Allison-Antrim Museum

Captain Ulric Dahlgren

 

The last of the Confederate troops had finally passed through Greencastle by the 29th of June. The streets were barren and void of activity compared to the past couple weeks.  As many accounts of the day described it, folks "skedaddled" out of town with their valuables, store inventories, horses, and mules. The Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson said the following in his reminiscences. "...the predatory raids of the rebels across the line into Pennsylvania; the excitement which these raids gave in Greencastle; the hurry and scurry to get out of the way of the rebels on horse-back, mule-back, afoot, any way, driving often the cattle ahead; skedaddling anywhere, and in any way, to get to a point beyond the reach of the rebel cavalry and out of the range of their bullets; the sudden dashing over the Line into Pennsylvania of Jenkins’ cavalry, as the vanguard of Lee’s army, which for over three weeks had Greencastle at their mercy, pillaging the country for food, money and horses, being aided in their foraging by two traitors who resided in the neighborhood who led them to where many a choice horse was secreted in a farmer’s cellar or out-building. In this connection permit me to say that two of the best horses on my father’s farm were taken by the rebe’s army through Greencastle."

 

It was a very fearful period of time, of great historical significance, that our forefathers and mothers had just lived through and they didn't know when the Rebels would return or if there were more Confederates on their way up from the south.  Union soldiers had not been seen in town since June 15 when Boyd's men of the 1st New York (Lincoln) Cavalry had ridden through town. Boyd's men returned on June 22 but did not enter the borough, because they were ambushed by Jenkins' men at the Fleming farm.  Sergeant Cafferty, wounded in the leg when Corp. Rihl was killed, was still being nursed back to health at the Illginfritz home at the north end of Carlisle Street.

 

On June 30th, Capt. Ulric Dahlgren, Union Cavalry, was in Frederick, MD at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. Dahlgren was attached to Gen. Alfred Pleasonton who was gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of Lee's army.  Dahlgren was 21 and like many young men his age, I think he felt invincible and he was willing to take risks to get the results he wanted. He asked Meade for men to be assigned to him so that he could locate the rear of Lee's army and strand them north of the Mason-Dixon Line by cutting their telegraph lines and by destroying their pontoon bridge across the Potomac River. His request was not granted so he petitioned Pleasonton.  Dahlgren asked for 100 men but the General gave him a sergeant and 15 men; only 10 men showed up for reconnaissance duty in addition to four scouts who had a lot of experience.  His orders from Pleasonton were, "to kill, capture, and destroy whatever might be of use to the Confederacy."  Before leaving for Hagerstown on the night of June 30, all the men dressed in civilian clothes.

 

They reached Hagerstown on the morning of July 1st, by which time the Battle of Gettysburg had begun.  They ate breakfast and headed to Funkstown where they met Thomas Cunningham, Co E, and James Moorehead, Co K, both veterans of the 126th PA Volunteers, who had just been discharged on May 20.  Cunningham and Moorehead, a native of Greencastle, struck up a conversation with Dahlgren. The two veterans shared information about Lee's army which had already traveled through this area days ago.  Moorehead now lived in Hagerstown but he was very familiar with Greencastle, of which Dahlgren had never heard, according to Ted Alexander and the late William P. Conrad in their book When War Passed This Way.    Matthew Anderson continued his reminiscences of the Great Invasion. "... Dahlgren, the intrepid and fearless Yankee scout who with his little band of determined followers had encamped in a wood back of my father’s farm... I remember the thrill it gave me as a boy when told that union soldiers had come, and with what delight I carried them water and provisions.  The next morning (July 2nd - the second day of the Gettysburg battle) they dashed off early to Greencastle."

 

Moorehead preceded Dahlgren into town, asked questions and returned to camp with the information he gathered. Dahlgren and his men changed into their Union uniforms before riding into town.  They continued on the Leitersburg Pike until they reached what is now South Washington Street and turned north toward town and stopped at the Antrim House (currently the site of the John Allison Public House).  Dahlgren waited there while Moorehead and three men rode south to assess the southern routes into town.  Word travels very fast in a small town and while Dahlgren waited, the townspeople came out of their homes and places of business, so very glad to see that Union cavalrymen had come into town!

 

Moorehead returned with news that a group of Confederates was about a half mile south of town on the Williamsport Pike.  The citizens went back inside their homes and shops; Dahlgren positioned his men in the southeast corner of the square; and then he climbed the Reformed church's (Grace United Church of Christ) bell tower and used his spy glass to observe the other roads into town.  There were no other Confederates.

 

When the Confederates, coming into town on South Carlisle Street, were only one building from the square, the small band of 15 men, with sabers drawn and horses running, rounded the corner and overtook 22 Confederate infantrymen and two couriers on horseback.  In a valise, Dahlgren discovered a message from the CSA's Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, asking General Lee if he could spare any of his Confederate troops to help protect Richmond.  Had Lee received the message he would have known President Davis had no troops to send to his aid at Gettysburg.

 

Dahlgren, his men, Moorehead, and the prisoners left town going toward Waynesboro.  Moorehead and some of Dahlgren's men took the prisoners to Emmitsburg, MD.  Dahlgren and the rest of his men rode toward Gettysburg, arriving about midnight at Meade's headquarters.

 

Dahlgren left Gettysburg the next morning, July 3 – the decisive day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  His orders were to go find more Confederate messages.  Dahlgren arrived in Emmitsburg in the afternoon and was given 100 cavalrymen from the 6th PA Cavalry, under the command of Capt. Treichel.  They left Emmitsburg and when they arrived at Ringgold, MD, they set up camp for the night.  The next morning, July 4th, Dahlgren and his company of men reached Greencastle at dawn where they were surprised to meet Tom Pawling with a group of townsmen – mounted and armed.  Before long, one of Pawling's scouts rode up to report a group of Confederate cavalrymen were in town.  There began the long chase, with skirmishes here and there, through Greencastle and out of town on the Williamsport Pike and into Maryland.  Three Confederates were captured.  The following passage is taken from When War Passed This Way.  Dahlgren wrote in his diary, "Saturday, July 4 – started at 2 a.m.  Attacked Jenkin's cavalry in Greencastle.  Whiteford captured Paymaster.  Passed the 4th in Greencastle.  The enemy's communications entirely destroyed.  Remained in the town all day, feeling proud of our work.  Citizen's very uneasy about our being there."

 

Capt. Ulric Dahlgren, a dashing young Union officer who was later commissioned a Colonel, was considered a hero by Greencastle's citizenry.  In his honor, a street was named after him.  Dahlgren Street begins on South Washington Street, between Franklin and Addison Streets, and runs west two blocks to South Jefferson Street.

 

Bonnie A. Shockey, president

Allison-Antrim Museum, Inc.

 

 

 

Allison-Antrim Museum, Inc

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