When people read, talk and write about the Battle of Gettysburg, they often glance over the farms mentioned in battle accounts. The connection to a farm is usually limited to pinpointing the location of some aspect of the fighting or troop movement. Histories of the battle, for instance, might say something along the lines of “the Battery retreated from the peach orchard” or “Col. Roy Stone’s brigade fought on the McPherson Farm.” Something was missing, so I’ve explored the history of one of those farms—and the role it played during and after the Battle of Gettysburg—a little more closely.
The George Spangler Farm is at 488 Blacksmith Shop Rd. in Cumberland Township, Adams County. The property was acquired by George Spangler (1815-1904) in 1848. He and his wife, the former Elizabeth Brinkerhoff
(1818-1907), resided there during the years they raised their family, which consisted of four children born between 1842 and 1848. The first known occupant of the farm, dating from 1798, was John Dodds.
The most recent transfer of ownership occurred on April 28, 2008, when the Gettysburg Foundation, a private, nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, completed purchase of the property from the Andrew family. The land has been farmed almost continuously since before the Civil War, and today it’s a fine example of a Civil War-era farm. The Gettysburg Foundation is developing plans for the rehabilitation and use of the site.
On July 1, 1863, the home and its buildings were converted to a field hospital for the 2nd Division of the 11th Union Army Corps. Pretty soon, all the wounded of the corps were brought there to be treated. Reports indicate some 1,800 Union soldiers and 100 Confederate troops were attended to at the Spangler Farm. At least seven Federal surgeons are known to have been assigned to the site. The Elliott Burial Map, published in 1864, illustrates many burials on the farm, including at least 20 Confederate soldiers. The wounded who were at the farm were moved by August 1863 to other hospitals, including Camp Letterman General Hospital, located along the York Road east of Gettysburg. George Spangler rebuilt and repaired his home and farm buildings. He lived on the property until his death in 1904.