Gettysburg Seminar Papers


The Story of the Gettysburg Civilians
by Timothy H. Smith

During the first three days of July 1863, the fate of a nation seemed to hang in the balance as two great armies met in the fields just north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The turning point of the American Civil War, as it has come to be called, was fought in and around a crossroads town known as Gettysburg. Although most people are familiar with the battle, and many have studied it in great detail, very few know anything about the town from which it derives its name. And many will be surprised to learn that the few facts that are commonly written about the town are usually wrong.

The best known of these "facts" is the Confederate Army came to Gettysburg to get shoes from the large factory that was located there. Probably one of the greatest myths in American history it refuses to die despite the overwhelming documentation that no such factory existed in the town of Gettysburg, or anywhere in Adams County in 1863. The assertion that the battle started because some Confederate soldiers stumbled into the Union army while looking for this shoe factory, totally ignores the fact that three days earlier, on June 28, Robert E. Lee, ordered his "whole force" to "concentrate at Gettysburg." [2]

Another common misconception is that the town of Gettysburg was a small unimportant farm community with no strategic significance. At the time of the battle, Gettysburg was the seat of Adams County and by far its largest town. With its central location, and the roads leading into it, this crossroads became a critical junction for both armies. As the end of June, 1863 approached, Gettysburg was mentioned again and again in the dispatches and correspondence of both armies. [3] Lesser known is the fact that in the days prior to the battle, parts of both armies actually passed through the town (Early's Division of the Confederate Army on June 26, and Copeland's Brigade of Union cavalry on June 28). With both armies moving on roads that led directly to the town it was no "accident" or coincidence that the battle occurred in Gettysburg.

Of course, the misconception that concerns this paper is the role the civilians of Gettysburg and the surrounding countryside played in the battle. Over the years, many authors have inflicted a great injustice against the local population by quoting statements written shortly after the battle by reporters who had no idea what it was really like to be in town during the preceding two weeks. Before examining specific charges made by these individuals however, an understanding of the experience undergone by the townspeople is crucial.

Located less than ten miles from the Mason-Dixon Line, Gettysburg was a border town and since the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 townspeople lived in constant fear of a Confederate invasion. Several times the rumors of approaching Rebels threw the town into a panic, and in October of 1862, General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry passed within a few miles of Gettysburg on a raid through southern Pennsylvania. The invasion in June of 1863 started a mass exodus of supplies and horses east from Gettysburg across the Susquehanna River, as farmers and merchants wanted to be sure their property did not fall into Rebel hands. A division of the Confederate army under the command of Gen. Jubal Early passed through and held the town for ransom on June 26th. And of course, during the first three days of July 1863, Union and Confederate forces engaged in mortal combat, swelling the population in and around the town by more than 160,000.

Any food that could be found was eaten, and thousands of thirsty throats drank many wells dry. In the aftermath of battle, the town and surrounding country became a giant hospital in which the wounded outnumbered the civilians almost ten to one. With the departure of the armies, and the lack of doctors, food and provisions, problems in caring for the wounded quickly arose. One visitor recalled that the town, and vicinity for eight or ten miles around was "literally one vast and overcrowded hospital. In the town every available space has been freely given up by the citizens to the sufferers." [4]

With the railroads in southern Pennsylvania out of commission, having been destroyed by the invaders, much needed supplies from the outside world were only trickling in. The task of just giving each wounded soldier in town a drink of water everyday was an enormous one. A reporter for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, one of the first to visit the town after the battle, wrote on July 5th:

The people here are starving, the rebels having robbed them of everything, and the farmers cannot bring in provisions because their horses are either stolen or removed out of the way of thieves. It is expected by to-morrow or next day some relief will arrive. At present the people suffer, and some of our wounded have not eaten since the 1st or 2nd instant; the women and children have been living in the cellars of their homes and are just beginning to emerge from their dismal hiding places. [5]

What the town needed was help, and fast. What was not needed were the sightseers and gawkers who, in great numbers quickly poured into the town, expecting to be fed and lodged. As an example, one citizen complained in her diary shortly after the battle that "the town is as full as ever of strangers, and the old story of the inability of a village of twenty-five hundred inhabitants, overrun and eaten out by two large armies, to accommodate from ten to twelve thousand visitors, is repeated almost hourly." In another entry she wrote in frustration that "the town would not hold all who, from various motives, visit the battlefield." [6] On July 15, 1863, apparently in response to this problem, the correspondent for the Philadelphia Public Ledger wrote from Gettysburg "a word of well meant advice."

