Since several folks have asked me for a copy of the text of the Introduction that I gave at the reenactment of the Battle of Hanover on July 3, I’ve reproduced it below. I had written it out in long hand earlier in the week, and when I got home I typed it out. Here ’tis. Should I need to use it again, I’ll likely make some edits to it, but I think it gave the spectators a good overview of why Jeb Stuart’s and Judson Kilpatrick’s troopers met at Hanover on the morning of June 30, 1863, and how the battle began. It goes into a teaser of the first scenario that was reenacted, and then I narrated the scenarios ad-lib.
Good evening, everyone. Or should I say – good morning.
Welcome to the morning of June 30, 1863.
For the next hour or so, we hope to take you back in time – 145 years ago when the very ground we are standing upon reverberated with the sounds of Civil War cavalry – thundering hoof beats, gunshots, slashing sabers, and the thunder of horse artillery.
On that warm summer day – June 30, 1863 – the very day before the three days of bloodletting at nearby Gettysburg would begin, the town of Hanover, Pennsylvania stood squarely in the middle of the planned lines of march of two opposing forces:
- The Federal 3rd Cavalry Division commanded by Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick
- And three brigades of Confederate cavalry commanded by Major General James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart
Upon nearby fields and throughout the town of Hanover itself, famous commanders showed their mettle and tested the fortitude of their men – men such as:
- Gen. Jeb Stuart, one of the most famous men in America in 1863
- Gen. Fitz Lee, a nephew of Robert E. Lee
- Col. John Chambliss
- Gen. Wade Hampton
- Gen. Judson Kilpatrick
- Gen. Elon Farnsworth, who would meet his final fate at Gettysburg on July 3
- And Gen. George Armstrong Custer
To put the Battle of Hanover in perspective, and how and why these two forces clashed here, let’s take just a moment to talk about the context of how this day-long battle erupted – one that was the longest, largest, and bloodiest fight north of the Mason-Dixon Line other than Gettysburg itself.
During the third week of June, Jeb Stuart proposed to Robert E. Lee that Stuart be allowed to take his three best brigades of cavalry, and six pieces of crack horse artillery, and parallel the Confederate army’s advance north through Maryland and into Pennsylvania.
Lee approved the plan, and ordered Stuart to maintain contact with the right flank of his army, do all the damage possible to the Federals, and link up with one of the Southern corps somewhere near the State capital at Harrisburg.
On June 25, Stuart started his ride north out of Virginia, getting into two large skirmishes at Fairfax Court House, Virginia, and Westminster, Maryland, and captured 125 Federal wagons at Rockville before camping his brigades on the night of June 29 on the road stretching from Westminster to Union Mills, Maryland.
During that night, some of Stuart’s scouts brought word that a large Federal cavalry force was camped at Littlestown – the cavalry division of Judson Kilpatrick, 3500 troopers in all. Stuart led over 5000 troopers among his brigades.
Kilpatrick was young – 27 years old – and was only recently promoted to brigadier general. His two brigade commanders were likewise young. Elon Farnsworth was 25 years old, and commanded the 1st Vermont, 5th New York, 1st West Virginia, and 18th Pennsylvania cavalry regiments.
George Custer was only 23 years old, and commanded the “Wolverine Brigade” of Michigan cavalry, the 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th Michigan regiments.
To avoid Kilpatrick and continue his march north, Stuart enlisted the help of a teenage guide, Herbert Shriver of Union Mills, to show him the way to Hanover on the morning of June 30.
Unknown to Stuart, of course, was that Kilpatrick planned to also march to Hanover that same morning – and Kilpatrick was completely unaware of Stuart’s presence in the area.
About 6am on the morning of June 30, Custer passed through Hanover with two of his regiments – the 1st and 7th Michigan – and was in Abbottstown by about 8am.
By that time, the column of Farnsworth’s brigade, led by division leader Kilpatrick, had arrived in the town square in Hanover and were being fed by the local citizens. The regiment in the rear of the column, the green and inexperienced 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was strung out in a long line south of Hanover in the hamlet called “Mudtown” – locals know this area today at “Pennville.”
One of the rear guard patrols of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, ordered to protect the rear of the column and guard against any surprise ambush by the enemy, was commanded by Captain Thaddeus Freeland. Freeland followed Kilpatrick’s main column a couple of miles behind, and took several side roads on both sides of the main road, watching for any signs of the enemy.
Freeland led his patrol off the main route, and took an old road which today is called Lovers Drive. This road is currently a closed, private road, located on land owned by our hosts, Peter and Sharon Sheppard. Upon entering a road known today as Narrow Road, Freeland soon unexpectedly ran upon a patrol of the Confederate 13th Virginia Cavalry, and this little confrontation touched off, and was the very first shots of, the day-long Battle of Hanover.
One young member of the 13th Virginia Cavalry was killed in a field along the road known as Dresher’s Field – the very first casualty of the battle.
This is the first scenario that is going to be reenacted for us.