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Caring for the wounded at Gettysburg

Written by Matt Paul, Reporter/Producer | Jul 3, 2013 4:01 AM
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Photo by witf/Matt Paul

The inside of this barn served as a field hospital and operating room 150 years ago.

(Gettysburg) – Gettysburg visitors now have the chance to walk the very ground where many wounded soldiers were cared for, operated on, and even died. Nearly 1,900 soldiers were carted off the Gettysburg battlefield and onto the George Spangler Farm during the first days of July, 1863.

Cindy Small of the Gettysburg Foundation says it seemed like a peaceful, quite place at the time. “What they did not anticipate… was that the artillery fire would be over-arching from this area… and some of the soldiers were fired upon here.”

It only exacerbated an already agonizing scene.

“It was inside this very barn that many operations were held,” Small explained while leading a tour of the property. “I’m always in awe when I think of what the beams in this room would have seen.”

One General who toured the facility noted pools of blood, and amputated limbs lying in heaps.

Small says for six weeks the Spangler family was relegated to just one room, as wounded soldiers and staff occupied almost every other inch of the property.  The Spangler Farm is one of the most intact field hospitals of the Civil War, and Small says it can help tell the story of how the wounded were cared for beyond the fighting.

Painstaking preservation and rehabilitation work is ongoing at the farm, years after the Gettysburg Foundation acquired it. But the public is being welcomed onto the property for the first time. For now it’s only accessible via shuttle bus, but Small hopes a walking path will connect the farm with the park’s visitors center by this time next year.

Published in Adams County, News

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