THE MAYOR'S REPORT: Union officer Ulric Dahlgren served and died in the Civil War

Ben Thomas Jr./Greencastle mayor

So whatever happened to Captain Ulric Dahlgren (Union Army) after he left Greencastle in the summer of 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg? Stay tuned.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. My special gratitude goes to all the men and women who worked in many professions last weekend and will do the same over the New Year’s weekend in just a few days. It’s a beautiful Sunday as the thermometer showed 50 degrees. During Tina and my afternoon walk the wind was a little brisk. After all, it is late December. So I’ve retired to the family room and just enjoyed delicious Christmas Eve dinner leftovers that taste just as good. It’s the fourth quarter for the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City. The Steelers' driver has the bus warmed up.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

Saturday, Dec.18, I enjoyed visiting Lenora “Babe” Lininger’s centenarian birthday party. She received a Mayoral Citation proclaiming Sunday, Dec. 19, as “Lenora 'Babe' Lininger Centenarian Day in Greencastle, Pennsylvania.”

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So more about Captain Dahlgren, who protected Greencastle for a period during the Civil War. He was born near Philadelphia in Bucks County, Pa., on April 3, 1842. His father, Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, established the Ordnance Bureau of the United States Navy. He was a close personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln. His son, Ulric, was able to visit the president at the White House.

This historical marker about Captain Ulric Dahlgren is located on Center Square in Greencastle.

On July 2, 1863, Captain Dahlgren climbed into the tower of the German Reformed Church (Grace United Church of Christ) on Greencastle’s East Baltimore Street and used the bell tower as an observation post. He and his detachment then captured a group of Confederate soldiers on the south-east corner of Center Square and took custody of important papers that were en route to Gettysburg. Captain Dahlgren personally rode to Gettysburg to present the captured document to Union Command. Four days later he received a lower extremity wound during skirmishes in downtown Hagerstown. Treatment resulted in his leg being amputated below the knee. Remember, Dahlgren had just turned 21 years of age and had fought in five major battles of the Civil War including Gettysburg. By the end of July 1863 the 21-year-old received a commission elevating him to the rank of colonel.

Colonel Dahlgren would be killed the night of March 1, 1864, following a mission that, to this day, is very controversial regarding Dahlgren’s role while serving under Brig. General Hugh Kilpatrick to attack the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Va. The young officer met a violent death where important papers were allegedly found on his person regarding a possible conspiracy to assassinate the Confederate president. Much is written about this to either dispel or validate the allegation. One of the best reads is “Kill Jeff Davis, the Union Raid on Richmond,” by author Bruce Venter. In my reading it was very obvious that Colonel Dahlgren placed himself back in the saddle far too soon following his traumatic injury and treatment.

This historical marker concerning the death of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren is located in King and Queen County, Virginia.

His violent loss of life, treatment of his remains and the possible repercussions of the horrors of war may have led to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Dahlgren’s descendants reside in Northern Virginia. Tina and I recently took a weekend drive to King and Queen County near Stevensville, Va., and located the marker of his death. It remains in a very remote portion of Virginia northeast of Richmond. The country road's intersection is known by locals as “Dahlgren’s Corner.”

So the next time you walk around Center Square, read the historical marker, take a moment and remember then-Captain Ulric Dahlgren and the events that occurred at that very location July 2, 1863, and what would happen during the next eight months of his short life.

Finally, thank you for supporting our local businesses in 2021. Several business owners reported a very good year. That’s because of you supporting your hometown merchants. Let’s continue our support in 2022. Happy New Year! We are blessed!