BLOG SERIES: The Gettysburg Campaign – June 27, 1863

In recognition of the approaching 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, PAMatters is sharing daily observations of noted historian  Mark Nesbitt, who brings you the personal stories of the boys and men who were marching into history in the summer of 1863…

Visit Mark’s blog at for more Gettysburg stories…

June 27 Gettysburg Campaign: Sightseeing in Enemy Territory

Franklin Horner began his march at 6:00 a.m. They crossed the Potomac into Maryland at Edwards Ferry and camped at the mouth of the Monocacy River. They halt at 4:00 p.m. with plenty of daylight left after putting in 15 miles this Saturday.

Thomas Ware and the boys get a little break and don’t leave their camps until 8:00 a.m., marching in the rear of the column. He writes about stopping for 2 hours while the Quartermasters (to collect supplies and pay for them), Sergeants, who are armed, and pioneers (engineers) go forward, probably to clear the way of any possible ambushes by guerrilla forces or militia, now that they are officially in enemy territory.

They reach Greencastle, PA, and Ware notices how “mad & sullen” the townspeople look as they pass. He writes that the town is larger than Washington, GA, the largest settlement near the Ware homestead. The stores are all closed and the hotels are crowded with young men. Again he notices “some nice looking girls dressed very fine as evry [sic] thing is cheap.” Some of the girls wore Federal flags in their bonnets. The Confederates burn the railroad depot on the north side of town and destroy some track.

After leaving town they marched through fields of wheat and corn. In spite of General Lee’s orders, the men begin to loot bee hives and poultry yards. Officially the army gathered up all the horses and beef cattle.

Another 12 miles brought them to Chambersburg, PA, and Ware likens its size to Atlanta in his home state. He notices again all the young men not in the military, and, “I saw more girls than I have seen at any one time before, some very good looking ones.” The town had been placed under martial law with guards posted at every corner, so they couldn’t pilfer a chicken or pig for their dinner. After marching 17 miles this day they encamp around three miles from Chambersburg.

This day sees Franklin Horner and his comrades cross the Potomac River about fifty-five miles south of where Thomas Ware crossed it yesterday. While Edwards Ferry can be found today, it no longer has an active ferry boat. Ruins from the landing and support buildings could still be see when I researched the site in the early 1990s.

I arranged the book so that the reader could follow in the footsteps of the two soldiers along modern highways. Ware and Horner are marching through some towns that are accessible to a visitor to Gettysburg. Chambersburg is only 30 miles from Gettysburg; Greencastle just a little farther. Edwards Ferry and Leesburg are a little over an hour’s drive. If you are one of the many visitors to Gettysburg, you may want to visit these places, using 35 Day to Gettysburg as a guide.

Reading his entire diary, I was amused at how many times Ware mentions the pretty girls on the march. One gets the impression, by the amount of detail Ware puts into his diary, savoring the local names of the places he passes through and the roads he marches, that he considers this to be the great adventure of his life. Being a young, single man on this great adventure, the maidens of this strange land he comes into as an invader attract his attention.

Apparently, the raiding of beehives and stealing of chickens was widespread enough to be brought to the attention of the commanding general. On June 27, Lee issues General Orders No. 73 from his headquarters in Chambersburg, PA. He sounds like a father gently scolding a spirited child he needs to punish but not break, pleased with the conduct of his troops so far, but realizing that, “There have, however, been instances of forgetfulness on the part of some…”

One thing I forgot to mention earlier. Thomas Ware has a special companion marching along with him in the 15th Georgia. In December 1862, his younger brother Robert transferred from Company B, 6th Alabama Infantry, presumably to be with his older brother and the other Georgians in the regiment. So for six or seven months now, Thomas has had the comfort and support of kin during his ordeals.

It was not unusual, especially in the south, for brothers and cousins to fight in the same unit. Many companies in the Civil War were recruited parochially. Young relatives and friends often enlisted en masse. In an appendix to the book, I list the numerous families who sent two or more sons to serve in company G, 15th Georgia Infantry. The attrition to the families is appalling.

House Committee Clears Transportation Bill With Major Amendments

The state House Transportation Committee has approved a highway, bridge and mass transit funding bill, making significant changes to the senate version.

