Interning at Gettysburg: A Summer on the Battlefield

After earning 142 Junior Ranger badges from National Park Service sites across the country, I looked forward to the day when I would stand on the other side of the desk. For eight weeks this summer, I had that opportunity. As an interpretive intern at Gettysburg National Military Park, I interacted with the public on a daily basis and talked about one of our nation’s most significant events in the place at which it happened.

During my summer in Gettysburg, I was able to learn more about the field of public history through experiencing it firsthand. As an interpretive intern, I interacted with people from around the nation and world, discussing the Civil War at large, and the battle of Gettysburg in particular. Whether I was stationed behind the information desk or out in any of the park’s 6,000 acres, there was always a visitor with a question. Often, the questions were simple: “Where is the bathroom?” or “Do you have a map?” Occasionally, a visitor would ask a challenging question, about a controversial commander on the field, or a specific detail of the battle. I quickly learned that these latter types of questions were usually educational opportunities rather than something to be afraid of.

Informal interactions with the public led to countless enlightening discussions, yet one of the most exciting aspects of being an interpretive intern was going into the field and giving formal programs. While each program has a specific set of objectives that must be explained in some form, there was plenty of space for creativity. My first program, “Four Score and Seven Years Ago: Lincoln and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery” allowed me the opportunity to explore some of Gettysburg’s most fascinating facts.

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Woodrow Wilson and Civil War Memory

Gettysburg has witnessed several important events in American history that extend beyond the scope of the Civil War battle in 1863. Monument dedications, reunions, and speeches commemorating the battle exhibit an evolution of Civil War memory that captures an evolution or change in perspectives of the war, often found in addresses given by presidents.

Handshake 1913

The Blue and the Gray meet during the Great Reunion of 1913.

To observe the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hosted a “Great Reunion” of Union and Confederate veterans at the park. From June 30 to July 4, 1913 approximately 54,000 Union and Confederate veterans from across the United States, camped on the Gettysburg battlefield. Considering the average life expectancy for men in 1900 was 46, these veterans were far older than the typical American- the average age between seventy-two and seventy-three years old. Despite their lofty ages, summer heat did not dampen the enthusiasm and excitement that swept the affair.  The Blue and Gray walked the fields and shook hands over walls they fought over fifty years before. They mingled with celebrities including the only surviving Corps commander of either army, Daniel Sickles. The veterans were also treated to state of the art lodging that boasted modern amenities. The Great Camp featured electric lighting at night, chilled water fountains, and spotlessly clean latrines. Three meals a day were provided for all veterans. Additionally, the largest circus tent in the United States was raised on the field of Pickett’s Charge, serving as the “Great Tent.” The event cost $450,000, and $1,750,000 was allotted for transporting the veterans to Gettysburg by train. (Calculating for inflation, during 2017 the lofty cost of the reunion would reach over 11 million dollars, with more than 43 million allotted for transportation.)

The momentous event in 1913 Gettysburg provides us a snapshot of Civil War memory during the “Progressive Era”. This period spanned from the 1890’s to the 1920’s, and was marked by social and political changes in the United States. Post-war resentment and hostility between the North and the South reached a turning point during this era due, in part, to the Spanish-American War in 1898. During this very brief war, former Union and Confederate soldiers and generals served side by side, fighting for a common cause. This somewhat odd reunification in the military during the War initiated a new narrative of Civil War remembrance. Unity and reconciliation between former Union and Confederate enemies became the theme, overshadowing the loss, anger, and tension of the Reconstruction era.

Changing Civil War memories also aligns with the vast social, economic, and technological changes during the Progressive era. This era witnessed the release of the “Model T,” an affordable car that revolutionized American transportation. President Teddy Roosevelt displayed the strength of America’s Navy to other nations by ordering the strongest warships cruise through international waters in the “Great White Fleet.” Roosevelt’s character became the inspiration for the “Teddy Bear.” The Panama Canal changed international trade, and the Wright Brothers found ways to navigate the sky. Suffragist Movements escalated and reached closer to securing the women’s vote. Industrialization had boomed, bringing along with it increased urbanization. Some of these shifts in American lifestyle brought about negative consequences including poor working conditions and seemingly invincible “Big Businesses.” Muckraker journalists uncovered and brought many of these unsightly practices to mainstream audiences through written publications. Throughout the Progressive era, the US sought to address the challenges that arose with such quick change through an increase of government regulation of industry (the Khan Academy). President Woodrow Wilson initiated and promised much of this change as the third “Progressive President” elected in 1912.

Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson (Wilson Library)

Wilson was not a man to dwell on the past of the United States but preferred, at the height of the Progressive Era, to focus on building the nation’s future. Thus, Wilson initially declined the formal invitation to speak at the Great Reunion in Gettysburg that summer, evidently not seeing the gathering as particularly significant. Wilson was the first Southern-born president elected since the Civil War and his presence alone was symbolic of reunion. Under intense political pressure, the President acquiesced the week before the anniversary encampment began and special arrangements were made to accommodate his arrival and appearance before the veterans.

Wilson’s speech to the veterans on July 4, 1913, captures memory of the Civil War through a Progressive lens. He glossed over the causes or purpose of the war with no reference to the question of slavery or rebellion and rampant mistrust, but focused solely on the unity of former enemies then gathered in Gettysburg, a speech shaped primarily by his Progressive ideals that included his traditional perspective on race in American society. The President remarked that a need to explain the purpose of the Battle of Gettysburg was unnecessary; that Americans should focus on  the fifty years between the battle and the reunion. A period, in his view, of “peace and union and vigor,” “healing,” and “brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten” (Wilson, Address to the Veterans, July 4, 1913). Wilson complimented the nation on its changes and movement forward, expressing that a nation once divided and engaged in brutal fighting was then reunited. The President was even so bold as to claim the war had passed from American memory though the future of the country’s security were insured by its citizens:

Wilson speaks at Gettysburg 7-4-13

President Wilson speaks to veterans and guests in the Great Tent at Gettysburg, July 4, 1913. Members of the press are seated in front of the stage to report on the president’s address. (NARA)

“Have affairs paused? Does the Nation stand still? Is what the fifty years have wrought since those days of battle finished, rounded out and completed? Here is a great people, great with every force that has ever beaten in the lifeblood of mankind. And it is secure. There is no one within its borders, there is no power among the nations of the earth to make it afraid.”

The United States, the President acknowledged, was not entirely finished with its post-Civil War struggles. Like Lincoln, Wilson noted there was more to be accomplished: “I have in my mind another host, whom these set free of civil strife in order that they might work out in days of peace and settled order the life of a great nation. That host is the people themselves, the great and the small without class or difference of kind of race or origin; and undivided in interest, if we have but the vision to guide and direct them and order their lives aright in what we do.”

Yet, during the early 1900s, the issue of equality for all Americans regardless of skin color and religion was far from resolved and while President Wilson’s words were intended to promote freedom and advancement, he quietly condoned the social rule of “separate but equal” and disregarded the struggle for civil equality by African Americans under the laws of Jim Crow.

