York's Civil War History

Present-day Penn Park

Penn Hospital.jpg

Penn Park was the site of a U.S. Army General Hospital during the Civil War.  Initially, it accepted soldiers from overcrowded field hospitals in Virginia, but later saw influxes of soldiers following the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg.  Serving over 14,000 patients, the hospital had one of the lowest mortality rates of any Union operated army hospital during the war.  Some of the history of the hospital has been preserved its own newspaper, The Cartridge Box.  To learn more about the Union hospital and York County’s experiences during the Civil War, visit The Fiery Trial exhibit at the York County Heritage Trust’s Historical Society Museum.


York’s unknown Civil War General

General William B. Franklin, born in York in 1823, commanded the Sixth Corps of the Union’s Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Attending the York Academy, and later graduating first in his class at the United States Military Academy in 1843, Franklin gained rapid promotions at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. However, Franklin’s career was derailed when he was blamed for the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862. Following the war Franklin achieved success as the Vice President of the Colt Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut.  Many of Franklin’s letters along with some of his personal materials from the Civil War era are now part of the collection at the York County Heritage Trust.




Folk artist Lewis Miller depicts the Confederates in York

After entering York, Confederates lowered the American flag and replaced it with the Confederate “bars and stars.” York was occupied for 48 hours.

confederate surrender.jpg

In late June 1863, about 10,000 Confederate troops invaded York County.  They demolished Northern Central Railroad bridges south of York, destroyed telegraph operations at Hanover Junction, engaged in a fierce cavalry battle at Hanover, and prompted Union militia to burn the Columbia-Wrightsville bridge to prevent the Confederates from crossing. Only a few days later, many of the Confederates in York County marched south to fight at the Battle of Gettysburg. York County emerged from the invasion relatively unscathed, but the poignant memories and sense uncertainty experienced by local residents at the time, have remained as an enduring legacy to York’s past and connection to the American Civil War.  Learn more with a visit to the York County Heritage Trust’s Historical Society Museum.