So rarely does the Trust have an opportunity to save a large farm at Gettysburg from future development, but this year, we had a chance to assist our long-time partner, the Land Conservancy of Adams County in preserving a pristine property. At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, the land was known as the Plank Farm after its owner, J. Edward Plank. Soldiers from each side tread these 143 acres on all three days of battle, and one of the largest Confederate field hospitals in Gettysburg was based here.
This transaction was truly a team effort, with the Trust and other partners raising funds to enable the Land Conservancy of Adams County to protect the farm with a conservation easement. By securing this land now, we are proactively protecting this part of the battlefield from commercial or residential development while further securing the integrity of nearby hallowed ground, like the 18 acres the Trust preserved at Seminary Ridge earlier this year and the preserved and restored Lee’s Headquarters site we saved in 2014.
These 143 acres witnessed every stage of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg – including its aftermath...
On July 1, 1863, elements of the Union First Corps under General John Reynolds double-quicked across this property as they moved to the sound of the battle’s opening shots. Reynolds himself fell victim to a Confederate bullet that day – about a mile north of this property – but his timely arrival allowed the Union army to hold the favorable ground that proved so crucial to their success in this epic battle.
On July 2, Confederate General James Longstreet’s divisions, under General John Bell Hood and General Lafayette McLaws, marched across this property as they sought to discover the Union left flank. Their advance culminated with the legendary attacks on Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, and the Peach Orchard. Longstreet called this “the best three hours’ fighting ever done by any troops on any battlefield,” but these two divisions suffered terrible casualties, many of whom were taken to the field hospital at the Plank Farm.
On July 3, Confederate General George Pickett led his division over this land, up the slope to Seminary Ridge, and onto the battlefield where the charge that came to bear his name would be bloodily repulsed.
On all three days of the battle, and for many weeks after Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia made its retreat, this farm served as one of the biggest hospitals in all of Gettysburg. More than 1,500 soldiers were treated on this property, including General Hood. There were more than 60 documented burials on the property. The soldiers who were buried there were later reinterred in proper cemeteries.
Thank you for your generous support and commitment to preserve this precious American history forever.