Let no one come to this place for the simple purpose of seeing. To come here, merely to look at the wounded and dying exhibits a most vitiated and disgusting taste. Besides, every such visitor is a consumer, and adds to the misery of the sick, by subtracting from the means that should be given exclusively to them. Let all that come, come with some stores for the sick, and ready to work for them, but let all mere sightseers stay at home. They are mere "cumberers of the ground." [7]

Many did not heed this warning however. Upon arrival they did not understand the attitude displayed toward them by the citizens of Gettysburg, and a few reporters used their position to launch a malicious attack against the townspeople who, under less than ideal circumstances, were only doing their best. Lorenzo L. Crounse, a correspondent of the New York Times wrote on July 7, 1863:

...Let me make it a matter of undeniable history that the conduct of the majority of the male citizens of Gettysburgh, and the surrounding County of Adams, is such as to stamp them with dishonor and craven-hearted meanness. I do not speak hastily I but write the unanimous sentiments of the whole army - an army which now feels that the doors from which they drove a host of robbers, thieves and cut-throats, were not worthy of being defended. The actions of the people of Gettysburgh are so sordidly mean and unpatriotic as to engender the belief that they were indifferent as to which party was whipped. I will give a few instances.

In the first place the male citizens mostly ran away and left the women and children to the mercy of their enemies. On their return, instead of lending a helping hand to our wounded, and opening their houses to our famished officers and soldiers, they have only manifested indecent haste to present their bills to the military authorities for payment of losses inflicted by both armies. One man yesterday presented a Captain with a bill for eighteen rails which his men had burned in cooking their coffee! On the streets the burden of their talk is their losses - and speculations as to whether the Government can be compelled to pay for this or that. Almost entirely they are uncourteous - but this is plainly from lack of intelligence and refinement. Their charges, too, were exorbitant - hotels, $2.50 per day; milk, 10 and 15 cents per quart; bread, $1 and even 1.50 per loaf; twenty cents for a bandage for a wounded soldier! And these are only a few specimens of the sordid meanness and unpatriotic spirit manifested by these people from whose doors our noble army had driven a hated enemy. I wish it to be understood that the facts I have stated can be fully substantiated by many officers high in rank, as well as by what I personally saw and experienced. This is Adams County - a neighbor to Copperhead York, which is still nearer to the stupid and stingy Berks. [8]

As was the custom at that time, Crounse's remarks were reprinted in papers throughout the North and before long the "craven-hearted meanness" of the Gettysburg population was a well known fact. [9] Other papers soon joined on the bandwagon, and the criticism of the townspeople grew. Reverend James Freeman Clarke arrived in Gettysburg on July 7, and stayed for several days. Upon his return to Massachusetts, he lectured on his visit to the battlefield. A few of his experiences were recorded in the Boston Daily Transcript on July 20, 1863.

The population of Gettysburg - a town of about four thousand inhabitants - were in the streets conversing as if nothing had occurred, although all the churches of the town had been taken for hospitals - the pews having been covered with a temporary flooring, upon which were the wounded. Mr. Clarke met a lady of Gettysburg who did not know during the engagement that a battle was progressing. [10]

Considering the noise and confusion that a battle such as Gettysburg must have created, Reverend Clarke's suggestion that someone was in town during the first three days of July, and did not know that fighting had occurred is simply ridiculous. A reporter for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, writing from Harrisburg on July 5th, encountered a "gentleman who left Gettysburg" the day before and related to him the following information.