The amended bill would provide nearly 2 billion annually for transportation by year five, primarily through a three step phase-out of the cap on the oil company franchise tax. The bill also increases the tire tax, vehicle lease fee and jet fuel tax. It would raise the fine for failure to obey a traffic control device from $25 to $75.

Counties could assess a 5 dollar per vehicle registration fee for local transportation needs, and municipalities could increase the realty transfer, earned income and sales and taxes to raise money for mass transit.

Another significant change from the Senate bill is the sunsetting of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Act 44 obligation to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The 200 million dollar a year transfer for roads and bridges would stop immediately.  The 250 million dollar annual contribution for mass transit would continue for eight years then be replaced by money from vehicle sales tax revenues.

The bill eliminated the higher driver’s license and registration fees and a 100 dollar surcharge on traffic violations contained in the original senate version.

Representative Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) was a “no” vote. He says they may not get another bite at the apple again for some time, since the last major transportation funding bill was passed in 1996.  He says the bill does far too little to seriously address the state’s transportation problems.

But Transportation committee chair Dick Hess (R-Bedford) says it was a yeoman’s job to craft something to benefit Pennsylvania economically, while not overburdening consumers.  He says there will be an opportunity to amend the bill on the house floor.


It was a good Wednesday for State Representative Brian Sims. He didn’t pass a major piece of legislation, and there were no breakthroughs on the major issues facing lawmakers in this final week before the summer recess. He’s also likely going to have to work all weekend as the legislature tries to wrap up the state budget by Sunday night.

Still, Brian Sims was smiling.

As the only person ever elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature as an openly gay candidate, Sims applauded the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated key provisions of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The high court said it is unconstitutional to deny legally married homosexuals the same rights heterosexuals enjoy in marriage.

Sims will be the first person to tell you, though, that this does not open the door for gay marriage in Pennsylvania tomorrow.

The Pennsylvania political landscape remains one that represents an uphill battle for gays, but Sims believes LGBT issues have more support, bi-partisan support, than ever before under the Capitol dome in Harrisburg. He is currently pushing three bills dealing with anti-bullying, anti-discrimination and hate crimes, and while he knows gay marriage legislation is a no-go this year, and next year, he believes the future is hopeful.

Later Wednesday, however, Sims received a reminder that the present is not so kind to his cause. When he attempted to speak about the ruling on the Republican-controlled House floor under unanimous consent, he was cut off, consent was withdrawn and he was not able to speak on the momentous events of the day. The House then adjourned until Thursday.


BLOG SERIES: The Gettysburg Campaign – June 26, 1863

In recognition of the approaching 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, PAMatters is sharing daily observations of noted historian  Mark Nesbitt, who brings you the personal stories of the boys and men who were marching into history in the summer of 1863…

Visit Mark’s blog at for more Gettysburg stories…

June 26: Don’t call it The Gettysburg Campaign.

Franklin Horner and his fellow Union soldiers begin their march to join the rest of the Federal army at 5:30 a.m. this Friday. They marched through Dranesville, VA, passed the Union Army’s Sixth Corps, and camped at 4:00 p.m. He wrote that the men were getting too tired to march much more. It rained a little this night, and they get orders to be ready to march at 5 the next morning.

Thomas Ware talks about the rainy morning he experiences. Being to the west of Horner, it’s probably the same shower that dampened him that evening. Once again, Ware records in detail his march route and the towns he passed through. After the first four miles, they ford the Potomac River (only a little over knee deep). They also cross the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, which parallels the Potomac. It was still raining, so the boys were issued “a dram…Several of the boys got quite drunk & we had a jolly set.” Several more miles brought them to the Maryland and Pennsylvania line. After 16 miles of marching, they encamped, found that it was cherry season in Pennsylvania, supplied themselves and were “…living finely.”

I found it interesting that the Confederate troops were issued a “dram” of whiskey, apparently to warm them up after marching in the rain and wading the Potomac. Thought to be a stimulant during the Civil War, according to Ware it made a few of the men “jolly,” and a few more belligerent, mentioning that a few fights broke out along the march.

For Thomas Ware, this is a momentous day: He has been in three states, is probably farther north than he has ever been in his life, and officially becomes an invader of a northern state.

