Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Gettysburg park to rebuild two stone walls that went missing after the action, move another that tumbles rocks onto road

Stone wall at Frey farm, along Taneytown Road (NPS photo)

Gettysburg National Military Park is moving and rebuilding one stone wall that has become a safety hazard to motorists and rebuilding two others that were used for cover by soldiers during the battle.

“The project is part of the park’s long-term battlefield rehabilitation program to bring back missing features on the battlefield landscape that played a role and shaped the outcome of the 1863 battle,” the park said in a press release Tuesday.

The heavy lifting for much of the work this summer will be provided by an eight-member crew of young adults with the American Conservation Experience.

For the walls’ locations and alignments, crews will work from the G.K. Warren map and War Department survey maps, photographs and 1863 period plans. The height and appearance of the three rebuilt walls will be based on historic photos and other resources

Click to enlarge for project details (NPS)

In 2016, the park came under criticism for what was called “pretty” but “inaccurate” stone walls at Ziegler’s Grove. Gettysburg Daily, an independent website, said the stones during the time of the battle would have been placed haphazardly, rather than in an orderly pattern, and the new walls are too tall. A park blog post said the rebuilt walls “are not meant to be a perfect recreation of what once existed, but rather a representation.”

Katie Lawhon, senior advisor at the park, told the Picket that the wall effort is more battlefield rehabilitation than restoration, because in many cases officials don’t have photographs or exact details.

“The truth of the matter is when we are building these stone walls we are building the type that would have been in this location,” Lawhon said.

1863 detail of wall near East Cemetery Hill (NPS)
Period view northwest from Cemetery Hill (Library of Congress)

“We’re building (the walls) to be sturdy and sustainable, as well as in keeping with historic designs and appearances,” she said Tuesday. “Similar to the choices we made when we replanted 121 acres of historic orchards at Gettysburg with seven very hardy varieties of apple trees. They need to be representative of the walls that were there, but we also need them to last a long time without too much TLC.”

Here's a look at the three projects:

Peter Frey/Basil Biggs farm wall: A 363-stretch of wall will be dismantled and moved about 5 feet west from its location on Taneytown Road. Stones have tumbled into the road, often during the spring thaw, officials said. Park cartographer Curt Musselman said Taneytown Road hasn’t been significantly widened since the war. “There’s a pretty good chance that (wall) has pretty good integrity.” Crews will use techniques during the rebuilding to prevent rock movement. That area of the park did not see significant combat during the three-day battle, Musselman said.

Slyder farm barn and building (NPS photo)

Slyder farm wall: The project will rebuild 510 feet of missing wall along the lane leading to the John Slyder farm. Lawhon said officials know there was a wall. “The exact appearance is in question,” she said. Members of Berdan’s Sharpshooters with the Federal army used the wall as cover while conducting a delaying action against a large Confederate attack on July 2, 1863, said Musselman. The next day, Rebels used it as a defensive position during a Union cavalry attack. Some of the wall’s base survives.

Snyder farm wall: The Phillip Snyder home stood along Emmitsburg Road south of the Peach Orchard. A Confederate division under John Bell Hood used the farm as the launching point for a massive assault on July 2 with objectives including the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. The rebuilding of missing wall here this summer and fall will put up 957 feet of wall, the park said.

Archaeological testing and metal detection surveys will be conducted during the project.

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