Maintenance by the War Department
At the time the Soldiers' National Cemetery was envisioned and realized,
the corporation was under charter of the State of Pennsylvania, which originally
footed the bill for the expenses. The State had paid for the seventeen-acre
plot, and held title to the Soldiers' National Cemetery in trust for the
other Union states having soldiers buried in said cemetery. When the cemetery
was chartered under the laws of Pennsylvania on March 25, 1864, the states
shared all expenses (proportionately by population) with the other incorporators.
After that time, the commissioners and their respective states kept the
cemetery solvent and developing through voluntary state appropriations.
As of November 30, 1864 the cemetery had received $28,045.95 from the various
states, and had spent $23,831.09 of that amount in burial expenses and
superintending same, layout of the grounds, construction of the lodge and
portions of the fencing. 30 This total apportionment by state appropriations
reached $129,523.24 by the time the cemetery was transferred to the ownership
of the Federal government on May 1, 1872.
The only known maintenance required for the enclosures during the ownership
of the State of Pennsylvania and the control of the corporation was the
painting of the front fence and gates. This was done at a cost of $50,
but the date of such work was not specified. 31
Although the condition of the "substantial stone wall" was not noted
in the inspection report for 1870-1871 (prior to the government's ownership),
Quartermaster's Department of Philadelphia instructed the superintendent
to have the stone wall repointed during the early fall of 1872. 32 At the
same time, a decision was made to repaint the iron front fence and gateway
to prevent corrosion.33 By the end of October 1872, both projects were
completed, John Errter (Ertter) receiving $40 compensation for painting
the iron fencing along the Baltimore Pike and Charles Z. Tawney earning
$575 for repointing the enclosing wall.34
30 Revised Report, pp. 12, 17.
31 Letters Sent, handwritten journal of Gettysburg National Cemetery
Superintendent, September 9, 1872 (GNMP Library).
At the same time, to bring the visibility of the iron railing division
fence up to par, the superintendent discovered that he would have to replace
almost 120 arbor vitaes in the hedge just inside the fence (or boundary).
He had felt that all the arbor vitae should have been torn out and replaced
with small hemlock trees, but the War Department chose the arbor vitaes
at half the cost of the hemlocks, 35 and these were planted during the
beginning of November. To the surprise of no one, the arbor vitae continued
to die during the harsh Pennsylvania winters, and the superintendent sent
out a requisition in the spring for 160 American arbor vitae, three feet
high to "fill up the hedge."36 (It should be reemphasized here that William
Saunders, in his 1869 report on landscape gardening, recommended Siberian
arbor vitae for the harsher northern climates. Why American arbor vitae
shrubs were planted instead is not known.) In any case, even at the
33 Letters Received, August 30, 1872.
34 Letters Sent, October 5 and 25, 1872.
35 Ibid., September 20 and November 1, 1872.
36 Ibid., May 16, 1873
time of the cemetery's inspection in the fall of 1873, it was noted that
the arbor vitae hedge was quite damaged by the severe weather, and as a
result was uneven in appearance. 37
It was not until the spring of 1875 that any more substantial work
was needed on the enclosures. At that time, the superintendent requested
funding from the quartermaster department for painting and gilding the
front fence and gate.38 This project was authorized and funded in June-July
of 1875. 39 Two springs later it was noted that the iron railing division
fence needed painting "badly,"40 but it was not until the fence weathered
another winter that the repainting work was done (at a cost of $20). 41
Six years following the first major repointing of the stone wall enclosing
the cemetery, the superintendent wrote to the quartermaster general describing
the condition of the wall.