Like a giant ship passing by, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia begins drawing Union troops toward it. Horner and his comrades, after digging entrenchments outside of Washington, now must call on a new set of muscles to catch up with Lee’s invaders. His route takes Horner from Ball’s Crossroads toward Leesburg (modern route 7). They march beyond Leesburg and, too tired to go any farther after fifteen miles, encamp outside of town.

The Chesapeake & Ohio (C & O) Canal was created in the early 1800s to open commerce to the west from Washington and the east along its 184.5-mile length. But shortly after its completion, the railroads began their expansion westward. Where the Canal could transport cargo and passengers at the speed of a mule towing a barge, the railroads could do the same at an astounding thirty or forty miles per hour. The Canal eventually fell into financial ruin, but the towpath continued to be used by the military as a road. Today it is a wonderful recreational area for hikers and bikers along the scenic Potomac.

By now Confederate troops were fanning out toward Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, and York, PA, on the road to Philadelphia. In fact, this very day, Confederate general Jubal Early’s men pass through one of the number of small Pennsylvania towns they will capture during the invasion. As in every other town, they request supplies: 60 barrels of flour, 7,000 pounds of bacon, 1,200 pounds of sugar, 600 pounds of coffee, 1,000 pounds of salt, 40 bushels of onions, 1,000 pairs of shoes and 500 hats. The mayor of the town is worried and writes to Early, “The quantities required are far beyond that in our possession.” Early’s men take what they can and move on, never realizing that they will be returning in less than a week, albeit under more difficult circumstances, to the town of Gettysburg.

At this point, the Confederate movement into the north has no name, since no one knows where—or if—it will end. Their goals are to draw the northern hosts out of the south for a growing season and bring relief to the farmers there. Perhaps this invasion will garner worldwide recognition to their cause of independence and give more credence to the arguments of the Peace Party in the north. Most of all, the Confederate leaders wish to force the north into some sort of negotiations toward the Confederacy’s independence. Nowhere do you see this invasion called “The Gettysburg Campaign” because there is no reason to connect Gettysburg to it. One day hundreds of books and millions of words will be written about it, but for Horner and Ware, it draws but a few lines in their diaries.

Pension Reform Bills Pass House Committee

Two bills that would drastically change the public pension system in Pennsylvania have cleared the committee hurdle in the state House of Representatives.

The legislation passed the House State Government Committee Tuesday after a lengthy partisan debate over motives, effectiveness and even the timing of the committee meeting, which began at an earlier-than-usual 8:00am. Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe shot down Democrat attempts to table the bills, which now go to the full House.

During the debate, Metcalfe said that curtailing the retirement benefits of public sector employees might reduce their desire to be long-term public servants, suggesting that short-term tenures would be better for the state.

Metcalfe is an 8-term Republican member of the state House (16 years), with no indications he is opposed to running for a 9th term.

The legislation would make the shift to a 401k-style defined contributions retirement plan for all new state employees starting in 2015. Metcalfe says the bills also limit so-called “spiking,” whereby a state employee can work overtime or take a short-term promotion at the end of their career in order to raise their salary and thereby collect higher benefits in retirement.

Democrats suggested during the committee debate that the focus of the discussion had shifted to an outright contempt of public employees.

The Senate is also working on pension reform legislation and the issue is one of Governor Tom Corbett’s top priorities this legislative session.


BLOG SERIES: The Gettysburg Campaign – June 25, 1863

In recognition of the approaching 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, PAMatters is sharing daily observations of noted historian  Mark Nesbitt, who brings you the personal stories of the boys and men who were marching into history in the summer of 1863…

Visit Mark’s blog at for more Gettysburg stories…

June 25 Gettysburg Campaign: The Great Confederate Raid of 1863

This Thursday Franklin Horner finally gets his marching orders. He comments that he thinks they are headed to join the Army of the Potomac, the Union’s largest army in the field, to counter Lee’s invasion.

Thomas Ware writes that it is a cloudy day, “a splendid day to march,” and once again records the details of his march route over 21 miles to near Martinsburg.

Horner’s intuition is correct: they are marching to join the army whose job it is to counter Lee’s invasion of the north. Where they will finally meet up is a mystery. Though he marches less than two miles, the tension is broken and they are part of the active campaign.

Ware puts in a long and tiring day. The part of the country they are passing through used to be Virginia, but as of June 20, by presidential proclamation, it became the new state of West Virginia. Apparently, it was acceptable for a section of the state to “secede” from the secession.