Slavery, the primary sectional cause of the war, was scarcely mentioned at the Fiftieth Anniversary. Historian David Blight analyzed post-Civil War memory in his book, Race and Reunion, using the Fiftieth Anniversary event in Gettysburg to develop his argument regarding the complex intersection between reconciliation of Northern and Southern veterans, and racial tensions in American society: “At this remarkable moment when Americans looked backward with deepening nostalgia and ahead with modern excitement and fear, Jim Crow, only half-hidden, stalked the dirt paths of the veterans’ tent city at Gettysburg.” (Blight, p. 386). Lynching, segregation, and discrimination were accepted facts of life throughout the United States. There were sixty-four lynchings during the year 1912, fifty-one in 1913. Immigration regulations were strict, eugenic practices were sterilizing minority communities, and the Ku Klux Klan was embraced as a protector of law by many Americans most notably after the release of “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915. Blight also notes that black men were only invited to work the camp at the Fiftieth Anniversary, though his claim is somewhat misleading. Black veterans were not explicitly excluded from the Gettysburg reunion, but their attendance was not accounted for by the Pennsylvania Commission. A black New Jersey veteran who did attend noted there were quarters for the handful of black Union veterans at the camp, but not for the Confederacy and the handful of former slaves who appeared, who had served alongside their masters through the hardships of soldier life.

The theme of the Great Reunion was reunification of the North and the South, the admirable fraternization between former enemies. President Wilson’s speech focused on that ideal, though it certainly was not as powerful as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which continues to echo throughout American history as the ideological explanation for the purpose of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War, that the soldiers who died there did so to uphold American ideals for freedom and equality (Blight).  The Great Reunion captured Civil War memory in transition but did this symbolic reunification provide closure to the war for Americans? For the veterans who attended, yes; yet for American society, the ideals of what a citizen’s full rights should be were still a question left unanswered. Lincoln’s words, repeated in 1913 as they are today, should remind us daily of “the great task remaining before us” that memory can be a grand thing to behold, but the struggle for progress, which President Wilson spoke of,  did not necessarily mean true equality for all Americans but was merely an ideal buried by the laws of “separate but equal” that would dominate race relations for fifty more years.

-Tesia Kempski
Gettysburg National Military Park

Tesia is a summer intern in the Division of Interpretation at Gettysburg, about to begin her junior year at Wake Forest University this fall. During the summer she enjoyed her duties with park rangers at the information desk, assisted rangers with children’s programs and battle walks, and she provided guided tours in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

David Blight: Race and Reunion, The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001) 356.

John Heiser, Gettysburg NMP: “Sacred Trust Talks 2014”

Khan Academy, “The Progressive Era” at

“Lynchings during 1913” at

Woodrow Wilson: Address to Veterans of the Blue and Gray at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 4, 1913, in Lewis Beitler, ed.: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, report of the Pennsylvania Commission, December 31, 1913 (Harrisburg, PA: William Stanley Ray, State Printer, 1915), pp. 174-176.

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“Digging through old papers and such.” A Summer of Research at Gettysburg.

The park has been fortunate to have a friend in Dr. Carol Reardon, who recently retired from her position in the Department of History at Penn State. With her guidance and the assistance others, the Division of Interpretation has sponsored a research internship during the summer months where college students can acquire on the job research and writing skills while searching for what are often elusive resources related to the Battle of Gettysburg and the story of its evolution as a park.

Summer research interns at Gettysburg.

Research interns Arianna Sabatini, Joe Tinsley and Shane Billings with a small example of the material they researched and brought to the park this summer.

For eleven weeks this summer, Shane Billings (Penn State University), Joseph Tinsley (Allegheny College) and Arianna Sabatini (Allegheny College) took hold of their assignments and searched for textural and photographic resources in various depositories including the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Vermont State Archives as well as a handful of historical societies and other libraries. The primary resource material gathered and cataloged by these interns will be used by park rangers and writers to provide factual information and sources for ranger programs, exhibits in the Museum and Visitor Center, and educational outreach programs the park will provide in the next couple of years.

And just how important is this newly gathered information to the mission of the National Park Service at Gettysburg? More than one may realize! The park’s interpretive staff base their ranger programs on historical content from many sources, both primary and secondary sources housed in the library. Finding new documents such as soldier letters, unpublished memoirs and accounts, enhances the general knowledge of our understanding of battle events and adds the human element- the words of the soldier or civilian who witnessed the battle- to the story our rangers pass on to our park visitors. And while the internet and on line resources have provided historians with smoother access to historic materials and archival holdings, the most reliable method is still a visit to the facility to look at the original material first hand. Likewise, the research trips and organizing of research material accomplished by Shane, Arianna and Joe can be applied by them in their studies in the new school year. The experience they have during the summer months is invaluable to them as students and future professionals.

Joe and Shane transcribing textural materials/.

Transcribing letters and back checking the sources ensures accuracy.

A selection of the materials gathered and transcribed by Shane, Joe and Arianna this summer include papers of the honorable Edward Everett, (famous orator who spoke at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery on November 19, 1863), several letters related to Gettysburg written by soldiers after the battle, the medical case book of Dr. Henry Janes, chief surgeon in charge of Camp Letterman General Hospital at Gettysburg, individual Medal of Honor case files for a number of the soldiers given the award for exemplary actions at Gettysburg, and pension records for selected individual soldiers that will be used for ranger programs on Civil War medicine and post-battle treatment of the wounded. Overall, it was a very successful couple of weeks for our research interns and the park.

So, after all this time and with countless books, magazine articles, journal articles, and studies already published on the subject of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg National Cemetery, is there really more to be discovered about this great moment in our history?

Intern research, 2017

Arianna Sabatini (Allegheny College) compares a transcription with the original letter scanned from the collection of the Library of Congress.

We never stop learning. As the old saying goes, “What once was lost is now found,” and though some of the finds this summer may not upset the apple cart of battle history, the textural materials recovered by the research interns adds to the base of knowledge for Gettysburg’s rangers to further enhance the story of this great battle, it’s horrific aftermath, and provide further understanding of the American tragedy that was the Civil War. The National Park Service could not provide this story to our visitors without the hard work of our research interns and we certainly wish them good luck as they return to their college courses this fall, hopefully inspired by their experience this summer. The results of their hard work have certainly inspired us!

-John Heiser
Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park

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Gettysburg Artist in Residence to be at David Wills House Friday, July 7, 5-8 p.m.

Gettysburg National Military Park’s Artist-in-Residence William Bretzger will exhibit his work at the David Wills House this Friday, July 7 at 5:00-8:00 p.m.  The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Bretzger has been getting up every morning before the sun rises.  He’s been turning in after dark, too.  The reason? To capture what he calls that “perfect opportunity.”

