Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association

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The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA) was an historic preservation membership organization and is the eponym for the battlefield's memorial association era. The association was chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on April 13, 1864,[1]:202 after attorney David McConaughy recommended on August 14, 1863, a preservation association to sell membership stock for battlefield fundraising.[1] McConaughy transferred his land acquired in 1863 to the GBMA, and the association's boardmembers were initially local officials.[1] The GBMA sold stock to raise money, hired a superintendent at $1000/yr,[2] added to McConaughy's land holdings, and operated a wooden observation tower on East Cemetery Hill from 1878–95.[3][2]

The association granted few exceptions to their requirement for placing memorials only on established lines, e.g., the 1887 plaque commemorating Gen Armistead's farthest advance on July 3 and the 1884 2nd Maryland Infantry monument on Culp's Hill. In 1880, GBMA officers were Grand Army of the Republic members from various states,[1] by late 1882 GBMA funds were nearly exhausted,[3]:4 and by the 1890s the GBMA's roads were in disrepair.

"72nd Penn'a Regiment Case"[edit]

After being chartered by the commonwealth, the GBMA subsequently claimed to have the exclusive zoning authority to locate all Gettysburg monuments[4] including those not on the small portion of battlefield land owned by the GBMA. In July 1888 the GBMA denied the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry's request to place a statuary monument on the 72nd's private land at The Angle, a location previously approved by a commonwealth commission of 5 state officers.[5] The GBMA then had the 72nd's Captain John Reed arrested on December 12, 1888, for trespassing after "he had started men at work laying a foundation for the [statuary] monument of the Seventy-second Regiment."[6] In October 1889, Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association v. Seventy-second Pennsylvania Regiment[7] heard testimony regarding the regiment's Pickett's Charge location(s),[8] and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania "reaffirmed"[9] for the 72nd: "the Commonwealth … has the right to designate the position where any of her regiments specially distinguished themselves" (Justice Sterrett).[5] Although at the July 4, 1891, statuary dedication[10] Edward McPherson accepted the monument for the GBMA,[11] on August 25, the GBMA Executive Committee recommended a disclaimer marker be placed to indicate the GBMA had "no responsibility for the location of the monument as now placed".[12]

In 1888, the association had trees planted in Zeigler's Grove,[13] and in 1889 and 1890, the GBMA disapproved John B. Bachelder's idea for the 1892 High Water Mark of the Rebellion Monument before unanimously approving it in 1891.[14]

Trolley case[edit]

After granting the 1884 Round Top Branch steamtrain railroad right-of-way over the battlefield, the GBMA denied right-of-way on battlefield roads to the Gettysburg Electric Railway in August 1891.[15] The trolley line instead acquired right-of-way on Cumberland Twp roads, and the GBMA lost a Pennsylvania claim to stop construction when the commonwealth Attorney General ruled in August 1893: "the right of owners of private property…cannot be disputed. …the line itself…has been chosen with a view of affording tourists the best possible means of visiting and viewing this great battlefield and doing the least possible injury to its natural conditions".[16]

The federal Gettysburg Park Commission (GPC) was established by the United States Department of War on March 3, 1893,[17] for "ascertaining the extent of…the trolley",[18] and former GBMA Superintendent of Tablets and Legends (1883–7), John B. Bachelder,[13]:1375 was 1 of the 3 federal commissioners.[19] Federal acquisition of GBMA land that would become the 1895 Gettysburg National Military Park began on June 7, 1893, with 9 monument tracts of 25 ft × 25 ft (7.6 m × 7.6 m) each and a larger 10th lot of 1.2 acres (0.49 ha) from the GBMA,[20] and on June 16, 1893, Bachelder submitted a complaint to the Secretary of War about railbed construction on private land.[21] As recommended by the 72nd PA Infantry committee in 1893 ("set aside spots right in the route of the trolley");[22] the GBMA filed an April 7, 1894, federal Bill in Equity to block trolley use over Hancock Avenue at the steamtrain crossing.[23] After the GBMA's bill and one by the federal Attorney General were dismissed on June 20, 1894, federal legislation was passed to allow payment of the GBMA debts of $1960.46 for the War Department to acquire 124 GBMA tracts totalling 522 acres (211 ha) on February 4, 1896.[24]

End of the era[edit]

In 1894, a committee was appointed to inquire into the feasibility of transferring the remaining GBMA property to the US government,[13]:1376 and the GBMA's last meeting was May 22, 1895.[4] After the GBMA had expended over $680,000, the 320 monuments and ~17 mi (27 km) of roads at the end of the memorial association era[25] were substantially increased during the 1895-1927 Gettysburg Battlefield commemorative era.