Part of Ware’s route takes him near the Old Valley Turnpike (now route 11) a major thoroughfare for both armies marching up and down the Valley. (By the way, going “up” the Shenandoah Valley means traveling south and upward in altitude; going “down” the Valley means heading north.) Ware’s infantry comrades do not get the luxury of marching on the smooth Valley Turnpike—that’s for the wheeled artillery and supply wagons. We temporarily lose his line of march, but the Atlas to the Official Records shows a road that roughly parallels the Turnpike that perhaps was used by the infantry. He mentions that some of the work that day involved tearing up railroad tracks and burning a Baltimore & Ohio depot in Martinsburg. Heavy work after a hard day’s march. They will tear up more tracks in the near future.

One of the things I noticed while researching my book Saber and Scapegoat: Jeb Stuart and the Gettysburg Controversy was how often Lee mentioned gathering supplies to send back to the Shenandoah Valley in his official correspondence to his officers on the invasion. In one piece he actually says that the campaign depends upon the successful gathering of supplies to end up in Virginia. This led me to theorize that the 1863 summer campaign could be considered a gigantic raid into the north to procure goods for the Confederacy. Add to that his well-known order not to bring on a general engagement, it seems that if Lee could have successfully gotten out of Pennsylvania and back into the Valley without a fight, he would have.  General A. P. Hill’s decision at Cashtown, PA, on the night of June 30 to allow General Henry Heth to march his men into Gettysburg the next morning, and Heth’s decision to respond to being fired upon by the Union cavalry stationed there looms large. More on that later.

Parents, Staff Fast for Philly Schools

Administrators took a huge bite out of the Philadelphia schools budget this year, so a group of parents and staff have decided to not take a bite out of anything to protest.

The group is participating in a fast to draw attention to the massive layoffs prompted by what was described as a “Doomsday Budget” for Philadelphia schools. Critics blame state budget cuts and say the focus of their fasting effort is on student safety. Michael Mullins, who hasn’t eaten since last Monday, June 17th,  says that’s the one thing that makes him feel the most helpless when he drops his kids off at school. Mullins says he had a rough time on day 5 of the fast, but has since settled in and is doing okay.

The “Fast for Safe Schools” effort began with 4 people last Monday. More are joining in this week and the group is planning to travel to Harrisburg Tuesday to take their message straight to state lawmakers and the governor. Up until now, the fasters have been protesting outside the Philadelphia office of Governor Tom Corbett from 8am through 8pm.

The protesters say the recent Philadelphia School Budget which resulted in thousands of layoffs, wiped out virtually all of the student safety staff, known also as noontime aides. They want those positions restored and say they will continue their protest through the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled for this Sunday but could be extended longer.


BLOG SERIES: The Gettysburg Campaign – June 24, 1863

In recognition of the approaching 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, PAMatters is sharing daily observations of noted historian  Mark Nesbitt, who brings you the personal stories of the boys and men who were marching into history in the summer of 1863…

Visit Mark’s blog at for more Gettysburg stories…


June 24 Gettysburg Campaign: Washington vs Lee
By Mark Nesbitt

Franklin Horner reports that the clothing he packed up is being sent away to Washington by the quartermaster, another sign that his unit is about to begin some serious marching.

Thomas Ware, after resting yesterday, begins his day at 2:00 a.m. Their march starts at Millwood, and with typical detail, Ware names almost every road on their route. After six miles they arrive outside of Berryville and rest in the rear of breastworks thrown up by Union soldiers. He is fortunate to have breakfast provided by a private citizen. Twice during this entry he mentions the large number of girls that come out to the road to watch them pass, some waving handkerchiefs, making Ware and his comrades no doubt feel like heroes. They end up marching 18 miles this day, passing through a part of the country they crossed on their first invasion of the north, which ended at the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg as it was known in the southern ranks.) Ware’s day ends about 11:00 p.m.

The details of his march route are so precise, it is almost as if Thomas Ware writes in his diary at every halt in the march. He noted the destruction left by the Union army after it camped near Berryville. He may have remembered the devastation wrought by the Union army on Fredericksburg, VA, as well, after the town was shelled then occupied and looted. He and the rest of his comrades may have felt some helpless anger, especially in light of Lee’s General Orders number 72 prohibiting them from inflicting the same devastation on the enemy’s civilians.

