Forever Pregnant, Elizabeth Thorn's Story Digs On

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
Found a section in a Civil War magazine on Elizabeth Thorn, famously interim gatekeeper while her husband Peter was away fighting in the Union army and Evergreen Cemetery caretaker July 1,2 and 3 1863. It was ok. What I couldn't figure out were the missing elements.

For instance- there's a well-known photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Thorn plus one of the Gatehouse summer, 1863 featuring 2 small boys sitting on a porch. Why not use photographs of the family instead one of the statue, as lovely as it may be? No one has ever identified those boys as the Thorn children- seems safe to me, children sitting on their own porch.

thorn kids.jpg

It isn't likely these little boys would be anyone other than Peter and Elizabeth's children. Guessing her father is the man on the right- he just stands like an older man. Peter was given leave to come home- obviously did not make it in time to help with Evergreen president's order. David McConaughy did not come help. Interestingly did not send his wife to help, either.

Their identity as immigrants is missing, as well as their massive responsibility- keeping a roof over their heads for themselves and Elizabeth's immigrant parents, the Massey's. The Big Cheese over all of this, David McConaughey, gets quoted in Elizabeth Thorn's personal account of her terrifying, raucous encounters with soldiers, both living and dead.
liz david.JPG

That's David, the President of Evergreen, even then angling to have his cemetery host the plethora of new customers. Somewhere he claims he said he would send help. No, Elizabeth had to find help- she had a little, 2 people, paid them herself, but they became ill. Heat and stench.

The magazine article states she buried 91 men. It may seem piddling but if Elizabeth Thorn says she buried 105, those extra graves picked out of baked and cement like Pennsylvania earth in high heat, while pregnant, under those conditions- matter. Elizabeth Thorn's statement is that she buried 105. One by one, the little immigrant woman would know. 105.
liz 6 105.jpg

The NPS has Elizabeth's story. It's not easy to find a copy, to be sure, no idea why. A LOT of first hand accounts written by citizens are hard to find. Still. From her lips to God's ear- and ours.

Here is the end of Elizabeth's story in her words.
liz help 105 graves last parag.jpg

It makes you wish everyone who speaks of Elizabeth Thorn would please, please, please just take the time to read her own words.

Immigrants Peter and Elizabeth Massey Thorn, Evergreen gatehouse, Gettysburg, PA

Like Lee on Travelor riding his endless loop through Time from Ruffin to Appomattox so is Elizabeth. It's ridiculous, too- between shovel and grave and a child's sad death no one reads the rest of her story? Like a Who's Who of Gettysburg Tragedy, GEE WHIZ!! So listen-

An office comes across like big tool in this exchange These officers lived in civilian homes, has had Elizabeth cook and bake for he and his men and she has haousehold goods swiped from under Union nose, too. I've tried to think there had been some protection, maybe elsewhere there was, in return for this extreme hospitality. in Heck of way to break the death of friends to her.
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Posting some sections here- OH, wait, and Private Sandhoe, too, was a shocking loss to the community.
liz sandhoe.JPG


Private Sandoe and his wife, Diana

It's sometimes extremely frustrating that these accounts were readily available ' back in the day ' but you cannot find them now, or at least without crazy amounts of difficulty. Most were published in newspapers. You can read them for a fee here and there, what was once out there waiting on your doorstep I was able to find a lot 5 years ago.

Era papers, best bet. I have Elizabeth's whole story, found ( again ) in era papers. It should be read. She had heckish few days- gosh, a heckish couple of months and eventually lost a daughter toboot. Elizabeth, working class immigrant woman also had exactly no reason to fudge her account- but also no one to ensure her words are repeated, her words. There are a few variations on Elizabeth's story out there. Only one as told by Elizabeth Thorn, The End.

Few snippets from her, might make little sense trying to run them together.

liz to town1.JPG

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This next is a little famous
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Otis Howard's troops took over the gatehouse first- Elizabeth's ' Battle of Gettysburg ' was horrendous before David McConaugh handed her that shovel. Well heck. Her home was smack in the middle of where?

liz howard more.JPG

liz left bread.JPG

Gee whiz.

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That's when it all got worse, if possible.


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