Franklin County Visitors Bureau Remembers 1864: The Burning, Ransoming & Rebirth of Chambersburg

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Franklin County Visitors Bureau remembers the 1864 Burning of Chambersburg ahead of their annual re-enactment event on July 21 celebrating the rebirth of the town.

The Burning of Chambersburg recreates when Confederate soldiers burned the town during the Civil War in 1864.

In celebration for the rebirth of the town after such hardships, Franklin County Visitors Bureau holds their annual 1864: Burning event!

Franklin County Visitors Bureau remembers the 1864 burning, ransoming and rebirth of Chambersburg ahead of the annual re-enactment event on July 21 from 6pm to 10pm in downtown Chambersburg.

On July 28, 1864, General John McCausland with the Confederate troops received Jubal Early’s order to hold Chambersburg ransom for $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee dollars, and if the ransom was not met, to burn Chambersburg. The July 26 order, also directed to General Bradley Johnson to join McCausland in the raid. McCausland would use the same route as J.E.B. Stuart when he raided the southern border of Pennsylvania in 1862, crossing at McCoy’s Ferry Ford and moving northward into Mercersburg, raiding and taking supplies, and then to Chambers¬burg on July 29.

The people of Chambersburg could not meet the demands and the soldiers burned the town. Many took shelter in the cemeteries and fields around the town to avoid the burning blaze. The destruction began at about eight o’clock in the morning and by elven o’clock, the Confederates had left, but ten squares of buildings were burned to the ground and two thousand people were made homeless and many, penniless. The value of real estate and personal property lost exceeded $1.5 million. Several structures did not burn including the Old Jail, Mary Ritner Boarding House/John Brown House and the Masonic Lodge on Second Street.

Despite the hardships and massive loss, the citizens of Chambersburg began plans to rebuild one month after the fire consumed their town. Among these plans were widening Main Street, planting trees and the creation of popular spots for residents to gather. On Saturday, July 20, 1878, through work of the ladies group and veteran’s organizations, 10,000 residents and visitors gathered in the diamond to see the unveiling of the 26-foot tall, five basin cast iron bronzed Memorial Fountain with the 7-foot tall soldier. It was a day to celebrate Chambersburg coming to life from the ashes. To this day, the fountain and statue remain a strong symbol of the resilience of the people of Chambersburg.

In celebration for the rebirth of the town after such hardships, Franklin County Visitors Bureau holds their annual 1864: Burning event! This includes a living history re-enactment and light show, presentation by Ted Alexander, music competition, Civil War walking history tours, book signings, art auction and more from 6pm to 10pm on July 21! For more information about this free event for the whole family, visit

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau invites all to explore Franklin County PA and enjoy the trails of history, art, recreation, natural beauty, and fresh foods. Experience the warm hospitality of communities like Chambersburg, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Shippensburg, and Waynesboro. Franklin County PA is located just north of the Mason Dixon Line and is an easy drive to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Discover more. Plan a visit soon at or by contacting 866.646.8060.

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Janet Pollard

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