And so it would go during the war. The south would become the part of the country that was invaded. Many in the south thought it should be a purely defensive war and, in fact, were angered when Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis decided to invade the north twice. But the difficulties with waging a defensive war would soon make themselves apparent upon the civilian population, which would have to supply their own and an invading army, however reluctantly.

I still wonder, after studying it for so many years, why Lee didn’t embrace the strategy of his hero (and kinsman by marriage) George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He certainly had to be familiar with it. The goals, to me, had been similar: The Confederacy wanted to merely separate from the rest of the country, like the colonies did from England. Washington used a strategy of attrition—keep the British fighting and losing men for years until the British population and politicians got tired of it. It resulted in a longer war, but with the desired goal of independence achieved.

Eventually, with both armies fighting and subsisting on the south’s resources, the term “scorched earth” may have been coined during this war instead of a later one. The south, after eight or more years, may have won, but at what cost?

One thing I am glad of: That Lee did not, per the suggestion of some of his officers at Appomattox, disband the Army of Northern Virginia to fight a guerilla-style war. We might still be fighting 150 years later and travel across the border from Maryland to Virginia would be at your own peril. I think Lee foresaw the tragedy that would unfold should that course have been taken.

Christman Blog: What’s Your Work Philosophy?

It’s January and you return to your very well-paid job from a nice holiday break – a month and a half holiday break. Certainly everyone can relate to that.

Your boss welcomes you back and then informs you that he has several big and important projects for you to complete by mid-year. In fact, some of them are so important that the very financial future of the company is at stake. The good news, though, is that you have 6 whole months to make it happen.

What is your approach?

Do you jump into action, prioritizing and tackling each project independently and thoughtfully, spreading the work out so that you have adequate time to devote to each initiative? After all, this is very important. Remember…the entire company is trusting and counting on YOU.

Oh, did I mention that you can’t get fired for another year and a half? Yes, no matter how badly you bungle things, short of breaking the law, you’re guaranteed to be employed through December of 2014.

So, maybe you take a different approach to your assignments this year. Perhaps you spend 5 months and 23 days arguing with co-workers, demanding you get your way on everything and enlisting outside special interests to come in and bad-mouth anyone else’s ideas. Then, 6 days before your boss’s deadline, and with none of your work actually done, you can try to squeeze everything into one week before heading out the door bragging about how well-deserved your three month summer vacation is, regardless of how many of your projects are left unfinished. Why, you might even issue a press release boasting of your accomplishments.

Those are two possibilities for your approach to this important work assignment. Guess which one your state lawmakers took on the major issues of transportation funding, pension reform, alcohol privatization and the state budget in 2013.

Oh, sure, there was lots of talking, followed by more talking and then concluding with…talking, but here we are – 6 days before the expected end of the fiscal year – and not a single major initiative is finished in Harrisburg. Not one. In fact, a birdie is whispering in my ear that it’s quite possible this final week of the fiscal year is about to get off to an even rockier start than expected.

The games people play…with your company. With your money…

There is a silver lining to all this. Remember that boss I mentioned? Well, that boss is you. Remember that when you watch your employees’ performance in Harrisburg this week. Remember it when you’re looking at the condition of your company, also known as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Most of all, remember it when you pull the curtain in November of 2014 and issue your worker evaluations, and don’t be fooled by those clever employees, who know about the power you hold in 2014 and will certainly try to convince you, maybe even bribe you, into believing that they are valuable members of the team and deserve to be retained for another 2-to-6 year contract. They’ll fill your inbox with full-color memos (produced on the company printer you paid for, by the way) detailing what they think, which usually fills up more space than would detailing what they accomplish. They’ll smile in your presence and tell you everything is just fine and dandy with your company.

But you’ll know better because you’ll remember everything you’ve seen this year…


(Brad Christman is the News Director of Radio Pennsylvania and a veteran of 19 state budget seasons in Harrisburg)


Radio PA Roundtable – June 21, 2013

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, state budget talks continue and lawmakers are still dealing with the big issues of liquor privatization, transportation funding and pension reform. Updates all around from lawmakers and the state’s Budget Secretary.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast: