Nurses cropped from a photo of a Christian Commission hospital at Gettysburg, summer 1863. I've always suspected some of them were Gettysburg citizens. Why? Hoops. Army nurses were disallowed hoops, women who traveled there would probably have found it impossible to do so wearing them- citizens had them handy at home. Who they were we'll never know- maybe.
With apologies to the Gettysburg forum ( sincerely! ), I feel a little guilty posting this in Ladies Tea- please feel free to move it if it should be elsewhere.
We hear from a few ladies who knew Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania before late June, 1863 because they lived there. Most were born there. You know some of them, for some reason the single most famous woman of Gettysburg got that way by dying and even Jennie Wade's name went down in History a little sideways. Her real name was Mary Virginia- Ginnie. A journalist dubbed her ' Jennie ' and it stuck.
But there were more. A lot more. Some wrote memoirs, a few kept diaries some wrote letters and more than a few said their children insisted they put down on paper what they remembered of those days in their childhood when their lives in a small Pennsylvania town became forever history. Once in awhile it's a mere a glimpse of them passing through time on their way to a hospital or to see Lincoln bury their dead.
One Sanitary Commission agent said as he came into Gettysburg there did not seem to be a single house not flying a red hospital flag from a second story window. That's a lot of stories.
A few, and as with Elizabeth Thorn quoted here, most left much more extensive stories. We know her name, others we haven't heard much from. Salome Myers was discussed not long ago, sorry to use her yet again. She just bears witness to so much, so simply you can't help but check back in with her.
Sallie Myers “ From that time on we had no rest for weeks . Dr Fulton said ‘ Girls, you must come to the churches and help us, the boys are suffering terribly! ‘ I went into the Catholic church. On the floors and pews the men lay. The groans of the suffering and dying were heart rending. I knelt beside the first man by the door and asked what I could do. ‘ Nothing ‘ he replied, ‘ I am going to die. ‘ I went outside the church and cried. I returned and spoke to the man- he was wounded in the lungs and spine, there was not the slightest hope for him. “
The man was Sergeant Alexander Stewart of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. I read a chapter of the Bible to him- it was the last chapter his father read him before he left home. Late in the day, by the surgeon’s permission I had him removed to my father’s house. That night we were again ordered to the cellear. We closed the windows and shutters. The air was hot and stifling. I fanned my patient. Sitting there one could hear the shots in the distance. Not feeling comfortable, I rose and changed the position of my chair. A moment later a shell came crashing through the wall and struck the floor on the spot where I had been sitting. The wounded man died on Monday, July 6th.”
During the summer the dead man’s widow and brother visited the Meyer home. Five years later Sallie Myers became the bride of Sergeant Alexander Stewart’s brother, Rev. Stewart.
Julia Wagant, later Mrs. Joshua Baine was a 23 year old young woman living with grocer Schick and his family in July, 1863. Decades post battle she still cared for the then-aging merchant and remembered the days of the battle. Julia gathered food for wounded from fellow citizens, Schicks used their store as place to hand it out to Union and Confederate men.Julia said “ All the citizens sacrificed themselves to help the needy “, she said.
Schick’s store was also chosen by the Christian Commission for the reception of goods pouring in from all over the country. I’m not sure if it’s the same location used by the Sanitary Commission and made famous in the photograph.
We know this is an image of the Sanitary Commission HQ, where stores poured in from all over the country, we know the Christian Commission chose Schick's for their storehouse- is it the same? The two commissions pooled resources frequently, no idea if this was the case with HQ's at Gettysburg.
Adelaine Weirick, met and married Theodore Magee of the 104th NY while nursing under the Sisters at one of the hospitals. She’d been a student at Carrie Shead’s Oakhill Seminary, her family lived on Breckinridge Street at the time of the battle. “ The Rebels made their first raid several days before the battle. They came racing through the town on their horses and Miss Sheads told us to go home and stay there. We were children and liked to see the horses and soldiers. It was kind of like a carnival to us.
On the first day of the battle we were at home. We saw old John Burns come out with his musket. He was the village constable. He wore and old suit and carried and old gun. He was so mad, he said he was going to go fight and he did fight. We all got on the house top the first day and watched. The shells came down all around so we got down. On that first day I pumped as much as 100 buckets of water for the soldiers as they passed by and mother baked bread all day and spread it with butter and passed it out to them.
Then we were shut in the cellar for 3 days. We had three Rebels and two wounded Federal officers in our cellar and our house was surrounded by Rebels. We had a big fireplace and 30 neigbors were with us because we had the most room. A man and his wife had twin babies. He was at our house with one and his wife was somewhere else with another. One woman kept her son hidden under the potato bin the whole time for fear the Rebels would find him.
My father got ten bundles of household goods together and assigned us all what to carry then decided it was too late to move. The 11th Army Corps retreated through our section of town. We gave them food and water as long as it lasted.
I ran across the lot and just as I did a bullet went through a window next to me.It made a small, mean noise as it did so. Nights we raised the cellar door just a crack to let air enter and could hear the groans of wounded men all around us. “
Theodore, her eventual husband was met while she spent the next 3 months nursing in the hospitals. His brothers Philander and William were also wounded in the battle.
Amanda Renecker, a young woman living with aunt Nancy Weikert on Chambersburg Road remembers her aunt wresting the key from Christ Lutheran Church’s sexton and opening the church door to hungry then wounded men. She said she first made made ‘ gallons and gallons ‘ of coffee for soldiers, befor wounded filled pews and every space” . Her future husband William Rupp was a member of the 26th PA.
