Gettysburg Off the Beaten Path: The Death of George W. Sandoe

George and Diana Sandoe
George and Diana Sandoe

Part of a Series.

George Washington Sandoe was a local of the Gettysburg area, hailing from Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately for George Sandoe, he has the unenviable title of being the first Union soldier killed in Gettysburg.

Sandoe was part of Captain Robert Bell’s Adams County Cavalry Company. When Jubal Early’s Confederate division pounced on the untrained 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia, and Bell’s Cavalry, the two Federal units hightailed it from the Marsh Creek area near 3 PM, on June 26th. Bell’s company was hotly pursued by Lt. Col. Elijah V. White’s 35th Virginia Battalion of Cavalry. As the Union horsemen made their way into the town, Bell gave the order that it was every man for himself.

Sandoe, with William Lightner, another local man turned soldier, made their way for the Baltimore Pike, following along the meandering banks of Rock Creek. The pair came across William’s cousin, Daniel.  The men discussed what had happened and what they should do next, when a squad of White’s Virginian’s ambushed the trio.

Rather than surrender, Sandoe drew his revolver and fired as the three men rode like hell to get away. In front was a fence, William spurred his horse and leapt over, George attempted to do the same, but his horse refused the jump. It was all up for Sandoe. One of the Confederate’s leveled his gun and fired, killing Sandoe and taking his horse. The Confederate took his newly won prize back to the gatehouse of the Evergreen Cemetery, where, he met with his pards-and enjoyed buttermilk and bread.

The author at George's Grave in the winter of 2008.
The author at George’s Grave in the winter of 2008.

A few hours later seventy seven year old James McAllister, whose home Sandoe was killed in front of, removed the body from the field and returned George’s body to Mount Joy. He was interred in the cemetery at Mount Joy Lutheran Church.

Two monuments were placed to the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry and the death site of George Washington Sandoe. Bell’s Cavalry was attached to the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry a few weeks after the battle at Gettysburg.

To reach the monuments: Take Baltimore Street from the square in Gettysburg. Follow Baltimore Street 0.5 miles until you reach the Y intersection of Baltimore Street/Baltimore Pike/Steinwehr Ave. Go straight, following the Baltimore Pike for 1.3 miles. You will pass the visitor center on your right. Just past the visitor center intersection will be the entrance to Culp’s Hill; the monuments are both just south of the entrance Colgrove Avenue, on the left, which leads you back to Spangler’s Spring. The monuments have a small pull off on the left hand side of the road. Do be careful if you try and park at the monuments, or along the Pike across the street from the monuments. The Baltimore Pike is a very well traveled road.

The larger monument was dedicated on October 5, 1893; the second monument was dedicated on October 14, 1894.

21st PaMap

5 Responses to Gettysburg Off the Beaten Path: The Death of George W. Sandoe

  1. Thank you for sharing George Sandoe’s story. I’ve mentioned it during my lecture / presentation on Gettysburg residents and civilians and people are always surprised by the incident. Somehow we got so focused on Miss Virginia Wade that we tend to miss George Sandoe.

    1. This I believe is one of gettysburg best kept secret locations! As a young boy growing upon the property my sister and I would often see a civil war soldier ghost walking in that area late at night and our dog would often bark ! I always believed it was pv
      t sandoe! I believe his spirit lives on near there.

  2. I’m anxious to take my children to see our grandfather’s (not sure of how many greats) statue. I haven’t been to visit in at least 25 years……

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