The year 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Gettysburg Address, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Located in the heart of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Gettysburg College—then Pennsylvania College—was deeply embedded in Civil War activities, and its buildings and campus community were directly impacted by the battle.
Discover the differences between Pennsylvania College in 1863 and Gettysburg College in 2013, then read further for facts about the campus' role before and during the battle.
Posted: Mon, 1 Jul 2013
Gettysburg College’s history of abolitionism
• Gettysburg College was founded by anti-slavery theologian Samuel Simon Schmucker in 1832.
• One of the College’s original trustees, Thaddeus Stevens, was one of the nation’s most famous abolitionists.
• In 1847, the College hired a local African American man, John “Jack” Hopkins, who served as the College’s groundskeeper, rang the College bell, and announced classes. He and his family lived in a home located near the present-day Musselman Library steps.
• In the late 1850s, students formed an unofficial and unsanctioned fraternity, Beta Delta, which is rumored to have sheltered runaway slaves as part of the town’s Underground Railroad.
Students’ service in the war
• More than 200 Pennsylvania College students and alumni served on both sides of the war.
• At the war’s outbreak in April 1861, students immediately volunteered to serve. They formed a military company and drilled regularly on the north side of present-day Pennsylvania Hall, as well as in the town square.
• In June 1863, many students answered President Lincoln and Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin’s call for troops to oppose Lee's northward movement toward Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, this regiment experienced a series of mishaps, including multiple broken down trains, an unexpected encounter and capture by General Early’s Confederate Corps, and a retreat back to Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania College during the battle
• The College Edifice, now known as Pennsylvania Hall, was the primary building on campus at the time of the battle, and housed classrooms, offices, and students’ quarters.
• Henry Louis Baugher—an ordained Lutheran pastor and professor of Greek—was president of the College at the time of the battle. On the morning of July 1, 1863, Baugher was attempting to hold class in Pennsylvania Hall when Union signal corps soldiers rushed into the building to survey the surrounding fields from the cupola. Seeing that his students were too distracted to continue, Baugher dismissed them, and many of them rushed to aid the wounded.
• President Baugher and his family sheltered and cared for wounded Union soldiers in their home—which stands today as the Norris-Wachob Alumni House.
• On July 1, 1863, the Confederate army took over Pennsylvania Hall. When students returned to campus, their dorm rooms had been emptied of belongings and were occupied by hundreds of suffering soldiers who used their books for pillows and props. For a month after the battle, Pennsylvania Hall served as a hospital and prison camp, and surgeries took place on its portico and in the surrounding fields.
• Despite the impact of the war on campus, the Class of 1863 graduated on time, and Pennsylvania College was able to resume classes in September 1863.
Read more about the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Christine Shanaberger, associate director of communications / coordinator of presidential communication, 717.337.6806.
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