Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg

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Schmucker Hall at the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary has a long and storied history, playing roles in the Underground Railroad movement, the education of generations of religious leaders, and as a hospital and observation post during the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

For the past several years, the hall served as the museum and library of the Adams County Historical Society. They recently moved to the Wolf House elsewhere on campus, and the hall has been totally renovated as the fascinating new Seminary Ridge Museum.

On July 1, 2013, I toured the museum with one of my sons, Dr. Tom Mingus of Liberty University, and had a chance to climb to the cupola (these tours are available for an extra surcharge to the museum admission fee). Here are several photos from our visit.

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The museum is set on multiple floors of Schmucker Hall. One series of displays focuses on the history of the Seminary, with early contributors such as Thaddeus Stevens. Other floors interpret the battle of Gettysburg day by day. Of interest to York Countians are displays which focus on the Confederate units which fought at Gettysburg after their 3-day stay here in York. Among these officers was Col. Isaac E. Avery, who commanded a brigade of North Carolinans which occupied downtown York’s U.S. Army Hospital and fargrounds June 28-30, 1863. Colonel Avery was mortally wounded at Gettysburg on July 2 and famously scrawled a farewell note to his father.

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The fellow in the upper left needs no introduction to those familiar with York County’s Civil War history. Major General Jubal Early commanded the 6,000+ Confederate troops which occupied York. Two days before his men marched into York they had occupied Gettysburg and nearby villages such as Hunterstown and Mummasburg.

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Several of the rooms in the new museum are tableaux which depict the horrors of the post-battle temporary field hospital which was established in Schmucker Hall.

Gettysburg-20130703-00063Here a surgeon prepares for yet another amputation. Stories are told of piles of limbs outside of windows where they had been thrown.

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Some patients stayed in the hall for weeks after the battle until they could be removed to the train station for transport to Hanover Junction or taken by wagon to Camp Letterman (an army field hospital along today’s US 30 near where the Giant foodmart now is located.

Gettysburg-20130703-00065Volunteer doctors and nurses arrived in Gettysburg from throughout the Northeast, often traveling through York County to reach their destination and during their eventual return home.

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Gettysburg-20130703-00069The view from the cupola looking west toward the first day’s battlefield. That is McPherson’s Ridge in the upper distance with South Mountain looming behind it. A portion of the Union First Corps retreated eastward across these fields to Seminary Ridge, where they held out for a period in the late afternoon before retiring through Gettysburg’s streets to Cemetery Hill.

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The view from the cupola looking to the south.

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Part of the display of artifacts from Thaddeus Stevens, an early patron of the Seminary and ardent abolitionist who later became a Radical Republican congressman.

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Original copies of early anti-slavery literature and books, including the controversial Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

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Many displays focus on the education of early generations of Lutheran pastors.

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A tableaux depicts a member of the U.S. Colored Troops leaving his home in Gettysburg to go off to war.

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Murals depict the fighting at various stages of the battle of Gettysburg.

If you go: The Seminary Ridge Museum is located on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary just west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The address is 111 Seminary Ridge, immediately south of US Route 30. Make sure to visit’s the museum’s website before you visit to get an orientation as to its history and to plan your visit.  It is a joint effort of the Adams County Historical Society, the Lutheran Theological Seminary, and the Seminary Ridge Museum Foundation.

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One Response to Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg

  1. Marlene Stiffler says:

    Great column, Scott. I had the opportunity to have a pre-opening tour and definitely want to return. As I entered a couple of the tableaux rooms, I almost expected to “men” to look up and speak to me. They are so lifelike. So I would warn anyone to be prepared for the experience of reality. Also, take the time to read the displays and see the videos.

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