The Adams County Almshouse and Farm
The Almshouse and farm, now long gone by way of progress, were to become an integral player during the Battle of Gettysburg being located in the direct path of Gen. Ewell’s advancing Confederates and the retreating forces of Union General O. O. Howard’s Eleventh Corps.
Supporting the right flank of the First Corps on July 1, the Eleventh pushed forward two divisions, the First and Third, to engage the Confederates north of Gettysburg but were later overrun. Most of this corps’ casualties were suffered on one day. The opening influx of wounded were carried by ambulance or made their way on foot to the Adams County Almshouse, Pennsylvania College, the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse and/ or churches in and around Gettysburg.
Pvt. Justus Silliman, 17th Connecticut Infantry, wrote in a letter to his parents on July 7 how he went out searching for his friend Sam Comstock…….”I finally found him lying out in the storm in a puddle of water…….he lay on the field of battle all night (July 1) and part of the next day, when he was taken to the Poor House where he remained until the fourth…..”
A 153rd Pennsylvania Infantry wounded soldier lying on the ground near Barlow’s Knoll on July 1 recalled; “…until the afternoon of July 2nd then removed to the Poor House. No room being available there, the place was filled with Rebel wounded; I was put down in the yard near the driveway. Shortly before noon of the third, a Rebel signal corpsman got upon the roof of the Poor House and started to signal the Confederate Army. Then began a terrific cannonade from the Union forces in their efforts to dislodge this fellow…..shells passed over our heads and landed in the garden nearby…..the suffering of the wounded in the Poor House was terrible.”
One other soldier who was wounded and carried to the Almshouse was Lt. Bayard Wilkeson, 4th U. S. Artillery who was mortally wounded in the fighting around Barlow’s Knoll. Wilkeson, with a shattered leg, completed the amputation himself with his own pocket knife. He crawled into the almshouse barn where he later died. Young Wilkeson’s father, a writer for the New York Times, wrote on July 4th, “…..(my) oldest born son, crushed by a shell in a position where a battery should never have been sent, and abandoned to death in a building where surgeons dare not to stay.”
In 1911, the remains of three Union soldiers buried on the first day’s battlefield were uncovered. The bodies were about thirteen inches underground and were in an area near the Almshouse, a position that had been occupied by Gen. Francis Barlow’s troops. A relic hunter digging in the ground found the bones and two $5.00 gold pieces, a number of New York brass buttons and two bullets. The remains were reinterred in the National Cemetery.