Three men stand on the devastated Main Street of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in the aftermath of an attack led by Confederate general John A. McCausland on July 30, 1864. Chambersburg, the seat of Franklin County with a population of about 5,000, had been occupied twice previously during the Civil War—in October 1862 by J. E. B. Stuart's cavalry and in June 1863 by Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. On July 30, 1864, McCausland arrived at the head of a detachment of cavalry under orders from Jubal A. Early. McCausland was to secure from the town a ransom of either one hundred thousand dollars in gold or five hundred thousand dollars in United States currency; absent that, he was to burn Chambersburg in retaliation for similar Union actions in the Shenandoah Valley. When the local citizens failed to produce the demanded ransom, McCausland had his troops set fire to the town, an action that destroyed about five hundred and fifty buildings, left three thousand people homeless, and caused $1.6 million in damages.
This stereo view published in Philadelphia was part of a collection belonging to the popular nineteenth-century historian Benson J. Lossing, who produced illustrated histories of the American Revolution and the Civil War, the latter in collaboration with photographer Mathew Brady.