Saved: 18 Hallowed Acres at Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg
After years of dedication and contributions from generous supporters like you, we’re thrilled to declare 18 critical acres of hallowed ground at Seminary Ridge forever protected. We owe this incredible success to all the preservation champions who answered the call for one of our most significant and ambitious campaigns to date. We hope you'll take a moment to visit our Virtual Donor Wall and read the names of every history lover and patriot who donated $100 or more to save this land.
The 18 acres you’ve helped preserve have been part of the United Lutheran Seminary since it moved to its current site in 1832. The land is adjacent to the original Mary Thompson House, where General Robert E. Lee set up headquarters after the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg (and which the Trust preserved and restored in 2015). Hundreds of soldiers, both Union and Confederate, fell on this very ground that fateful July 1 in 1863.
In his magisterial Gettysburg – The First Day, historian Harry Pfanz devotes an entire chapter to the ferocious and deadly battle for Seminary Ridge.
The main combatants over this hallowed land were the Union Iron Brigade along with one New York and six Pennsylvania regiments, attempting to hold back North and South Carolinians in Alfred Scales and Abner Perrin’s brigades. There were also four Union batteries crowning the Ridge, including six fearsome Napoleon guns posted directly on a portion of these 18 acres, which fired over the heads of the Union infantrymen with devastating effect on the advancing Confederates.
Pfanz writes that members of the unfortunate 34th North Carolina – the regiment directly in front of these guns – later reported that “of the 1,400 Tarheels who had begun the charge, only 500 were able to go on.”
A captain of the Iron Brigade recalled later that infantrymen fired so fast their rifles became hot, and the smoke was so thick that it was as dark as night. Many wounded fell rapidly on both sides.
In his book, The Iron Brigade, Alan Nolan writes that after regrouping, “Confederates from Heth’s, Pender’s, and Rodes’s divisions, on both sides of the pike, again striking obliquely against both flanks as well as the front of the Iron Brigade’s position” advanced on three sides of the Union defensive line, which eventually gave way under so much pressure.
The Iron Brigade’s 7th Wisconsin was ordered to be the rear guard for the Union retreat down the pike and through the town. “When the 7th left the ridge,” Pfanz writes, “a body of South Carolinians fired into its right. Another line from Rodes’s division shot into its left. While running this gauntlet, the 7th suffered its greatest losses of the day.” During the entire day of fighting, the Iron Brigade lost more than 60 percent of its men and was never the same.
Ready to Learn More?
Read quotes from noted historians about the significance of this land.
See how Seminary Ridge fit into the full story of the Battle of Gettysburg in our Gettysburg Animated Map.
Watch a video about Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address to get a sense of what this epic battle meant to the Union just months after it happened.
See Gettysburg without having to go anywhere by taking a virtual tour.