The Maple Shade Barn, located at the intersection of Greenbrier Land and Harrisburg Pike in Dillsburg, houses the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society, or as it’s usually called, NYCHAPS.

The barn is the last one left in Dillsburg Borough, but inside it doesn’t look like a barn at all. Neatly arranged shelves hold artifacts of Northern York County history going back for generations.

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Recently, they added something new to their collection, a set of letters to and from a Civil War soldier named George Brougher. NYCHAPS volunteer Richard Conley has been transcribing the letters, which range from hastily written messages in pencil to elegant cursive writing done with pen and ink.

Richard Conley filled us in on Brougher’s service record. It seems he was drafted into the service.

“He was enlisted for a nine-month period in 1862,” said Conley. “He was in the 166th Pennsylvania Drafted Militia, Company C. They were formed out of predominantly the Dillsburg Area. If you look at the roster of the organization, they are almost all common Dillsburg surnames in the unit.”

So far, no one’s turned up a picture of George or his regiment. But the house he lived in with his wife Martha and their children still stands, near the intersection of Chestnut Grove Road and Fileys Road in Carroll Township. (It’s a little over two miles from the square in Dillsburg as the crow flies.)

The collection includes letters from George to Martha, Martha to George, and even a few from the Children. The first letter is from George, written in Washington D.C., dated December 9, 1862.

“Dear wife, I take my pencil in hand to let you know that I am well at present, and I hope you all enjoy the same blessing. We left York and are in Washington. The talk is we may leave tomorrow and do not know where we will land…I must let you know about our stables here. We have old bacon and bread for breakfast, dinner, and supper. There is no talk of war being over yet. We have no sickness among us yet and I thank God for my health. I should like to be home to enjoy the pleasure of being with you to have a good warm stove and a good bed to sleep in, and to talk with you all and our bed is upon the hard floor.”

In a letter dated January 25, 1863, his son assured him the farm work was getting done, and somewhat nonchalantly dropped some sad news.

“And now I must let you know that we have all of our thrashing done at home and we have all our fall plowing done. John Peterman plowed it and must let you know that Peterman’s youngest child is dead.”

He also rather amusingly misspelled “provisions” as “perversions” several times. He closes with “You shan’t get out of heart for the way they talk is the war will be over til spring and we would like to wish to all we could for you.”

Martha kept George up on family news. She had an interesting habit of using the phrase “And now I must let you know”, which Conley admits got a little tiresome to transcribe at times. From a letter dated March 29, 1863:

“And now I must let you know that Cousin Auman had went to Mechanicsburg to learn to blacksmith and stayed two weeks, and come home when he was learnt out.”

“And now I must let you know that we had snow and rain pretty near every day. We had snow and rain on the 28th, and now I must let you know that David McClure is at home and is going to be with Henry Spar at the paint, and now I must let you know that young George Seidel was here the other day, and what great fun they had in York, and had us all laughing.” (I have no idea what “the paint” is.)

There are a few words about wartime inflation:

“And now I must let you know a little about the market here. Butter is 18 cents and eggs is 12 cents a dozen and corn is 75 cents a bushel.”

(I plugged those numbers into an online inflation calculator. In 2022 dollars 18 cents=$4.26, 12 cents=$2.84, and 75 cents=$17.74.)

And some more bad news:

“And now I must let you know that Abraham Smyser buried his wife yesterday, and old Mrs. Cockly is buried today. There are a great many deaths with young and old now”

“And now I must let you know that Grandmother and Mother send their best respects to you and hopes to see you again, and now I must bring my letter to a close, and have nothing particular but remain your affectionate wife Martha.”

The 166th Pennsylvania was stationed in southeast Virginia. In his May 21 letter, George reported on seeing some fighting:

“It’s almost two weeks since we left our camp. We’ve been on a march to Carrsville some 2 1/2 miles from our camp to tear up the railroad there. We had considerable fighting with the rebels there. Our loss was some 15 wounded and killed. The railroad we are taking from Carrsville to Suffolk, and we have it near all tore up now.”

Martha’s letter of June 18 revealed the war was getting close to home. The Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania was underway.

“And now I must let you know they had it reported that the rebels were in Carlisle, and in Charlestown. And they were going to Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg. They had all the stores shut up in Mechanicsburg but it is not as bad as the report as they moved the stores in Carlisle and Mechanicsburg into the country for fear of the rebels coming….And now I must let you know that we heard that the rebels are camping in or about Chambersburg.”

Being stationed in Virginia, the 166th didn’t take part in the battle of Gettysburg. It’s unlikely George could have been there in any case. On July 20 he wrote about his health:

“I have a bowel complaint for about six weeks, and I have become so weak that I am not able to follow with the regiment, and I am placed in hospital. I have been in about ten days, and I am very weak, yet I am not mending very fast.”

You will soon be able to read these letters for yourself. The area’s weekly newspaper, The Dillsburg Banner, will be printing them in chronological order starting December 9. Richard Conley hopes they will stimulate interest in local history and NYCHAPS. He notes it’s a side of history that rarely shows up in history books.

“I’ve probably read over 150 books on the Civil War. But those books are ‘this commander moved these troops here, and moved these troops here.’ This was very down to the front line soldier, you could tell he was homesick, you could tell that he was being missed at home, they were using neighbors to get the farm work done, his young son was trying to do the farmwork, it really opened your eyes to what was happening to the soldier on a personal front, and his family.”

To see a timeline of the 166th’s service, click here.