The railroad station in Gettysburg had been completed in May of 1859. It had a covered platform for passengers to enter and exit the train. As was the custom of the time, women and children had their own waiting room and men had another. A large brass bell in the cupola rang when trains departed.
Soldiers used the train almost daily throughout the war. The 10th New York Cavalry used the second floor of the station while stationed in town during the winter of 1861-62.
Teenager Daniel Skelly remembered that the last train out of Gettysburg until after the Battle of Gettysburg reached Hanover about 5 pm on June 26, 1863. Residents had received advance warning that Confederate Jubal Early’s troops were headed to town. Revenue officers, clerks, and those holding government office jobs left on that last train.
Early’s troops burned freight cars and destroyed the Rock Creek railroad bridge.
The station was one of the first buildings to become a hospital as the battle raged on July 1, 1863. Wounded from the 6th Wisconsin, part of the famous “Iron Brigade,” were among those receiving care at the station.
Gettysburg women like Sarah Montford and her daughter, Mary, nursed those at the railroad station. Patients remained there during the Confederate occupation of the town. They were moved to other hospitals beginning July 4th.
Patients able to climb to the train cupola observed the fighting from there during the battle. Private James Sullivan, 6th Wisconsin, was among the ten to fifteen men on the station roof who watched the Union win after Pickett’s Charge.
Train service was restored on July 10th, but the government controlled the rail for six weeks. Inbound were medical supplies, folks coming to help with wounded, and family members searching for loved ones. Outbound trains held wounded traveling to large city hospitals. By the end of July, almost 15,000 injured soldiers had been transported away by train.
The U.S. Government controlled the station and railroad line almost exclusively for the rest of the summer as the aftermath of the battle continued.
-Sandra Merville Hart
Bennett, Gerald. The Gettysburg Railroad Station, Gettysburg Railroad Station Restoration Project, 2008.
Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.