During the artillery duel between the two armies the people were in a state of excitement bordering on insanity. They had sought for safety in their cellars, and as the shells burst over them, they crouched in terror near the earth. When the fight commenced, the people ranged themselves along a fence on the west side of the town. The rebels, mistaking them for infantry in line opened fire on them. One discharge alone was sufficient to send them all back to town as fast as their legs could carry them. [11]

An article written by "Mr. Henry Thompson," and published in the New York Herald on July 10, gave the following impression of "Pennsylvania Meaness."

The meanness of some of the citizens of Pennsylvania is literally disgusting. Our men have been charged fifty and seventy-five cents for loaves of bread worth only ten; one dollar a pound for ham, and other articles in proportion. One soldier paid fifty cents for half a dozen eggs, and he was then charged ten cents more for cooking them. A meal for two of pancakes, sour milk and apple cost one dollar and fifty cents. In passing over the battle field yesterday in the rear of the cemetery, I saw a farmer attempting to drag two old boards from a rifle pit. I asked him what he thought of war. "I don't like it; your men have been taking my boards to build rifle pits, and they haven't paid anything for them!" A mule was killed in a garden. Not satisfied, even if the owner should get pay for it, he asked of our officers whether he would not get paid for burying it too. [12]

Another article written by "Mr. J. H. Vosburg" appeared in the same issue and also reported "Meanness," which supposedly occurred in Gettysburg:

There are some of the most intensely mean persons in this neighborhood that the world produces. On Thursday a bill of seventeen hundred dollars was presented to General Howard for damage to the cemetery during the fight. One man presented General Howard a bill for thirty-seven cents for four bricks knocked off the chimney of his house by our artillery. Our wearied and in many instances wounded, soldiers found pumps locked, so that they could not get water. A hungry officer asked a woman for something to eat and she first inquired how much he would pay. Another begged for a drink of milk, and the female wished to know if he had any change. These persons, it should be remarked were not poor, but among the most substantial citizens of the town and vicinity. [13]

Some immediately objected to these slanderous attacks and wrote in response. The "damaging accusation" against the Evergreen Cemetery so enraged its board of directors that David McConaughy, the president of the association, wrote to General Oliver Otis Howard stating "that the assertion was utterly without foundation, and that no demand of any kind had been made." The letter also asked the General to write and "vindicate" the cemetery from the "reckless publication of so offensive a slander." [14]

A letter was written to the New York Times on July 11, signed by twenty clergymen and doctors (not citizens of Adams County) who were in Gettysburg caring for the wounded. They examined Crounse's assertions point by point and showed each to be fraudulent. Their conclusion: the article was nothing more than a "slanderous and libelous tirade on the part of Mr. L. L. Crounse against as patriotic, intelligent and refined a community as can be found north of Mason and Dixon's Line, with the single exception of that of which Mr. L. L. Crounse is a constituent member." [15] The article then went on discribe the reaction some of the townspeople had upon reading the article.

But imagine those who have been stripped of everything, and have sacrificed their all, who have divided with friend and foe their last morsel of bread and their last cup of water, whose children are crying with hunger, and are sent from home to sleep in order to make room for wounded soldiers, those who are worn out with days, aye, almost weeks, of watching and nursing over the wounded warriors — imagine such, reading in the New York Times, or reprinted in the Baltimore American and a hundred other journals of more or less note, this courteous refined and patriotic letter from the pen of Mr. L. L. Crounse! What stimulus to action! What a reward for toil and sacrifice! What an encouragement to Christian patriotism. [16]

"N. Dubois," in a letter published in the National Republican of Washington D.C. on July 18, wrote in response to an article which maligned the citizens of Gettysburg. He had paid a visit to that town a few days after the battle and noticed none of the acts described. Dubois remarked that the article had "a very fishy appearance, to say the least."