More than sunrise and sunset photos at Gettysburg, Bretzger uses those moments at dawn and dusk as the foundation of light for his color photographs, which he enhances through a variety of onsite lighting to tell a story about what happened at a particular battlefield location.  His artistry highlights the landscapes and structures soldiers would have encountered as they crossed the fields at Gettysburg.


The Rose Barn at Gettysburg National Military Park. Image by William Bretzger (Copywritten).

In some instances, Bretzger projects an image of a person who has a direct connection to a particular monument or building.  In the span of just a short time, he manages to project an image, set up just the right lighting, and capture a feeling that puts a face to history.  His artwork includes images of General George Meade at the house Meade used as his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg.  It also includes 22-year-old Captain John Bigelow’s image on the 9th Massachusetts memorial where Bigelow was wounded.  And, there are even more images that define where a soldier fell or won renown.


Image of Captain John Bigelow on one of the three monuments to the 9th Massachusetts Battery at Gettysburg National Military Park. Art image by William Bretzger (Copywritten).

During the day, Bretzger uses black-and-white film to capture other stories he wants to share, too, developing the film alone in the basement of his temporary residence at one of the park’s historic houses.  “I thought it would be a challenge to set up a darkroom, but the house works out perfectly.  The basement is dark and there’s a large sink there for clean-up,” he said.

Bretzger is developing film in preparation for his exhibit at the David Wills House, Friday, July 7 at 5:00-8:00 p.m.  The exhibit is free and open to the public.  He plans to showcase his best artwork from his past few weeks at Gettysburg, and will be available to discuss his imagery, experiences, and techniques with visitors.

Bretzger works as a staff photographer at the News Journal and at Delaware Online, and has been visiting Gettysburg for more than 20 years.  “I’m just drawn to Gettysburg,” he said.  “From Delaware, it’s a long daytrip, so having the opportunity to be on location here and capture all these shots and these moods is amazing.  I am truly grateful for the opportunity.”   Bretzger thanked Gettysburg National Military Park, the Gettysburg Foundation, and the National Parks Arts Foundation.

“I’ve never worked on a project this long and this hard,” Bretzger said. “But, it’s been great.  I’ve always considered myself a photographer, but now I am happy to consider myself an artist.”

Gettysburg National Military Park’s artists in residence spend about one month living at Gettysburg National Military Park to inspire, expand, and develop their artwork related to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

Bretzger’s exhibit at the David Wills House is Friday, July 7 at 5:00-8:00 p.m.  The exhibit is free and open to the public.  For more information about the Artist in Residence program, call 717-334-1124, or go to

Article by Debbie Dortch, a public affairs specialist with Naval Supply Systems Command, on special assignment to Gettysburg National Military Park.  She has more than 20 years of experience in public affairs and publishing, including working at National Park Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C.


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Taking care of Gettysburg National Military Park with Jeff Miller and Dave Fawley

When you think of Gettysburg National Military Park, you’re likely envisioning fields upon which soldiers fought and died, the fences that surrounded the farms they traversed, and the farmhouses and barns  that became field hospitals.  These tangible reminders help tell the story of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.  But, have you ever thought about what it takes to keep these resources preserved?

Meet Jeff Miller and Dave Fawley from the park’s maintenance division.   Jeff’s been with Gettysburg National Military Park since 1986.  Dave is new by comparison with just about 10 years of service.  They spend most of their time doing carpentry work for the park’s 135 buildings related to the battlefield and early commemoration efforts spread throughout almost 6,000 acres. It’s the maintenance division that cares for the park grounds, buildings, and 1,205 structures (non-buildings).

Dave Fawley (left) and Jeff Miller stand next to a planer in the maintenance shop at Gettysburg National Military Park.

“There is always work to do,” Dave said.  “We prioritize projects based on those identified and funded, and do the best we can to ensure the historic structures here survive for future generations.”

Water is the biggest challenge facing the park’s structures today.  Porous, stone and dirt basements under houses, leaky roofs, and other exposed wood subjected to winters with snow and ice, to humid summers above 90 degrees Fahrenheit can rot wood, making regular care a must.  Jeff says he’s been spending most of his time working on roofs.  “We aim to keep the structures looking like they would have at the time of the battle.  If we have a photograph, that’s our guide for how to move forward with what kind of roofing is needed,” Jeff said.  “We use a lot of wood shingles.”

“A couple projects were a bit more challenging, like Meade’s Headquarters.  Those shingles are biaxial.   They weren’t very common here in 1863,” Jeff explained.  “We customize those shingles here on site from shingles we buy.  To get that look and the right angle for installation on the wood, we have to cut each one of them in a special way.”

In the mid-19th Century, not all shingles were laid in evenly spaced, overlapping, horizontal rows. In various regions of the country, there were distinct installation patterns. Biaxially-tapered, long shingles were found in areas settled by Germans. These long shingles were overlapped on the side as well as on top. This formed a ventilation channel under the shingles that aided drying, which could prolong their life.  In Gettysburg National Military Park, these shingles can also be seen on the Brian Barn.

“We customize other things, too,” Dave said.  “Siding, windows, shutters, sashes, cupulas, doors, storm doors—you name it.  The thing is, there was no standard in 1863, so we have to make things that will fit.  That’s what we do here in our shop.”

Workers replace the Trostle Barn roof.

Dave explained how he tried to get ahead of wood repair and restoration projects by making an inventory of projects early, before seasonal workers arrived in May to begin painting.  He assessed 26 structures.  “I wanted to be sure we could get repairs and restoration done before painting.  You don’t want to paint wood that’s rotting.”  Dave said he felt bad, though, that some of the work didn’t get done in time because he and his coworkers were pulled onto other projects.  “We do as much as we can.  It’s always a challenge, but the seasonal workers are great.  I don’t know what we would do without them.”

There are currently 22 full-time maintenance personnel at the park.  During the summer months, the park adds 18 seasonal maintenance workers.

Jeff noted that more structures have come into the park since he began working here, boosting the park’s responsibilities.  These structures and the properties on which they were built are within the park’s congressionally authorized boundary because of their historic significance to the Battle of Gettysburg.  They had been privately owned and have since been acquired by the National Park Service as part of its land preservation efforts.

During the spring, Dave and Jeff spent time working on the Bushman House, Gettysburg National Military Park’s only historic house available to visitors for short-term rentals.  “We spent a good six weeks getting the house ready for rental and we’re all really proud of it,” Dave said.  “It looks great.”

Workers on the roof of the Bushman House. The Bushman House is now available for visitor rentals at

Jeff said, “People are the best thing about working here.  Everybody is willing to share information.  Everybody is willing to help.  You just have to ask.  The people here really are great.”

“I have no plans to retire,” Dave said.  “Why would I retire?  I love it here.  How many people can say that about their jobs?”

