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Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country Roads connects visitors to the past

Published: May 14, 2009

New Civil War Trails program shares some of the untold stories in South Central Pennsylvania

Carlisle, PA (May 14, 2009) – Pennsylvania played a vital role in the Civil War, and now visitors to its Dutch Country Roads region can link dozens of cities, towns and landmarks to the campaign before the greatest battle on American soil – Gettysburg.

Through Pennsylvania’s Civil War Trails program, communities in Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster and York counties are brought together to tell the stories – not just of soldiers and cannon fire – but those of the people, the commerce and African-Americans during the Road to Harrisburg and the Road to Gettysburg, two major campaigns that became the turning point of the American Civil War.

As American nears the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, visitors from all over the world will be exploring towns across the United States to get a better understanding of this unforgettable time in our nation’s history.

The Dutch Country Roads region of Pennsylvania is one of the most visited and historic places in America. It is here that you will learn about the events leading up to the only Civil War battle on Union ground, one that changed the course of not only the Civil War, but American history.


This small historic town found itself in the center of what would become a pivotal point in American history. More than 50,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in the fields surrounding this town of only 2,400 residents. Gettysburg invites you to explore this hallowed ground and learn the tragic and heroic stories of its own citizens as troops retreated from town leaving behind tens of thousands of wounded soldiers. Retrace the footsteps of Lincoln, as his short visit to deliver “a few appropriate remarks” changed Gettysburg from a place of tragedy to one of hope.

Contact:  Carl Whitehill, Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, (717) 338-1055, cwhitehill@gettysburg.travel.


The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa., recently opened a new exhibit titled “Box Car War: Logistics of the Civil War” that examines the tremendous challenges faced by both the Union and Confederate forces in supplying and maintaining their armies in the field of battle.

The exhibit follows the process of raising massive wartime armies from small peacetime militia, the administrative burden of mustering soldiers, and the inherent challenges of communicating throughout extensive chains of command in armies and navies, from companies to corps, and from ship to fleet.

Visitors will also learn about war time supply chains from the ordering to manufacturing and delivering of vital field supplies such as food, medicine and transportation support. 

Visit www.NationalCivilWarMuseum.org for upcoming exhibits, hours of operation, and special events.

Contact: Rick Dunlap, Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, (717) 231-2992, rick@hersheyharrisburg.org.

The Past Players of Pennsylvania

“The Pennsylvania Past Players Living History” project is a touring troupe of professionally trained interpreters, headquartered at The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, who recreate actual characters from the state’s rich past. Gripping stories, delightful tales and documented occurrences come to life for visitors at Civil War and Underground Railroad sites along the Civil War Trail in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country Roads Region through the words of these performing historians.

“This living history project combined with all of the significant Civil War sites in our Dutch Country Roads Region will significantly enhance how visitors experience the history and heritage of the region,” said Mary Smith, President of the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. “When experienced together, the sites and interpreters present a much deeper and emotional story of the struggles and achievements of the soldiers and civilians living here during the time of the Civil War and the Underground Railroad.”

(Past Players Photo Credit: Don Giles, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission)

York County

Pennsylvania’s new Civil War Trail honors the lives of extraordinary patriots. Traveling the trail in York County, you’ll connect with valiant soldiers, resourceful women, and voices for freedom through 13 interpretive markers.

Follow the footsteps of men and women who shaped our nation in York County, offering three centuries of captivating American history. Discover stories of Revolutionary War heroes and the Second Continental Congress’ adoption of the Articles of Confederation. Celebrate America’s favorite president at the historic Hanover Junction Train Station along the York County Heritage Rail Trail with a newly installed Lincoln bust. Lincoln visited Hanover Junction in November 1863 en route to delivering the Gettysburg Address.

Contact: Alison Smith, York County Convention & Visitors Bureau, (717) 852-9675, asmith@yorkpa.org.

Cumberland County

Cumberland Valley was the site of the Confederate invasion into the state of Pennsylvania. Dickinson College, the Cumberland County Historical Society and the Army Heritage Education Center remember the heartfelt stories of those impacted by the Civil War. Capture the spirit of this living history through first-person interpreters by participating in a “Live and Learn Weekend,” experiencing the rampage through Shippensburg during the March to Destiny or stepping into Civil War winter encampment cabins at Army Heritage Day. Relax and discover further at the Civil War and More shop in Mechanicsburg.

Contact: Kristen Oakley, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, (717) 240-7195, Kristen@cumberlandbusiness.com.


It was June of 1863. The Confederate Army had taken York, and was preparing to cross the Susquehanna River eastward into Lancaster County by capturing the Wrightsville-Columbia Bridge, overtake Lancaster city, and then advance to Harrisburg and ultimately Philadelphia. After attempts to defend the western (Wrightsville) edge of the bridge failed, several hundred Union troops and Pennsylvania Militia retreated across the river on June 28.

To prevent the Confederate advance, the northern troops and Columbia’s citizens made the bold sacrifice of burning the bridge, the key thoroughfare for area commerce and communications. These efforts proved effective, and would play an integral part in the prelude to the Battle of Gettysburg, which erupted three days later. Learn more about Lancaster County’s role in this vital turning point in American history by visiting its Susquehanna River Towns of Columbia and Marietta, along the new Pennsylvania Civil War Trails.

Contact:  Joel Cliff, PA Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau, (717) 735-0311, jcliff@padutchcountry.com

Franklin County

Franklin County was quick to erect a “liberty pole” and raise troops for the Union cause.  Union soldiers and supplies headed to the Shenandoah Valley aboard the trains of the Cumberland Valley Railroad. Community buildings served as hospitals. 

Then, in October 1862, war crossed the Mason Dixon Line. General J.E.B. Stuart and 1,800 Confederate soldiers raided Franklin County, seizing hostages in Mercersburg and cutting the telegraph wires and burning the railroad shops and warehouses in Chambersburg. War continued and brought occupation.

In June 1863, in the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee and 65,000 men headquartered in Chambersburg before deciding to move east to meet the Union Army. On July 30 1864, Gen. John McCausland brought the ultimate retaliation--a ransom of Chambersburg for $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee currency. With no ransom forthcoming, Confederate soldiers burned the core of Chambersburg. Five hundred and fifty structures burned. Two thousand people were homeless. Total loss and damage exceeded $1 million.

Contact:  Janet Pollard, Franklin County Visitors Bureau, (717) 709-7204, jkpollard@co.franklin.pa.us.

Greater Reading

Reading, Pennsylvania’s Ringgold Light Artillery was one of the first regiments to answer President Lincoln’s call to arms. This brave group of volunteers said goodbye to their Pennsylvania homes and marched into Washington and history as First Defenders of the Union. In addition to supplying patriotism and militia, Greater Reading provided heavy ammunition to the war effort as well as respite to fleeing slaves with its many Underground Railroad stops.

For those pursuing Pennsylvania’s Civil War Trail, plan on numerous stops in Greater Reading. Visit cemeteries where soldiers and slaves are interred together, iron furnaces like Hopewell and Joanna that thrived while the country fought to save the union or watch civil war re-enactments in our local county parks. Take a Ride.

Contact: Lisa Haggerty, Greater Reading Convention and Visitors Bureau, (610) 375-4085, lisa@readingberkspa.com.

Author: Rick Dunlap

Public Relations Director
Visit Hershey & Harrisburg
3211 North Front Street, Suite 301 A, Harrisburg, PA 17110