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Chambersburg to celebrate its rebirth

July 13, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - On July 30, 1864, Confederate Gen. John McCausland burned Chambersburg after borough residents refused to pay a ransom of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency.

Chambersburg became the only town north of the Mason-Dixon line put to the torch by the Confederates. It was also occupied two other times by rebel troops.

Each year the borough celebrates its rebuilding after the McCausland raid with ChambersFest. Festival events run from Thursday through Saturday, July 25, according to the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

The burning of the borough is not the only unique event in Franklin County to arise from the War Between the States, according to Ted Alexander of Greencastle, Pa.

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Alexander, staff historian at Antietam National Battlefield, said the first Union soldier killed in Pennsylvania died north of Greencastle.

Cpl. William Rihl, a member of the 1st New York "Lincoln" Cavalry, died in a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops on June 22, 1863, according to Alexander. There is a monument to Rihl along U.S. 11 in Antrim Township.

Joseph Winger, the postmaster of Claylick near Mercersburg, Pa., became the first federal official taken hostage in the state. That happened on Oct. 10, 1862, when Gen. J.E.B. Stuart took him hostage in retaliation for similar Unions actions in the South.

Civilians such as Jenny Wade at Gettysburg, Pa., were often accidental fatalities of the war, but a county farmer was the only one deliberately murdered in Pennsylvania. In June 1863, Alexander said Confederate stragglers tried to rob Jacob Strite at his Guilford Springs farm.

When he resisted, the rebels killed Strite and buried him in a dung heap, according to Alexander.

Alexander is the co-author of "When War Passed This Way" with his late uncle W.P. Conrad. He also compiled and edited a book on the 126th Pennsylvania Infantry and was a contributor to "Southern Revenge," a book about the burning of Chambersburg.

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