[Note: The Bushman House is now available for visitor rentals at]

Article by Debbie Dortch, a public affairs specialist with Naval Supply Systems Command, on special assignment to Gettysburg National Military Park.  She has more than 20 years of experience in public affairs and publishing, including working at National Park Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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Park Watch with Rebecca Makdad and Sharon Krikorian

A few years ago, Rebecca and Sharon didn’t know each other.  They sat in a class together, not realizing they lived just minutes apart.  But, they had already made a connection.  They were both signing on to become “Park Watch” volunteers.

The Gettysburg National Military Park’s “Park Watch” program was established in 1996.   Park Watch volunteers work within the park boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site to assist law enforcement rangers with visitor safety and the protection of park resources. Volunteers assist ranger staff through an active program of patrolling park lands and boundaries and performing surveillance work to detect any evidence of illegal or suspicious activities. The volunteers serve as the “eyes and ears” of park law enforcement, report observations to the ranger on duty, and may assist with traffic and crowd control at special events and park incidents.

Sharon and Rebecca laugh about when they first started chatting with each other.  “I thought that man sitting next to Sharon was her husband,” Rebecca says.

“Oh, no,” Sharon laughs, and then she tells the story of how she set up a home in Gettysburg while her real husband tied up loose ends in the Philadelphia suburbs so the couple could retire in Gettysburg, just two hours from where she used to live.  “Well, then Rebecca and I started talking and we realized we had a lot in common, like we both live close to here; we’re both retired; we both have dogs.”

“So, somehow we connected and agreed to ride along with each other.  It makes the time go fast and we’ve talked about all kinds of things imaginable since we’ve been doing this,” Rebecca says.

“It’s like we’re Cagney and Lacey, or Lucy and Ethel,” Rebecca chuckles.

“We put about 40 miles on the car on the days we do Park Watch,” Sharon says.  “That way, we pretty much cover most of the areas of the battlefield.  We look for things like downed trees, damage to monuments, suspicious cars parked on the sides of the road or parked in odd places, but we don’t engage anyone, we just report to the ranges what we see.”

Rebecca says that they always ride with a radio, and if they go out on foot to explore, the radio goes with them.

Sharon says as we’re driving, “This is my absolute favorite part of the park –the Wheatfield. I just love it here.  From the first time I saw it, I just felt this was the place for me.”

Rebecca laughs and says, “She’s not kidding.  Look at her license plate.”  Sure enough, on later inspection, I noted it spelled out Wheatfield, in an abbreviated way, of course.

Looking across the Wheatfield at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Sharon explains how she’s adopted seven monuments at the Wheatfield, taking care of them, like clearing weeds around them.

“My favorite is Sallie,” Rebecca says.  “You can’t even see her from the road, but I make sure I visit her every time I’m here, even when I’m here on my own time walking my dog.  She gives that real human connection to the men who fought here.  I like hearing about how they lived and how they cared about the same things we care about. It’s the human interest stories that I really like.”

A representation of Sallie Ann Jerret behind the 11th Pennsylvania monument.

Sallie Ann Jerret was the Pit Bull Terrier mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry.  Sallie accompanied her soldiers throughout almost the entire war, even into the fighting, barking at the enemy.  She saw action in each of her regiment’s engagements and even guarded her wounded and dead companions. In a February 1865 battle, she was struck by a bullet and killed. Legend says that despite being under heavy fire, several soldiers put aside their arms to bury her on the spot.   Sallie meant so much to the men of the 11th Pennsylvania infantry that when the veterans of the 11th erected their monument at Gettysburg in 1890, a life-size bronze statue of Sallie was included, recalling the soldiers who fought beside her and those whom she guarded on Gettysburg’s fields.

A look at the 11th Pennsylvania Monument from behind.

“People leave dog biscuits on the monument for Sallie.  It’s a nice gesture, of course, but people don’t realize those biscuits can damage the monument as they disintegrate,” Rebecca said.  “They also leave money, which damages the monuments, too.”

“What happens to the money?” I asked.

“We collect it and put back in the [Gettysburg National Military Park] visitors center’s donation bin.  Last year we collected about $70 dollars.  I bet we’ll find some money today.  Sallie is like a cash cow.  People always pay their respects there,” Rebecca said.

We stop to see Sallie, but no money today.  “Somebody must have collected it before we did,” Rebecca says.

“Most days are uneventful,” Sharon notes.  “But, that’s a good thing.  There really aren’t many problems here.  But, one day we came across some guy laying in the grass on the side of the road.  We thought it was strange, so we drove by a second time to see if he was okay.  He was still laying there. We could tell he was alive, but it was just weird—right there on the side of the road.  So, we called a law enforcement ranger, who checked it out, and later told us the guy said he was just taking a nap.  People can do that, but it was just a weird location, right on the side of the road!”

Sharon and Rebecca explain that they carry tour books and are happy to help visitors find their way if they appear to be lost or looking for something specific.

We continue through the park, looking for things that look out of place.  Rebecca knows all the places people like to place coins, like in the hoof of General Longstreet’s horse, where we pick up 47 cents.

“We’re going to take a little walk through the cemetery, today, too, since it’s such a beautiful, sunny day.” Sharon says.  So, we make our way there.

We file past the numbered stones representing dead soldiers who were never able to be identified but no coins today.

Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 3,500 known and unknown Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg.  Between 1989 and 1968, the government added sections to accommodate the graves of veterans from the Spanish-American War, Would Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  Today, more than 6,000 veterans lay at rest in the national cemetery.

“Now, the Lincoln Monument is always full of pennies,” Rebecca said.  And, sure enough, it was.  Some were even stuck in the crevices and we couldn’t get them out.  Of the ones retrievable, there were enough pennies there to bring the day’s donations to $1 dollar exactly.

“People see us doing this and they give us the strangest looks,” Sharon said.  “But, you know, the coins can’t stay there.  Somebody has to collect them.”

“Sometimes, I’ll tell people we’re Park Watch volunteers and what we’re doing,” Rebecca said. “I mean, it’s not like we’re here collecting beer money,” she laughs.

“We really enjoy Park Watch,” Sharon says.  It’s absolutely the perfect volunteer job because I get to meet new people, I get to socialize, I set my own hours, and I know I’m helping preserve the park for future generations.”

“I feel good knowing we’re helping the law enforcement rangers,” Rebecca adds.  “They really appreciate the help volunteers provide and I feel good knowing I can be of service.  And, like Sharon said, it really is the perfect volunteer opportunity.  Plus, Sharon and I love doing this together.”

“We try to get here for Park Watch every week,” Sharon adds.  “We just love it.”

At this time, the Park Watch program is full. When a new recruiting class is announced, that information will be posted at


Article by Debbie Dortch, a public affairs specialist with Naval Supply Systems Command,  on special assignment to Gettysburg National Military Park.  She has more than 20 years’ experience in public affairs and publishing, including working at National Park Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C.



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154th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg – Schedule of Events

ela_sunrisesort-21The three day Battle of Gettysburg marked a turning point not only in the course of the American Civil War, but also for the future of the United States of America. Join Park Rangers and Licensed Battlefield Guides during the 154th Anniversary for a series of free guided walks and talks that discuss, explore, and reflect on this important chapter in our nation’s history.

