Of all the tactical errors made in the Civil War, this one was a doozy.
George Washington Shriver was 23 when he paid $290 for a lot on south Baltimore Hill in Gettysburg in the spring of 1860. He planned to build a new home for his family there. He and his wife Hettie had two children. Molly was three; Sadie was five.
In addition to building a new home, Shriver wanted to build a business - Shriver's Saloon & Ten-Pin Alley. The saloon would be located in the cellar, while the two-lane, ten-pin bowling alley would be located in a building behind the house.
The Shrivers were barely settled into their new home when the Civil War broke out in April 1861. When President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to help in the war effort, Shriver enlisted in Company C of Cole's Cavalry.
Two years later, in June 1863, Confederate soldiers crossed into Pennsylvania. The Battle of Gettysburg began early in the morning on July 1, 1863. About 9 a.m., Hettie could hear the roar of the cannons from the west side of town. As the noise grew louder, she decided to leave for her parents' farm, about three miles south.
Hettie could not know they were jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Her parents' farm, the Weikert house sits between Big Round Top and Little Round Top-where some of the worst fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg took place. Over the next three days, the noise of the battle was so loud that they had to shout to hear each other inside the Weikert house. The house shook from the cannons firing all around them. When the fighting stopped there were wounded and dying men everywhere. Hettie had to stay and help.
On July 7, Hettie and her daughters returned home. As they approached town, they realized that in seven days their whole world had turned upside down. Fences were broken, buildings were gone, and many others stood in ruins. Hettie found Confederate soldiers had occupied her home while she was gone.
Her neighbor told her he saw Confederate soldiers set up a sharpshooters' nest in the garret, and he watched the soldiers knock several "port holes" through the brick wall on the south side of the house in effort to pick off Union soldiers. At least two sharpshooters were killed inside Hettie's home, and bodies dragged away through her garden.
Five months after the Battle of Gettysburg, George Shriver was granted a four-day furlough. This gave him the opportunity to spend Christmas with Hettie and his girls. Shriver was a changed man when he returned. He had been away from his family for almost two and a half years and saw things he could not even begin to describe. George reported back to duty on December 29, 1863. Two days later, New Year's Day, 1864, he was taken prisoner by the Confederates and sent to Andersonville Prison in Georgia.
Information for this section was contributed by Nancie W. Gudmestad.
Nancie W. Gudmestad is the Director of the Shriver House Museum in Gettysburg, PA. In 1996, Nancie and her husband, Del, painstakingly restored the home of George and Hettie Shriver to its original 1860's appearance to tell the civilian side of the Battle of Gettysburg. Abandoned for nearly thirty years, the meticulous restoration won the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's Restoration of the Year Award.
Image Courtesy of Anne and Dan Nemeth-Barath