At Gettysburg almost every house was occupied with our wounded, and every attention shown them that humanity could dictate. Stores and churches and other buildings were freely given for hospitals and for the distribution of sanitary stores. I do not remember to have seen any "little boys," old women, or decrepit men around selling cakes and "pisen things" to the wounded soldiers, except at Baltimore. So much for the attempt to disparage a noble, generous, and loyal people. [17]

Micheal Jacobs, a respected citizen of Gettysburg and a professor at Pennsylvania College, summed up the feelings of many townspeople, when he wrote in 1864 and tried to explain the situation.

Provisions did not arrive until Sunday afternoon [July 5th]. To us, the citizens of Gettysburg, it was a source of sincere grief that we had not means of affording relief to our noble boys when they came to us for bread. But at best what could so few citizens (2,500) do for the feeding of so large an army? Most of our flour and bacon had been sent away in advance of the Rebel raid of the previous Friday [June 26th]. Then they took what they could get; much was given, on Sunday to Copeland's cavalry; much again to Buford's cavalry on Tuesday; much also, to our hungry men as they passed through town to battle on Wednesday; and lastly the Rebels, when in possession of our town, robbed us of what they could find. Many families had to live on short allowance for a number of days. Never shall we forget our feelings when we had to tell our hungry, soldiers, "We have nothing to give, our provisions are exhausted."

We felt grieved -ashamed- to see the men hungry who had exposed their lives for our safety and that of the country and to be obliged to let them go unfed. But we felt indignant when newspaper scribblers and others, who perhaps never sacrificed one dollar for the good of their country, or gave a penny to feed the hungry and clothe the needy charged this to our niggardliness. The truth is that the citizens of Gettysburg, with few exceptions, did what they could. They gave clothing to the wounded; tore up bedding and garments for bandages; gave their jellies, &c., to the hospitals; and threw open their houses, chambers and halls, as hospitals. As if impelled by some strange influence, men and delicate women, who before would have fainted at the sight of blood, found themselves dressing the mangled limbs of the wounded, and ministering to their wants, heedless of fatigue and the need of rest, until worn out, and other going to the gory field, moistening the fevered brow, and giving drink to the thirsty, and receiving as their only reward the gratitude of the dying soldier in the words, "Angel Hand! God bless you." [18]

Martha A. Ehler, a member of the Patriotic Daughters of Lancaster, who nursed in town shortly after the battle, was another who wrote in 1864:

. . . on a subject that has been variously commented upon by the different newspaper correspondents, viz: "The behavior of the people of Gettysburg after the battle." Much has been said and written about their want of hospitality. As we did not go there to be entertained, and were dressed to suit our duties, we were not overwhelmed with attention; but... the friends with whom we stayed, were more than kind. Great allowances, too, must be made, as the place had been occupied some days by the rebels, and they had helped themselves freely to whatever they could get; then came the battle, during which time the people lived in their cellars, and to hear them relate their terrible experience, and see the havoc, is sufficient excuse. Men were shot in the streets by the enemy's sharpshooters, who were on the tops of the houses, and Minnie balls poured over the town like hail. I asked many how they felt during this time, and the most expressive answer I received was, "I felt like I wasn't quite right."

After the battle was over, the wounded were brought into the houses, and of course took up all the attention. Everything was pressed into service, and even beds stripped of their sheets and pillow-cases to bind up the wounds, and some families had twenty or thirty wounded left to their care. Almost every house had been converted into a temporary hospital. Then came the rush of visitors; and when we know that in a majority of cases they came merely to gratify their curiosity, and not to minister to the wants of the suffering soldiers, we cannot wonder that they did not in all cases receive a warm reception. [19]

Miss Ehler went on to mention a few "isolated cases of meanness and extortion" that did come under her notice but ended by stating that "a whole community should not be held responsible for the exceptional conduct of a few." "Who would, from these isolated cases, infer that all the citizens were alike mean and despicable?" [20]