Note: On all park avenues please park your vehicle on the right side of the road, unless otherwise directed, with all wheels on the pavement. Schedule is subject to change.

Daily Ranger-Guided Programs
Saturday, July 1 – Monday, July 3

Battlefield in a Box: An Overview (30 minutes) – Become part of the battlefield in this interactive overview program! Join a National Park Ranger and build a map of the battlefield using props. This program is perfect for the first time visitor wanting a better understanding of the battle. Meet at Ranger Program Site 1, daily at 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M.

Lincoln and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery (40 minutes) – Explores the meaning and cost of the Battle of Gettysburg, and of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Find out how the National Cemetery was established, who is buried there, and why Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still has meaning for us today. Meet at the Taneytown Road entrance to the National Cemetery, daily at 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.

Care of the Wounded (1 hour) – Over 27,000 soldiers were wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg. Explore how these men were evacuated, treated, and ultimately, how most of their lives were saved. Meet at Ranger Program Site 2 behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 3:00 P.M.

Civil War Soldier (1 hour) – Over 160,000 soldiers participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. Find out why they enlisted, why they fought, and what they endured during the four years of the American Civil War. Meet at Ranger Program Site 1 behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 2:00 P.M.


Family Activities and Hands on History
Saturday, July 1 – Monday, July 3

During the 154th Anniversary children of all ages can visit the Family Activities and Hands on History station at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Discover hands-on history stations, hourly special guest appearances called “Mystery History Guest”, and “Join the Army” programs to learn more about the people involved in, and affected by, the battle of Gettysburg.
Hands on History Play a 19th century parlor game, learn what soldiers did in their spare time, and dress up like kids who lived in the 1860’s! All this and more at our special Hands on History station! July 1-3, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Mystery History Guest (30 minutes) Meet a special visitor from the past as they share their memories of the Battle of Gettysburg! July 1-2, 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 a.m

Join the Army! (30 minutes) Attention! Recruits are needed to enlist in the Union army! Join now and learn what it meant to be a soldier during the Civil War. This program is for children ages 5-13 only, and held outside of the Museum and Visitor Center. July 1-2: 11:00 a.m, 12:00 a.m.

Story Time! (30 minutes) Join a Park Educator as they read aloud from a picture book, or parts of a chapter book, followed by an indoor game, activity, or visitor from the past… and then instructions for an outdoor adventure with your family!     1:00 p.m. July 1: B is For Battle Cry, July 2: The Last Brother, July 3: I am Abraham Lincoln
Family History Hikes
Park Educators Barbara Sanders and John Hoptak will lead these special hour long programs just for children and their families. Follow in the footsteps of key units and leaders during fighting at Gettysburg and discover the amazing stories of real people who took part in the Battle of Gettysburg.

July 1, 2:00 p.m.
Sacrifice and the 16th Maine

On the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the 275 soldiers of the 16th Maine were told to hold their position “at all costs.” The regiment knew it was to be sacrificed in order to buy some critical time. Discover the sacrifice of the 16th Maine and assume the identity of one of its soldiers.

Meet and park at Auto Stop 2, Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

July 2, 2:00 p.m.
Courage and the 9th Massachusetts Battery

How did the soldiers of the 9th Massachusetts respond and act during their very first battle? With remarkable courage! Come learn the story of these brave artillerists and retrace their route while they battled valiantly against hundreds of hard-charging, veteran soldiers from South Carolina and Mississippi.

Meet at Auto Tour Stop 10, the Peach Orchard. Park along Sickles Avenue. Do Not Park along the Wheatfield Road.

July 3, 2:00 p.m.
Pickett’s Charge!

It is, perhaps, the most famous attack in American Military History! On the afternoon of July 3, 1863, more than 12,000 Confederate Soldiers from Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee advance bravely across a mile of open ground and toward the Union position on Cemetery Ridge, in an attack Robert E. Lee believed would crush the Union army. March in the footsteps of these brave soldiers and learn why this attack has become so famous!

Meet at Auto Tour Stop 4, the North Carolina Memorial. Park along West Confederate Avenue.
Spangler farm 2015

Special Programs – Saturday, July 1

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.

10:00 a.m.
Robert E. Lee:  The General and his Decisions

With the hopes of a nation riding upon his shoulders, Lee crossed the Potomac for a date with a destiny!  Join Park Ranger Matt Atkinson as he traces Lee’s decisions and movements from June 25 until the sun sets on the July 1 battlefield.  Topics include Lee’s angst over the absence of Jeb Stuart, Richard Ewell the controversy over whether or not to attack Cemetery Hill and the condition of Lee’s army to continue the offensive.

Meet at Auto Tour Stop 1, McPherson Ridge.  Park on Reynolds Avenue.

 2:30 p.m.
McPherson’s Ridge to Seminary Ridge: Fighting, Folklore and Photos

The famous fight on July 1, 1863, in McPherson’s woods has long garnered the attention of Civil War enthusiasts, but that is only part of the story. Join Licensed Battlefield Guides Garry Adelman and Tim Smith for a lively discussion of not only the colorful characters and key units involved in the fight, but also the numerous myths and legends that have formed around the events and the photographic coverage of the sites as this critical battleground became the hallowed ground we know today. Reynolds Woods, the path of John Burns—the Hero of Gettysburg—and a special visit to the newly restored Lee’s Headquarters will be among the highlights. The walk will involve roughly one mile of walking over rolling terrain.

Meet at Auto Your Stop 1.  Park on South Reynolds Avenue.

6:00 p.m.
“These Honored Dead:” A Memorial Walk

More than 3,100 United States soldiers, wearing the Union blue, gave their lives during the three-day struggle at Gettysburg. Their deaths, as Abraham Lincoln eulogized in his immortal Gettysburg Address, helped to ensure a “new birth of freedom,” that this “nation might live,” and that its government—of, by, and for the people—“shall not perish from the earth.” Join National Park Service Rangers John Hoptak, Christopher Gwinn, Caitlin Brown and Jarrad Fuoss for this special evening walk and discover the stories of several of those men who offered up their lives upon these fields 154 years ago. Learn about who they were, why they served, and who they left behind.

Meet at Auto Tour Stop 12, the Pennsylvania Memorial.  Park on Sedgwick and Hancock Avenue.

Real Time Programs
These 30- to 45-minute programs provide a brief overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time they occurred, 154 years ago.

9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.      The Devil’s to Pay! Buford’s Cavalry Begins the Battle – Zach Siggins
Meet at the West End Guide Station. Park on Stone Avenue.

10:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.  Battle for the Railroad Cut – John Nicholas     
Meet at the General Wadsworth Monument on Reynolds Avenue. Park along N. Reynolds Avenue.

