Reminiscence of General John Brown Gordon, C.S.A., on entering York, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1863

    Source citation
    John Brown Gordon, Reminiscences of the Civil War (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904), 141-143.
    Date Certainty
    John Osborne
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
    We entered the city of York on Sunday morning. A committee, composed of the mayor and prominent citizens, met my command on the main pike before we reached the corporate limits, their object being to make a peaceable surrender and ask for protection to life and property. They returned, I think, with a feeling of assured safety. The church bells were ringing, and the streets were filled with well-dressed people. The appearance of these church-going men, women, and children, in their Sunday attire, strangely contrasted with that of my marching soldiers. Begrimed as we were from head to foot with the impalpable gray powder which rose in dense columns from the macadamized pikes and settled in sheets on men, horses, and wagons, it is no wonder that many of York's inhabitants were terror-stricken as they looked upon us. We had been compelled on these forced marches to leave baggage-wagons behind us, and there was no possibility of a change of clothing, and no time for brushing uniforms or washing the disfiguring dust from faces, hair, or beard. All these were of the same hideous hue. The grotesque aspect of my troops was accentuated here and there, too, by barefooted men mounted double upon huge horses with shaggy manes and long fetlocks. Confederate pride, to say nothing of Southern gallantry, was subjected to the sorest trial by the consternation produced among the ladies of York. In my eagerness to relieve the citizens from all apprehension, I lost sight of the fact that this turnpike powder was no respecter of persons, but that it enveloped all alike—officers as well as privates. Had I realized the wish of Burns, that some power would "the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us," I might have avoided the slight panic created by my effort to allay a larger one. Halting on the main street, where the sidewalks were densely packed, I rode a few rods in advance of my troops, in order to speak to the people from my horse. As I checked him and turned my full dust-begrimed face upon a bevy of young ladies very near me, a cry of alarm came from their midst; but after a few words of assurance from me, quiet and apparent confidence were restored. I assured these ladies that the troops behind me, though ill-clad and travel-stained, were good men and brave; that beneath their rough exteriors were hearts as loyal to women as ever beat in the breasts of honorable men; that their own experience and the experience of their mothers, wives, and sisters at home had taught them how painful must be the sight of a hostile army in their town; that under the orders of the Confederate commander-in-chief both private property and non-combatants were safe; that the spirit of vengeance and of rapine had no place in the bosoms of these dust-covered but knightly men; and I closed by pledging to York the head of any soldier under my command who destroyed private property, disturbed the repose of a single home, or insulted a woman. 
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