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 summer of 1863, Franklin County PA was the advance and the retreat of the Battle of Gettysburg. Confederate General Robert E. Lee and more than 65,000 men camped in and around Chambersburg. Until the Battle of Gettysburg, the tide of Civil War ebbed and flowed between the North and South. But, with the losses of the Battle of Gettysburg, the chances of Southern victory, it is often seen as the turning point of the American Civil War. But, the Civil War connection does not begin and end here. Chambersburg, PA saw far more destruction in the summer of 1864.
General “Tiger” John McCausland, under orders from General Jubal Early, ransomed Chambersburg for $500,000 in U.S. currency or a $100,000 in gold on July 30, 1864. Unable to raise the money, the town was fired. Confederates ordered the burning as retribution for Union destruction by Union General David Hunter in Virginia.
As the call “remember Chambersburg” echoed throughout the North, the Franklin Repository of August 24, 1864 reported that half of the town’s people were homeless and many more penniless and helpless. Nearly 600 citizens filed claims asking the federal government to repay them for the damage.
Learn more about the Burning of Chambersburg here.
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.