The Ziegler Family | Pennsylvania Civil War 150
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Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Pennsylvania Civil War 150

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The Ziegler Family

In just a few months, the Ziegler family went from living in a seminary to living in hell.

In 1826, the Lutheran Church established its first seminary in America. There were several possible locations for a seminary; however, Gettysburg provided a central location among the synods within the General Synod. Additionally, the town offered $7,000 toward the costs of construction, a building to use while the seminary was constructed, and an excellent system off roads.

The Adams County Academy on the southeast corner of Washington and High Streets served as the first home to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. And shortly thereafter, the Seminary purchased land on Oak Ridge, located on the west side of Gettysburg, for the location of its permanent home. Construction of this new Seminary building began on May 26, 1831, and was finished in 1832.

As with other local communities, Adams County felt the impact of the Civil War through enlistment of young men on both sides of the conflict. Gettysburg would feel the impact of the war physically and the Lutheran Theological Seminary on Oak Ridge would not be spared. On July 1, 1863, the war came directly into the dorm when the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac clashed on the western edge of Gettysburg. Oak Ridge, known afterward as Seminary Ridge, was the scene of the climax of the days fighting.

The fighting had begun early that morning and not long after the shooting began, Dr. George New, a Union surgeon in the First division of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac, designated Old Dorm for use as a hospital. The building quickly became an active hospital. The students and faculty had left the building prior to the battle.

The building steward, Emanuel Ziegler, who was home from the army on a furlough, and his family remained. The Zieglers left with the retreating Union army as the Federal defenses on the ridge collapsed late in the afternoon of July 1. By that evening, Confederate forces had taken the ridge and the town. The Old Dorm was in Confederate hands.

When the Confederates retreated into Virginia, the scene at the seminary was gruesome. Lydia Ziegler, daughter of the building steward, Emanuel Ziegler, remarked upon the family's return to the seminary, "Oh, what a home-coming! Everything we owned was gone and the rest had been converted to hospital purposes." However, the Zieglers did find two of their "beautiful white cows" in fine condition.

The family helped tend to the wounded, with Ziegler's wife Mary being among the first civilian nurses. As casualties mounted, the scene at the seminary was gruesome. Thirteen-year-old Lydia Ziegler remembered, "Oh, what a home-coming! Everything we owned was gone and the rest had been converted to hospital purposes." Eleven-year-old Hugh Ziegler's grisly task involved carrying amputated limbs outside for burial. Hundreds of wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate, were treated in the Seminary hospital. The last patient stayed until September.

Image Courtesy of Library of Congress

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