By Thomas Palmer, 1812Blockouse Owner/Publisher
Permit me to share a bit about a family vacation.
Three weeks ago, I made a trip to visit an iconic landmark of American history — the Battlefield of Gettysburg.
This was my third visit there, the first coming when I was nine or ten years old, the second about 15 years ago. The reason for this trip, one taken with all the COVID-related precautions we could muster, was to take a unique tour with eight other members of my family. Three of my siblings, three nephews, and two significant others drove from Ohio to Pennsylvania in about six hours.
Here is what was up.
I have written before about the brother of one of my great great grandfather Dr. Jay Kling, a 19th century Plymouth surgeon who ended up serving in a place and time of almost indescribable misery, the Eleventh Army Corps Field Hospital at Gettysburg during the first three days of July, 1863.
That 1812Blockhouse story is here, and has information about his life and service.
That story ends talking about a new book which was being written about that field hospital. That work has now been published, and it was an invitation by its author, Ron Kirkwood, that took the Palmers to Pennsylvania three weeks ago. Kling and his service are profiled in that work.
For almost two hours, we visited the restored Spangler Farm where the field hospital was located. Ron shared riveting stories of bravery and horror; where heroes, especially surgeons like Dr. Kling, toiled in unspeakable conditions.
We entered into the barn, a place Kirkwood referred to as being “almost sacred space” in light of what took place therein. The place was so meticulously restored that when a small section of barn timber had to be replaced, it was spiced in and a small, riveted tag attached noting that it was new wood.
The family also visited the separate Summer Kitchen building where Dr. Kling treated General Lewis Armistead, who fell during Pickett’s Charge.
Being where such a momentous event took place, and having a familial connection as well, was an eerie combination. Adding to that hearing from the foremost expert on the topic was truly amazing.
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to portray Dr. Kling during the Cemetery Walk portion of Plymouth’s Bicentennial celebration. There were eight or nine reenactors that day, two of which were related to the person they were portraying, myself included. I was intensely proud to do so; since then, I have learned so much more about why the story of this Richland Countian deserves to be told.
Photos from our tour of the Spangler Farm/Eleventh Army Corps Field Hospital are below. Included a views of the Spangler Farmhouse; the Spangler Barn, a beautiful Pennsylvania bank barn that held 500 wounded soldiers with another 1,000-plus in tents on the grounds and which was where amputations took place; and the Summer Kitchen, where General Armistead was treated and died. I also included a sunset view from our last night in Gettysburg, looking north and west toward Plymouth.