While Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade camped east of Chambersburg, waiting, as they thought, to press on to Baltimore, Md., or the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg, folks in Mercersburg, west of the brigade’s line of march north from Hagerstown, Md., were learning about privation.
“Fearful outrages in the country around us,” Pennsylvanian William Heyser wrote in his diary on June 29, 1863:
“Stouffer’s Mill has been taken over by the Rebels and is running for their use. There isn’t much food left in town now. If the Rebels remain much longer I do not know what we shall do. The countryside is rapidly losing all its livestock. Much had already been driven off and hidden in the mountains….They are now riding about our alleys looking for harness and gear. I removed the wheel from my wagon and hid it, making it unfit for use.”
The week before, on June 24, Heyser had recorded his impression of some of Lee’s army and their behavior as they marched north through Mercersburg:
“The men looked well, but lacked uniforms, being an array of all shades and colors. No two hats alike, and their shoes could hardly be called that. It was hard to distinguish the officers from the men, except those of high rank.
“They sang and cheered lustily as they marched along. About two, the pillage of our stores began. Not a place escaped, never in the history of our boro was there such a scene. The merchants were compelled to pack up the wagons with their goods, which is being sent to Richmond.
“The streets are crowded with Rebels who try to interrogate our lessor citizens as to where things are hidden or sent to, and also as to the movements of the Federal troops that had left. By now, all of our stores have been ransacked.”
Heyser would have more to see and say in July when Lee’s army returned to Virginia.