The American Civil War was the most violent conflict this continent has ever witnessed. Central to many of the great and small battles were family farms and their barns. While many of these barns have been lost to time some of them still exist today and though they will never be used for reclaimed wood we at Aged Woods will profile some of them. These barns witnessed American history, if only they could talk.
While many properties in and around Gettysburg were ransacked or damaged during the battle, only one was burned to the ground. The farm belonging to William and Adeline Bliss just happened to sit in between the two warring armies on those fateful days in July 1863 and because of that location the farm had to be put to the torch.
The Bliss family had moved to Gettysburg from New York looking for warmer weather to live in. Both William and Adeline were in their early sixties and their two youngest daughters Francis and Sara lived with them. On July 1 the family fled leaving behind everything and returned to find nothing. William filed a damage claim but never received any compensation and later sold the farm and returned to New York.
Situated between the lines the farm, particularly the barn, served as an ideal spot for sharpshooters, and the farm traded hands several times during the battle. Finally, having enough of the sharpshooter fire, Northern general Alexander Hays ordered it to be burnt. He sent a messenger named James Postles to alert the soldiers of the 12th New Jersey to do the deed. Postles arrived and yelled as loud as he could that he had brought orders to burn the farm. For Carnot Posey’s Mississippians situated in the barn that was all they needed to hear and they ran back to a safer position or surrendered. The farm was put to the torch and was still smoldering when Johnston Pettigrew’s men made their fateful assault on Cemetery Ridge on the afternoon of July 3. Postles would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
While the barn may have been destroyed, the land it was situated had another use in the future. With the outbreak of World War I and the innovation of what is known today as the tank, America had to begin training tankers. Sent to take charge of the Tank school in Gettysburg called Camp Colt was a young officer named Dwight Eisenhower. While his stay would be brief, he would develop a love of the area and would take up residence there later in his life.
A small marker today marks the center of the home and a mound marks the barn. An image of the barn though was immortalized on the monument of the 12th New Jersey which is located on Cemetery Ridge.