One of the scheduled events of the Bicentennial Celebration is "Protect the Bridge at Perrysville" Civil War USA - CSA Encampment and Battle Reenactment.
The encampment will occur on Sept. 28, 29, 30, 2012 and the battle will occur on September 29 at 10:00 AM.
There will be a parade to include participants at 2:00 PM.
The following is a scenario backdrop for the reenactment:
PERRYSVILLE/PORT ROYAL 200
CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT
SEPTEMBER 29, 2012
THIS IS NOT A TRUE INCIDENT, ALTHOUGH THE REACTIVATION OF COMPANY F OF THE 126TH REGIMENT BY CAPTAIN JOHN P. WHARTON DID OCCUR. THIS SCENARIO IS A CONDUIT TO PROVIDE A BACKDROP TO SUPPLEMENT THE CELEBRATION OF
PERRYSVILLE/PORT ROYAL’S 2OOTH ANNIVERSARY
The Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR) was chartered by the Commonwealth’s legislature on April 13, 1846 and construction began the following year. The first section opened for service on September 1, 1849. This section stretched from Harrisburg west over the Rockville Bridge on the Susquehanna River and up along the Juniata River to Lewistown, passing through Perrysville on the way. This first section would eventually become known as “The Middle Division.” Section, after section was added until the full line was completed on November 29, 1852, establishing a continuous rail-line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In 1861, the Pennsylvania Railroad acquired a controlling interest in the Northern Central Railway that gave it access to Baltimore and thus to Washington D. C. via connections at Columbia or Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania was a critical source of manpower, coal, iron products, equipment, raw materials, grain, flour, meat, foodstuffs, textiles, weapons, and uniforms, for the Union, during the Civil War. The Commonwealth raised over 360,000 troops for the Federal armies, and most of the new Pennsylvania regiments were organized and trained at Camp Curtain near Harrisburg. This camp would eventually serve to train thousands of soldiers from other states.
The Philadelphia, Chester, Bethlehem, and eastern coal regions were major contributors to the war effort, producing artillery pieces, ordnance rifles, ammunition, artillery shells, swords, rifles, pistols, tools, camp implements, tents, and other military items.
Still, much of what the state produced was supplied west of Harrisburg. Pittsburgh’s iron industry provided significant quantities of weapons and ammunition. The Steel City’s industries manufactured 10 per cent of the U.S. wartime production of artillery. The U. S. Allegheny Arsenal was the primary manufacturer for saddles and other cavalry equipment, and it produced more than 14 million bullets and cartridges per year. The city’s rolling mills supplied the armor for many of the ironclad ships built in New York and Philadelphia. Johnstown, Erie, Altoona and many other western and central Pennsylvania cities and towns contributed heavily to the war effort. In addition, thousands of troops were conveyed to the Eastern Theater via Harrisburg.
Thus it was critical that lines of transportation and communication be kept open across the state. If the South could sever these lines, it would significantly weaken the Union cause.
Railroads were the key to success of the Union during the Civil War, and the contributions of the Pennsylvania Railroad were an integral part of the Union’s winning strategy. Therefore, the PRR was a major target if the Confederacy wanted to disrupt Union supply lines and communications. All this rail traffic from the west was transported over an obscure bridge that crossed the Tuscarora Creek and passed through the town of Perrysville.
Thus, in June 1863, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee turned his 75,000 men northward on the major invasion of Pennsylvania, Confederate forces seized Chambersburg, captured Carlisle, occupied York, and advanced to the shores of the west bank of the Susquehanna River opposite Harrisburg. To prevent the rebel forces from crossing the river, the bridge at Wrightsville was destroyed.
With additional forces Lee could have perhaps dealt a fatal blow to Union transportation and communications by capturing or destroying the stone arch bridge at Rockville. But what if he had instead chosen an out-of-the-way, obscure railroad bridge such as the bridge that spanned the Tuscarora Creek at Perrysville? This railroad bridge crosses the Creek just before it flows into the Juniata River. This type of hit-and-run assault would entail only a small mobile force, and not drain many troops from Lee’s main attacking army. The destruction of this obscure bridge would have had devastating effects upon the Union war effort and perhaps led to the magnificent victory that Lee sought.