The big difference between the correspondents who were writing negatively about the townspeople, and those who were not, was their location at the time. Many of the negative articles were written by correspondents not present in Gettysburg and based upon heresy and rumor, a common phrase being "I was told" or "it has been said." Crounse himself was traveling with the Army of the Potomac and spent little actual time in the Gettysburg area after the battle. Another reporter for the New York Times who was in town after the battle had a different impression of Gettysburg. He wrote on July 14th:

A brick house on Washington Street [probably the Jacob Stock House] had eight holes through it; a shell bursting in the inside had torn up the floors. A rebel sharpshooter was found stretched out in the attic with his head blown off. Three houses on Middle Street received several shells' the occupants had hid away in the cellars and thus escaped unhurt. Many houses in other streets were perforated with musket balls. Some of the ladies of Gettysburg (God bless them) exposed themselves fearlessly. In the midst of the street-fighting they came out of their houses offering bread, fruit, water and other refreshments, to the soldiers. Seeing these fair ones exposing themselves thus, the men were aroused to renewed energy to defeat the foe. [21]

Some of the newspapers that reprinted Crounce's article did not put much stock in his comments and added their own editor's note to his remarks. The Lutheran and Missionary of Philadelphia for example, noted that "If these severe strictures are just, as we are persuaded they are not, Gettysburg is wholly changed from the place we once knew." [22] As more and more articles appeared in defense of the civilians, newspapers started to take a negative view of Crounce himself. On July 31, the Lutheran Observer printed an update on the story which included a slight slur against reporters.

We are glad to see the report of some newspaper correspondent, that the people of Gettysburg were guilty of great meanness in their treatment of hungry soldiers, flatly contradicted. We have the most reliable proof that this is a base slander upon the people there; that they have shown great liberality and the most self-sacrificing generosity in their kindness to the wounded. Every town and neighborhood may have a few mean people. Newspaper correspondents themselves are sometimes exceedingly mean. But a more noble-hearted people than the Gettysburg people can nowhere be found. [23]

Notices such as this however, did little to sway the tidalwave of public opinion mounting against the townspeople. Although these articles of praise were very well written, they did not receive the widespread coverage that Crounse's original dispatch enjoyed. On December 10, 1863, the Lutheran and Missionary ran an article entitled "The Heroes and Heroines of Gettysburg" in which it noted much unjust criticism was still being levied against the townspeople. By this point, the attacks against Crounse's article had taken on a personal nature.

After the Battle of July a New York Reporter, apparently passing beyond the point of inebriation at which a man sees double, to that sublime grade at which he cannot see at all, started a falsehood in regard to the indifference and lack of patriotism on the part of the people of Gettysburg, which has been traveling over the whole land after the manner of its class, not one-half of these who published the lie seeming to have conscience enough to publish the contradiction. [24]

The people of Gettysburg would never forget Lorenzo L. Crounse, his remarks, or the trouble that he created for them. In July of 1865 he returned to Gettysburg to cover the laying of the cornerstone of the Soldiers National Monument for the New York Times. One would think he was aware of the fact he was not welcome in town, but since two years had past, he probably did not expect what was in store for him. As his train pulled into the depot, news spread that the man who had "so grossly libeled the citizens" of Gettysburg was again in town. According to the the Adams Sentinel:

His presence in our midst excited much just indignation, and an aroused feeling looking to a forcible ejection of him from the town. A town meeting was called on Monday and after some interesting speeches, the following resolution was adopted:

RESOLVED, that the citizens of Gettysburg, justly indignant at the false injurious representations made two years since by L.L. Crounse, respecting the kindness and hospitality to the army and wounded soldiers of the Union, now recognize the same rights of hospitality then exercised, and do not consider it necessary or proper to notice his presence in this community further that to express their continued sense of the wrong done them by the communications referred to.

A copy of the resolution was communicated to him by the officers of the meeting. What his notice of it may be, and whether he will retract his libelous charges, remains to be seen. [25]

A reporter for the New York Herald watched with great curiosity, recording his version of the "lively incident," in the July 6, 1865 issue of that paper.

