In July 1863, when the battle of Gettysburg occurred, John and Caroline Rupp lived in the southern part of town, not far from the base of Cemetery Hill. The couple had six children ranging in ages from 6 months to 13 years. John operated a successful tannery near the family's home close to the intersection of Baltimore Street and the Emmitsburg Road (today's Steinwehr Avenue).
When fighting began on July 1, the Rupps went across the street to Soloman Welty's house and hid in the Welty's cellar (Mr. Welty was one of John's closest friends). The Rupps returned to their home that same night, and when the fighting resumed on July 2, the Rupps hid in their own cellar. That night, John's father arrived and took Caroline and the children to his home, about eight blocks away at the corner of York and Stratton streets (in the northwestern par of town). The journey was perilous, as all of the streets in town were occupied by soldiers—many of them sharpshooters who were firing at anything that moved or made a sound. John Rupp stayed behind and spent the next two evenings in his cellar, not emerging until major fighting ceased by the morning of July 4.
After the battle, John wrote a letter to his sister describing his experiences during the battle. In this letter, he described having Union soldiers on his front porch and Confederate soldiers on his back porch, with the warring armies firing at each other through his house. John Rupp wrote a letter to his sister on July 19, 1863, within three weeks of the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, describing the events of July 1-3.. Even though John Rupp's tannery was damaged during the battle, it continued to operate (successfully for another 60 years, long after it had passed from the Rupps' ownership). The Rupp's home, however, was extensively damaged, and John replaced the original home with the structure that stands today at 451 Baltimore Street.
While the new home was being built (in 1868), John and Caroline's 1-year-old daughter passed away. Six months later, their oldest daughter (Caroline May) fell into a pile of hot ashes and suffered extensive burns. The Rupp's misfortune continued in 1871 when, over a three-day period from August 31-September 2, John and Caroline lost two sons to "brain fever" (encephalitis). Two months later, on November 11, John Rupp died of dysentery at age 46.
For more information about the Rupp Family of Gettysburg, visit the Rupp House at 451 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg or pick up a copy of Thay Will Remember Gettysburg: The Rupp Family, House and Tannery, available at the Rupp House.
(The above information was taken from Thay Will Remember Gettysburg: The Rupp Family, House and Tannery, by Emma K. Young, copyright 2002 by the Friends of Gettysburg.)
If you can't visit the Rupp House in person, you can make a donation to the Gettysburg Foundation and the Friends of Gettysburg, or become a Friends member.