Elizabeth Thorn: A Heroine of Gettysburg's Darkest Hour

Elizabeth Thorn: A Heroine of Gettysburg’s Darkest Hour

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to 3, 1863, was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the American Civil War. Amidst the chaos and carnage of this historic battle, one woman’s story shines as a beacon of courage and resilience. Elizabeth Thorn, a civilian, found herself thrust into the heart of the conflict as the battle raged around her. In this article, we delve into the life of Elizabeth Thorn and her remarkable experiences during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Elizabeth Thorn: A Glimpse into Her Life

Elizabeth Thorn was born Elizabeth Masser in 1832 in Germany. She later immigrated to the United States with her family, settling in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 1855, she married Peter Thorn, a local gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. Together, they managed Evergreen Cemetery, a peaceful resting place for the town’s deceased.

The Battle of Gettysburg Unfolds

The summer of 1863 brought turmoil to Gettysburg as Confederate and Union forces clashed in a brutal showdown. With the town thrust into the heart of the conflict, Elizabeth Thorn’s life was about to change forever.

Amidst the chaos of battle, Evergreen Cemetery became a makeshift hospital and burial ground for the fallen soldiers. Peter Thorn was called away to serve in the Union Army, leaving Elizabeth alone to tend to the cemetery, care for the wounded, and bury the dead. Her heroic efforts during these trying times have immortalized her name in history.

Elizabeth’s Unwavering Resolve

Elizabeth Thorn’s dedication to her duties was nothing short of remarkable. She tirelessly worked to ensure that the fallen soldiers received a proper burial. With limited resources and in the midst of the battle’s aftermath, she dug graves and conducted funeral services, often single-handedly. Her courage and determination in the face of overwhelming adversity demonstrated the resilience of the human spirit.

A Mother’s Love

Elizabeth Thorn had to endure the agonizing worry for her children’s safety during the battle. She had sent her two young sons, Peter and Jacob, to stay with relatives nearby for their safety. The fear and uncertainty of the battle’s outcome weighed heavily on her heart as she waited anxiously for news of her family.

The Legend of the Well

One of the most enduring legends of Elizabeth Thorn’s time during the Battle of Gettysburg centers around a well in Evergreen Cemetery. As the battle raged on, the town’s water supply was depleted, and Elizabeth took it upon herself to keep the soldiers and wounded supplied with water. She is said to have carried water from the well to the thirsty and wounded soldiers, becoming a symbol of hope and compassion amid the brutality.

Legacy and Recognition

After the Battle of Gettysburg concluded, Elizabeth Thorn continued her work at Evergreen Cemetery. She and her husband Peter went on to have eight more children. Sadly, Peter passed away in 1907, leaving Elizabeth a widow.

Elizabeth Thorn’s remarkable contributions during the Battle of Gettysburg were finally recognized posthumously. In 1904, she was awarded a pension by the federal government, acknowledging her service during the Civil War. Today, her story lives on as a testament to the strength and resilience of civilians thrust into the crucible of war.

Elizabeth Thorn’s story is a shining example of the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity. Her dedication, courage, and compassion during the Battle of Gettysburg have cemented her place in history as a true heroine. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by civilians and the untold stories of heroism that emerged from one of the darkest chapters in American history. Elizabeth Thorn’s name will forever be associated with the Battle of Gettysburg, a testament to her unwavering resolve in the midst of chaos and conflict.

Visiting Gettysburg? Then the historic Tillie Pierce House Inn should be on your list of places to stay. Consider our Elizabeth Thorn room, often referred to as the “green room” for its soft, comforting sage green walls, offers our guests a queen size bed and a private powder room. The room is located on the second level, towards the front of the building, facing historic Baltimore Street, where President Lincoln marched towards Evergreen Cemetery to give his address. Book your stay today!