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.    With the Bucktails on McPherson Ridge – Daniel Vermilya
Meet at the West End Guide Station. Park on Stone Avenue

3:45 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.    Gordon’s Brigade Attacks Barlow’s Knoll – Chuck Teague      
Meet at Barlow’s Knoll, East Howard Avenue. Park along East Howard Avenue.

5:00 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.    Caught in the Crossfire: The Civilian Experience on July 1st   – Emma Murphy
Meet at the Howard Equestrian Monument, East Cemetery Hill

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the anniversary of the battle Park Rangers will host hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the events of 154 years ago. Held at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

“General Lee Decides to Fight It Out: His Thoughts, Plans, and Actions Between the End of Combat on July 1 and His Attacks on July 2.”

The Confederate army tumbled unexpectedly into heavy fighting on July 1, and it wasn’t until late that day that Lee himself assumed direct command of the field.  The successes then prompted Lee to continue the offensive in a more intentional and calculated way the next day. Ranger Chuck Teague will venture into the head of Marse Robert as he strives for ultimate victory at Gettysburg.


Special Programs – Sunday, July 2

62nd Pennsylvania Flag Re-dedication
10:00 a.m., Auto Tour Stop 9, The Wheatfield
Join representatives from the Borough of Hollidaysburg, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for a re-dedication ceremony of the recently rediscovered flag of Company M, 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Raised in Blair County in July 1861, Company M served in many of the eastern campaigns to include Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. The flag is being returned to the Wheatfield on the 154th Anniversary of the Battle where the 62nd Regiment fought at Gettysburg on July 2nd 1863.

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.   

10:00 a.m.
“…gallantly met and handsomely replied…” – The Floridians Attack

As the Confederate assault on the Union left developed, more and more units were needed to carry home the attack. With afternoon daylight hours waning and the assault moving further northward toward Cemetery Ridge, the 2nd, 5th, and 8th Florida of Col. David Lang’s brigade was sent into the fray. The Floridians faced “grape, canister, and musketry” as they swept towards Federal positions. Follow in the footsteps of the Florida Brigade on July 2, 1863 with Ranger Dan Welch.

Meet at the Florida Monument, West Confederate Avenue. Park on West Confederate Avenue.

 2:30 p.m.
We Drop a Comrade’s Tear: Col. Edward L. Bailey and the 2nd New Hampshire in the Peach Orchard

Join Ranger Karlton Smith and explore the story of the 2nd New Hampshire, one of the oldest regiments in the Army of the Potomac with one of the youngest regimental commanders, into the swirling action at the Peach Orchard on the afternoon of July 2. Learn how Col. Bailey extricates his regiment from the chaos of a fighting withdrawal.

Meet at the Trostle Barn on United States Avenue. Park along United States Avenue.

6:00 p.m.
“The Boys Fought Like Demons” – The Stand of the 105th Pennsylvania

Many Union and Confederate regiments found themselves embroiled in crisis south of Gettysburg on the evening of July 2. The 105th Pennsylvania, also known as the “Wildcat Regiment”, was certainly one of them. Join Licensed Battlefield Guide Britt Isenberg and discover the role the men of the Wildcat Regiment played in the fighting along the Emmitsburg Road on July 2 at Gettysburg… and, what it all means.

Meet at the Sickles’ Wound Monument at the Trostle Barn.  Park along United States Avenue.

Real Time Programs

These 30 to 45-minute programs provide an overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time at which they occurred 154 years ago.


8:30 a.m. – 9:15 p.m.                 Lee and Meade Plan for Battle  – Angie Atkinson         
Meet at the North Carolina Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 4. Park on West Confederate Avenue.

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.                Sickles Occupies the Peach Orchard    –  Daniel Vermilya
Meet at the Peach Orchard. Park on Sickles Avenue. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

4:15 p.m.  – 4:45 p.m.               The Battle for Little Round Top – Savannah Rose        
Meet at the Warren Statue, Auto Tour Stop 8, on Little Round Top.

5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.                Fight for the Triangular Field   –  John Nicholas
Meet at Smith’s Battery, Devil’s Den. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

5:45 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.                The Boys who Came Home to FightCo. K, 1st PA Reserves  – Caitlin Brown  
Meet at Ayres Avenue, The Wheatfield. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.                Last Stand at the Trostle Farm  – Philip Brown
Meet at the Trostle Barn. Park on United States Avenue.

7:20 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.                 Redemption of the Harpers Ferry Cowards – Greg Hillebrand   
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 12, The Pennsylvania Memorial. Park along Hancock Avenue.
8:15 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.                Night Fighting on Culp’s Hill – Brian Henry
Meet at the Culp’s Hill Tower, Slocum Avenue, Culp’s Hill

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the anniversary of the battle Park Rangers will host hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the events of 154 years ago. Held at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

Colonels in War, Governors in Peace: Joshua Chamberlain and William Oates after Gettysburg

The fight between the 20th Maine and the 15th Alabama on Little Round Top is among the most famous incidents of the Battle of Gettysburg, if not the American Civil War. What is less well known is what each regiment’s leader—Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and William Calvin Oates—did following the end of the conflict. Both men went on to become governor of his respective state, and both played a large role in the politics of Reconstruction and in shaping the memory of the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War. Join Ranger Daniel Vermilya and discover the post-war political careers of these two fascinating individuals.


Special Programs – Monday, July 3

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.   

10:00 a.m.
“The Lesson of a Famous Battlefield” – The Battle of Gettysburg and the Great Reunion of 1913

From battlefield to national military park, Gettysburg was slowly transformed from a site of indescribable violence to a memorial dedicated to those two armies that fought the most costly battle of the American Civil War. Fifty years after the armies marched away, many of those who had faced death at Gettysburg returned- older and perhaps wiser, bearing smiles for the press photographers while others, less inclined to “the niceties of the gathering” held back tears. The old men gazed at the field of Pickett’s Charge, just as we do today, and pondered the meaning of those three bloody days in July 1863 and, as old soldiers often do, remembered  this battle, their part in it, and asked whether its significance and the lessons they learned at Gettysburg would be lost as the years passed.  Join NPS historian John Heiser as we retrace the story of the battle, Pickett’s Charge, and the Great Reunion of 1913 when veterans of the Civil War made Gettysburg a place of national reunification.

Meet at Zieglers Grove, National Cemetery Parking Lot.  Park along North Hancock Avenue and at the National Cemetery Parking Lot. 

2:30 p.m.
Pickett’s Charge & African American History

Since the end of the American Civil War 152 years ago, endless debates have asked whether slavery alone caused the conflict, or were there additional causes – such as the rise of industrialism, modernism, capitalism and nationalism, and the demands each one placed on the United States. Additional causes can be argued, and have been argued, but one fact remains, the greatest single outcome of the Civil War was freedom to 4 million slaves. Whether it is conceded the war begin only over slavery, or a combination of factors, the final outcome was a New Birth of Freedom for African Americans. It is in this spirit that we look at Pickett’s Charge through the eyes of African American history. We will walk the sacred route that Pickett, Pettigrew and Trimble’s men followed on July 3, 1863, not as judges, but as non-partisans who simply want to find traces of African American history woven into the fabric of the pivotal hour in American History, where a new American identity was born. Join Ranger Troy Harman for this 1 mile, 2 hour walk.