A correspondent of the New York Times was known to be in town, and it was known that this gentleman had at the time of the battle made some severe strictures on the people and denounced their niggardly conduct. The Gettysburgers answered the strictures at the time but they were evidently not satisfied with their own answer, and now that the correspondent was once more within reach, they proposed to prove their statements on his person. They expected to show that they were a liberal and hospitable people by lynching a writer who had stated the contrary. They first held an indignation meeting in the Court House - the seat of justice being considered the most appropriate place for the initiation of lawless violence. At this meeting men who are called "the most respectable citizens" breathed out their fiery spirits in terrible throats, and sat down calmer than they rose. There was a grand talk, and that was the last of it. An intimation was given that the bayonets out in camp would be used, if necessary, to prevent any riotous demonstrations, and so "better judgments prevailed, and all was peace." [26]

The town meeting was held on Monday, July 3rd. The following day, July 4, 1865, apparently after he had been given the resolution, Crounse sat down to write his article which appeared in the New York Times on July 10, 1865. After a lengthy description of the battlefield and the National Cemetery, he broached the subject, which everyone who knew of the controversy was waiting for.

Gettysburg and its people, on a former occasion, received considerable attention at my hands. This time your correspondent came near receiving considerable attention at the hands of the citizens, of a character not calculated to impress him with the justice of their claims for hospitality and kindness. In other words: it was proposed to resort to lynch law to prove that my statements of two years ago were not correct. But happily the leading and respectable citizens of the place, having the honor of Gettysburgh and a desire to preserve law and order at heart, promptly put down the demonstrations of a few demagogues, and gave your correspondent every opportunity for learning that the claims of the village for hospitality and kindness are not unfounded. Having no desire but to deal justly by all, I must say that notwithstanding the experiences of this occasion, I was able to learn that many of the citizens; on recovering from the paralysis of the battle two years ago, devoted themselves, with self-sacrificing ardor, to the care of the wounded.

Some noble women ministered to our men at their own houses, with the shot and shell flying over their heads. The people who acted thus deprecate and condemn as strongly as any one the disreputable conduct heretofore complained of and are anxious that all should have an opportunity to learn that that class does not constitute the majority of the citizens of Gettysburgh. Personally the treatment and courtesies extended to me by those with whom I came in contact were of the most cordial and happy character, and convinced not only myself but many other strangers that Gettysburgh has a large population of intelligent, influential and hospitable citizens. [27]

This was the closest the citizens of Gettysburg ever came to an apology or retraction by Crounse. In the end however, the prejudice created by his original article has transcended the controversy, and to this day has continued to have a negative effect of the perception of the civilians. Historians still cite his article as evidence of the townspeople's activities during the battle, and the few stories of civilian heroism that are printed today are usually the same ones, used over and over again.

When one considers all that the Gettysburg civilians went through during and after the battle, it is almost insulting to their memory that authors still write of their cowardly and apathetic attitude. In the years following the Civil War, compensation for the suffering of these civilians by the state and federal government fell far short of what one might expect today. The claims and damage files for Adams County are still held in the State Archives in Harrisburg, and the National Archives in Washington D.C. When reading these files, one gets the impression that deserving citizens of Gettysburg where treated unfairly. Time and again their claims were rejected because no receipt was obtained from the doctor or surgeon who was in charge of the wounded in their home. Because of the damage done to their property, many civilians (especially the farmers) were unable to pay their bills, and some would lose their homes in the process. Those who had fled their homes during the battle fared the worst. In 1900 Lydia Zeigler Clare, wrote of her family's return, shortly after the battle, to their residence in the Lutheran Theological Seminary (of which her father was steward).