“ This family is commanded by Gen Howard to leave this house and get as far away as possible “, reported Elizabeth Thorn. 17 civilians huddled in the basement of Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse. Elizabeth, her parents, “ Mrs. Cook “ and child, “ Mrs. Barbehenn “ and four children and ‘ others ‘. “ Take nothing but the children and go “ “ We were a little way down the pike when a shell burst behind us “ On the way home I saw Mr. McCoughney and he said hurry on home, there was work to be done “. Pregnant Elizabeth Thorn, husband Peter a Union soldier, herself now caretaker of the cemetery, mother of small children, buried over 100 battle casualties, almost without help in Evergreen Cemetery. “.
****OO Howard sent Elizabeth a post-war letter expressing his thanks to her, as did his wife, for her cooking he and his staff dinner and opening her home to him. Her son later spoke of his mother taking he and his brother to go see Lincoln speak, and how Lincoln had patted his brother on his head.
The Thorn boys, on the steps, the kitchen door enticingly cracked open behind them. This was just post battle, Elizabeth moved back in a few days later. She was probably just over the hill, digging.
Miss Mary Warren, later Mrs. Mary Fastnacht, was then a little girl of 12 and lived on the last house on West Middle St. She wrote that a Confederate general and his staff took over their house but allowed the family to stay on condition they remain in a small portion of their home. On Day 2, Mary’s grandfather, who lived on Baltimore St. came to take his granddaughter back to his home.
“ I will never forget that walk in early morning. Men and horses were lying in the street. Up ate my Grandfather’s home we all had to go to the cellar. While there we got word that Jennie Wade had been killed. That was just two blocks away. “
The day the Confederates retreated Union troops came hurrahing up Baltimore Street and I thought it was safe to go home. I was almost there when a bullet came whizzing by my ear. My father saw this happen and he picked me up and carried me the rest of the way. Shortly after this he was arrested. He was wearing a gray suit that day. No use trying to convince them he was a citizen he would have to go along until another citizen could identify him. In fact it was on his way home that he ran into his daughter, When going a little way he would be ordered to Halt or be shot.
On July 6 my mother wanted fruit to make fruit pies . I wanted to surprise her so I walked to the Mcmillan house who lived about three quarters mile from town to fetch some. Passing that lane I saw three dead men . I got as far as the McDonalds when Mrs. McDonald said ‘ Child, where are you going? ‘. I said I was going to fetch dried fruit for Momma. She said ‘ You go right home, child ‘ and I went but I was scared to pass those dead men again.”
Fanny Buehler and her husband David had become shell shocked well before the Confederate invasion. That summer had contained so many alarms Fanny disbelieved the news when her daughter said “ Mama! The Rebels are here sure enough! “ Fanny laughed and said “ I guess not “ She wrote “ But I did not hurry. I finished my work, **** up the machine and went leisurely downstairs to see what was up.” Her husband had been picking up letters at the post office. They both laughed at what they took to be yet another false alarm. Just then someone put their head in the window and said the Rebels were marching into town. “ Postmaster, especially black Republican postmasters ( as was David Buehler ) were marked men by the Confederates. Wherever they could be seized, were hurried off to Libby or other prisons where they soon died “.
Tillie Pierce, later Alleman was one of the girls gathered to sing as Buford’s formidable cavalry passed. Her memoirs of those awful days is one of most eye-popping. Republished, it’s also in public access. Remeber, her book it titled " What A Girl Saw ", a child.
“Suddenly we behold an explosion; it is that of a caisson. We see a man thrown high in the air and come down in a wheat field close by. He is picked up and carried into the house. As they pass by I see his eyes are blown out and his whole person seems to be one black mass. The first words I hear him" Oh .dear ! I forgot to read my Bible to-day! What will my poor wife and children say ? "
“ I was looking out one of the windows facing the front yard. Near the base ment door, and directly underneath the window I was at, stood one of these benches. I saw them lifting the poor men upon it, then the surgeons sawing and cutting off arms and legs, then again probing and picking bullets from the flesh.”
“ As it was impossible to travel the roads, on account of the mud, we took to the fields. While passing along, the stench arising from the fields of carnage was most sickening. Dead horses, swollen to almost twice their natural size, lay in all directions, stains of blood fre quently met our gaze, and all kinds of army accoutrements covered the ground. Fences had disappeared, some buildings were gone, others ruined. The whole landscape had been changed, and I felt as though we were in a strange and blighted land. Our killed and wounded had by this time been nearly all carried from the field. With such surroundings I made my journey homeward, after the battle.”
Mary Horner McAllister, living across the street from Christ Lutheran Church with her sister and brother in law, Martha and John Scott, she went to the church the morning of July 1st. There she heard “ The pathos of the poor wounded men as they sang “. Returning to find the frontstep “ covered in bloods …. And entered cautiously “. All was well, for the moment. Mary’s younger brother Lt. Ross Horner had been killed in 1862, her father, three brothers who survived and future husband were Union soldiers.
Catherine Foster, living with her parents, James and Catherine, on Washington Street were hiding a wounded Union soldier in their basement. A Confederate soldier entered their home to ask “ Any Yankees in here? “ Catherine replied “ We all are here. Suppose you could call all of us Yankees “. The Confederate seemed satisfied and left.
Then there's Mary Wade, " Georgiana, your sister is dead ".
Jacob Shead's roof, foreground, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in the distance. What a girl saw.
Two women on the street, crossing in front of Jacob Shead's, on the old Chambersburg Pike. And I just got distracted. Rats. Is there another, mayber child-sized figure there or is that just the tree branch? Looks like part of a dress peeping from under that branch, darn it. Another voice?
SO many more. Harriet Bayle, for instance, detained by Confederates( and quite a few more ). She was a rare exception to hospital work, her husband being terrified to allow her out of his sight. She made up for it, adopting a young, shell shocked Confederate boy who showed up at her door asking for plain, old help and warmth. Milo stayed forever.