It was not until the following summer, however, that a formal request for
authorization and funding was sent to the War Department. In August of
1879, while drawing up specifications for this repointing job, N. G. Wilson
". . . .the wall at this Cemetery is Twenty five (25) hundred feet
long, the greater part of the pointing has fallen out, what still remains
is nearly all loose and will ultimately fall out. I do not think it would
be advisable to patch it as it would not make a good job and by next spring
a great deal of what remains on now will have fallen off, about two-thirds
of the pointing is off now."42
37 Report of the Inspector for 1874, Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 28,
38 Letters Sent, April 2, 1875.
39 Letters Received, June 25, 1875.
40 Letters Sent, May 11, 1877.
41 Ibid., February 4, 1878.
42 Ibid., August 5, 1878.
superintendent of the National Cemetery) recommended that "the material
used should be lime and sand mortar. The wall was pointed the last time
with cement mortar and in less than six months after being pointed the
pointing commenced falling out." 43 In September Charles Z. Tawney once
again was contracted to repoint the wall at 13 1/2 cents a foot, accepting
the specifications of the War Department (e.g., using lime and sand mortar
instead of the cement mortar he had used previously). 44
This work was most probably done in October and November of 1886, since
the National Cemetery had an unusually high number of laborers on the payroll
then, including four members of the Tawney family--F. Tawney, H. H. Tawney,
E. Tawney, and William Tawney. 47 In hopes of preventing rapid deterioration
of this new
43 Ibid. , August 27, 1879.
44 Ibid., July 1879 requests; September 9, 1879.
45 Ibid., estimates for September 1879.
46 Letters Received, September 11, 1886.
47 It is also worthy of mentioning here that P. J. and J. J. Tawney
were the contractors who built the brick rostrum in the south end of the
cemetery during the spring of 1879. Letters Received, March 10,
repointing, the quartermaster's department recommended that the walls be
"covered, as soon as possible, with ivy and other vines" if there were
no "fine hedges" along the insides of the walls. 48 It is doubtful
that this measure was taken at that time, since it was three years afterwards
that the department reiterated the suggestion. (No photograph of these
years indicates a vine-like growth on or along the walls) .
In the fall of 1891 it was proposed to repoint the wall again. However,
because of increasing visitation to the National Cemetery and the battlefield,
it was decided to concurrently open a new gateway on the Taneytown Road
side of the cemetery. This gateway was opened opposite the Hancock Avenue
entrance at Ziegler's Grove, 49 but was not finished until sometime after
March 1892. 50 The new gateway consisted of dissimilar gate posts from
those at the Baltimore Pike entrance. Two highly ornamental iron posts
supported the main gates. These posts had reliefs of various patriotic
seals and insignia, which were eventually gilded. Connecting the stone
wall (which had been altered and gradually raised at the entranceway) with
the entrance gate were flanking pedestrian gates. These smaller gates stood
between the cast iron gate posts and the granite posts which were attached
to the ends of the stone walls. These granite posts were composed of six
rustic-faced cut blocks, stacked atop each other and topped by a rustic-faced
capstone. Both iron and granite gate posts had finials of cast iron gilded
urns. Unlike the draped urns on the Baltimore Pike entrance, these urns
had handles, were smaller, and were of a completely different configuration.
48 Ibid., January 24, 1888.
49 Ibid., November 2, 1891
50 The masonry work was not completed at that time due to snows and
cold weather. Monthly Reports, March 1892 (GNMP Library).
handles of the urns paralleled the Taneytown Road. The weather was also
a factor in slowing the workers who were repointing the wall. During this
repointing, we get the impression that for the first time the enclosing
wall was not repointed in its entirety. Calvin Hamilton's monthly report
to the War Department indicated that the "inside of the enclosing wall
was repointed wherever needed and over one thousand feet on the outside.
The old pointing on the outside was all removed on the outside as far as
repointed." The wall repointing was completed on June 20, 1892. 51
During that same year, the iron fence and gateway along the Baltimore
Pike was repainted, greatly improving its appearance. 52 Although the superintendent
recommended in the spring of 1889 that the fencing needed painting, he
did not request authorization to do so. On examination of the fence, however,
Superintendent Holtzworth judged that the weathering was not serious, and
recommended that no work be done until the next year. It was not until
three and a half years later that action was recommended or taken, and
not until the fence needed painting "badly."
