With generous help from the Civil War Trust, the National Park Service has acquired another key parcel of land on the Gettysburg battlefield – the Josiah Benner house.
Gettysburg National Military Park took possession of the 9-acre property this week (September 19, 2011). Located at 980 Old Harrisburg Road, the property had been privately owned and included a pre-Civil War house, a small stone springhouse, a detached garage and a large shed. Existing billboards on the site were removed in June 2011.
In 2001, the park acquired the 3-acre parcel next door which includes the historic Josiah Benner barn.
The house, springhouse and barn are all contributing features to the park’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Josiah Benner farmhouse predates the 1863 battle and is a two-story brick building set on a stone foundation. The ridge of the gable roof is flat with double chimneys at each end. The roof is covered with slate. A two-story, raised frame porch covers the front of the house. Its location just off of the Harrisburg Road placed it in the line of advance by Early’s Confederate Division on the afternoon of July 1. In an effort to attack and outflank Union positions on and near Barlow Knoll, Confederates had to pass around this solid obstacle. The walls of the building provided cover for skirmishers of both sides during various portions of the July 1 conflict. At the close of the fighting on that day, the house was pressed into use as a temporary Confederate field hospital. Several Union soldiers and officers were also carried there for treatment.
Springhouse (pre-1863) is a one-story stone springhouse/wash-house with an asphalt-covered gable roof at the southeast corner of the lot. It has vertical boards in the gable ends. Located just east of the house and adjacent to the Harrisburg Road, the building likewise would have been used as temporary cover for skirmishers of both armies and would have provided water and “refrigerated” food for wounded in the hospitals of the Benner house and barn.
Until very recently, the springhouse was in grave danger of collapsing. Park staff are now working on the structure to do emergency stabilization and preservation.
Barn (pre-1863) is a 2 1/2-story stone and frame Pennsylvania bank barn with a cantilevered forebay. The parcel on which the barn is located was separated from the historic property in the 1960s. Its location just off the Harrisburg Road placed it in the line of advance by Early’s Confederate Division on the afternoon of July 1. In an effort to attack and outflank Union positions on and near Barlow Knoll, Confederates had to pass around this solid obstacle. The walls and height of the building provided cover for skirmishers on both sides during various portions of the July 1 conflict. At the close of the fighting of that day, the barn was pressed into use as a temporary Confederate hospital.
Many More Gettysburg Lands Need Protection
In recent years the park has made significant progress in land protection but there is much more work to be done. More than 900 privately owned acres inside the boundary of Gettysburg National Military Park still need to be protected from development. Total acreage inside the congressional authorized boundary of Gettysburg NMP is 5989 acres.
The National Park Service works with willing sellers to acquire these “inholdings.” The inholdings range in size from a few large Civil War era farms that are about 75 – 80 acres each, to smaller residential parcels with modern structures.
Buying these properties is a long process that usually requires federal funding. The Civil War Trust, the Land Conservancy, the Gettysburg Foundation and others have been very important partners in land protection at Gettysburg over the past 15 years. As the Civil War Trust did with acquisition of the Josiah Benner farmhouse, non-profit partners can step in, in close coordination with the National Park Service, and work directly with sellers to create a successful real estate deal for the benefit of Gettysburg National Military Park and the American public.
- To see maps of the Gettysburg National Military Park boundary and unprotected lands, go to:
Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant