Throughout our warm and muggy Pennsylvania summers, we can easily feel – and perhaps even envision – what it must have been like here in 1863.
During those hot summer days, the battle came to Gettysburg, and borough and county residents suffered, sacrificed and endured. One such family was Cumberland Township residents George and Elizabeth Spangler, owners of a prosperous 166-acre farm just south of Gettysburg. Unfortunately for them, their homestead was strategically located inside Union lines between the Taneytown Road and the Baltimore Pike. This site was ideal for a Union field hospital, as well as a staging point for Union Artillery Reserve. Thousands of Federal troops trampled the Spangler’s crops, used their farm goods and commandeered their home and barn for a field hospital. George and Elizabeth, along with their four children, elected to remain on the property and helped care for the wounded during the battle, living in a single room in their own home, cleared by the Federal surgeons. Some 1,900 men, including 100 Confederate soldiers, were treated there. George Spangler later made a claim for over $3,000 in damages and was awarded just $60. Whether he was paid this amount is unknown. Despite all adversities, with hard work and determination, the Spangler family returned their property to its prewar splendor and grew their produce and livestock over prewar levels. Mr. Spangler died at age 88 in 1904, having resided on the property for over 50 years. In fact, for more than 100 years, the farmstead had just two owners.
In 2008, the Gettysburg Foundation purchased the property for over 1.8 million dollars and raised money to restore the site from 2012-2019. Today, it remains the largest and best-preserved field hospital location at the Battle of Gettysburg.
In an area rich in history, the George Spangler Farm & Field Hospital must not be overlooked. It is right here in our own backyard. Summer is an excellent time to explore, experience and take part in the rest of the summer season through Aug. 15, as well as upcoming events at the historic site.
On Friday, Aug. 27, the Foundation welcomes Licensed Battlefield Guides Rick Schroeder and Fran Feyock to the Spangler Farm & Field Hospital for a fresh take on Civil War medicine. Focusing on the care provided to soldiers from the perspective of a modern orthopedic surgeon and certified registered nurse anesthetist, these medical professionals will take us through a fascinating surgical case review of the day’s medicine, procedures and stories. You will not want to miss the Aug. 27 evening program.
Something especially for the entire family, the Foundation’s popular Family Day at Spangler offers visitors free access to explore the site, hear the Spangler family story, interact with living historians, learn about the surgeons’ and civilians’ roles during the battle and maybe even enjoy some Mr. G’s old fashioned ice cream. You will have two more opportunities this year to join us for Family Day at Spangler – Saturdays during both the Labor Day and Columbus Day weekends.
Like the summer, the season at Spangler will end soon before we know it. We hope you take these opportunities to join us, explore the 80-acre site, take in the history and experience the story of the Spangler family…with your family.
President, Gettysburg Foundation
First appeared in the Gettysburg Foundation's column in the July 26, 2021, edition of the Gettysburg Times.