On Friday, June 19, 1863 in the eastern theatre of war General Richard Ewell’s Confederates moved north of the Potomac River. With Southern troops on Northern soil, many Northerners panicked as major urban areas such as Baltimore continued to construct defensive breastworks.
Signage referencing the Union in any context was painted over by Northern citizens who feared retribution from the invading Southerners. General Ewell noted this anxiety and wrote to a cousin whose mother had been born in York, Pennsylvania, joking “I will let your relations off tolerably easy…probably not taking more than a few forks and spoons and trifles of that sort—no houseburning or anything like that.”
But Ewell would make an exception, burning the ironworks at Carlisle owned by the anti-slavery advocate Thaddeus Stevens, Republican member of Congress.