Meet at Auto Tour Stop 5, the Virginia Memorial. Park along West Confederate Avenue.

6:00 p.m.
“Fury On The Bliss Farm”

Learn about the forgotten struggle for the William Bliss farm. Located in between the lines, on July 2 & 3, 1863, the incongruously named farm was a no-man’s land that changed hands some ten times – possibly more than any other ground at Gettysburg. Join Licensed Battlefield Guide John Archer and discover how this struggle impacted Lee’s plan for victory, the lives of those who fought there, and the Bliss family.

Meet at the Abraham Brian House on Hancock Ave. Park on Hancock Ave. and at the National Cemetery Parking Lot.

Real Time Programs
These 30- to 45-minute programs provide a brief overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time at which they occurred 153 years ago.

8:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.                 Morning Attack at Spangler Meadow – Dan Welch
Meet at the Auto Tour Stop 13, Spangler’s Spring.
Park on East Confederate and Williams Avenue.

9:45 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.              Lee and Longstreet at Odds  – Greg Hillebrand
Meet at the Peach Orchard. Park on North Sickles or United States Avenue.
Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.             Horses and Sabers: East Cavalry Field – Tom Holbrook Meet at the Ranger Program Sign on Confederate Cavalry Avenue.
Park on Confederate Cavalry Avenue.

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.                The Cannonade – Jarrad Fuoss
Meet at the Virginia Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 5. Park on West Confederate Avenue

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.                “A Desperate Thing to Attempt:” Pickett’s Charge Hike – Greg Hillebrand
Meet at the Virginia Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 5. Park on West Confederate Avenue

3:45 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.                Fight for the Angle –  Emma Murphy                                        Meet at the High Water Mark, Auto Tour Stop 15. Park on Hancock Avenue.

6:00 p.m.  – 6:30 p.m.               Culp’s Hill – The Face of Battle – Philip Brown
Meet at Culp’s Hill Tower, Culp’s Hill.  Park on Slocum Avenue.

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the anniversary of the battle Park Rangers will host hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the events of 154 years ago. Held at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

The Stories Behind the Numbers
Fifty thousand people became casualties during the 3-day Battle of Gettysburg. But what does the word “casualty” mean? Who were the people that were forever affected by the battle? Join Park Ranger Caitlin Brown as she explores the personal accounts of soldiers and civilians who were forced to deal with the horrific aftermath of Gettysburg and how these individuals are much more than mere statistics.

Schedule Subject to Change.
For more information visit or call (717) 334-1124

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Operational Update – Spring 2017

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Improving Water Quality on the Gettysburg Battlefield

Trail near Patterson pasture

A runner along the Taneytown Road Trail with the Patterson pasture in the background.

“We all live downstream.” You have probably heard this before and it is very true. The quality of the water we drink, the waters we swim in on a hot summer day and the waters we fish in is determined by our upstream neighbors. During the Civil War more soldiers died of diseases than as a direct result of battle action. Many of those diseases were water-borne such as dysentery, cholera and hepatitis. The waterways that flowed through the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863 still flow through it today. The soldiers drank from Rock Creek, Plum Run, Willoughby Run and other waterways and springs. Would you drink directly from these waters?

PattersonPastureBlogMapToday’s modern day threats to clean water are numerous. Gettysburg and surrounding Adams County are located within the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay, a bay famous as a nursery for things that we humans love to eat such as crabs, oysters and tasty fish. The bay


Biologist Dafna Reiner at one of the new stone crossings over Patterson Branch.

has also become infamous for “dead zones” like the one a few years ago that caused a massive fish kill of over a quarter of a million fish. These dead zones are caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus. The most common source of this over nitrification is agricultural runoff from fertilizers and animal waste. The National Park Service is entrusted with the responsibility of being a good steward of the Gettysburg battlefield and along with that comes the responsibility of taking care of the waters that flow through it, waters that eventually drain downstream into the Chesapeake Bay.

Patterson Pasture

Looking west from the Patterson pasture, with the Patterson house in the background.  Taneytown Road is just beyond the house.

In 2016 Gettysburg National Military Park partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Adams County Conservation District to protect the waters that flow through one of the park’s active pastures. The Patterson Pasture is home to 15 horses for seven months during the growing season. Visitors can see this pasture as they walk the paved trail along Taneytown road, close to where it turns to cross Taneytown Rd into Pleasonton Ave. A grant to the permit holder who leases this pasture from the park funded the installation of a fence and two stone crossings. The fence excludes the horses from a

Patterson House 2017

The Patterson house with its surrounding pasture. This photo was taken from the field just across Taneytown Road.

forested corridor along a murmuring waterway that runs through the pasture. Excluding horses from this corridor eliminates soil erosion into the stream and deposition of animal waste into and close to the waterway. The two stone crossings give the horses access to both sides of the pasture and to drinking water. Less nitrogen input from animal waste and less erosion mean cleaner waters inside the park, cleaner waters for the park’s neighbors downstream and for the fish and wildlife who call the Chesapeake Bay home.

Dafna Reiner, Biologist, Gettysburg National Military Park, March 23, 2017

Posted in Battlefield Farms, Natural History | Tagged , | 2 Comments

“The enemy were on the gun and limber…” Gunner John Norwood’s narrow escape at Gettysburg.

One of most harrowing stories of the battle of Gettysburg is the experience of the 9th Massachusetts Battery. Told again and again through publications and by the monuments that mark the battery’s position at the park, it’s near destruction adjacent to the Abraham Trostle farm buildings on July 2, 1863, was documented not only in reports by the survivors but also by Alexander Gardner’s camera- the disturbing photograph of bloated carcasses of artillery horses splayed over the site of the battery’s last stand that horrid afternoon.

Trostle Farm 1863

The Abraham Trostle Farm house photographed by Alexander Gardner soon after the battle, the scene where the 9th Massachusetts Battery made its final stand on July 2, 1863. (LOC)

After retiring by prolong from their first position on the Wheatfield Road, the battery halted to limber their guns in the small orchard south of the Trostle farm buildings. But in the mad dash through the gate in the stone wall near the house, the first gun overturned, completely blocking the only way out. Though an additional piece was able to drive over the wall itself to escape, the remaining four were trapped. Immediately the gunners unlimbered “into battery” and the fight for their very lives began as the 21st Mississippi Infantry swept upon them like a lightning bolt.

