In June 1863 Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army invaded Pennsylvania. As Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin (Class of 1837) called out the state militia, students at Dickinson were preparing for final exams. Yet despite “the alarm” Dickinson College President Herman Johnson observed that “the students remained quietly at their posts” even as “the community around us had been a prey to the intensest agitation.” While “formal commencement exercises” were not held, James Morgan explains that thirteen students received “their diplomas with the blessing of the College and dismissed” before the Confederates arrived in Carlisle on June 27, 1863. Confederates made Old West their headquarters and used East College as a hospital. After they seized supplies, the Confederates left the following day. Union General William F. Smith reoccupied the town, but on July 1 General J.E.B. Stuart arrived and demanded that the Union troops surrender. After they refused, Confederates shelled the town. Stuart’s cavalry left Carlisle early on July 2 after they received reports about the battle that had started around Gettysburg on July 1. Both East College and South College sustained damage during the attack. While “one [shell] hit South College just below the telescope [and tore] thru the roof,” Conway Hillman (Class of 1873) recalled that it “fortunately…did not explode.” Conway’s father, Professor Samuel Hillman (Class of 1850), served in the home guard and was sent to Gettysburg after the battle. “Father never got over the sight of the dead along the route of Pickett’s charge,” as Conway remembered.
You can read more about Dickinson College during the Civil War in Chapter 27 of James Henry Morgan’s Dickinson College: The History of One Hundred and Fifty Years, 1783 – 1933 (1933).