Defense of Cemetery Hill

Last Updated on 11/11/2010

The 43-acre project area includes the northern extension of Cemetery Ridge with Taneytown Road forming its eastern edge. On the west, the area is bounded by Hancock Avenue, including the road frontage and the Brian Farm, and the segment of Emmitsburg Road (also known as Steinwehr Avenue) just north of and including the vehicle access to the old Visitor Center and Cyclorama buildings. The park property line forms the northern edge of the site; the southern edge is bounded by the stone wall just south of the Meade Equestrian Monument and the Leister Farm.

   

One of the most significant components of the project is the reconstruction of missing historic fences and walls that defined the Battle Era fields and were an integral part of this formerly agricultural landscape. Not only were these structures integral to creating the special character of the 1863 landscape, but also many of them had material influences on the outcome of the battle. These fencelines will be rehabilitated to reflect their original Battle Era configuration and material. All of these walls and fences will be reconstructed, to the fullest extent known and possible, to reflect their Battle Era locations and appearance. In the area of Ziegler’s Ravine, the current grades are the most significantly different from those that existed historically. The construction of the old Cyclorama entrance road and parking lot created areas of fill approximately five feet deep that have obscured the terrain of 1863. The topography of Ziegler’s Ravine will be restored by this project.

The former Visitor and Cyclorama Center, parking lots, and related improvements were located on ground which was held by the Union army and which was the site of extensive fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. This area includes such famous landmarks as Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Ziegler’s Grove and Gen. Meade’s Headquarters. The extensive changes brought about by development over the years have greatly altered these and other sites and have obliterated most of the features that existed in this area at the time of the battle. These changes make it nearly impossible to visualize the conditions encountered by the soldiers in July 1863 and thus to understand how those features and conditions influenced the fighting that
  1. Approximate location of the podium from which Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address
  2. Former Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center (razed in 2009),
  3. Former Cyclorama building (scheduled for demolition in the future)
  4. Former site of the “Home Sweet Home Motel” razed by the Friends of Gettysburg
  5. Meade Equestrian Monument
  6. Lydia Leister house (General Meade’s Headquarters)

   

The Cemetery Hill/Cemetery Ridge area played a crucial role in the Battle of Gettysburg, especially during July 2 and 3, the second and third days of the engagement. Both Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill were key strongholds of the Union Army, and the Union troop position on these uplands was a critical element in the successful defense of Pickett’s Charge, the climatic final assault by the Confederates. When this battle action took place the landscape of the project area was open, and views extended for miles across the fields from one ridge to another. This openness was broken only by the woodlot of Ziegler’s Grove, three orchards, and the small buildings of the three farmsteads. The Brian farmhouse was used for cover during the battle and also as General Hays’ headquarters, while the Leister house was used as General Meade’s Headquarters and later as a hospital. Also impacting the movements of the battle was the array of stone walls and fences found on the site, defining field, pasture, and farmstead boundaries. The sudden onslaught of thousands of troops and the battle action that followed dramatically affected the meaning now associated with this landscape.