Buildings and Farms Then and Now

McPherson Farm
Two men look over a field at a large stone barn, a wagon shed, and a house. A large stone barn sits in an open field.
Matthew Brady and his assistant look upon the McPherson farm buildings – July, 1863. Gettysburg National Military Park.
The McPherson barn is the only remnant of the farm today. The home burned down in 1895 and the center wagon shed no longer stands. NPS Photo.
The Edward McPherson Farm, which lies west of town, was the scene of heavy fighting on the first day of battle, July 1, 1863. While Confederate General Henry Heth’s Division advanced towards Gettysburg against defending Union cavalry commanded by General John Buford, Union reinforcements from General John Reynolds’ First Corps arrived. The fields swarmed with soldiers of opposing forces and the McPherson barn quickly became a sanctuary for the wounded. When fighting ceased, the barn and home continued as a hospital, leaving the property uninhabitable for months. 
A young man sits on a white fence looking up the hill at a large building with a white cupola. A red brick building with a white cupola stands in the distance at the top of a ridge.
A photographer’s assistant sits on a fence, looking up at the Lutheran Theological Seminary building. Library of Congress.
The seminary and the ground before it looks much like it did in 1863. A few additional buildings surround the seminary. NPS Photo.
Built in 1832, the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary was the first Lutheran seminary in the country. Students studied for the ministry and religious education and continues to operate today. The ridge where the seminary was built would be named Seminary Ridge and this prominent location would become the jumping off point for thousands of Confederate soldiers throughout the battle. This structure, Schmucker Hall, was used to house wounded from both armies during and after the Battle of Gettysburg.
A black and white picture is superimposed on a modern picture of a red brick building shaped like an arch with two cannons in front of the structure. A picture of a red brick building shaped like an arch with two cannons in front of the structure.
Despite heavy fighting in the area, the gatehouse suffered only moderate damage. Library of Congress.
Today, the gatehouse is largely the same as it was in 1863 with the exception of an addition on the right side of the building. NPS Photo.
The Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse, built in 1855, stands at the summit of Cemetery Hill. The house was used to shelter wounded and suffered damage from the fighting that raged in front of it on the evening of July 2. On the night of July 1, Elizabeth Thorn, wife of then-absent cemetery caretaker Peter Thorn, served supper to General Sickles, General Slocum and General Howard. Photographer Matthew Brady photographed the gate house approximately two weeks after the battle.
A black and white picture of a large african american family, a horse, a dog, and a house and barn. A stone house with white picket fence stands alongside a road.
Basil Biggs, his family, two horses and a dog can be seen standing on Taneytown Road in front of their home and barn. Adams County Historical Society.
The original Biggs home can still be seen standing along the Taneytown Road today. The barn is not original. NPS Photo.
Basil Biggs was a free African-American who made Gettysburg his home in 1858. With the approach of Confederate troops before the battle, Biggs, his wife Mary and their seven children, fled town. Biggs and his family returned soon after the battle ended and worked to repair damage to his property and that of John Fisher, whose farm on the Taneytwon Road would become Biggs’ home that fall. Biggs was hired to work in the exhumation of Union dead from battlefield graves for burial in the National Cemetery. He was paid $1.25 per body.
Meade's Headquarters: Lydia Leister House
An 1863 view of the Lydia Leister house is at the center of this then and now picture meld. This modern day picture shows the Lydia Leister house along the Taneytown Road.
The Lydia Leister house is where Union General George G. Meade made his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. Library of Congress.
This modern day picture looks north along the Taneytown Road. The Lydia Leister house is obscured from view by a large tree. NPS Photo.
The Lydia Leister house is where Union General George G. Meade made his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. Late in the evening of July 2, Meade held a council of war in this house to decide if the Union army should stay and hold their hard-fought high ground or abandon their position. The council of war decided to stay. Late in the afternoon of July 3, Confederate batteries concentrated their missiles on the center of Cemetery Ridge in an attempt to soften up the Union position. Unbeknownst to the Confederate artillerymen, their rounds overshot their intended targets and began to land around Meade’s headquarters causing substantial damage. Although the commanding general moved to a safer location, evidence of the bombardment is everywhere. The house and surrounding fences are all damaged and dead horses lay in various stages of rigormortis in the center of the Taneytown Road and in the yard of the house.

Last updated: May 5, 2021

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