The Civil War era produced well-known Lancaster County personalities such as John F. Reynolds, James Buchanan and Thaddeus Stevens, but there were others who, though lesser-known, are well worth remembering.Perhaps the best known was Simon Cameron, a Maytown native who would become Abraham Lincoln’s first Secretary of War.
A shrewd businessman, Cameron founded the Bank of Middletown and was active in building railroads and canals.
Initially a member of the Whig Party, he became a Democrat around 1845 and was elected to the U.S. Senate, replacing James Buchanan, who had been named Secretary of State by President James Polk.
Cameron served in the Senate until 1849, changed his party affiliation to Republican and was re-elected in 1856. His full support of Lincoln four years later earned him a cabinet post as Secretary of War in the new administration.
However, Cameron had a habit of awarding government jobs to friends. That seems to have earned him the wrath of fellow Lancastrian Thaddeus Stevens, who was once said, “Cameron would steal everything except a hot stove.” When Cameron demanded an apology, Stevens amended the statement, saying, “All right. He would steal a hot stove.”
However, like Stevens, Cameron’s view on prosecution of the war was extremely aggressive, to the point where Lincoln forced Cameron’s resignation. He was appointed Ambassador to Russia and packed off overseas.
After the Civil War, Cameron was again elected to the Senate in 1866, serving for 11 years. He died at his farm at Donegal Springs in 1889 and is buried in Harrisburg Cemetery.
Five years older than his brother John, William Reynolds was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1831 by then Congressman James Buchanan.
He left the Navy briefly prior to the Civil War because of health problems, but upon hostilities, he returned to active duty. Promoted to the rank of commander, he was put in charge of the Navy’s forces at Port Royal, S.C. He saw no combat during the war.
After the war, Reynolds rose through the ranks, becoming a rear admiral and acting Secretary of the Navy in 1874.
During his final overseas voyage, he visited China, where his wife, Rebecca Krug Reynolds, became the first American woman to walk on the Great Wall.
In failing health, he retired in 1877 and died two years later.
He is buried in the family plot at Lancaster Cemetery.
Local historian Ronald Young called Rosina Hubley a “one-woman whirlwind,” an apt description of this vibrant crusader.
Born Rosina Weaver in 1793, she married John Hubley, owner of the White Swan, in 1814.
On April 13, 1861, less than two weeks after Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., Hubley helped form the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster and served as the group’s president. During the war, the Daughters assisted soldiers, both at home and at the front, by collecting thousands of dollars worth of needed items. In the days following the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, they traveled to the Adams County town to assist in nursing the wounded.
After the war, Hubley was instrumental in erecting the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Lancaster Square in July 1875. She died seven months later.
All Barbara Fritchie did to gain immortality was wave an American flag at Confederate troops passing her house.
Or did she?
Born in Lancaster to German immigrants Nicklaus and Catherine Hauer on Dec. 3, 1766, she eventually moved with her parents to Frederick, Md. There she befriended Francis Scott Key, whose poem, “Defense of Fort McHenry,” written in 1814, is better known today as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In 1799, she and Key attended a memorial in Frederick, Md., upon the death of George Washington. (She had supposedly received a china bowl from Washington as a gift some years earlier.)
In 1806 Barbara Hauer married glovemaker John Fritchie, but it was not until 1862 that she gained her eternal fame.
In September of that year, rebel troops commanded by Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were marching through Frederick on their way north. It was Gen. Robert E. Lee’s first attempt to invade the North, but it would end bloodily at Sharpsburg, Md., along the banks of the Antietam Creek.
According to the legend, as the Confederates moved past Fritchie’s home, the woman, now 96 years old, defiantly waved the American flag at the Confederate general, who ordered his men to keep moving.
Did it happen?
Probably not. Her home at 154 Patrick St. was well off the Confederate line of march. But the story caught on, and in 1864, two years after Fritchie’s death on Dec. 18, 1862, she was immortalized by poet John Greenleaf Whittier.
More than a century later, school children were still taught her defiant, if fictional, taunt, “Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare my country’s flag,” followed by Jackson’s command to his men, “Who touches a hair of yon gray head, Dies like a dog! March on!”
Barbara Fritchie lies in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, and her home is still a popular spot on walking tours.