Bordering Sheetz in front of you is Camp Letterman Drive, named after one of the largest field hospitals of the Civil War. The hospital was located on about 80 acres of the George Wolf farm, one-half mile west of where you are standing. Why such a huge medical encampment?
On July 3, 1863, at the close of the Battle of Gettysburg, thousands of wounded Union and Confederate soldiers remained behind as the armies withdrew. The wounded were scattered about in numerous temporary field hospitals, and on July 5th Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac received orders to "...establish a general hospital at Gettysburg for the wounded that cannot be moved..."
Dr. Letterman chose the Wolf farm as an advantageous site because of its high ground, abundant spring water, and close proximity to the York Road and Gettysburg Railroad. Row after row of tents were pitched, drainage ditches dug, cooking, supply, and sanitary facilities installed, surgeons and nurses brought in, and soon the first of over 4,000 patients were received at historic Camp Letterman.
On August 17, 1863 Gettysburg's newspaper reported: "Everything is being done to relieve and soothe the suffering...Deaths do daily occur, but from the severity of many wounds, this cannot be prevented."
Camp Letterman was closed
on November 20, 1863, the day after President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery. Sophronia Buklin, one of approximately 40 female nurses at Camp Letterman, describes in her diary the closing of the camp: "...the hospital tents were removed—each bare and dust-trampled space marking where corpses had lain after death-agony was passed, and where the wounded had groaned in pain. Tears filled my eyes....So many of them I had seen depart to the silent land, so many I had learned to respect."