The monument memorializing the GBMA's effors was completed in 1908,[19] the GBMA treasurer record was found in the Methodist Church archives in 1941,[25] and in 1982, the 1872–1895 minutes of the GBMA Board of Directors were transcribed (computerized in 1997).[26]


  1. ^ a b c Vanderslice, John M (1897), Gettysburg: A History of the Gettysburg Battle-field Memorial Association With An Account of the Battle… ( transcription), Philadelphia: Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (commissioned 1895), retrieved 2010-08-05  (New York at Gettysburg:1375 says June 1883 is when 5 non-PA officers were elected.)
  2. ^ "Demise Of 1st Tower Is Located". August 7, 1971. Retrieved 2011-03-13.  (Gettysburg Compiler of July 30, 1895 )
  3. ^ Spooner, Amilia J (April 12, 2010). 'Our Country's Common Ground': The Gettysburg Battlefield as Historic Document (PDF) (Thesis). Columbia University. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  4. ^ "Another Gettysburg Battle: Veterans Opposed in Their Selection of a Monument Site" (Google News Archive). The Philadelphia Record. July 21, 1888. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  5. ^ a b "The Gettysburg Monuments" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Compiler. July 16, 1889. Retrieved 2011-05-01. …appropriation was made "for the purpose of perpetuating the participation therein and marking by suitable memorial tablets of bronze or granite the position of each of the commands of Pennsylvania volunteers engaged in the battle." … five commissioners … "to select and decide upon the design and material for monuments to mark the position of each Pennsylvania command upon the field." … the survivors of the Seventy-second Regiment … and the commissioners wished to place it at a certain spot on the battlefield and the officers of the Memorial Association designated another spot "283 feet distant therefrom" … But on an appeal to the Supreme Court Justice Sterrett has delivered … "the Commonwealth … has the right to designate the position where any of her regiments specially distinguished themselves 
  6. ^ "Row Over A Monument" (Google News Archive). The Philadelphia Record. December 13, 1888. Retrieved 2011-05-01. Captain Reed, representing the Seventy-second Pennsylvania Regiment, was to-day arrested on a capias in trespass sworn out by the Battlefield Memorial Association, and put under $500 bail. …if every regiment should be allowed to place its memorial wherever it desired there would be nothing historically correct about marking the positions of the various commands, and more monuments would be located on Seminary Ridge, in the midst of the Confederate lines, than on the Union line.  (New York Times article)
  7. ^ Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association v. Seventy-second Pennsylvania Regiment (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania January 24, 1896).
  8. ^ "Battery A's New Armory: They Were In The Bloody Angle" (Google News Archive). The Philadelphia Record. October 13, 1889. Retrieved 2011-05-01. Examiner McClain continued … Acting Sergeant Major Alexander W. Given, of the 114th Regiment, and Private James R. Johnson, Adjutant Charles W. West and Major Samuel Roberts, of the Seventy-second, the evidence of all going to show that the place occupied by the regiment was that claimed by its Memorial Committee. 
  9. ^ "Electric Trolley Bed". (structure ID MN226, LCS ID 080808) List of Classified Structures: GETT p. 5. National Park Service. 1894 (documented 2004). Retrieved 2011-05-01. …only monument on the battlefield that’s location was reaffirmed by a Pennsylvania State Supreme Court decision.  Check date values in: |year= (help); External link in |work= (help)
  10. ^ "In Honor of Dead Heroes: Soldiers' Monuments Dedicated on the Field of Gettysburg" (PDF). New York Times. July 5, 1891. Retrieved 2011-05-01. About a thousand people witnessed the ceremonies, at which Capt. John Reed presided. The Rev. Charles H. Thomas made the opening prayer and Capt. Reed presented the monument in the name of the committee to the regimental association. Remarks were made by Gen. James C. Lynch, Capt. W. W. Ker, and Capt. W. W. Wiltbank. The monument was unveiled by Mrs. Mary Lee, an old army nurse, aged eighty, and Sergt. Mullin of Cushing Battery fired a salute. A display of day fireworks concluded the exercises. 
