07 - Friday, July 3, 1863

By Joan C. McCulloh

         Although local people in the weeks before the Battle of Gettysburg experienced fear because of presence of  Confederates in this area, they could not have anticipated the events that occurred in Mercersburg on the third day of the battle, July 3. On that morning a union prayer service was held in the Methodist Church.  The minister, the Reverend John Buckley, wrote:  “About this period of excitement at the instance of James O. Carson a union prayer-meeting was inaugurated which was composed of the various churches of the town and was held in our house {church}.  The exercises consisted of reading the scriptures and prayers.” Reverend Buckley added:  “These meetings were well attended and I think did good.”  The Mercersburg Journal reported on July 17 the following about the service:  “At eight A.M. a prayer meeting was held in the M. E. Church with tolerable attendance, and a solemn session was enjoyed by those present.” The text was “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)  A union worship service was held on the next day also.  This community in the month of June had suffered many raids.  Reverend Buckley wrote:   “…in the month of June when the Rebel army made an incursion into this valley a portion of which under Genl Imboden and McNeils {sic} guerrillas menaced this town and adjacent neighborhood doing much harm during a period of three weeks in the way of plundering….it too was equally destructive of religion.”  These raids understandably terrified the local African American residents as the Confederates had no compunction about taking free black people as well as fugitive slaves.

         Later on July 3 Constable George Wolfe, who had ridden out of town and had seen some Confederate soldiers, returned to town with the Confederates in pursuit.  He had little time to warn the people as three Confederate soldiers, members of the 12th Virginia cavalry, appeared in the Diamond.  At that time two Union soldiers, of whom  local people had earlier been wary as they remembered the blue-coated Confederates of September 1862, fired their guns upon the Confederates.  A bullet killed Private James Alban on his horse on the Diamond between Colonel Murphy’s Hotel, now the Mansion House, and the site of the present M & T Bank.  That same bullet went into the horse of Lieutenant William Cane.  As his horse slumped, Cane ran down the alley next to James O. Carson’s, the alley adjacent to what is now Flannery’s.  When local people, bent upon his destruction, ran up the alley, cooler heads prevailed, and they captured him.  The third Confederate escaped on horseback. Although an old gentleman, a veteran of the War of 1812, fired his gun at him, the soldier, followed by Constable Wolfe, who came back with only the cap of the fleeing Confederate, rode fast and was able to reach safety in Confederate lines at Cunningham‘s Crossroads, now called Cearfoss.  Local citizens buried Alban, who according to a certificate in his pocket was soon to be discharged, in a brickyard on West Seminary Street but later moved his body to the Presbyterian cemetery. 

         In 1889 the bodies of the three Confederate soldiers who had died in Mercersburg were re-interred in Fairview Cemetery at the behest of the James P. McCullough Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, which also had the three tombstones installed.  The body of Joseph W. Quaintance was moved from the Methodist cemetery, and the body of M. B. Locklin, a Confederate prisoner who died in Mercersburg on July 9, 1863, was interred there also.

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