Culp’s Hill, the site of key fighting July 2-3, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg is undergoing a major rehabilitation project as Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation partner to improve the site's cultural and natural landscape.
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The Culp's Hill project is improving the cultural and natural landscape of 18-acres of Culp’s Hill where key battle action occurred on July 2-3, 1863.
For much of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army’s defensive battle line was arrayed in the shape of a fishhook, anchored on three hills and a ridge, with its left on Little Round Top, the center on Cemetery Ridge and Hill, and its right on Culp’s Hill.
On the evening of July 2, 1863, a spontaneous Confederate attack resulted in loss of Union breastworks on the lower part of Culp’s Hill and presented a serious threat to the Baltimore Pike which was a major Union supply line and escape route. The following morning, a sustained seven-hour fight allowed the Union troops to reclaim the entire hill and helped cement the eventual Union victory at Gettysburg.
During the immediate post-battle years, Culp’s Hill enjoyed great attention as veterans and visitors walked the ground to see the bullet-shattered trees and remnants of Union breastworks.
By the turn of the 20th century, natural intrusions claimed much of the visual evidence of the great battles on the Union right, resulting in Culp’s Hill becoming one of the least-visited area on the battlefield. Confusing placements of monuments, loss of viewsheds and lack of access to specific points of interest have made interpretation difficult.
All of this is continuing to change.
Through an exciting partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Gettysburg Foundation, supported by a generous donation from Gettysburg native and California businessman Cliff Bream, a rehabilitation project is transforming and enhancing the visitor experience at Culp’s Hill.
Tree and brush removal from 18 critical acres of the battle ground have opened up viewsheds not seen for nearly 100 years. This improvement reveals the difficult ground over which the fighting occurred, as well as the overwhelming advantage Union breastworks provided during the evening of July 2 and the long fight on July 3. Specific areas where heavy fighting occurred, which were repeatedly captured by photographers in the immediate post-battle years, are once again visible, accessible and more understandable to our visitors.
On upper Culp’s Hill, terrain around rock formations on both the Union and Confederate positions were cleared to allow visitors to see the closeness of the lines as the battle raged in the darkness on July 2, 1863.
In addition to woodlot treatment, a trail to Forbes Rock has been formalized and interpretive waysides added to key locations. The National Park Service is currently developing a walking guide that will help visitors understand and interpret this key piece of ground.
Culp's Hill stories are also being told inside the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center where a diorama depicting the July 2 defense of Culp's Hill is on temporary display in the Group Lobby. Accompanying interpretive resources accompany this diorama.
Together, the various elements of this rehabilitation project will transform the interpretive value of Culp’s Hill, allowing visitors to better understand the consequential fighting that took place on the right flank of the Union line.
The 21st century has been an exciting time to see the Gettysburg battlefield come to life under the stewardship of the NPS with the help of the Gettysburg Foundation and many generous donors who support their preservation and educational missions.
The great work continues.