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.
When standing on Cemetery Ridge there is one building that you cannot help but notice. A huge red barn standing only a few hundred yards away along the Emmittsburg Road belonged to Nicholas Codori who had emigrated to the United States from France in 1828 and eventually settled in Gettysburg. The original home and barn were built sometime around 1834. In 1854 he purchased a 273 acre farm just south of town and built the house that is currently on the property. The barn was a typical bank barn that is common in Adams County but it was adorned by three cupolas. Codori was a butcher by trade, he rented the farm out to tenants and lived in town on York St. in what is now the Brafferton Inn, the oldest building that was within town limits during the battle. No one is sure who occupied the farm at the time of the battle, it could have been his niece Catherine and her husband John, who sought refuge in the home’s basement during the battle, or it could have been John and Talitha Reiley but either way his farm and barn witnessed heavy fighting and served as a place of refuge of hundreds of soldiers during the battle.
Pickett’s Charge is rightly considered to be a disaster for the Confederacy. Critics charge that Robert E. Lee should have known he did not have the strength to carry Cemetery Ridge and hold the position. One factor that shaped his decision to launch the assault was what had taken place the day before. As the Confederate attack crumbled the Union position along the Emmitsburg Road at the Sherfy and Klingel farms reinforcements had to be sent to prop up the line. Winfield Hancock, commander of the Union II Corps advanced two regiments to occupy the ground at the Codori farm as he desperately tried to fill a nearly mile-wide gap created by the rout of Daniel Sickles’ III Corps and he had sent most of his reserves to do so. This gap was situated on land owned by Codori.
This opened the door for Ambrose Wright’s Brigade of Georgians to advance and they shattered the troops at the Codori Farm and moved on to attack Cemetery Ridge. Wright claimed he pierced the Union line gaining control of the field and he was only forced to retreat due to lack of support as the next brigade in line, Carnot Posey’s Mississippians, who had stopped at the Bliss Farm and advanced no further. Wright took heavy losses but the ease of his advance to the Federal position and claim that his small brigade had pierced the Union line gave Lee enough confidence to order the assault on July 3. After all, if his 1,500 Georgians could pierce the Union line and hold for 15 minutes what could 15,000 men do? The only problem was that Wright had not pierced the main Union line but Lee did not know that.
The following day the Virginia brigades of James Kemper and Lewis Armistead passed through the Codori Farm as they made their way to Cemetery Ridge and immortality. Sensing an opportunity to inflict maximum damage Hancock ordered two regiments of 9 month volunteers from Vermont to advance and hit the Virginians in the flank. These regiments had never been involved in anything more than a skirmish until the day before when they had helped to force Wright to retreat and now they were being called on to break a powerful Confederate assault. This they did with the coolness of veterans and inflicted terrible casualties on Kemper’s Brigade and their line stretched to near the Codori Barn, forcing the retreating Confederates to run a gauntlet of fire to get to safety. Some chose not to and surrendered to the Green Mountaineers.
Since the Vermonters’ line stretched nearly to the Codori Barn it brings to light one of the enduring questions about the battle. There is some controversy over where exactly George Pickett was during the assault that would come to bear his name. Many, including Pickett, placed himself at the Codori farm, which is as far as a major general would be expected to go and would satisfy his own personal honor. However there is no mention of any Union soldiers forcing him to move so the question has been asked, was he really on the Codori Farm or could he have just stayed near the nearby Alexander Spangler Farm, a much safer location? Pickett would not have known the names of the local farmers and could easily have misidentified them or just simply lied about it but this controversy will never be settled.
After the battle the farm was a mess. 500 dead soldiers covered the property and the land became a mass grave. Many wounded Confederates also sought refuge in the barn rather than trying to limp back to their lines. The mass graves would remain until 1872 when the Confederate dead were disinterred and sent to cemeteries in the south like Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Codori sold the farm in 1868 but bought the farm back after the dead were removed and he owned it until he died in 1878 following a horrific farming accident. The original barn was torn down in 1882 and an identical replacement was built in 1884. If that wood were to be used as reclaimed wood it would have been very popular and would probably have made a very beautiful floor. There would have certainly been a story or two to tell. The farm was sold to the National Park Service in 1907 and is used as a residence for park personnel today.