A Historic Year

A Historic Year (HM1FUM)

Location: Gettysburg, PA 17325 Adams County
Country: United States of America

N 39° 50.216', W 77° 14.217'

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Gettysburg College in 1863

"There was no one among us who had the smallest comprehension of all that an invasion of our soil could mean."
- Henry Eyster Jacobs, Class of 1862

When the Confederate army advanced into Pennsylvania in June 1863, no person or place went untouched by the events that followed. The invasion made refugees of College janitor John Hopkins and his family. It made soldiers of the 54 students who joined Company A, 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia. On June 26 the Company met with the "bronzed and scarred veterans" of the Confederate army on the outskirts of town. The boys, many of whom had never fired a gun, retreated, and several became prisoners of the enemy.

On July 1 the battle arrived. That afternoon, the Union XI Corps retreated from its position north of town. As they swept across the northern grounds of Gettysburg College, the troops brought with them a barrage of gunfire, turning the quiet campus into a deadly battlefield. Pennsylvania Hall later became a Confederate field hospital. As the battle raged on, staggering casualty counts made medics out of every available man and woman, College students and faculty included.

Life in Gettysburg had just begun to return to normal when the town was again thrust into the national spotlight. On November 19, 1863, students and faculty joined the thousands who gathered for the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery and witnessed President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It soon became evident that, while the monumental battle and the famous speech that followed had a profound effect on individual lives, Gettysburg had hosted two events that would redefine the war, the nation, and the history of Gettysburg College.


John Hopkins

By 1863, Gettysburg College had employed John Hopkins for nearly two decades. As the school's janitor, Hopkins made a decent wage and provided well for his family. They lived in an on-campus home just north of Pennsylvania Hall. The approaching Confederate army, however, posed the disturbing threat of enslavement. The Hopkins family fled Gettysburg, forced to become refugees alongside much of the town's Black community. When the family finally returned to their home, they found that it had been ransacked by Southern soldiers. When John Hopkins died in 1868, much of the College community attended his funeral, mourning the man who had become a popular figure on campus.

Placed ByGettysburg College
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 at 12:51am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 308592 N 4412052
Decimal Degrees39.83693333, -77.23695000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 50.216', W 77° 14.217'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 50' 12.96" N, 77° 14' 13.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)717
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 31 W Lincoln Ave, Gettysburg PA 17325, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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