Greencastle in Franklin County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The First Soldier to Fall
When General Robert E. Lee’s invading army overran the Union garrison at Winchester, Virginia, on June 15, 1863, elements of the 1st New York “Lincoln” Cavalry covered the retreat. Company C, under Captain William Boyd, continued to harass the Confederates as they crossed into Pennsylvania. On June 22, Boyd’s 35 men narrowly avoided an ambush at the William Fleming farmhouse. When Corporal William Rihl, a 21-year-old Philadelphia native, and Sergeant Milton Cafferty rode out in front of the house to reconnoiter, the Confederates fired a volley at point-blank range. Cafferty suffered a serious leg wound; Rihl was struck in the head and died instantly, the first Union soldier killed on Pennsylvania soil.
The events at Gettysburg soon overshadowed the skirmish at Fleming farm, but the people of Greencastle remembered, as did the veterans of the 1st New York Cavalry. On June 22, 1886, Greencastle’s G.A.R. Post 438 reburied Rihl with full military honors at the spot where he fell. Exactly one year later, Pennsylvania’s state legislator erected a monument over Rihl’s new grave, honoring him as “a humble but brave defender of the Union.”
Erected by Pennsylvania Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is June 1861.
Location. 39° 47.43′ N, 77° 43.67′ W. Marker is in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, in Franklin County. Marker is at the intersection of W Baltimore Street and S Carlisle Street, on the right when traveling west on W Baltimore Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Greencastle PA 17225, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Colonel John Allison (within shouting distance of this marker); Captain Ulric Dahlgren (within shouting distance of this marker); McCullough's Tavern (within shouting distance of this marker); Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.3 miles away); Greencastle (approx. 0.4 miles away); In Memoriam (approx. half a mile away); William J. Hudson (approx. half a mile away); G.B. Freeman Jr. (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greencastle.
More about this marker. The top of the marker features a picture of a wounded Corporal William Rihl. Below this is a photograph with the caption “The monument to Corporal William Rihl, “a humble but brave defender of the Union,” erected June 22, 1888. Courtesy of the Allison-Antrim Museum.”
Credits. This page was last revised on February 21, 2022. It was originally submitted on August 8, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,206 times since then and 43 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on August 8, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.