Over the River, Through the Woods

In this modern-day view looking south, you get a high-level perspective of the route that Sadie must have taken to her relatives’ farm on the south end of town. Sadie’s starting point is the blue label “Emanuel and Catherine Bushman Home Location.” This is 312 Baltimore Street and is today a primary care building.

Notice the blue “Mary and Jenny Wade Home.” This is 51 Breckenridge Street and is where Mary and her daughter Virginia (aka “Jennie”) lived at the time of the battle. Georgia Wade McClellan, Jennie’s sister, had given birth the week before, and Mary had gone to help her. Shortly after arriving, she sent home for Jennie, who then joined her at the blue-labeled home at the base of Cemetery Hill.

According to the accounts, Sadie was directed to steer clear of the Union soldiers pouring into town. By mid-morning July 1, the Baltimore Pike (same as Baltimore Street) was full of Union troops coming from the south. The Baltimore Pike was General George Gordon Meade‘s most critical landmark and the supply artery he considered most important to protect. There is little period discussion of “seizing the high ground.” Rather, Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and the Round Tops were all part of lines that protected this artery. Whatever time Sadie actually traversed the Pike, she would have encountered heavy Union traffic, and as noted in one of the newspaper accounts, her mother counseled her to steer clear of the incoming soldiers.

McAllister Mill

Midway to the George Bushman Farm you can see the McAllister Farm and Mill marker. James McAllister and his property were already active in the most significant issue of the day. An ardent abolitionist, McAllister was a key figure in the formation of the Adams County Anti-Slavery Society, and his home, for many former enslaved persons, was the first stop on the railroad past the Mason-Dixon line. Escapees were known to hide in the cog pit, a dirt rut under the basement, and in tiny caves along the creek. Freedom seekers frequently next headed north to Yellow Hill, home of African Americans Edward and Annie Matthews. According to Alexander W. Griest, “In the middle of the night, Mathews took them [the escaped slaves] to the home of Cyrus Griest and hid them in the springhouse. Mathews then tapped on the Griest’s bedroom window to let him know that he had guests . . . The women would feed the freedom seekers in the morning.”

Basil Biggs, perhaps the best-known black resident of Gettysburg at the time of the battle, was instrumental in bringing many escapees to the Matthews House and may have also interacted with the Dobbin House, which also served as a safehouse.

Flyover View of the Route from Gettysburg to the Bushman Farm and the Surrounding Land

In this flyover view, we see the route southeast from the town of Gettysburg to the George Bushman Farm, home of the XII Corps Hospital and Sadie’s destination in her journey. The flyover helps to see why Union officers and surgeons chose the farm for the field hospital.

In the Civil War, the Union’s top physician, Jonathan Letterman, established a system for handling the wounded. In combat, lightly sheltered areas were manned by an assistant surgeon whose main job was to diagnose wounded men coming off the field. These assistant surgeons were often in harm’s way. They typically provided one of four diagnoses: 1. Slightly wounded–these could be returned to immediate action, 2. Walking wounded–men who needed their wounds cleaned and opium for pain, 3. Immediate care–men who needed amputations or other surgeries to improve their chances of surviving, 3. Fatally wounded–typically, mean wounded in the abdomen, head, or chest and likely to die from their wounds. Soldiers in category 1 were returned to action. Soldiers in the others were evacuated to field hospitals like that at the George Bushman Farm. Evacuations were performed by ambulance–wagons or two-wheeled carts driven by men assigned before the battle.

Field hospitals required access to fresh water, open space for tents, and access to roads. They typically were also stationed far enough behind lines to avoid large volumes of artillery and musket fire. In the flyover, you can see the Bushman Farm’s access to Rock Creek, its proximity to what were then farm roads, and the shelter of Big Round Top. You can also see the still-open land that provided for the treatment of more than 1,200 wounded men.

After surgery and stabilization, the wounded were then moved to permanent facilities for recovery. After the battle, the trains in Gettysburg departed once in the morning and once in the afternoon to carry wounded men to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, or New York City. For those unable to be transported, they were relocated to a more permanent hospital the Union established outside the town: Camp Letterman.

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