Blue & Gray Magazine's History and Tour Guide of The Burning of Chambersburg and McCausland's Raid
By Ted Alexander and Foreword by Edwin C. Bearss
I first learned of Chambersburg and its important place in Civil War lore nearly 70 years ago. This came about when my parents were cattle ranchers in Sarpy, Montana, and my father, a World War I marine, read to me John Thomason's Jeb Stuart. The raid chapter in the Thomason book is titled "The Chambersburg Raid," and like the rest of the Stuart biography fired my life-long romance with the Civil War.
It would be the mid-1980's before I became better acquainted with Chambersburg and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, adding "Stuart's Chambersburg Raid" to the popular series of one- and two-day Civil War tours that I had begun leading for the Smithsonian Institution's popular Resident Associates Program in 1977. A highlight of the Smithsonian program is the opportunity it gives participants to walk in the footsteps of history, many of which are off the beaten track.
In planning the itinerary for the "Stuart's Chambersburg Raid" field trip, I turned to Charles "Ted" Alexander. Like me, Ted is a Marine combat veteran and National Park Service historian, having cut his teeth at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and National Capital ParksˇEast, before becoming the historian at Antietam National Battlefield. Equally important, Ted, although Mississippi- born, has deep roots in Franklin County with an encyclopedic knowledge of the region's lore and landscape.
Then in July of 1989, Ted invited me to be keynote speaker of the seminar sponsored by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce focusing on Jubal Early's July 1864 Raid on Washington, D.C., and associated events. Among the latter was the burning of Chambersburg by Confederate horse soldiers led by Brig. Gen. John McCausland. As a reminder of the event, I still occasionally wear a T- shirt featuring the burning. The success of this seminar and the associated field trips as organized by Alexander, who serves as master-of-ceremonies, is its continuation as an annual event with different themes featuring Civil War campaigns and personalities. In conjunction with the seminar and the commemoration of the Burning of Chambersburg, the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce and White Mane Publishing Company, Inc., published Southern Revenge! Among the authors and editor of this copiously illustrated and critically acclaimed book is Alexander.
Six years before the 1989 commemorations of the 125th anniversary of the Burning of Chambersburg, the initial issue of Blue & Gray Magazine came off the press. The brainchild of David E. and Robin P. Roth, husband and wife, the handsome publication featured in its inaugural issue "The General's Tour" titled, "Harpers Ferry: The John Brown Raid." The subject was an excellent introduction to a novel approach. Moreover, the subject chosen was important to those, like myself, who believe Brown's raid was the most significant event leading to secession and the Civil War.
In the more than score of years that have passed since Blue & Gray appeared, "The General's Tour" feature of each issue has earned a devoted and ever increasing following, a "must read" for those whose goal is to walk in the footsteps of history.
In 1988, coincident with the 125th anniversary of the Gettysburg battle and campaign, Alexander and the Roths melded their talents in the October issue featuring Ted's "Gettysburg Cavalry Operationsˇ June 27th-July 3rd, 1863." Dave Roth and Alexander collaborated on the driving tour text, a must for those following the route. When I inaugurated my Smithsonian Residents' Tour, advertised as "Jeb Stuart's Ride to Gettysburg," the Roth-Alexander "General's Tour" was a necessity.
Six years later, in August of 1994, Alexander's by-line again appeared as a Blue & Gray headliner. This time "The General's Tour" centerstaged "McCausland's Raid and the Burning of Chambersburg." The story of the raid and burning is vintage Alexander. Drawing on appropriate sources, both primary and secondary, published and manuscript, Alexander's style is forceful and informed. The reader is not overwhelmed with detail and trivia. A concluding sidebar titled "ŰOld Jube' Fools the Yankees" is appropriate. It demonstrates that Early took action to provide support for McCausland by inaugurating other thrusts designed to confuse and divert Union forces, which prevented them from interfering with the Chambersburg Raid until it was too late.
Particularly enlightening and invaluable to preservationists and the often lonely fight to protect sites listed in, or eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places, is the attention in the Blue & Gray article given to the pursuit of McCausland and his people by Union Brig. Gen. William W. Averell and his command. Crossing the Potomac, the controversial Averell routs the Confederate raiders at Moorefield, West Virginia, on August 7, 1864. Information found in "The General's Tour" was invaluable to preservationists in their fight to protect the historic scene at Oldfields and Willow Wall from being impacted by major highway construction in the Appalachian Corridor H. Equally important, the rout of the Confederate cavalrymen at Moorefield cast a lingering shadow on their reputations and fighting ability in the mind of General Early, a hard-nosed infantryman, that would play out in future and more important battles in the Shenandoah Valley: at Opequon (September 19), Fisher's Hill (September 22), Tom's Brook (October 9), and Cedar Creek (October 19).
Supplementary maps and photographs (both contemporary and present-day) are appropriate and what readers of Blue & Gray always appreciate and applaud. The Alexander-Roth descriptive driving tour narrative is in World War II naval parlance "4.0"ˇconcise but informative; the directions are easy to understand and follow, which is a hallmark of Blue & Gray.
Word that the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce wanted the editors of Blue & Gray to publish in softcover book format, as part of its "History and Tour Guide" series, The Burning of Chambersburg and McCausland's Raid is welcomed by all who hear the roar of the cannon and the pounding of hooves of yesteryear.
Edwin C. Bearss
Chief Historian Emeritus
National Park Service
July 22, 2004