  11. ^ "Its Monument Dedicated" (PDF). The New York Times. September 25, 1891. Retrieved 2011-05-01. After [other units did] repel Pickett's charge, and had captured a large number of prisoners, the Seventy-second valiantly proceeded to the position which Gen. Webb had ordered them to take. …the monument was erected on the main line to the disgust and indignation… Gettysburg has been considerably agitated over the matter. … Edward McPherson … accepting the monument for the Battlefield Association… President Cleveland and a half dozen Major Generals visited [Gettysburg] in 1884. 
  12. ^ Buehler, C H; GBMA Exec. Com. chairman (August 25, 1891). Report…on the 72nd Penn'a Regiment Case (1982 transcription of attachment to GBMA minutes) (Report). Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. Retrieved 2011-07-10. 
  13. ^ a b c "Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association". Final report on the battlefield of Gettysburg. Vol. III. Albany, New York: J. B. Lyon Company, Printer. 1900. On July 27, 1888, it was ordered that 125 trees be planted in the denuded portion of Ziegler's Grove ... In 1890 the board authorized the purchase of so much of the Peach Orchard ... At a meeting May 10, 1891, the board approved the plan for a large tablet at the Copse of Trees, or “ High Water Mark,” 
  14. ^ "Changes At Gettysburg" (PDF). The New York Times. May 22, 1892. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  15. ^ Hamilton, Calvin; GBMA secretary (August 25, 1891). "minutes, Board of Directors of the Gettysburg Battlefield Mem. Association" (1982 transcription). Minute Book…1872-1895. Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. Retrieved 2011-07-10. Gen. Gobin and W. C. Sheely Esq. representing the Gettysburg Electric Rail Way Company appeared before the Board and asked the right of way over the Association's grounds and along the several Avenues marking the lines of battle. On motion of S. Mc. Swope Esq the request was not granted and the secretary was directed to so notify said Company.  (cited by Unrau p. 64)
  16. ^ Hensel, W. U. (August 7, 1893), Gettysburg Trolley: Attorney General Hensel Refuses to Interfere (letter), retrieved 2011-05-24, …'general operations act' of 1874  (published in Gettysburg Times, August 15)
  17. ^ "Gettysburg National Military Park Marker" ( webpage for marker 14520). War Department. 1908. Retrieved 2011-02-08.  (NPS webpage for monument MN508) Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "The Invasion of Gettysburg" (PDF). The New York Times. June 4, 1893. Retrieved 2011-07-10. The commission held its first meeting at the Eagle Hotel in Gettysburg Wednesday evening 
  19. ^ a b "Gettysburg National Military Park Marker" ( webpage for marker 14520). War Department. 1908. Retrieved 2011-02-08.  (NPS webpage, MN508) Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Deed Book TT, Adams County Courthouse, pp. 404–420, 625 :    "Gettysburg National Park". United States military reservations, National cemeteries, and military parks. 1916. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  21. ^ Bachelder, John (received on June 16, 1893). "preliminary report to Secretary of War" (Google News Archive). Retrieved 2011-07-10.  Check date values in: |date= (help) (local article, New York Times article)
  22. ^ "The Electric Line on the Battlefield & The Seventy-Second's Committee" (Google News Archive). The Star and Sentinel. June 20, 1893. Retrieved 2011-07-10. Work is about to be commenced on Little Round Top. From the [Round Top Park] dance house… Acting Secretary Grant referred this report…to Col. Lieber … Attention is invited to the act of the Pennsylvania Legislature of two years ago giving the authority to condemn land etc., and also to the general authority by Congress to the War Department to condemn lands for National Cemeteries. … The trolley people propose to build a station just where Hancock was wounded. … Seven hundred to a thousand tents will be pitched on East Cemetery Hill 
  23. ^ "An Injunction Asked For: Memorial Association versus the Electric Railway" (Google News Archive). The Star and Sentinel. April 10, 1894. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  24. ^ Battlefield Memorial Association (February 4, 1896; recorded June 25), Deed [to United States of America], Adams County Courthouse, Deed Book XX  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  25. ^ a b "Park Service Receives Early Accounts' Volume" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Times. August 9, 1941. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  26. ^ GBMA secretary (March 1895). "Appendix B (form letter)" (1982 transcription). Minute Book, Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, 1872-1895. Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. Retrieved 2011-08-05.