Faces of Gettysburg: The Forgotten Legacy of Henry Spangler

Faces of Gettysburg: The Forgotten Legacy of Henry Spangler

In the tumultuous days of the Civil War, even those who believed they were safely removed from the conflict found themselves ensnared by its grasp. Henry Spangler’s family, residing along the precarious boundary between North and South, became unwitting witnesses to history. Their experience, like many others, reveals the war’s indiscriminate nature, capable of infiltrating homes at any moment.

The Spangler Legacy

Henry Spangler, a member of the affluent Spangler clan in Gettysburg, owned a 156-acre farm on Emmitsburg Road. Unbeknownst to him, this property would later become crucial during the Pickett-Pettigrew assault on July 3, 1863. While renting out this farm, Henry resided on another owned by his father, Abraham, behind Culp’s Hill. The Spangler family’s presence in Gettysburg extended further, with Henry’s older brother, George, owning a farm south of Culp’s Hill, serving as a vital location for the Union Army.

The Battlefield Unfolds

Abraham’s farm, the wartime residence of Henry and his family, witnessed pivotal moments during the Battle of Gettysburg. Key landmarks such as Spangler Meadow, Pardee Field, and the renowned Spangler’s Spring were etched into history on their property. The Spangler home, a brick and stone structure constructed around 1820, stood witness to the brutalities of war.

The Battle’s Impact

In July 1863, as the Union and Confederate forces clashed, Henry’s family faced a dire situation. A Union officer urged Sarah Spangler to evacuate with their children for safety. Despite the impending danger, Henry chose to stay behind in an attempt to safeguard their home. The property became a battleground as Union and Confederate forces struggled for control. The aftermath was devastating – the house was ransacked, livestock stolen, and fields destroyed.

The Legacy of Ruin

Upon their return, the Spangler family found their once-thriving property in ruins. The house, used as a field hospital, bore witness to unimaginable suffering. Fences were torn down, crops decimated, and bullets from both sides scattered across the grounds. The toll of war was evident, with corpses and amputated limbs buried across the property.

A Tale of Resilience

Despite the destruction, stories emerged of truces between opposing forces near Spangler’s Spring, where soldiers supposedly cooperated to replenish their supplies. While these tales may fit into the post-war reconciliation narrative, the battle’s brutality cannot be romanticized. The property’s history is a testament to the thousands of lives lost and the enduring scars left by war.

The story of Henry Spangler and his family encapsulates the stark contrast between the tranquility of farmland and the horrors of war. Their experience mirrors that of countless civilians who found their lives and properties irrevocably altered by the conflict. The legacy of the Spangler family serves as a poignant reminder of the war’s indiscriminate reach and the lasting impact it had on the lives of ordinary citizens caught in its path.

There’s so much to learn and see in historic Gettysburg. Book your stay at the historic Tillie Pierce House Inn today!