The Forgotten Aftermath of Battle: Pennsylvania College Files a Claim as a Hospital

Pennsylvania College campus in 1862. (Courtesy of Gettysburg College Special Collections)

In the immediate aftermath of the costliest battle of the Civil War, Gettysburg, civilians who once roamed the peaceful streets of their little Adams County town were forced to reckon with the destruction and devastation around them. Homes and businesses were used as hospitals and sharpshooter positions. Crops and vegetation destroyed from over 160,000 troops marching on top of them. Friends and families wounded or killed from stray bullets and shell fragments. Unfortunately, the list could go on. At Pennsylvania College on the northwest side of town, the main dorm and academic building was used as a hospital and Union observation post. Due to the numbers of wounded that needed help and treatment, this once-bustling building filled with students and faculty was filled with dying soldiers and their surgeons. The damages unintentionally done in the building forced the small Lutheran college to file a claim for reimbursement from the Quartermaster General’s Office within one month of the battle.

On June 30, 1863, Pennsylvania College’s main dorm and academic building, Pennsylvania Hall, was quickly used as an observation point and signal corps station for the Army of the Potomac, preparing for the possibility of a full-fledged battle surrounding Gettysburg. “Penn” Hall was the largest and tallest building in Gettysburg in 1863, which made it quite desirable by both armies for strategic use. On July 1, 1863, the hall was quickly occupied by Confederate troops as they swept south through town. Below, is an account in The Pennsylvania College Book, 1832-1882: 

After the first day’s fight, and the retreat of our army to the south-east of the town, the College came into the possession of the enemy, and was used by them as a hospital. The incident of Gen. Lee’s ascent to the cupola for observations, on July 3, is well known to the citizens of Gettysburg, though attempts have been made to call it in question. It is, however, abundantly established by the positive testimony of a number of witnesses, some of whom are still living. The College was filled with the wounded and those waiting on them — probably not less than 500. Many were placed in the Library, and in the halls of the Societies, as well as in the recitation rooms, chapel, and student rooms. Many blood-soaked volumes in the Library still remind of the use to which it was put. Surgeons were plying their work of amputation and dressing in the public halls and on the porches. For four weeks after the defeat and repulse of the enemy, the building was kept thus by the Government as a hospital. Many of the wounded died, and their bodies were buried on the college grounds — most, if not all of which were afterward removed. Of course, though wanton destruction seems not to have been at all committed, the building was much defaced, the furniture destroyed, the fences, etc., swept away. The Commencement exercises for the year were omitted. A regular programme, however, was issued. The work of thorough cleansing and repair was begun as soon as possible, and by the time for the opening of the Fall Session, September 24, the College was ready for the reception of the students.[1]

Located within the Gettysburg College (formerly Pennsylvania College) Special Collections, there are two letters from the Quartermaster General’s Office that shed light on the effort of College President Rev. Dr. Henry L. Baugher to receive a claim to fix the damages from when it was occupied as a hospital. As you can see from the account above, the damages were extensive. Like many civilians in Gettysburg, Baugher was forced to file a claim, which was far from a simple process, even when the Quartermaster’s Office was still in Gettysburg by early Fall. For Baugher, he had to get the claim and repair the campus before the school year began. Below, I have provided the document images and transcribed text.

Quartermaster General’s Office
Washington City
August 29, 1863
Capt. H.B. Blood
Asst Quartermaster
Gettysburg Pennsylvania

Captain.
Your letter of the 21st instant relative to a claim presented for rent of and damage done to the Pennsylvania College near Gettysburg while the buildings were used for hospital purposes from July 1st to July 29th 1863 has been received. The amount requested by you–$625 as a fair and reasonable sum to allow for the rent thereof and for putting the premises in the same condition–ordinary wear and tear excepted–they were when taken possession of by the United States is approved; and you are authorized to make payment accordingly; if acceptable to the claimants. The claim for beds and furniture damaged by the soldiers, or taken away to the General Hospital, can not be paid from the appropriation for the Quartermasters Department. They must be settled by the Medical Department, or the claimants will have to resort to whatever appropriation, and whatever Tribunal Congress may hereafter provide for the settlement of such claims. The certificates showing the occupation of the College for hospital purposes are returned, and will be filed with your voucher. If the above award is not accepted you will yourself take measures to put thebuildings in as good condition–ordinary wear and tear excepted–as they were when taken for a hospital. Very Respectfully
Your obedient servant
(signed) Chs Thomas
Col: actg Qm genl [2]

Depot Quartermaster’s Office Gettysburg Pa
Sept 3rd 1863

Rev Dr. Baugher
President Penna College

Sir:
I have the honor to enclose hencewith a copy of a letter addressed to me by the Quartermaster General, in relation to claim for damage done to the College buildings while used for hospital purposes, by the United States. Should the amount therein name $625, be accepted, please notify me immediately, that I may make arrangements to pay it as soon as possible.

I am
Very Respectfully
Your Obt Sevt
H.B. Blood
Capt and A. QM.

 


Sources:

1. E.S. Breidenbaugh, The Pennsylvania College Book, 1832-1882 (Philadelphia, PA: Lutheran Publication Society, 1882), 92.

2. Captain H.B. Blood to Henry L. Baugher, 3 September 1863, Gettysburg College Special Collections, Gettysburg, PA; Colonel Charles Thomas to Captain H.B. Blood, 29 August 1863, Gettysburg College Special Collections, Gettysburg, PA.

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