There were two main routes that a small, fast-moving Confederate force could have utilized to arrive at Perrysville without arousing much attention. One such route would allow rebel forces deployed at Mercersburg to move north through Path Valley and enter the Tuscarora Valley via the gap in the Tuscarora Mountain, known as the Tuscarora Narrows between Concord and Waterloo. From this location the Confederates could quickly move down the Tuscarora Valley to Perrysville and the awaiting prize of the railroad bridge. Such a move had been anticipated by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, and thus, Dr. Samuel Crawford of the Uniformed Militia had been appointed to summon every man and boy in the region who could handle a weapon to defend and hold the narrows against any Confederate thrusts toward Perrysville and the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The other, perhaps more wide-open route, lay on the other side of the Tuscarora Mountain from Mercersburg, with McConnellsburg as the stepping-off point. From McConnellsburg the invaders could move through Burnt Cabins and on through Shade Gap. This route offered the advantage of having no sizeable towns, nor any geographic hindrances in its path, and advancement should be swift and sure.
Captain John P. Wharton, a resident of Perrysville who had commanded Company F of the 126th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers until the regiment had been mustered out on May 20, 1863, anticipated such a move on the part of the Confederates and reactivated his old company for emergency duty to protect the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge over the Tuscarora Creek on the outskirts of the sleepy little town.
Captain Wharton deployed his limited manpower skillfully. First he positioned First Lieutenant R. P. McWilliams with about one-third of his company in an open field on the outskirts of St. Tammany’s Town (Old Port). This location was near the approach to the covered bridge that connected Perrysville and St. Tammany’s in crossing the Tuscarora Creek. (In 2012 this area borders Sandbar Road.) If the enemy chose, it would not have to cross the creek at this location to reach the railroad bridge, but instead use the farm lane on the south bank of the creek to arrive at the bridge, and these men would be in the direct path of the enemy if it chose this option.
Another third of Company F was encamped on the area of the original Juniata County Fairgrounds (south of the town, often known as Moyer’s Farm) under the direct command of Captain Wharton. This location would allow these men to blockade the Tuscarora Creek Bridge if there was an attempted crossing and they could also be shifted to the northwest of town if the enemy chose to use the road from Patterson (now Mifflin) into town that followed Licking Creek. To thwart this latter movement, a picket line was established at the end of the Herringbone Ridge adjacent to McCullough’s Mills on Licking Creek. Fallen trees and logs were embedded on the town side of the road so that cavalry could not spread into Wilson Kepner’s field (currently the Juniata County Fairgrounds) and flank the troops deployed south and west of the fairgrounds. They also were within easy access to the railroad bridge.
The remainder of Company F under Second Lieutenant James C. Bonsall would be bivouacked to the north of North (now Milford) Street between the railroad and the Juniata River near the approach to the covered river bridge. This unit would halt any advance down the river or the railroad line from Patterson (Mifflin) and protect the telegraph station in the railroad station, and could quickly advance down the tracks to the railroad bridge if needed.
In the scenario involving the Perrysville/Port Royal 200 reenactment, we will utilize the stealthy movement of Confederate cavalry from McConnellsburg in Fulton County, northward through Ft. Littleton, Burnt Cabins and on to Shade Gap. (In 2012 we would simply follow Route 522). Instead of following the main road through the gap in the Shade Mountain to Orbisonia, the rebel force would continue on it’s northeastwardly direction out of Huntingdon County via Shade Valley into Juniata County. (This would be state Route 35 in 2012).
There are no towns along this route, only a few sparsely populated villages, Cross Keys, Peru Mills, Reeds Gap, Nook and Johnstown (Walnut). About two miles east of Johnstown and about a mile from Farmdale, the Rebel Raiders would turn south and intersect with Licking Creek. This invading force would follow Licking Creek towards its confluence with the Tuscarora Creek just below McCullough’s Mills on the outskirts of Perrysville. When they had advanced this far, they would be about a mile from their objective-the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge over the Tuscarora Creek.
The “Rebs” would be challenged by Captain Wharton’s picket line north of McCullough’s Mills, but they would be persistent and push Wharton’s men back towards their main force located at the fairgrounds. With the sound of gunfire, Lieutenant McWilliams’s men located near St. Tammany’s Town would quickly cross the Tuscarora Creek to aid their companions. The Rebel Major, Richard Walters, would order his men to dismount and counter the influx of additional manpower, he would be upset that his movements had been challenged and since the sun is quickly setting behind the Herringbone Ridge and the Shade Mountain, he eventually orders a withdraw back towards the ridge, where he will regroup and renew the attack in the morning.
Thus the stage is set for the skirmish to develop into a full-scale engagement once the sun returns to the late June skies in 1863.