08 January 2009 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 3 comments

A significant piece of the first day’s battlefield at Gettysburg lies just to the west of Willoughby Run. John Buford’s dismounted cavalrymen fought their way back to McPherson’s Ridge from Herr’s Ridge across this ground. The parcel includes the spot where Confederate Brig. Gen. James J. Archer was captured on July 1, 1863. The Iron Brigade slugged it out with Pettigrew’s North Carolinians there in some of the bloodiest, closest fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg.

That land has, for the past sixty years or so, been the property of the Gettysburg Country Club. The Gettysburg Country Club owns 120 acres, including a nine-hole golf course, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, and tennis courts.

The Country Club defaulted on its mortgage, and the lender initiated foreclosure proceedings. The property–a very significant portion of the battlefield–goes to sheriff’s sale tomorrow. If I had $2.9 million to just throw away, I would purchase the property just to preserve it. Sadly, I have nothing remotely close to that kind of money, so that’s not an option. So, the question is, what will happen to it?

According to today’s edition of The Hanover Sun newspaper, even though the land is within the park’s boundaries, the Park Service will not be bidding on the property tomorrow:

Battlefield not a buyer for country club

By ERIN JAMES
Evening Sun Reporter
Posted: 01/08/2009 11:00:47 AM EST

For sale: A historic war zone, where some of the Battle of Gettysburg’s “bloodiest” fighting took place.

The 120-acre property comes complete with a nine-hole golf course, new clubhouse and a legacy rivaled only by the battlefield’s more famous areas.

At least one party is interested in the Gettysburg Country Club, which after falling into financial distress last year will be auctioned off at 10 a.m. Friday at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

But Gettysburg National Military Park won’t be placing any bids on the property.

Though it is within the park’s Congressionally designated 6,000-acre boundary, Gettysburg Country Club is privately owned – which means the park has virtually no say over what the current or new owner does with the land.

Park officials had been in discussions with owners of the Gettysburg Country Club, 730 Chambersburg Road, about purchasing a conservation easement on the property that would protect it from future development, park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said.

But those conversations went nowhere, and the park abandoned its efforts to secure an easement through the property’s current owners.

Assuming that a third party purchases the Gettysburg Country Club Friday, Lawhon said the park would revisit the possibility of an easement.

“We would be interested in talking to new owners about it as well,” she said.

Because of its significance to the battle, the club’s 120 acres are named a “high priority” list of potential land acquisitions compiled by the Park Service in 1993.

“Quite a bit happened out there,” said Scott Hartwig, supervisory historian at Gettysburg National Military Park.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Union Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry moved across the area that is now the Gettysburg Country Club and dismounted on Herr’s Ridge. Confederate infantry under Gen. Henry Heth drove Buford’s cavalry off Herr’s Ridge and back across the golf course property to McPherson’s Ridge.

Later in the day, in pursuit of Buford’s retreating cavalry, 1,100 Confederate infantrymen under Gen. James Archer were advancing across golf course property when they were attacked by the famed Iron Brigade.

“They were surprised because they didn’t anticipate to run into any Union infantry,” Hartwig said.

It was there that Archer became the first Confederate general captured by Union forces since Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

“Archer is probably captured near where some of the buildings associated with some of the country club are today,” Hartwig said.

By the late morning or early afternoon, the Iron Brigade fell back to a defensive position in Herbst Woods on the west bank of Willoughby Run, along McPherson’s Ridge. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country club property, Confederate forces of Gen. Heth’s division were forming a strong battle line in preparation for an afternoon attack.

What happened next bears similarities to the infamous Pickett’s Charge attack that essentially annihilated Confederate forces in Gettysburg.

“In a sense, this is the same thing on a much smaller scale,” Hartwig said.

With some 3,000 men, Confederate Gen. James Pettigrew’s North Carolina brigade advanced across the country club property and attacked the Iron Brigade. The North Carolinians came under heavy fire before they reached Willoughby Run, suffering heavy casualties on present country club property. They fought their way across the creek to ground that is now part of the national park and eventually drove the Iron Brigade back.

“That fighting there is man for man, probably the bloodiest fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg,” Hartwig said.

When the fighting was over, the Iron Brigade had lost 1,200 of 1,800 men. Pettigrew’s brigade lost close to 1,100.

Tomorrow’s auction is open to the public.

Susquehanna Banks, which foreclosed on the property, is asking for a minimum of $2.9 million.

Contact Erin James at ejames@eveningsun.com.

IF YOU GO:

What: Sheriff’s sale of the Gettysburg Country Club, 730 Chambersburg Road

Where: Adams County Sheriff’s Office on the first level of the Adams County Courthouse

When: 10 a.m. Friday

So, the fate of this absolutely critical piece of battlefield land remains completely up in the air. Whether the new purchaser will maintain the fundamental integrity of the ground as the country club has, or whether the new owner will try to develop the land remains an open question. We can only hope that someone responsible ends up as the owner of this property and that the new owner does the right thing and grants the preservation easement mentioned in the article.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Thu 08th Jan 2009 at 9:39 pm

    This makes me ill. I can see a housing development or another hotel going in if this property falls into the wrong hands. Can’t the CWPT bid? After all, they paid $13M for the Slaughter Pen at Fredericksburg.

    Oh dear…

  2. Todd Berkoff
    Thu 08th Jan 2009 at 11:48 pm

    How did this happen?? I am completely disgusted. Friends of Gettysburg Battlefield and CWPT have been saving various 5-acre parcels of land on the battlefield where nothing of historical importance happened — and some how we let pass by 120 acres of key property where the Iron Brigade loses 1200 men and Archer’s and Pettigrew’s brigades lose over 1500 men?!?! The last thing we need is another hotel, pizza restaurant or housing development.

  3. Keith Toney
    Fri 09th Jan 2009 at 11:16 am

    On the one hand things have moved relatively quickly from the GCC going into receivership to public auction. Still, one would think the CWPT and certainly the Friends would have kept a closer eye on proceedings and developed a plan for this eventuality. Of course that’s not to say they haven’t but if so it’s been of the best kept secrets either organization has ever held. Granted some 3 mil isn’t easy for the park to come by but I wonder why they haven’t been more agressive in efforts to secure the property. Certainly I’ll be watching the papers closely for the results of the auction.
    Regards,
    Keith

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