Monday, February 18, 2013

Gettysburg's Battle Damaged Homes Part 1

In the borough of Gettysburg, there are still about a dozen buildings that show battle damage from July of 1863.  This number does not include the farm structures that still stand on the rolling battlefield grounds around the town itself.

For this week's post we'll start a multi-part journey through those edifices still standing that show the wear and tear of those three days of battle in July of 1863.

Stop number one...

The Eyster House on West High Street

Built in 1813, the house was originally one of the first educational institutions in the area.  It was known as the Gettysburg Academy until 1829.  Pennsylvania College started operation here in 1826.  Once the new building was completed north of town, the campus included both this building and the new one known as Pennsylvania Hall and "Old Dorm" until 1837.  In 1856 the building took ownership by Reverend David Eyster and his wife Rebecca who ran the Gettysburg Female Institute in the building until 1871.  

During the battle the front north facing facade was struck by a dud artillery shell which has been embedded in the wall ever since, straight below the cupola between the second floor windows.  We are all lucky that the shell was a dud because this historical structure with such beautiful architecture would be sorely missed. 
Shell embedded in the north facing facade on the second floor

John Kuhn House

Located on North Stratton Street, the John Kuhn House was in the midst of heavy fighting on the afternoon of July 1st.  It was in the brick yard owned by John Kuhn to the east of the house that Charles Coster's Eleventh Corps Brigade made a stand against the onrushing Rebels of Avery and Hays' Brigades of Early's Division.  Being outnumbered and on bad ground, Coster's men were forced to abandon the brick yard with very heavy losses in all categories.  Only three of his four regiments were present in the fight and his total loss was nearly six hundred men.

Mr. Kuhn's brick house at some point amid all the fighting, maybe even after the Confederate occupation of the town, was hit by a dud artillery round on the south facade.  The shell is there to this day.  The house just across the street also has an artillery round embedded, only in its north facing wall which means that more than likely it was fired by a Confederate piece during the Federal retreat through the streets of Gettysburg.

Jacob Stock House

The Stock House is located on South Washington Street.  In 1863 the building was known as the Swan Inn and it was opened in 1862 by Jacob Stock.  A Bavarian, Stock was known as an avid hunter and held shooting competitions on the property of his establishment.

During the battle, Union troops from some units passed the house twice on July 1st.  These units of the Eleventh Corps headed up Washington Street on their way to meet an overpowering assault by Ewell's Confederates and some of them very possibly came back this same direction as they fled towards the hope of security on Cemetery Hill.  

After the Confederates occupied the town, they used the buildings on the southern outskirts of town as havens for sharpshooters.  The Jacob Stock House, or Swan Inn, was one of those buildings used for taking pot shots at Federal soldiers on the heights to the south.  It is because of this that the south facing facade to this day shows the scars of return fire from Federal soldiers attempting to dislodge the building's Confederate sharpshooters.  The building is marked with dozens of divots, the calling card of the Federal mini ball during the battle one hundred and fifty years ago.  Today few people notice this marked structure and it definitely receives less attention than its more famous neighbor down the street, the Farnsworth House.    

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