Member of the Year
- Jan 16, 2015
On the night of July 2, the drummer boys of the 28th Pennsylvania were assembled together by Assistant Surgeon William Altman to establish a field hospital at the Henry Spangler house and barn on the Baltimore Pike in rear of Culp’s Hill. The boys were to carry water to the wounded and help load them into ambulances. In the meantime they camped out in the barn; the house was unoccupied at the time. One of the boys, Private George “Mac” McFetridge of Company K, decided to explore and went down into the cellar of the house. There he found a container of mackerel, and passed it up through the cellar window to his comrade, William T. “Bill” Simpson of Company A. They opened it and enjoyed the contents. There was so much that Mac took it back to his company so they could all partake in the feast. As a result, Mac was accorded the nickname “Fish,” which stuck with him for the rest of his life.
Several years later, when Bill and Mac returned to Gettysburg for a reunion, they returned to the Spangler house. Bill recalled: We met the old man at the house and asked him if he missed a kit of mackerel during the battle. “By jiminy,” he excitedly said, “was you the fellers got the mackerel out of my house? Come in and see my wife.” He told his wife, “Mom, this is the men that got the mackerel we forgot.” He explained, “Me and my wife had just come from town with the groceries, when Jim Steigerwald – he belonged to the militia company – comes up the pike, and he says, ‘Quick, get out! They’re coming.’ We thought we put everything back in the wagon again, but, by jiminy, we didn’t.” On the way to Carlisle, his wife suddenly remembered that she forgot the mackerel. “It was too late then to turn back, so we lost our mackerel.” Bill and Mac offered to reimburse them, but they said they had claimed the loss after the battle and been reimbursed by the War Department! (Now that’s fishy, because so many credible citizen claims were rejected.)
Henry Spangler (1830-1917) and his wife Sarah (1832-1913) occupied the farm, which was owned by Henry’s father, Abraham. It became a field hospital for a portion of the Second Division, Twelfth Corps. It may have been here that Adjutant Josiah Virgil Upham of the 102nd New York died on July 3, of wounds received on the evening of July 2.
Incidentally, Henry Spangler was associated with two farms on the battlefield; the other, near Spangler’s Woods on Seminary Ridge, was farmed by a tenant, Jacob Eckenrode. It is easy (for me, anyway) to confuse the two. Then there is the famous farm (also a field hospital) of George Spangler (Henry’s half-brother - they had the same father) just south of Power’s Hill, which is being well-preserved by the Gettysburg Foundation. So when generic mention is made of the Spangler farm, it’s important to clarify: Which one?
-William T. Simpson, The Drummer Boys of Gettysburg, http://www.keltaskavern.com/28th/BillySimpson.html
-A Vast Sea of Misery, by Gregory A. Coco.
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