"No one can come to Gettysburg unstirred by thoughts of those who fought here, and of him who spoke here." - President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gettyburg College Trustee (1961-1969)
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College (originally Pennsylvania College) moved to its current location in 1837 on land purchased from abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. Twenty-six years later, the small liberal arts college found itself in the path of a vicious civil war.
The Confederate army entered Pennsylvania in June 1863. Many students took up arms to protect the state from the Southern invasion. Those who remained on campus on July 1 were in class at the Edifice (now Pennsylvania Hall) when the first echoes of cannon fire announced the battle's arrival. Students and faculty scattered to safety just before the advancing Confederate forces pursued retreating Union troops across the college grounds. Confederate troops later converted the Edifice into a field hospital, filling it with as many as 900 wounded and dying men.
Eventually the armies left town, the wounded recovered and the dead were buried, but the battle changed Gettysburg forever. Students had become soldiers, captives, and doctors. When the College's fall term began, bloodstains still marked the floors of its classrooms. In November 1863 the toll of the terrible battle was still fresh in their minds when they gathered at the newly completed Soldiers' National Cemetery and witnessed President Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address.
In 1921 the school's name officially became Gettysburg College, a change symbolic of the indelible ties forged in the summer of 1863 between the College, the town, and the battle. Today students are immersed in that powerful history as they live and learn on hallowed ground.
History and Tradition at the College
Students continue to experience the history that made Gettysburg famous. The 25th, 50th and 75th reunions of the battle brought veterans onto campus. Decades later, new students participate in the First-Year Walk, a recreation of the 1863 procession to the Soldiers' National Cemetery for a reading of the Gettysburg Address. Students also have the opportunity to take advantage of the College's prestigious Civil War programs, which promote intensive historical study at the site of one of the war's most crucial battles.
At the time of the battle, Gettysburg College consisted of three main buildings and employed seven professors.
A monument in town honors the efforts of the College students who joined the state militia in June 1863.
For the 75th and final reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg, the campus again became a campground for veterans; including the men of the 12th Infantry, shown here.