It was night when we reached home, or what had been home, only to find the house filled with wounded soldiers. Oh, what a home-coming! Everything we owned was gone - not a bed to lie on, and not a change of clothing. Many things had been destroyed, and the rest had been converted to hospital purposes. And I am sorry to say right here that, while our Government had plenty of money to dispose of we who suffered such great loss at Gettysburg have never received one cent. Is there justice in this treatment? I would like to ask those in authority. [28]

Nathaniel Lightner, a farmer who lived on the Baltimore Pike, just a few miles south of Gettysburg, wrote in graphic detail of his homecoming:

On the third day after the battle I got down to my house. There was not a board or rail of fencing left on the place. Not a chicken, pig, cow, or dog to be found. The government mules had eaten up the orchard of four year old trees down to the core. The garden was full of bottles and camp litter. There stood the bare shop, the house full of wounded men, and the old barn where Gen. Slocum had made his headquarters.... We came back about a week later and lived, gypsy like, in the shop for six weeks. The officers supplied us for a few days from the hospital stores. Why did we stay? Why come back? What else could we do? We had no money to pay board, we had nothing and a large family to care for. We had been putting all our money into the place....It is awful. . . .Everything suffers in time of war; people all suffer; domestic animals suffer; plants suffer and droop and die; the little birds are killed or frightened away from their nests and their young; the trees are torn by shot and shell or are cut down ruthlessly for fires and brestworks; grain and grass are eaten up or trodden into the ground in an hour; springs and wells are the soldier's boons and are quickly used to the last drop.... War is all suffering. [29]

Mrs. Sarah Ann Hummelbaugh, lived in a house located just behind the Union lines along Cemetery Ridge. During the battle it was used as a hospital. Everything in the house was destroyed, the garden trodden and the barn emptied of its hay and livestock. Her family tried desperately for years to obtain from the government money for damages done to their farm during the battle. But with no receipts for the property used, taken or damaged by the Union army, their claim was time and again rejected. In 1886 Sarah summed up her frustrations in a letter to the Claims Office. Her feelings must have been shared by many loyal Gettysburg citizens.

I don't know why no claim can be found in our favour. We have a copy of the claim. The one was sent to Washington. If it was not it should have been as I told you before. If others had not received damages we would not expect them. Those who live away from the Battlefield or on the far limits of it get well payed and have plenty without damages and those of us living on the field where the hardest fiteing was done, near where Picketts made his famous charge, and never got one cent on damage. If we only had something to live on or some way to make a living, some employment. We must live.

Our home was sold for us a few weeks ago and now we must seek a home elseware and if we would get what is due us for damages we could get along. It would give us a little help and by strict economy and my husbands small pension we could get a start. We would not ask it at all if we were not so needy. Do not reject this claim. This claim it is so mutch needed and is honest. Please pay at least part of it. My husband gave the three best years of his life to his country [Leander Hummelbaugh, Co. B 138 PA], was wounded at the battle of the Wilderness May 1864. No regrets for what he has done for his country. I do hope you will give us something. Do not deny me. Respectfully, S.A. Hummelbaugh. [30]

This plea fell on the deaf ears and the claim was once again denied. One of the most compelling stories is that of William Bliss. As the owner of about 60 acres of land in Cumberland Township, Adams County, his farm sat squarely in between Union and Confederate lines on July 2 and 3, 1863. On the third day of the battle, a northern general ordered the farm to be burned because Confederate sharpshooters were using it as a stronghold. When the family returned after the battle, nothing was left. As a result of his losses William Bliss was forced to sell his land in 1865. [31] Shortly thereafter a reporter for the Gettysburg Star and Banner spoke with Bliss and recorded the following:

The buildings were burned by Gen. Hays, and the old man and his wife and two daughters were turned out with nothing but the clothes they had on. Everything was destroyed by the fire in the buildings, and his fences, cattle and crops were swept away by the battle, leaving with him the bare land which he was obliged to sacrifice in order to support his family. He was utterly ruined, but such was his Patriotic love for his country that looking on the wreck of all of his earthly possessions, he exclaimed, "let it go; if I had twenty farms I would give them all for such a victory." Ought not the legislature do something for such a man thus impoverished for the country's good... [32]

Bliss however, was never compensated for his losses. He, like the rest of the Gettysburg civilians, misunderstood and maligned for the past 130 years, remain among the true "unsung heroes of the battle."


