Bookshelf Notes: At Gettysburg

Tillie Pierce, c. 1868

I first read this book when I was fourteen. Already interested in the “civilian side of the story,” this account resonated with me because it was the reminiscence of woman who had been a teenager during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Tillie Pierce (Alleman, after she married later in life) experienced the arrival of Confederate cavalry on June 26, 1863, and nervously waited the next days of uncertainty. Feeling relieved that Union cavalry rode into town on June 30, she quickly realized all was not well as shots were fired and battle erupted to the west of the town. Tillie’s parents thought it would much safer for her to journey away from town with friendly neighbor and seek shelter at a country farm, but the armies followed and fighting exploded around the farm south of Little Round Top where she had tried to seek safety. She saw the farm house and barn turned into a field hospital, gave a cup of water to General George G. Meade—commander of the Army of the Potomac—and compassionately visited with dying General Weed. Days after the battle, she was finally able to return to her worried parents and helped care for the several wounded that Pierce family had brought into their home in the aftermath.

Tillie wrote her account after the war and with the hindsight of time and memory, publishing it in 1889 near the height of the reunions and Civil War veteran publications. It’s titled At Gettysburg: Or What A Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle and an online edition is available through the University of Pennsylvania. Though some parts of her story are cryptic or occasionally questioned, the open honest of her feelings in the recollections gives a glimpse of what the battle and frightening experiences were like for her as a teenage civilian.

This is one of my all-time favorite civilian accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg and one that I always try to re-read around the time of the battle anniversary.


Published by Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, author, speaker, and researcher. Past and present, everyone has a story. What will we discover and discuss?

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