A quote by Maya Angelou says, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” This is certainly true of Chambersburg PA. At first glance, Chambersburg seems like an ordinary town with tree-lined streets, historic architecture, and an appealing downtown. But, the history of July 30, 1864 makes Chambersburg far from ordinary.
On July 30, 1864, Confederate General John McCausland rode into Chambersburg. McCausland and his chief officers sat down to breakfast at the Franklin Hotel. There, he ordered the arrest of leading citizens and began spreading the word of his purpose in Chambersburg—to hold the town at ransom for $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee dollars. If the ransom was not paid, Chambersburg would be burned. The town could not raise anything close to the ransom, and by noon, twelve blocks of Chambersburg blazed. More than 2000 citizens were left homeless and over 500 structures were lost in the Great Fire.
Saturday, July 15, 2023 is the annual 1864 Ransoming, Burning & Rebirth of Chambersburg Commemoration. It is a celebration of community spirit and remembers the resiliency of the citizens that brought Chambersburg to life from the ashes of destruction.
July 15 is a day filled with activity, topped off with the historical re-enactment and light show depicting the history of the 1864 Ransoming, Burning and Rebirth of Chambersburg.
- 9 AM – 4 PM – Old Market Day fills the streets of Chambersburg with over 100 stalls–row after row of art and craft vendors displaying one-of-a-kind wares as well as an assortment of festival food. Local merchants will hold sidewalk sales and courthouse plaza will feature a variety of entertainment.
- 9 AM – 8:30 PM – Franklin County Visitors Bureau, 15 South Main Street, offers a children’s area with crafts, coloring wall, and ball pit. Works of local authors are offered for sale. The lobby exhibit highlights the post-Civil War period and Progressive Era, plus offers selfie stations. Giveaways include glow-in-the-dark items and chances to win the Old Market Day gift basket.
- 5:30 PM – 7 PM – Civil War Walking Tours and dining in the street.
- 7:15 PM –Courthouse Plaza is the stage for the Finals of A Cappella & Unplugged. One contestant will win $500, and the audience decides the winner.
- 9 PM – Join thousands, who gather to watch, as the town is transported back to 1864 and ransomed by Confederate soldiers. 1864 Ransoming, Burning & Rebirth of Chambersburg is a re-enactment and light show done completely with atmospheric effects and actors. Courthouse Plaza is the stage. Bring a lawn or stadium chair.