1 These are the words used by J.W.C. O'Neal, a Gettysburg physician, to describe the days following the battle to a reporter. From an article published in the Philadelphia North American on July 4, 1909.

2 The War Of The Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 27, Pt. 2, p. 298. (Hereafter cited as OR.)

3 OR, Vol., 27 Pt. 1, 2, and 3.

4 T.W.B., "Condition of the Sick and Wounded," Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 15, 1863.

5 T.W.B., "Letter From the Battlefield," Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 10, 1863.

6 Sarah M. Broadhead, The Diary of a lady at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (privately printed: 1864), transcribed copy in the Adams County Historical Society (Hereafter cited as ACHS).

7 T.W.B., "Condition of the Sick and Wounded," Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 15, 1863.

8 Lorenzo L. Crounse, "Further Details of the Battle of Gettysburgh - Characteristics of the People of the Town - Interesting Incidents, &c.," New York Times, July 9, 1863.

9 An example would be the Daily Evening Bulletin of Philadelphia which also published Crounse's article on the 9th.

10 "Rev. James Freeman Clarke Upon The Gettysburg Battles," Boston Daily Evening Transcript, July 20, 1863.

11 "From Harrisburg," Daily Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), July 6, 1863.

12 "Mr. Henry Thompson's Dispatches," New York Herald, July 10, 1863.

13 "Mr. J. H. Vosburg's Dispatch," New York Herald, July 10, 1863. Vosburg had written the dispatch on July 7, while in Emmitsburg.

14 David McConaughy to Oliver O. Howard, July 29, 1863, Oliver O. Howard Papers, Bowdoin College.

15 "L. L. Crounse and Gettysburg," Gettysburg Sentinel, July 21, 1863.

16 Ibid.

17 N. Dubois, "The Other Side," National Republican, July, 18, 1863.

18 Jacobs, "The Battle of Gettysburg," Evangelical Review, 15 (1864), p. 242.

19 The Patriot Daughters Of Lancaster, Hospital Scenes After the Battle of Gettysburg (Philadelphia: 1864), pp. 54-57. The original book printed in a limited edition did not make mention of the authors name. This has led to confusion over the years as to her identity. An Obituary notice in the Star & Sentinel for July 22, 1875 makes it clear however, that Martha A. Ehler was the author.

20 Ibid.

21 "Affairs At Gettysburgh," New York Times, July 18, 1863. For more information on the damage done to the building of Gettysburg during the battle, see Timothy H. Smith, "A Gettysburg's Visual Battle Damage," County History, Vol. 2 (ACHS, Gettysburg: 1996), pp. 41-71.

22 Lutheran and Missionary, July 16, 1863.

23 "Gettysburg," Lutheran Observer, July 31, 1863.

24 "The Heroes and Heroines of Gettysburg," Lutheran and Missionary, December 10, 1863.

25 "L. L. Crounse," Adams Sentinel, July 11, 1865.

26 "Gettysburg," New York Herald, July 6, 1865.

27 "Gettysburgh Battle-field," New York Times, July 10, 1865

28 Lydia Catherine Zeigler Clare, A Gettysburg Girl's Story of the Great Battle (unprinted manuscript, ca. 1900), ACHS.

29 Nathaniel Lightner, "A Farmer's Experience," Gettysburg Compiler, July 6, 1910.

30 Claims file for the Jacob Hummelbaugh Farm, extracts taken form a transcribed copy in the Gettysburg National Military Park (GNMP) files.

31 For more information on William Bliss and his Farm, see Elwood Christ, Over A Wide, Hot. . .Crimson Plain: The Struggle for the Bliss Farm At Gettysburg (Baltimore, 1993) pp. 114-121.

32 Newspaper clipping from a scrapbook in the Edward McPherson Papers, Library of Congress, Box 98, p. 135.

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