Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

In 1898 Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act allowing the printing and publishing of postcards by private companies and launched a craze in the early years of the 20th century. Prior to this legislation only the U.S. Postal System was authorized to produce these cards. Billions of what are known as “real photo” postcards – depicting rural villages, picturesque panoramas, community landmarks, churches and cemeteries, factories, hospitals, breweries, iron and steel plants, railroad stations, bridges, tanneries, colleges and universities, parks, glassworks, reservoirs, hotels, coal operations and an assortment of occupations – were purchased, mailed, traded and collected. The era, generally from about 1902 through 1920, has come to be known as the Golden Age of Postcards. The U.S. Postal Service estimated that at least one billion cards were mailed annually during the golden age’s peak years, generally from about 1905 to 1915.

Postcards were a genuinely democratic art form, readily accessible to international audiences and available for pennies. They offered a quick, modern, inexpensive and efficient way to communicate and are frequently compared to today’s e-mail and social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Foursquare.

Although never inscribed or mailed – perhaps it was securely safeguarded in an album by its proud owner? – a photographic postcard of a monument memorializing two Confederate soldiers killed in Fulton County was published sometime after its dedication near McConnellsburg on July 2, 1929. Erected by the Elliott Grays Chapter, Richmond, Va., and the North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument was installed by John B. Runyan, a local marble and granite dealer.

The monument is inscribed “Confederate Soldiers / W.B. Moore of Va. / F.A. Shelton of N.C. / Killed Near Here / In First Battle On Penn Soil / June 30, 1863.” However, factual inaccuracies mar the stone.

The encounter was not a battle but, instead, a skirmish – and it was not the first in the Keystone State. Confederate troops mounted a raid on Chambersburg on October 10, 1862; participated in skirmishes in 1863 at Greencastle and Monterey on June 22; skirmished with Union forces at Chambersburg, Gallagher’s Knob, Lighter House, Witmer’s Farm (Bailey’s Hill) and Greencastle on June 26; and engaged Northern units at Fountain Dale and Wrightsville. The pair technically was the first Confederates killed in action in Pennsylvania. The date of the skirmish at McConnellsburg is also questionable: it appears in various accounts as either June 29 or June 30. What is certain, however, is that at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the skirmish Captain Abram Jones led Company A, 1st New York (Lincoln) Cavalry, into McConnellsburg to the rousing cheers of residents. Later that morning an unarmed militia cavalry from Huntingdon County, headed by Captain H.M. Morrow, arrived. Confederate Captain W.D. Ervin of Company G, 18th Virginia Cavalry, commanded a mixed force of cavalry and mounted infantry and the struggle ensued.

Captain Jones ordered his men to charge, causing Captain Ervin and his troops to retreat. As the Southerners fled, the New York cavalry followed and killed Moore and Shelton, wounded several and captured 32, including Captain Ervin. After the skirmish ended local citizens carried the bodies of Moore and Shelton into McConnellsburg where they were placed in the Fulton County Courthouse until coffins could be made. A funeral procession took the slain Confederates for burial at the site where they had fallen.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission installed a state historical marker in 1948 at the gravesites of the dead, approximately .4 miles southeast of McConnellsburg.