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. While 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.
Thousands of cars drive up and down the Emmitsburg Road everyday and drive past a farm owned by one of the most tragic families on the Gettysburg battlefield. While the farm is easily accessible to the public it is one of the least visited farms on the battlefield. This is the farm belonging to Daniel Klingel.
Klingel bought the 15 acre farm in April of 1863 from Jacob Brenner, who had received the farm as payment of a debt by Ludwig Esick. Esick had cleared the land and built the house and barn around 1812. Daniel, a local shoemaker, lived at the farm with his wife Hannah and two young children. He had a small apple orchard, raised hay, oats and corn and had several cows.
War came to his doorstep on July 1 as the Union I Corps marched up the Emmitsburg Road and began taking down fences to speed up their march. The sounds of fighting could already be heard to the northwest. About 2 dozen wounded Confederates from the fighting on July 1 were brought to his house and we cared for by the family overnight. The next morning, heeding the warning of Union officers, the family fled. Daniel stopped at Little Round Top and helped the signal officers there identify local roads and terrain features. Leaving there the family sought refuge at a friend’s house along Rock Creek where they stayed for the remainder of the battle.
It was wise that they left. In the afternoon of July 2 Union troops under the command of Daniel Sickles advanced to the Emmitsburg Road believing it offered a better position than the one they were assigned. The Klingel Farm was as far north as they could extend their line and since no other Union force advance their flank was “in the air” and vulnerable. Late in the afternoon the Confederate attack began and after fierce fighting broke Sickles’ line. The Union troops around the Klingel Farm, belonging to Andrew Humphreys’ division did the best they could to hold but they were nearly surrounded by William Barksdale’s Mississippians and Cadmus Wilcox’s Alabamians and fell back. Soldiers took cover in the Klingel home and used it as a fort before being forced to retreat.
Klingel returned on July 4 while Confederate troops were still in the area and found devastation. Everything the family owned was destroyed or missing. His shoemaker’s equipment and leathers were missing, his crops were trampled and his fences were nowhere to be found. Bullet holes marked both the house and barn and his land was covered with dead bodies, including two under his porch where they had crawled to get to cover or for shade and died there. Four dead soldiers were found in his orchard huddled around their cooking equipment with food still on the pan. His cows were also missing. Half of one was found near the neighboring Trostle Farm. Miraculously the other two were found a month later about two miles away.
Klingel cleaned up as best he could after the battle. He filed a damage claim with the government for $880 but his claim was denied. One of his children died that September. He had another child, who died a year later. Klingel enlisted in the army in September 1864 and served until March 1865 when he received a medical discharge. He sold the farm to Joseph Smith in 1866 and because of that it is often referred to as the Smith Farm in postwar accounts and maps. Klingel moved to Baltimore and worked as a shoemaker and he had two more children with Hannah, one of which died in infancy to, before she too died. He remarried and had four more children, two of which died in infancy. Of his ten children only four lived to adulthood, a poor percentage even for that time. Klingel moved back to Gettysburg and died there in 1893.
The National Park Service has and is going to great lengths to return the battlefield to its 1863 appearance. The Klingel house has been restored and some of the logs of the original home have been exposed before getting a modern paint job. The farm is located between the Emmitsburg Road and Sickles Avenue and is not on the tour route though it is visible from several other tour stops.