The Edward McPherson Farm
“A Chance Encounter”
Alone on the Chambersburg Rd, US Rt. 30 west of Gettysburg stands a classic example of early Pennsylvania architecture, the bank barn. Built in the early nineteenth century, is all that remains of a once proud farm boasting a beautiful home with various outbuildings that have been erased by time. What we see today is only a remnant of the original Edward McPherson Farm at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Although owned by Edward McPherson, local lawyer, journalist and member of the House of Representatives, he rented the farm to John Slentz. The Slentz family was living on the farm at the outbreak of the battle.
Before the battle began, the Slentz family made an effort to remove the stock and personal goods from the farm but was unable to outrun the charging pace of the Confederate onslaught. Saving themselves by retreating toward town, they watches as yards of fencing was torn down, crops obliterated, buildings damaged and personal goods destroyed or used as needed by the invading army.
During the morning hours of July 1, 1863, Confederate forces under the command of General Henry Heth, advanced toward Gettysburg in a probing action only to find the Union army was in the vicinity and preparing for action. Although the McPherson barn was occupied with sharpshooters, the Confederate army quickly overran the building finding scores of wounded and dead union soldiers within. These men lay unattended until July 6th when the barn and other McPherson buildings were transformed into a field hospital. Confederate General Heth later surmised that he had been wounded by rifleman from the barn.
In 1888, while walking the farm near the barn, two bodies were found in shallow graves. After investigating the remains, they were determined to be Confederate soldiers. They were removed for later burial elsewhere.
A Gettysburg attorney, William McClean, wrote in a memoir that he visited the McPherson barn on Saturday, July 4. He brought with him, raspberries, biscuits, and other food. He found some men who had been without food for four days.” There was so many of these wounded and so closely packed together, that I was obliged to tramp on some of them in distributing my supplies”.