Headstone honor Civil War heroine

From Bonnie Shockey
About 20 descendants of Frances 'Dolly' Harris Lesher and her husband John Lesher attended the dedication of her headstone in Cedar Grove Cemetery on Nov. 2.

Saturday, Nov. 2, marked the 174th birthday of Frances “Dolly” Harris Lesher. She is the only woman from Greencastle and Franklin County who is considered to be a Civil War heroine and was the only woman buried with military honors upon her death in February 1906.

The military ceremony was led by the officers of Chambersburg’s Col. Peter B. Housum Post of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Why was she considered a Civil War heroine? And why was she buried with the same military honors that were afforded Union Civil War veteran upon their deaths?

For several weeks during the Gettysburg Campaign, the Confederates marched through Greencastle on Carlisle Street right past her home at 37 N. Carlisle St. 

Col. William Roane Aylett, of Pickett’s division and great-grandson of patriot Patrick Henry, said, “Why the bravest woman I ever saw was a Pennsylvania 'girl' who defied Pickett’s 'WHOLE' division as we marched through the little town called Greencastle. She had a United States flag as an apron which she defiantly waved up and down as our columns passed by her and dared us to take it from her.”

Harris called the Confederates traitors and scoundrels.

Private John T. Boyd Sr., Co. K, 57th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, said under oath, "As to her wearing a badge I remember she wore one and think it was a Lincoln badge. As Gen. Armistead passed by, she waved the stars and stripes at him and he saluted her.”

For reasons unknown to the family, a headstone was never erected on her resting place in the Cedar Grove Cemetery, Chambersburg. Through the generosity of Dr. Paul Orange, who underwrote the cost of an obelisk headstone, a dedication ceremony was held on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 1 p.m. at her gravesite. Greencastle Bronze and Granite installed the headstone. 

About 20 descendants of Frances “Dolly” Harris Lesher and her husband John Lesher, from Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Tennessee, Kansas and Missouri were in attendance.