Browsing Posts tagged Chambersburg

Albert Hazlett

“Cumberland County’s Connection to John Brown’s Raid at Harper’s Ferry” (2009)

Joseph D. Cress uses reports from several local newspaper to explore the story of Albert Hazlett’s arrest in Chambersburg on October 22, 1859. Hazlett had participated in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16, but he managed to escape. The Carlisle American and American Volunteer published reports about Hazlett’s case with contradicting evidence and testimony, which reflected the confusion over Hazlett’s identity. (When local authorities arrested him, Hazlett claimed that he was actually William Harrison). After three trials in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Judge Frederick Watts decided to extradite Harrison to Virginia. Hazlett was executed in Charlestown, Virginia on March 16, 1860.

This essay has been posted online with permission from the Cumberland County Historical Society.

Before going to bed on October 10, 1862, Chambersburg resident William Heyser noted in his diary that he had “secreted some of my most valuable papers.” Confederate cavalry under the command of General J. E. B. Stuart had arrived several hours earlier and forced the town to surrender. Union forces had been caught by surprise and none were available to defend the town. “It would have been an act of madness to have made resistance…and would have involved the total destruction of the town,” as the Chambersburg (PA) Valley Spirit noted. The raid, as the Milwaukee (WI) Sentienel described, “was the most daring adventure of the war” so far. Besides gathering intelligence, one of the Confederate’s other objectives was to take as many supplies as possible. Horses were one key item and Alexander Kelly McClure, an assistant adjutant Union general, later recalled how ten horses were taken from his farm. (You can read McClure’s full account of the Confederate raid – “A Night With Stuart’s Raiders”- here). Yet as one Confederate soldier’s letter revealed, they also seized a number of other supplies. “I got 8 pair of boots, 4 over coats, 5 pair of pantaloons, 2 hats, 6 pair of socks, 6 pr. Draws, 6 over & under shirts, [and] some coffe & sugar” during the raid, as Edward Cottrell told his grandmother. As Confederates left Chambersburg on October 11, they burned warehouses that held government supplies. One contained ammunition and, as Heyser described, “the succeeding explosions of shells and power was tremendous.” While Union forces were dispatched to intercept and capture the raiders, General Stuart evaded them and returned to Virginia without any major engagements. You can read more about the raid in Emory M. Thomas’ Bold Dragoon: The Life of J.E.B. Stuart (1986) and Jeffry D. Wert’s Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart (2008).