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Columbia Bridge Burning

By: Bradley Schmehl

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Editions and Sizes

500 Signed and Numbered Prints - 16" x 24"
Open Edition Smaller Prints - 10" x 15"


June 28 marks the anniversary of an historically significant occasion for Columbia and Wrightsville, the burning of the bridge across the Susquehanna River to halt the easterly advance of Confederate forces. No special activities are held to commemorate that event of June 28, 1863, but it remains in the minds of many residents--especially those bent on preserving the history of both communities in the Susquehanna Valley. The 1963 Columbia Civil War Centennial publication tells how Confederate forces under the command of General Gordon, after occupying York, were dispatched to Wrightsville with the purpose of securing the bridge across the Susquehanna River. Gordon's forces included infantry, cavalry and artillery who were sighted about 5 o'clock in the afternoon of June 28 [1863] "moving up the turnpike" towards Wrightsville. Gordon's only opposition included a hurriedly assembled, ill equipped and inadequately trained group of militia and volunteers who were quickly outflanked by Gordon's more experienced soldiers. The Union soldiers and volunteers retreated to the bridge under orders from General Couch "not to allow the enemy to cross the Susquehanna River" and explosives were used in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the span. The frame span was then set afire and the link between Lancaster and York counties was blocked by a wall of flame while brisk northwesterly winds carried sparks and burning embers in the direction of Wrightsville. Wrightsville did not fare too well and the flames destroyed residences, a planing mill and a lumber yard. Fortunately, Gen. Gordon's forces formed bucket brigades and prevented the flames from spreading throughout the community before returning to Gettysburg where the most decisive battle of the Civil War was fought. Today all that remains are the stone piers which held to more bridges before the last--a railroad span--was dismantled.