In recognition of Women’s History Month, it is paramount to highlight the stories of historic women in our Gettysburg, Adams County community who served their community, helping those around them during challenging times in our local and nation’s history. As we reflect on women’s history, we spotlight several women whose lasting legacies are told here in historic Gettysburg.
Elizabeth Thorn was a German immigrant to the town of Gettysburg and the wife of Peter Thorn, the Evergreen Cemetery caretaker. Despite being six months pregnant and her husband absent in the Army, Elizabeth was left with the harrowing tasks of burying soldiers and caring for the fallen during and after the Battle of Gettysburg. Today, a monument depicting Elizabeth is located outside the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse commemorating women’s contributions during the American Civil War.
Elizabeth Spangler’s life was forever changed when her home was converted into the 11th Corps field hospital during the brutal fighting from July 1-3, 1863. Elizabeth and her husband, George, along with their four children lived in a small bedroom in their home for five weeks while an estimated 1,900 Union and Confederate soldiers were cared for on their farm. Today, visitors can visit the George Spangler Farm & Field Hospital to learn more about the history of this site.
Caroline Rupp and her husband, John Rupp, owned the home that now presents the interactive children’s history museum, Children of Gettysburg 1863. Caroline and John had six children in the home at the beginning of the battle. Caroline and her six children sought shelter in a neighbor’s cellar while the battle ravaged downtown Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.
Cornelia Hancock was born in New Jersey and made her way to Gettysburg after word traveled for the need of nurses to care for the wounded at age 23. Despite being turned away for being too young to be considered for the role of a nurse, Cornelia traveled to the railroad station in downtown Gettysburg and aided wounded soldiers as they awaited trains to travel home. The station, now known as the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station, is home to Gettysburg’s first virtual reality experience. Ticket to the Past – Unforgettable Journeys highlights Cornelia’s story today in that same train station where she offered her service and compassion to the wounded soldiers in 1863.
Margaret Palm, an African American woman who lived in Gettysburg with the Brian family on Cemetery Ridge, had evaded capture by enslavers in 1858. She physically fought them off when returning home one night. Margaret Palm’s story continues to be told alongside other prominent African American community members whose inspirational legacies are carried on in Gettysburg.
The above examples are just a few instances where women made their mark during the great Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath. Today, visitors not only from our local community, but from around the world come to explore this significant and vital history. Sometimes when living here, it is easy to forget just how important these contributions were not only to our local community, but to our nation.
Wayne E. Motts is president and chief executive officer of the Gettysburg Foundation. Visit the Gettysburg Foundation online at http://www.GettysburgFoundation.org.
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