BY LINDA CLARK / MARCH 2014
Cumberland Township is home to most of the battles during the first three days of July 1863. We sometimes forget that history also happened outside of the boundaries of the GNMP boundary. Near the northern border of Cumberland Township, nestled along the Table Rock Road, lies the farm that belonged to Joseph Bayly at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg. His wife, Harriet, and son, William, both wrote of their experiences during that horrific summer. Devotees of history are grateful.
Thirteen-year-old Billy recalled that in late June he went along with his father and other neighbors as they took their stock animals and “skedaddled” north, toward Harrisburg, to safety across the Susquehanna River. Encountering Confederate cavalry, William wrote, “To say that we were rats in a trap caught by our own stupidity about describes the situation.”
When father and son returned home, Harriet reported that no damage had been done to their property by invading Rebel troops. However, the worst was yet to come. On Wednesday, July 1, Harriet’s curiosity got the best of her, and she walked to a ridge for a better view of the reported approaching Confederates. From there she saw the masses of gray moving like waves through the green fields and the heard the roar of battle beyond. Soon, Harriet found herself arrested by a Rebel soldier, but was soon released. The enemy demanded food, and inquired about their farm stock. For the food that she gave them, Harriet was offered Confederate money. She refused, asking instead for the genuine article – good greenbacks. This clever Cumberland Township resident reported being well paid for the provisions.
As a result of the Rebel invasion, the Bayly family lost their entire flock of sheep, with nothing but a few carcasses left behind on the hillside fields. Although they were able to save a few cows, their best steers, just ready for market, were taken. Despite hiding their best horses in a cellar under the barn, the Rebels found them and demanded them immediately. Farmers needed their horses as much as a house. Harriet worried how their fields of grain would be harvested.
The family was especially devastated by the loss of one horse in particular, “Nellie.” She had been the pet of the family’s only daughter, Jane Ann, who had died of diphtheria in March of 1862 at age ten. As the family all cried, and Harriet pleaded, the Rebel finally agreed to return the beloved mare. However, he soon returned saying, “Madam, I despise this whole business, and I’d leave her if I could. My own brother was shot down by my side this morning and I could not stop even to give him a kind word. They say soldiers must obey.”
Although the Bayly family encountered many Confederate soldiers, due to their farm’s location northwest of town, one was most memorable. He knocked at the door in the middle of the night. The “woebegone little Reb, about 17 years of age” informed Harriet that he belonged to a North Carolina unit that had seen severe action that day. He requested shelter because he never intended doing any more fighting for the Confederacy. The young man was given a suit of civilian clothes, remained with the family until after the battle, and became a neighboring farmer.
Linda Clark is a member of the Board of the Cumberland Township Historical Society.