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Rebs were rowdy in Pa.

March 12, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Local historian Ted Alexander remembers the last time a bunch of Texans came through Greencastle. It was in the late 1950s and they were laying a gas pipeline through the town.

He was a kid then, but he remembers that they were a rowdy bunch.

Thursday night, writer, historian and Texas native Jerry Holsworth spoke of an earlier time when a lot of Texans came through Greencastle.

On June 26, 1863, Texans under Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood stopped in town for the night on their way to Gettysburg.

Holsworth's audience, about 25 members of the Allison-Antrim Museum and their guests, heard his descriptions of how rowdy those Texans were and how they got on with the locals during their brief stay.

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The Rebels ate breakfast in Virginia, crossed into Maryland where they had lunch, stole some liquor there and arrived in time for supper in Pennsylvania, Holsworth said.

Many of them were drunk, he said. "They were in four states that day - Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the state of intoxication."

Holsworth failed to mention that the part of Virginia where the rebels ate breakfast, just across the Potomac River from Williamsport, had become the state of West Virginia six days earlier on June 20, 1863.

Hood set up camp in a stone farmhouse outside of Greencastle near where the Corning, Inc. plant is today. The house is still standing.

The general told his troops they were on enemy soil.

"He told them to stack their rifles and do as they please," Holsworth said.

The rebels went foraging, taking whatever they came upon, to the horror of local residents. They stripped gardens clean, cleaned out hen houses and barns and took whatever livestock they could find. Among their loot were more than 300 chickens, Holsworth said.

One local woman complained to Hood but he sent her away, claiming his men weren't doing any more than what Yankee troops had been doing in the South for more than two years.

The next day the Texans left for Chambersburg, Pa., where, Holsworth said, they stole more than 2,000 chickens.

Greencastle residents may have thought they were seeing a taste of war when enemy troops were in their midst, but it wasn't until after the battle that they saw its real face, Holsworth said.

It came in the form of Confederate wagons, carrying more than 12,000 wounded soldiers from the battle. The wagon train stretched for 17 miles and took 37 hours to pass through town, Holsworth said.

If a soldier died, they left his body on the road for local residents to bury, he said.

Hood's men fought in nearly every major engagement of the Civil War. In all, 7,268 men joined his outfit. By the time the surrender was signed at Appomattox, the army had been cut down to 617 men, Holsworth said.

Holsworth, 48, lectures frequently before historical groups, including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service. He is a regular contributor for Blue and Gray magazine, Potomac Magazine and Cobblestone, a children's magazine.

He lives in Winchester, Va., where he is manager of the George Washington Office Museum.

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