union forces. He implored his Commander,
General George McClellan, to pursue Lee, who
had retreated, into Virginia.
McClellan did not. Being a cautious man, and
one who would rather not lose than win, McClellan
"waited", as he told President Lincoln,
"for the right time, to strike".
Lincoln was livid, but always the diplomat,
said of McClellan, "he is a fine engineer,
but he prefers a stationary engine".
Robert E. Lee, in the meantime, surprised,
that he was not pursued by McClellan, sent
General J.E.B. Stuart into Pennsylvania and
behind Union lines, to gather information
about the location of the Union forces, destroy
a major railroad bridge near Chambersburg,
and procure much needed supplies for his Army.
knew that the Union Army was on high alert.
And, although highly confident of his success,
he knew southern Pennsylvania was rife with
Union patrols and that once he crossed into
Pennsylvania it would be only a matter of
time before he was discovered. Therefore,
it was, he believed, imperative to his success
that he commence his raid with as much cover
as he could and "telegraph" as little
information about his route and point of return.
knew too that the fertile land of the Cumberland
Valley and its industrious towns would be
important to the success of his planned incursion
into Pennsylvania. Traveling light and without
replacement horses, Stuart knew his troopers
and light artillery would find fresh horses
on Pennsylvania farms and sufficient supplies
over the course of the raid.
to the needs of his cavalry, he expected that
Mercersburg and the Federal Depot at Chambersburg
would provide shoes and clothing for Lee's
the farms of Pennsylvania were so plentiful
that Stuart's cavalry took over 1,000 horses
- enabling Stuart and his men to cover over
100 miles in less than 36 hours. More important,
because of the ready availability of plow
horses, the horse artillery was able to kept
pace with the calvary and was available to
provide timely and needed cover fire when
Stuart was re-crossing the Potomac.
evidence, also, that Mercersburg not only
provided supplies to Stuart's forces but the
"plan" for their pillaging of some
of the countryside. Documents indicate that
before the Raid, Stuart had knowledge of a
highly detailed county map held by a citizen
of Mercersburg. It is believed that this map,
which "located" every farm and public
office, was very valuable to his troopers
in their "sweep" of horses and supplies,
enabling them to quickly locate the most likely
impossible for us today to imagine the gravity
of Stuart's Raid to the population of Pennsylvania.
The shock to the residents was palpable. Although
there was no horrible loss of life, Stuart's
action struck fear, for the first time, into
the hearts of the populations of the North,
who thought the war was . . . "somewhere"
. . . south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Further,
by invading Pennsylvania and returning almost
unopposed, Stuart humiliated the Union military
the effect of Stuart's Raid through Pennsylvania
on Washington and President Lincoln that had
the most lasting effect from an historical
point of view. As most civil wars, this was
not an entirely popular war to begin with.
Many state representatives were critical of
Lincoln's leadership and used the failures
of the military, like Stuart's Raid, to further
their attack on his policies.
of October 10th were the last straw for Lincoln.
In the end, Lincoln felt that McClellan's
caution and lack of determination was the
reason for Stuart's success, so on November
5th 1862, Lincoln dismissed General McClellan
as Commander of the Army of the Potomac.
subsequent appointments, ending with General
Grant, pursued the war with a vigor and determination
that was sorely needed -- and fundamentally
changed the way the war was fought in '63
end, the merchants of Mercersburg and its
fertile environs, contributed directly to
the success of Stuart's Raid, although unwittingly
and indirectly to the dismissal of McClellan
and to the wars outcome.