The Battle of Gettysburg often overshadows the numerous smaller skirmishes that took place in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. One such confrontation is “The great horse raid”. It began October 10, 1862 when General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart and his 1,800 cavalry crossed the Potomac and made their way to Mercersburg, PA. They managed to reach Chambersburg before bedding down for the night.
On the morning of October 11, Jeb’s forces traveled east on the Chambersburg Turnpike into Adams County. They reached Cashtown by noon and some advance elements carried on to McKightstown. A small engagement happened there and Stuart suffered his only loss in the entirety of the raid with the capture of one man.
Stuart and his forces then turned south and went through historic Carroll’s Tract. They reached Fairfield in the evening and began raiding and looting the town. They robbed stores, destroyed public buildings, and captured citizens. The Gettysburg Star and Banner had this to say,
The Principle damage done there was to the store of Paxton & McCreary who they robbed of $1,300 worth of goods, and Mr. Sullivan’s of about $400 worth. They also took 30 stand of arms from the armory of the Home Guard… The post office was destroyed, and the Postmaster Jon B Paxton, Esq., carried off a prisoner. A number of other citizens in that vicinity were carried off some nine in number- among whom we have heard the names of Esquire [Andrew] Low, Alexander Benchoff, J.C. Martin, and Sanford Shroeder of Fountain Dale. (Thomas et al. 31)
Once Stuart’s forces were finished with the town, they rode to Emmitsburg MD, then to Nolan’s Ferry where they forded the Potomac into Virginia. During the great horse raid, Stuart managed to cover 120 miles in 50 hours and capture up to 900 horses (with about 100 coming from Adams County). It should be noted that this was Stuart’s only visit to the town of Fairfield, and it was a rather short one at that. He did not bed down and there was no headquarters established. The prisoners were held in captivity for 5 months before being released and sent home.