Maine has a real serious connection with the lonely Medical Department monument alongside Route 30 (York Pike) at Gettysburg. As explained last week in http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/2017/02/01/help-save-17-acres-at-camp-letterman-hospital-site-in-gettysburg-part-i/, the monument stands near the road built to access Camp Letterman, the large field hospital established in late July 1863 to care for soldiers too seriously wounded to be evacuated from Gettysburg.
The Maine connection with Camp Letterman? The Maine boys who died there, such as the badly wounded Corp. Willard T. Barstow of Damariscotta and Co. E, 4th Maine Infantry Regiment, and the Mainers who came to Gettysburg to help care for the wounded Confederate and Union boys.
When the call sounded for civilian doctors and nurses to help care for Gettysburg’s 20,000-plus wounded, nurses Sarah Sampson of Bath and Ruth Mayhew of Rockland traveled from Washington, D.C. to the battlefield.
The nurses brought along “all the supplies that could be spared from” the Washington-based Maine Soldiers’ Relief Agency, Sampson recalled afterwards. Working initially at the III Corps hospital, the two Maine nurses “visited alternately those of the other Corps containing wounded from our State,” Sampson said.
Once “the Corps Hospitals had been discontinued” and Camp Letterman set up about a mile east of downtown Gettysburg, the nurses “visited our patients here several times,” Sampson said. She and Mayhew cared for the seriously wounded Maine soldiers at Camp Letterman until August 15, when duty summoned Mayhew to rejoin the Army of the Potomac and Sampson to Washington.
And Sampson established another Maine connection with Camp Letterman. When she left, she carried for Maine Adjutant Gen. John L. Hodsdon “a full list of the names of our Maine soldiers who had died, and those who were still in hospital there.”
Camp Letterman closed on November 20, 1863, and its site on the Wolf Farm reverted to nature. Of the camp’s original 80 acres, 15 were lost to the Giant Foods Shopping Center at the corner of York Pike and Natural Springs Road. The Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association has preserved 8 acres.
The GBPA and other preservationists successfully protested a Target proposed for a major portion of the remaining hospital site. Today, S&A Homes (a major home builder with headquarters in State College, Penn.) owns much of the remaining Letterman land, plus adjoining property, and the GBPA would like to acquire 17 acres from the company to preserve an additional part of Camp Letterman.
Except for the Medical Department monument on York Pike, only one other component of Camp Letterman may still exist. Although most soldiers buried at Letterman were disinterred for burial in their hometowns or in the new National Cemetery at Gettysburg, some unmarked graves may be located at the hospital site.
“As part of our efforts, we are trying to locate the site of the hospital’s cemetery, where there may still be bodies remaining,” said Glen Hayes, a member of the GBPA’s National Advisory Board.
On-site archeological research has not found the cemetery.
According to Hayes, the GBPA and S&A Homes have in the past discussed the GBPA acquiring the 17 acres. “which when combined with our 8 acres, will preserve the entire back part of Camp Letterman,” he told Maine at War.
“The area is untouched, and people could see the area as it was when the tents were there,” Hayes indicated.
Currently the talks are “on hold,” he said. S&A Homes has proposed a housing subdivision on its property; “they still want to build, but not for a few years,” Hayes said.
The 17-acre acquisition has received strong support among GBPA members, and “all the [group’s] officers are directors have been and still are committed to saving” the land, he noted.
The Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association and the National Park Service have independently “reached out” to the Civil War Trust, Hayes said, and “both times we were told the CWT can’t save everything, so they only concentrate on battlefields, not camp sites or hospitals.”
Maine at War readers can support the GBPA’s efforts to acquire the 17 acres by contacting S&A Homes. Consider sending a letter asking S&A Homes to work with the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association to make the 17-acre acquisition of part of Camp Letterman possible.
The address is:
Robert Poole, CEO
S&A Homes Corporate Headquarters
2121 Old Gatesburg Rd. Suite 200
State College, PA 16803
The phone number is 1-814-231-4780.
For more information about the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association, log onto www.gbpa.org.
Sources: Sarah Sampson’s Report, Maine Adjutant General’s Report 1864-1865, and Glen Hayes, Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association
The 2nd Maine Cavalry Roams the Deep South
Join Civil War buffs at the Isaac Farrar Mansion, 166 Union Street, Bangor at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 16 as Holden educator and Civil War author and historian Ned Smith talks about the 2nd Maine Cavalry. Author of the 2nd Maine Cavalry in the Civil War, Smith will look at how the regiment was raised, give a brief look at Florida’s politics before the Civil War, take a look at the Maine regiment’s service in Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama, and relate some of the “above and beyond” exploits of Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Spurling. This program is part of the Civil War Lecture Series presented by the Bangor Historical Society.
Brian Swartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He loves hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.