Public gets Buford’s-eye view of Gettysburg Battlefield


Tim Smith, middle right, narrates the Battle of Gettysburg from the vantage point of the cupola above Schmucker Hall during the Adams County Historical Society’s tour of the hall. Standing in the cupola, Union Gen. John Buford surveyed troop movements before the battle began and during the early stages of fighting. Background post: 18th-century helicopter could have aided pastor, Dover’s uneven history runs deep in fertile soil and Gettysburg Human Interest Stories scores sequel.

Some Gettysburg fans became familar with the cupola on Schmucker’s Hall via the film “Gettysburg.”
They saw John Buford, played by Sam Elliott, peering at approaching Union troops from that high point.
What isn’t as well known is that the hall gained its name from York native Samuel Simon Schmucker… .



This is the way up to the cupola.


Patrick Smith of Randolph, N.J., enters the cupola from its trap door.
Schmucker, son of a long-time minister at York’s Christ Lutheran Church, helped found Gettysburg’s Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1826. Seminary Ridge gained its name from this school for future pastors.
And to prepare young men for his seminary, Schmucker also founded future Gettysburg College in 1832.
Anyway, members of the public could put themselves in John Buford’s boots in the cupola over the weekend, as the following story from the York Daily Record/Hanover Evening Sunday relates:

David Deyot made a reservation more than a month ago to tour the cupola atop Schmucker Hall on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.
After seeing the tour advertised in a Pennsylvania magazine, Deyot, a Johnstown resident, immediately shelled out the $125 for the tour.
“I love the Gettysburg experience,” Deyot said.
Deyot’s son Max was visiting from San Diego, so the pair came to Gettysburg a few days prior to the tour.
“I try to come down about three times a year,” David Deyot said.
The Adams County Historical Society provided tourists in Gettysburg an opportunity Saturday to tour the cupola, which is closed except for two times of the year.
“Until recently, nobody was allowed to go into the cupola,” said Tim Smith, research assistant with the historical society. “The stairway leading up to the cupola was not safe. Our liability was insane.”
In fact, the cupola was closed from 1964 until about three years ago when the historical society decided to open it for tours on a limited basis.
“This is really fine,” said Stuart Halsan of Centralia, Wash., as he stood in the cupola and surveyed the view.
Halsan was in town campaigning for presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and heard about the tour.
“I love Gettysburg,” Halsan said. “It’s a great place.”
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg was founded in 1826 by Samuel Simon Schmucker, Smith said during the history portion of the tour. Schmucker Hall was built in 1832.
There was really no practical purpose for the cupola, Smith said.
“It was for students to look out across the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside that surrounds the edifice,” Smith said. “It was so students could reflect on God and what God has created.”
At the time of the Civil War, Smith said, Schmucker Hall was used as a dorm for the 20 or so students attending the Lutheran Seminary.
On July 1, 1863, Union Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry was positioned on McPherson’s Ridge to the west of the building, Smith said. Buford used the view from the cupola to command his brigade.
Schmucker Hall was used as a hospital to treat wounded soldiers in the Battle of Gettysburg.


Stuart Halsan, left, visiting Gettysburg from Washington state, records the view from the cupola.


Gettysburg College’s Glatfelter Hall is seen from the cupola of Schmucker Hall.

*Photos courtesy Hanover Evening Sun and York Daily Record/Sunday News

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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