Mrs. William Smith with the Senior Generals at Gettysburg

Tom Elmore

Sergeant Major
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
You may not have heard much about the elder matron, Mrs. William Smith, but she interacted with at least four senior generals, representing both sides, while the battle of Gettysburg was underway. So did one of her daughters, Jane Smith, known as Jennie. Her other daughter, Elizabeth (born 1820), was married to John S. Crawford, a lawyer (born 1797) who as of July 1863 was renting a two-story brick mansion out on the old Harrisburg Road, northeast of town. The home was owned by Pennsylvania College President Henry L. Baugher, who was then living in more modest quarters provided by the college on the campus. Only Mrs. Smith, her daughter Jane, and an unidentified (black female?) servant remained at the Crawford home during the entire battle, although on July 1 they were joined by Jane’s cousin, Anna Mary Young, and perhaps others.

In the early afternoon of July 1, Jane kept busy handing out slices of bread, spread with apple butter, to deploying soldiers of the Union Eleventh Corps. When the action on that part of the field kicked off in the late afternoon, the occupants of the home took shelter in the cellar, but as they waited out the shelling and bullets, the wounded of both sides began to arrive at and around the home. Once the Confederates had swept the field, Capt. Alfred Emory Lee of the 82nd Ohio, who had been disabled by a severe wound, was fortunate to attract the attention of a passing officer serving on the staff of Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell, and this staff officer kindly arranged to have Capt. Lee taken to the home, either on a stretcher or in an ambulance. Emerging from the safety of the cellar, the women of the home went immediately to work administering to the needs of the wounded. However, the Confederates were soon transferred to field hospitals further to the rear, leaving the Federals behind. Mrs. Smith directed her personal attention to Capt. Lee, and all the rest. The carpets had already been taken up and the furniture removed. A wounded officer of the 82nd Ohio (perhaps Capt. Lee) recalled that “a tall, matronly lady entered our apartment with a cup of coffee in her hand. She seemed to regard each one of her unfortunate guests as her special charge.” Mrs. Smith had her work cut out for her - the rooms and corridors of the spacious home were packed with wounded Federals.

Owing to its convenient location, Ewell made the home a temporary headquarters. It might have been late in the afternoon or else well after dark that Ewell and his staff showed up at the Crawford home and were offered light refreshments. The women were formally courteous, but put little effort into their hospitality (or else did not want to be seen as putting themselves out) for the General and his staff. As a result, Ewell found accommodations elsewhere for the night, although he did see to it that a guard was posted at the home to protect the women.

Early the next morning, July 2, Ewell came back to the Crawford home seeking breakfast, this time accompanied by Maj. Gens. Early and Rodes. After partaking of a “light fare” prepared by the women of the house, they departed to attend to the business of war. Ewell repaid their generosity by providing two wagons under the protection of a staff officer to take the occupants to safety in the rear. Anna Mary Young departed, and perhaps others, but Mrs. Smith, Jane, and the household servant remained. A hospital flag hoisted over the mansion may have helped to protect them.

Not long afterwards, the wounded Union Brig. Gen. Francis Barlow, a division commander in the Eleventh Corps, was brought off the field to the home, where he would rest comfortably over the next two days under the close supervision of Mrs. Smith. Morphine would ease his pain, and he passed the time away reading books. Barlow also received an occasional friendly visit from staff officers serving under Gens. Ewell and Early. Capt. James Power Smith, an aide on Ewell’s staff, once stopped by and prevailed on Mrs. Smith, whom he described as “a good Presbyterian woman,” to mail a letter for him.

When the Confederates evacuated the east side of town in the pre-dawn hours of July 4, the Crawford home was liberated. Most of the Federal wounded, including Capt. Lee were soon evacuated to the Eleventh Corps hospital at the Spangler farm, while Barlow’s wife, Arabella, found him and took charge of his recovery.

Mrs. Smith and the other women of the household had done their job well. Gen. Barlow would recover and live a full life. So would Capt. Lee, who rejoined his unit at Bridgeport, Alabama. In 1877, Lee was appointed U.S. Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany, and he would serve on the Gettysburg Memorial Commission for Ohio from 1886-1887.

Thanks to the efforts of the Gettysburg Foundation (Friends), you can now visit the restored buildings of the Spangler farm, where Capt. Lee occupied a haymow, just yards from the shed where Confederate Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead breathed his last - they were among 1500 wounded of both armies in that spot. The John S. Crawford house at 444 Harrisburg Street still exists as well, although it is presumably a private residence.


(Sources:;; James Power Smith, Firestorm at Gettysburg, Civilian Voices, by Jim Slade and John Alexander; Robert L. Bloom, "We Never Expected a Battle," The Civilians at Gettysburg, 1863; Greg Coco, A Vast Sea of Misery, pp. 121-122; History of the City of Columbus, Ohio, p. 900)
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
No, had not heard of them, thank you! This account sounds so much less desperate than some, the household able to not be overwhelmed for some reason. You know, like the Gatehouse, when Howard's men were there and the Thorn's household goods were looted anyway. There were wounded there but you got the impression no one was caring for them yet? ( I never understood who came to Gettysburg to take advantage of a battle, looting goods in the middle of a battle anyway? )

Seeing Barlow reading, while waiting for Arabella adds a page we've never read to their story. And I'm sorry but it's so odd, 3 generals coming to a house full of wounded in the middle of a battle, looking for breakfast, like it's a normal day? My mother came from a long line of Scottish Presbyterians. They disallow themselves swear words or much of anything by way of getting upset but have other ways of freezing your marrow when displeased. Love to have seen that conversation, may have been a little chilly on a hot, July day.

Thanks for posting this!


Forum Host
Silver Patron
Mar 15, 2013
Great story @Tom Elmore Thanks for posting it. :bounce::dance::bounce:
Is this the same John S Crawford who owned the "Crawford Farm" located out on Marsh Creek that was used as a hospital for Barksdale's brigade?

Here's a modern day picture of the house described in the OP rented by John Crawford and used by Mrs Smith to tend the wounded.
from Google maps
444 Harrisburg Street.JPG
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