Thursday, March 5, 2015

13. Culp's Hill: Playground and Burial Ground

Where I grew up on East Middle Street in Gettysburg, I could look out my front door and see the rolling hills of farmland owned by Henry Culp during the battle in 1863. On the second and third days of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Culp house and barn, which were behind Confederate lines, were used as temporary hospitals. 

A prominent feature of the farm was a hill southwest of the farmhouse which was held by Meade’s army each of the three day battle and anchored the right flank of the Union line. When we were growing up in Gettysburg, Nancy and I often hiked the grounds surrounding Culp’s Hill. 

My earliest participation in team sports in Gettysburg was on a small plot of ground on the Culp's farm just across the street from my house. Neighborhood boys would meet there on weekends or after school and play touch football in the fall or softball in the spring. We often played until the streetlights came on or until we were called for dinner. 

“Brother against brother” is a phrase often used by historians to describe the division of families in the Civil War, and one example of that slogan involved Henry Culp’s nephews, Wesley and his brother William, both natives of Gettysburg. As they grew up together, both brothers explored and hunted on Uncle Henry’s property including the woods on Culp’s Hill. 

In 1858, Wesley’s work took him to Sheperdstown, Virginia, and in 1861, he and his friends joined the 2nd Virginia Infantry. Two years later, he returned to Gettysburg with Lee’s army and was killed on or near the hill where he had hunted with his bother William. 

When the war began, William Culp enlisted in the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry, a regiment in the Union army. William, who considered his brother a traitor, survived the war, and never spoke of him again. 

Culp’s Hill and the Culp farm property were our playgrounds growing up in Gettysburg. For Wesley Culp, his playground became his burial ground, and his brother became his enemy.

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