Join the Franklin County Visitors Bureau on July 18, at 11:30 AM, for a special presentation of 1864 Ransoming, Burning & Rebirth of Chambersburg. Travel back to July 30, 1864 when General John McCausland and 2,800 Confederate cavalrymen rode into Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, rang the Courthouse bell and gathered the citizens of the small town to read a ransom demand of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee currency. When Chambersburg could not pay the ransom, the town was fired, leaving more than 500 structures in ashes and 2,000 people without homes.
The 2020 presentation does not include a light show, but the history is brought to life as if it were a radio show. The historical presentation of 1864 will be broadcast outside the 11/30 Visitors Center and simultaneously on local station Talk Radio 103.7. Ironically, 1920 marks the 100th anniversary of commercial radio broadcasts. A compilation of highlights from previous performances of 1864 will be aired during the radio style show and can also be viewed on www.ExploreFranklinCountyPA and www.Facebook.com/FCVBen.
Along with the presentation of the 1864, the Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center will also host the annual musical event, A Cappella & Unplugged which features a variety of regional, musical talent. At 1:30PM the contestants of Round 1 will perform at the 11/30 Visitors Center as each hope to move onto Round 2—a step closer to the top prize of $500. Shoppers will enjoy the sales throughout downtown and a variety of food trucks on the square.
The Franklin County Visitors Bureau invites all to explore Franklin County PA and enjoy the history, arts, recreation, natural beauty, fresh foods and warm hospitality of communities like Chambersburg, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Shippensburg, and Waynesboro. Franklin County PA is located just north of the Mason Dixon Line and is an easy drive from Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Discover more. Plan your visit at ExploreFranklinCountyPA.com, by contacting 866.646.8060, or by visiting the Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center on the square in Chambersburg.
In the early hours of July 30, 1864, as McCausland advanced on Chambersburg, a division of Union cavalry, commanded by General William Averell was camped near Greencastle. Averell planned to intercept McCausland and expected he would take the route J.E.B. Stuart used in 1862, so Averell moved east. When scouts reported that McCausland’s troops were moving west, Averell changed course and moved toward Chambersburg. Averell’s men had no idea of the destruction they would encounter in Chambersburg.
At 2 P.M (on July 30, 1864), the Union forces advanced through the town. The citizens cheered the dusty and jaded warriors, but no soldierly huzzas came from their parched and suffocated throats, as they rode through smoke and flame and the intense heat of the smoldering ruins. One repeated exclamation of “My God” was all that was heard, and then, as they passed the flag staff, each one shouted “Remember Chambersburg.” And so they exclaimed, and so they shouted, as they dashed at a trot through the town.
– J.K. Shryock in Schneck’s Burning of Chambersburg
As General Averell’s troops entered Chambersburg, the troops of Generals McCausland and Johnson were moving toward McConnellsburg. Upon arriving in the town, the Confederates demanded rations, threatening to fire the town, if they were not provided. The telegraph wires were cut, stores relieved of merchandise, and citizens robbed before the Confederates set camp outside the town with an eye on the road from Chambersburg. In the morning, the Confederates departed McConnellsburg and headed toward Hancock, where McCausland made another ransom demand –$30,000 and food for the men or Hancock would be left as Chambersburg was. Johnson did not concur with McCausland’s demand, but the two generals had no time to settle the difference because Union troops led by Averell were advancing and engaging. Averell drove McCausland and Bradley’s men out of Hancock, and the Confederates headed west toward Cumberland, Maryland.
On August 7, General William Averell caught up with the Chambersburg raiders at Moorefield, West Virginia, where he attacked and took 500-600 prisoners. Among those captured was General Bradley Johnson, who later escaped. General McCausland was not captured.
In 1864, Chambersburg’s population was about 5,500. It was a town settled by hard-working Scots-Irish and German immigrants. As is true today, Chambersburg was well-located and, therefore, a transportation hub. Goods and people moved on the roads to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. The Cumberland Valley Railroad was well-established in the community. The town offered large hotels and taverns to lodge travelers, general stores along its main streets, someone to repair wagons and shoe horses. Chambersburg had barbers, seamstresses, hatmakers, tool-makers, and carriage builders. Industry was located along the Conococheague Creek and included paper mills and metal fabricators. It was a thriving community, which grew steadily from its founding in the mid-1730s.
The bombardment of Fort Sumter propelled the country to a state of war. Men of Chambersburg and Franklin County enlisted to support Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops, and by 1861 Chambersburg became a military town where Union troops trained. Both supplies and troops were loaded onto the cars of the Cumberland Valley Railroad, and war hovered around the doorsteps of Franklin County communities.
In 1862, Chambersburg had its first Confederate raid when General J.E.B. Stuart took horses, food, and other supplies, burning the railroad shops and cutting the telegraph wires on a hasty foray across the Mason Dixon Line and into Franklin County. In the summer of 1863, Chambersburg experienced a more intense and lasting incursion as Robert E. Lee headquartered in Chambersburg and set up camp with 75,000 Confederate soldiers in and around the county seat before moving east towards Gettysburg to engage the Union troops.
Each time Confederates entered Chambersburg, the stakes increased, but on July 30, 1864, no one envisioned such a vast and definitive impact the coming hours would have in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.