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.
July 2, 1863 is shrouded in controversy and perhaps the most famous revolves around James Longstreet. In the eyes of some of his Confederate comrades the day did not begin well for him and it ended with near treasonous actions (written well after the war when hindsight was 20/20 of course). Much of what took place was situated on the farm belonging to the Reverend Michael Bushman.
The house dates to about 1808 when Samuel Bushman started the farm. He eventually sold it to Sophia Hammer who then deeded it to Michael (Samuel’s great-nephew) who was marrying Sophia’s daughter Amelia. The double log barn on the property was also built in 1808. Bushman was a nationally known minister within the German Baptist Brethren Church, today known as the Church of the Brethren. The house was expanded just before the war to include a dining room and kitchen. The Bushmans had no children and lived in town instead renting the farm out to a man named David Essick. Wheat and vegetables were grown on the farm.
One of the major claims about Longstreet was that he was to attack the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge at dawn. Suffice it to say when dawn broke Longstreet’s men were still in camp near Marsh Creek several miles away. For many years following the defeat of the Confederacy successful attempts were made on his character and ability by claiming that Robert E. Lee had ordered him to make a dawn attack and he ignored orders. The only problem was that Lee did not make such an order. Longstreet was ordered to get his men into a position as secretly as possible and to hit the Union left flank then believed to be situated on Cemetery Ridge as an early morning reconnaissance reported. The attack would then either destroy or force the capitulation of a large portion of the Union defenders and pave the way for ultimate Confederate victory.
Longstreet attempted to march his men into position secretly until he came to a hill he would have to march over which would make his column visible to a Union observation post on Little Round Top. Rather than going off-road and marching around the hill (which one of his top artillerymen demonstrated was possible) Longstreet counter marched back to where he had began and well out of his way to get to the reverse slope of the hill. The day was hot, upper 80s and high humidity and the lead until, Joseph Kershaw’s South Carolinians marched approximately 17 miles that day before they got into position.
When Longstreet arrived he found the situation was not what had been described to him in the morning. Union troops occupied a position only 400 yards from his on a rise of ground belonging to Joseph Sherfy’s peach orchard. One of Longstreet’s senior commanders, John Bell Hood proposed continuing the march to get onto the Union flank and even into its rear. His scouts had advanced to within sight of the Union II Corps baggage train situated behind Little Round Top. It was a prize waiting to be plucked. Longstreet sought out Lee, who was waiting, as was the rest of the army for the assault to begin. Lee ordered the attack. Hood again asked for permission to march around the flank. With only about 3 hours of daylight remaining and Lee breathing down Longstreet’s neck he could not allow it.
Hood’s men went in first. Hood’s old Texas Brigade advanced through the Bushman farm followed shortly by Henry Benning’s Georgians. Union sharpshooters were positioned on the farm but proved to be a minor annoyance and were pushed aside quickly. After about 10 minutes somewhere on the farm, it is believed in the orchard, Hood was hit by shrapnel in his right arm and taken to the rear. No one could find the senior brigade commander Evander Law, who was in the dark as to what the strategy was to begin with. The coordination that Hood could have exerted was now lost and each of his brigades, and even some regiments, fought their own fight.
Longstreet’s men did drive the Union soldiers out of Sherfy’s Peach Orchard and did drive the Union forces back about a mile but the attack did not flank the Union line, though they nearly broke it. Thanks to quick thinking and quick action the attack was blunted all across the line. Perhaps it was because of that one artillery round that knocked John Bell Hood out of action on the Bushman farm.
For Hood his arm would be spared amputation but it would be useless for the remainder of his life. He would lose a leg a few months later but would rise to command an army in the western theater before racking up horrific casualties and becoming the most hated man in the Confederacy. Longstreet’s turn would come after the war. He was negligent (not following Lee’s morning attack order), he drug his feet (it took 4 hours to move the 3 miles to get in position) and he attacked half-heartedly (the fighting he and his opponents did debunk this) it was charged. The only conclusion that could be drawn was that it was his fault that the South lost the battle and subsequently the war. His subordinates disputed this but Longstreet had alienated many of them during the war when he tried to court-martial several of them following a disastrous attack near Knoxville in the fall. It was not until the publication of the novel The Killer Angels in 1974 and the 1993 film Gettysburg that Longstreet’s image received a makeover.
Michael Bushman could not care about any of this. For the most part his farm was spared much of the destruction other farms along the battle lines endured but his fences were torn down and his land was dug up. The barn was used as a field hospital and eight Confederate soldiers were buried there for a time. His wife died shortly after the war and he remarried. Michael Bushman died in 1893. The farm was willed to the children of his first marriage but since there were no children the farm was put up for auction and sold to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association and later transferred to the National Park Service in 1933. The farm is visible from both Warfield Ridge on South Confederate Avenue and Union positions on Little Round Top and Devil’s Den. The horse trail provides access to anyone who wishes to visit the farm and the home has been renovated and is available to be rented out.