rose to $45.54 Three years later, during the spring of 1904, the superintendent
again requested $50 for funding the same purpose. 55
Cyclic maintenance continued on this entranceway fencing, and it was
painted again in the summer of 1897. The estimates for the work included
the painting of the iron fence along the pike and the gateway at the entrance,
and the "bronzing" of the eagle and letters, as well as for painting the
new gateway on the Taneytown Road, including gold leaf where needed. The
cost of this project was calculated at $38.53 In the spring of 1901 the
process was repeated with the application of two coats of paint to the
fencing and gates, and by bronzing the eagles, urns, and lettering on the
Baltimore Pike gateway. This time the cost
Meanwhile, the stone wall continued to need maintenance to safeguard
the joints from weather. In the late summer of 1906, the wall was repointed
where it was needed by using a cement and sand fixative. The cost of the
labor was estimated at $60, and the superintendent requested a barrel of
the "best cement" and two barrels of "fine" or "clean, sharp sand" 56 for
the job. No other record exists indicating work on the wall for the following
In 1908 the ornamental appendages to the gateways (urns, eagles, lettering,
etc.) were gilded or given a "coating of ordinary bronze paint," while
the fencing was repainted again. 57 The superintendent, Calvin Hamilton,
stated that the iron eagles had previously been gilded on the average of
every two or three years, but that up to 1908 they had not been treated
in a "long time." In 1912, the procedure was repeated, but this time the
job was not contracted out to local painters. The superintendent asked
for money to purchase the paint only, and that the repainting of the fencing
would be accomplished by the "regular force" on the cemetery payroll. 58
But three years later, the superintendent advertised for bids for painting
and gilding the cemetery gates (no mention is made of the fencing). This
contract was awarded to Bushman Brothers and Company, 59 and the work was
not delegated to cemetery labor. The painting of the iron fencing and
54 Ibid., March 1901
59 Ibid., April 30 and May 20, 1915.
55 Ibid., March 1st (?), 1901.
56 Ibid., August 14, September 19, 1906.
57 Ibid., April 7, April 24, and May 23, 1908.
58 Ibid., March 31, 1912.
any repointing of the stone wall was picked up by annual maintenance during
The stone wall was beginning to show signs of deterioration by 1920.
The last real work on the wall was in 1908, and that must have been merely
patchwork since the cost of labor and amount of cement was not indicative
of the large and thorough projects carried on in the early years of the
cemetery maintenance of the wall. On August 13, 1920 permission was requested
of the War Department for five days' labor and four bags of Portland Cement
to repoint the outside of the west wall.61 Nine days later the depot quartermaster
from Philadelphia endorsed the request by writing that the southwest wall
(along the Taneytown Road?) needed "considerable repointing" on the outside
and a small amount of work on the inside of the wall. 62
The first real problems with the wall occurred in 1923, when about eighteen
feet of the outside of the wall behind the utility building fell out. The
superintendent called in a stone mason to look at the wall. The mason was,
of course, another Tawney--Edward Tawney--who continued his family's fifty-odd-year
care of the wall. Tawney's findings were that the wall was "not bound (tied)
and poor foundation at foot of water shed was cause of breakage." The superintendent
believed this estimate to be "evidently true, the large top stones remaining
in place." Tawney's proposal for repairing the wall included providing
any necessary stone, providing all cement and sand, and to replace the
bound in the broken section at a cost of $60.63 As of April 10, the wall
was not yet repaired, and
60 Ibid., April 16, 1915.
61 Ibid., August 13, 1920.
62 Ibid., August 24, 1920.
63 Ibid., March 26, 1923
the eighteen feet originally fallen down in the neighbor's garden was being
joined by additional stonework from more of the weakening wall. Altogether,
Tawney appraised one hundred feet of the wall behind the superintendent's
lodge, the tool house, and the stable (utility building) and estimated
the cost of repairs at $150.64 It is not mentioned whether or not this
work was done at that time. Although there was statement that an estimate
was made, there was no follow-up in the recorded correspondence to indicate
whether Tawney or anyone else was paid for the job. (This does not preclude
the possibility that the cemetery work force did the masonry work themselves.)
