Hetty Zeilinger | Pennsylvania Civil War 150
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Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Pennsylvania Civil War 150


Hetty Zeilinger

Lost in the dark, the Union Cavalry didn’t have a prayer. Fortunately, they had Hetty Zeilinger.

The Confederates were retreating from Gettysburg during a fierce thunderstorm on the night of July 4, 1863. Their nine-mile-long wagon train of supplies, livestock and wounded soldiers slowly made its way through Monterey Pass in Franklin County, Pa.

That same night, Union Cavalry met a local 12-year-old girl, Hetty Zeilinger, walking on the road to her home near Monterey Pass. Hetty warned them that Confederates with artillery lay ahead, and she offered to guide the troops through the pass. One of the soldiers lifted her into his saddle, and they rode toward the Confederate caravan.

That night, the second largest battle in Pennsylvania took place, lasting more than six hours and involving 10,000 soldiers clashing in the dark and pouring rain. Flashes of lightning and gunfire scared horses and mules into running down the steep mountain pass. The darkness led to confusion and friendly fire. In the end, Union soldiers took more than 1,500 Confederate prisoners.

Image Courtesy of Library of Congress

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