01640 - Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse; Gettysburg, PA; July 1863 [LC-DIG-cwpb-01640]
Evergreen Cemetery was established in 1854, to replace many of the small graveyards that had been in use behind local churches. This central cemetery made new land available in the town and allowed room for expansion. By the time of the Civil War, the Gatehouse was well established as the home of the Cemetery care taker, Peter Thorn and his wife Elizabeth, who moved in upon completion in 1856. When the war started, Peter joined the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry and Elizabeth became sole care taker from 1862-1865.
Cemetery Hill was located directly across the street from the gatehouse. As of the first day of the battle, the area was occupied by the Union army due to its strategic value both as an artillery position and as the convergence of three roads used to supply troops. From here the Union army could both defend its supply route and have an excellent artillery position if needed.
On the second day, the Confederate troops began extensive attacks on a wide front, including Cemetery Hill. The South was unable to coordinate their attacks. Ultimately, the Union line prevailed but not without damage to the cemetery and gatehouse from artillery attacks. On the final day of battle, fighting moved to nearby Culp’s hill. The Union artillery from Cemetery Hill was used against Pickett’s Charge. Some believe that had it been successful, Pickett’s soldiers would have been used in an attempt to take Cemetery Hill.
Following the battle, thousands of dead lay in the fields. Elizabeth Thorn, who was six months pregnant, began the arduous task of burying the dead near the cemetery. Even with temperatures reaching 105 degrees, she buried 91 soldiers in Evergreen cemetery. Today, she is honored with a statue depicting her with a pick, as she carried out this task. Both Peter and Elizabeth lived till 1907. They are buried in the cemetery along with several other well-known locals including Jennie Wade (the only civilian killed during the battle) and John Burns, who became known as the “Old Hero of Gettysburg” - see his card for more information.
When the war had started in 1861, David McConaughy, who founded the cemetery, saw the need for a soldiers' cemetery at Evergreen. Prior to the start of the battle, only two local citizens had been killed and he could not get the funding from the community. Immediately after the battle all of that changed. Suddenly there was an enormous necessity. Using his previous plans for the soldiers' cemetery, he was able to purchase the rights to 17 acres just north of the cemetery. Eventually this location became the National Cemetery, where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg address, and is maintained separately from Evergreen Cemetery.
Since the battle, Evergreen Cemetery has survived and continues to offer plots for sale. The Gatehouse, which originally had its bricks painted a dark brown-maroon color, has been stripped of paint to reveal the underlying brick. In this image we see the Gatehouse as it was just days after the battle. Damage to the building can be seen in this image from the exposed brick along the arch and top of the building, as well as broken windows on both sides. The large white Urn at the top has since been painted black and the house has been extended to the right, in the area that makes up the primary residence of the current caretaker.