Almost two years later Edward Tawney was called upon again to look
at the wall, and work up an estimate for repointing the wall and straightening
it where needed (where it "has become otherwise by roots, of trees, filtration
of water, etc.") from Baltimore Street to the gateway on the Taneytown
Road. 65 This estimate must have been so unpalatable to the pecuniary depot
quartermaster that it was not even recorded; it is doubtful whether any
work was done to repoint the wall or to alleviate the weakening condition
of the wall.
It was not until 1929 that the War Department commenced work on this
section of wall, and only because forced into it. After the winter weather
and the freezing temperatures, the stone wall finally yielded to the ravages
caused by the departments recent years of neglect. That section of the
wall dividing the cemetery from the grounds of the present Cemetery Annex
was the hardest hit. The problems associated with the wall were described
by the superintendent, who
was informing the department the
Estimates were made at that time to present to the quartermaster department,
giving the administrators two alternative treatments to select from. The
first alternative called for repairing only the seven damaged places, including
a base of stone as needed 12" X 14" and 12" X 16", at a cost of $95. The
second proposal consisted of repairing the length of the affected wall
on both sides (tearing out and rebuilding the bulged areas and rebuilding
the seven collapsed sections) at a cost of $260. Both included a base constructed
on "1:3:6 concrete" 12" X 14" to 12" X 16" where necessary, "the whole
to be left in a clean and satisfactory condition." 67 The War Department
chose the cheaper solution, and the contract was awarded to the appraiser,
M. E. Funt of Gettysburg, who completed the work in less than two weeks'
time (April 24, 1929). Unfortunately, the needed repointing of the wall
was shunted aside in order to save money, and the stone wall was once again
deprived of the vital cyclical maintenance necessary to prevent its bulging,
shifting, and collapse.
"wall had fallen out in seven places and bulging by frost is ready
to fall out. Water leaking down into the wall freezes and bursts it. .
. . One other cause of wall falling is that the ground next to it being
cultivated undermines the wall which has no sufficient base to hold it
up after frost."66
In 1931, just two and a half years after this emergency repair, the
superintendent would have the temerity to write that
"considerable pointing up is needed on the north and west sides (which
are stone) but the wall will stand as it is for some time without any repairs
if no funds are available for this work." 68
66 Ibid., March 24, 1929.
67 Ibid., April 12, 1929.
68 Ibid., November 14, 1931.
Needless to say the War Department quickly latched on to the qualifier
in the above statement, and apparently allocated neither funding nor authority
to accomplish the needed preservation treatment. The following spring,
after surviving another winter, the wall looked worse, and the superintendent
changed his tune:
He estimated at least $500 would be needed to fund the necessary labor,
although it does not appear from the records that the funding was made
available to Gettysburg or that the work was undertaken. Up to March of
1934, when the last days of the War Department's administration of the
cemetery drew to a close, there is no record of repointing or repair to
". . . much work is needed in repointing, also the coping is slipping
out of line in several places." 69
The iron fencing fared better during the last decades of War Department
care, but even at that, the attention given this fencing was sporadic at
best. From 1915 to 1929 there was no written record of routine maintenance
or painting of the fencing. But in 1929, the superintendent at least (and
at last) requested authority to purchase gilding bronze for the ornamentation
of the Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road entrance gates.70 And a month
later, the work force was busy painting the iron fencing of the cemetery
with a "Black Valdura" paint.71
A new superintendent wanted the "bronze" ornaments, etc., on the gates
cleaned and painted, but he was not familiar with what type of solution
to apply which would "stand exposure to the weather." 72 He requested the
quartermaster to send him a gallon of the proper bronzing material, which
we assume was done. The
69 Ibid., March 31, 1932.
70 Ibid., requests for May 1929.
71 Ibid., June 24, 1929.
72 Ibid., requests for January 1931.
following year, work was programmed to paint the iron fence and gates,
and to make any other repairs to them as needed. 73