It was unrestrained violence. Blasts of canister from the guns were answered by a storm of rifle fire that laced man and animal alike. Harnessed to their limbers, the horses fell in heaps, their groans of alarm mixed with the hellish roar of guns and small arms, shouting gunners and drivers, and the high pitched rebel yell. Captain John Bigelow, commanding the doomed battery, was shot from his horse and looked up to see gray-clad Mississippians standing on the limbers, shooting point blank into his trapped gunners and drivers, all scrambling to escape the trap in this bloody corner of Trostle’s orchard.

Veteran John Norwood

(Lawrence Biographical Register)

In the tumult of battle, gunner John K. Norwood was serving his piece when every gunner around him was shot down. Born in Maine, the twenty four year-old Norwood had moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts to start a new life and was a clerk in a dry goods business when he volunteered for service in 1862. He and several others from Lawrence were assigned to the 9th Battery, in which he proved efficient enough to be a gunner. The somewhat harsh and difficult training he and his mates had received under Captain John Bigelow the previous winter had served him well in his first major battle but nothing could have prepared him for this- a tide of howling Confederates bent on destroying him and those who stood by the guns and limbers.

Orders were shouted to get out as quickly as possible and as he and a driver were desperately trying to limber the number five gun, Norwood, “was shot through the lungs,” the bullet crashing through his chest and lodging near his spine. “No one else there and the remaining horses shot(,) the enemy were on the gun and limber, and a color bearer mounted the limber and waved his flag.” Norwood collapsed by the trail of gun, the melee continuing around him as he crawled under the piece to take advantage of what little shelter it offered. Fortunately, Private Ralph Blaidsell, unharmed at the moment, saw his comrade fall and crawled to Norwood as the Confederates passed through the wreckage in pursuit of retreating Federals. Blaidsell instructed Norwood to lay still, he would follow the Confederate line to fetch water for his wounded comrade. The handful of Confederates milling about let Blaidsell pass to bring water back to Norwood and during a brief lull in the fighting, assisted the wounded soldier, “fifty yards to the shelter of a large tree and bowlder(sic) under it.” In the final minutes of the fighting at dusk, retreating Confederates took shelter on the other side of the boulder and fired over it at pursuing Federal troops who recaptured the battery’s abandoned guns. [i]

Norwood's Rock- Holland sketch

Holland’s sketch of the severely wounded Pvt. Norwood behind the boulder in Trostle’s field. (S. McClintock Collection)

Unable to be taken off the field that night, the weak and exhausted Norwood stayed behind the shelter of the boulder “where he lay and kept the wound wet all night” with the precious water Blaidsell had brought him. Early the next morning and with the assistance of a Confederate skirmisher, Norwood stumbled into the Trostle house to take shelter along with a handful of other wounded men. It was not until that evening could the severely injured soldiers be reached and taken to a farm on the Baltimore Pike.[i]

Norwood survived his terrible wound but never returned to the battery or the army. Discharged for disability on February 1, 1864, he went home to Lawrence with the Confederate bullet that Union surgeons could not extract without killing him still lodged in his chest. It would be another three years before he was strong enough to try his hand at business again. In 1867, Mr. Norwood opened an insurance company in Lawrence, the same year his son Kendall was born followed by a daughter ten years later. The prosperous businessman was elected president of civic organizations, active in the Grand Army of the Republic as a member in good standing of GAR Post 39 in Lawrence, and soon after elected president of the 9th Massachusetts Battery Association.

In the spring of 1883, for the first time since the battle, John Norwood stood again on the spot where his battery met their bloody test and where he barely survived the gunshot wound through his lungs. As part of an excursion to mark the locations for Massachusetts monuments at Gettysburg, it was his responsibility to agree on the site where the battery’s monument should stand. His visit had to be somewhat of a shock for the battlefield had changed over time and a disagreement ensued with John Bachelder, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association’s historian, on where the monument should go. Not satisfied with Colonel Bachelder’s choice, he returned the following year with a committee composed of former members of the battery. Among them was veteran Richard Holland of North Bridgewater (Brockton, MA), an Irish-born immigrant who had settled in Massachusetts and answered the same call for volunteers in 1862 as did Norwood. It was a congenial relationship that began during their first weeks in service with the 9th Massachusetts Battery.

Holland was one three artists who served with the battery; Charles Reed and Isaac Eaton being the other two, both recognized in the post war period for their soldier art while Holland enjoyed drawing and painting landscapes. As the men walked the field where their old battery had fought, the stories of each man’s experiences were passed and as they stood near the corner of the fateful field near Trostle’s house, Norwood related his experience in taking shelter behind the large boulder under the tree and how he survived the night, finishing his description of the farm on the Baltimore Pike where he was taken to for medical care.

Norwood- Trostle House

Holland’s second sketch of Norwood behind his boulder near the Trostle House. (S. McClintock Collection)

Returning to Massachusetts, the committee proposed not just one monument but three to mark where the battery had so valiantly served on July 2 and 3 on the Gettysburg battlefield. The additions were reviewed and approved by the state committee.  Dedicated on October 19, 1885, the monument to the 9th Massachusetts Battery stands on the Wheatfield Road with second position markers in Ziegler’s Grove and at the Trostle Farm next to the site of the gateway that foiled the battery’s escape from Barksdale’s Mississippians on July 2.

After a remarkable and successful life, Mr. Norwood passed away in 1914 at the age of 77 years and was buried in Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence, the southern bullet that almost killed him at Gettysburg still lodged in his chest. Fortunately the remarkable story of his night on the field of battle and the boulder that sheltered him was preserved in the history of the battery written by Levi Baker, published in 1888.

Norwood's boulder, Trotle Farm

The boulder that sheltered the wounded Norwood, March 2017 (Gettysburg NMP)

Something about his comrade’s story must have inspired Holland who compiled a sketchbook of Gettysburg subjects soon after their visit to the field in 1883 that included water color illustrations of John Norwood and his protector- the large granite boulder and tall tree adjacent to Trostles’ orchard. The tree that shaded the injured soldier has long been gone from this site and though time and weather have played hard on this particular boulder, which fits perfectly in the field among other rocks and rounded blocks of granite that jut through the soil, it is different because it has a personal story. And now, a specific identity.

Trostle Farm

Norwood’s boulder near the Trostle House, March 2017 (Gettysburg NMP)

Like so many of the silent witnesses of the battlefield, it takes time and sometimes a good dose of luck to uncover that unique story and be able to share it. Mr. Holland and Mr. Norwood would not have it any other way.

-John Heiser
Gettysburg National Military Park

Author’s note: Richard Holland’s work fell into obscurity after his death in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1905 though several paintings he did for the Brockton City Hall are still on exhibition there today.  We sincerely thank Mrs. Selma McClintock for the loan of his sketches to illustrate our story.

[i] Levi W. Baker, History of the Ninth Massachusetts Battery (Framingham, MA: Lakeview Press, 1888), p.75.

[i] Ibid., p.75

Posted in 9th Massachusetts Battery, Battlefield Farms, Battlefield Legends and Lore, Gettysburg Art, Historical Memory, Veterans | Tagged , | 9 Comments