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The WWII POW camp at Gettysburg. Courtesy of the Adams County Historical Society.

Gunter Habock was imprisoned in Gettysburg, but rather than considering it a trial, he enjoyed his time here as a prisoner. It was so enjoyable, in fact, that he returned to Gettysburg in 1970 to show his wife and son where he had spent part of World War II.

 

“He was a boy of 15 in 1939 when Hitler’s Brown Shirts demonstrated for possession of the Polish Corridor and remembers the Polish army in the city,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

An 18-year-old Habock was in Danzig in 1943. He was studying architecture when he was drafted into the German Army.

Habock had served in the war as a paratrooper in the German army, but he had been transferred to infantry when the Germans lost all of their planes at St. Lo, Normandy, after the Allies strafed the location. He was sent to fight in July 12, 1944, and captured along with 24 other paratroopers on July 28.

The captured Germans were taken to Le Havre, where 42 ships waited to sail to the U.S. These ships were loaded with 2,000 German prisoners.

The ships docked at New York and the prisoners were off loaded onto trains to be transported to various prisoner of war camps in the U.S. Several hundred were put on a train to Carlisle. At Carlisle, trucks were waiting to take about 100 of the prisoners to Gettysburg.

Gettysburg housed German prisoners of war from May 31, 1944 until February 1945. It was one of hundreds of POW camps throughout the country during the war.

The early POWs had to build their own camp at Gettysburg. They constructed a 400-foot by 600-foot stockade surrounding the camp along Emmitsburg Road next to the old Home Sweet Home Motel. During this construction phase, the prisoners were housed at the National Guard Armory on Confederate Avenue.

They were primarily put to work supplementing the work force at nearby orchards and canneries. Habock spent a lot of his time working at Peach Glen.

“I ran the cider press and drank lots of apple juice!” Habock told The Gettysburg Times.

Later, he would work at a fertilizer plant in York and loading pulpwood onto trucks and railroad cars in Ortanna.

For their efforts, the prisoners received 80 cents a day. The remaining amount of their daily earnings, which was usually between 50 and 60 cents an hour, was sent to the federal government. According to the National Park Service, the federal government received $138,000 from the Gettysburg POW camp from June 8 through November 1, 1944. On days that a prisoner didn’t work, he received 10 cents a day. The prisoners were paid in coupons, which they could use as cash in the camp exchange.

Habock left Camp Sharpe in February 1946 and was sent to Indiantown Gap, then to Ft. Meade, Md., and finally to Camp Shank, N.Y. From there, he was returned to LaHavre in June 1946 and discharged in Babenhausin, Germany.

He returned to his hometown of Danzig, but found that the Russians had expelled all Germans from it so he and his family had to be relocated to Hanover, Germany.

He earned his degree and became a contractor building apartments and homes. The married in 1947 and went on to have three children.

The Habocks flew into Ontario on vacation and visited Niagara Falls before visiting the sites where Habock had been as prisoner.

“They visited the Peach Glen plant today, where Habock found many changes,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

While in Gettysburg, he met with Eugene Clapper who had also been captured at St. Lo. However, Clapper had been captured by the Germans and sent to a German POW camp. As the two compared notes on their POW experiences, Habock told Clapper, “It was much worse for you than for me. I had enough to eat and the work was not like that.”

At its peak in July 1944, the Gettysburg POW camp held 932 prisoners of war, some of whom, like Habock returned after the war to visit Gettysburg as guests.

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dhtWhile the Founding Fathers were working to build a nation in Philadelphia in 1776, in south-central Pennsylvania (Adams County, Pa. wasn’t created until 1800), Rev. Alexander Dobbin and his parishioners were building a house that, just like the United States, is still standing more than two years later.

Though now surrounded by houses, businesses, hotels and monuments in Gettysburg, when the house was built, it was a 300-acre farm.

The Dobbin Family

Alexander Dobbin was born in Ireland in 1742. After studying the classics in Ireland, Dobbin and his wife, Isabella Gamble, left Ireland to settle in America. In America, Dobbin became pastor of the Rock Creek Presbyterian Church, located one mile north of what is now Gettysburg.

In 1774, the Dobbin purchased 300 acres of land in and around what is now the town of Gettysburg. At one point, he was the second-largest landholder in the area behind Gettysburg founder James Getty.

88402ee4e29f2b779fd470e6e8e56f98The original stone structure was home to Dobbin’s wife, 10 children and 9 step children. Isabella died at a young age and Dobbin married Mary Agnew who had 9 children.

The house also served as a Classical School, which was a combined seminary and liberal arts college. “Dobbin’s school was the first of its kind in America west of the Susquehanna River, an academy which enjoyed an excellent reputation for educating many professional men of renown,” according to the Dobbin House brochure.

Dobbin also worked to establish Adams County as separate from York County. Once it happened, he was appointed one of the two commissioners who helped chose Gettysburg as the county seat of the new county.

The house passed out of the Dobbin family in 1834 and began being passed through a series of owners. Conrad Snyder owned the house during the Civil War.

Dobbin House on the Underground Railroad

slave-hideoutDuring the Battle of Gettysburg, Beamer said, “There was substantial fighting nearby. It was amazing that it didn’t take a cannonball hit.”

The house was also used as an Underground Railroad stop. Slaves were hidden in a crawl space between the first and second floors behind a false wall. The space can still be seen today when touring the house.

The Many Uses of the Dobbin House

The house served as a private residence or apartments until the 1950’s. From the 1950’s until 1975, the building was a museum, gift shop and housed a diorama on the second floor.

The current owners purchased the house in 1975 and opened the Springhouse Tavern in May 1978. That evolved over the years growing into a complex that includes the tavern, a fine-dining restaurant in the actual Dobbin House, a banquet room, gift shop and bed and breakfast that serve more than 200,000 guests each year.

“We strive to serve quality food and offer gracious service,” Beamer said.

It’s all done in the setting of an authentic colonial tavern that offers recipes that have been featured in “Bon Appetit” and “Cuisine” magazines.

The Dobbin House is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information, visit the Dobbin House web site.

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This is the third in a series of articles about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

 

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Salisbury Prison for Union soldiers in North Carolina.

Eight civilians from Gettysburg were arrested during the 1863 battle, taken south, and imprisoned in POW camps where they endured brutality and starvation.

 

The arrested men were George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

“Both Pennsylvania and the U. S. government informed the Confederacy that they had taken noncombatant civilians, and demanded their return. Because it refused, and since it was regarded as an act of state terrorism, the U. S. Secretary of War ordered the U. S. Army to seize 26 Confederate civilians and hold them as counter hostages at the Fort Delaware Prison on the Delaware River,” according to the Gettysburg Times.

The fort is on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River between Delaware and New Jersey. It had granite and brick walls that ranged in thickness from seven to 30 feet and were 32 feet high. Conditions for prisoners there were unpleasant, although not as unpleasant as things had been in Salisbury Prison for the Gettysburg civilian prisoners.

One Union doctor wrote of his visit to the prison and was recorded in The War Of The Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies. “The barracks were at that time damp and not comfortably warm, and I suspect they have been so a part of the time during the winter…Some, perhaps a large majority, were comfortably clad. Some had a moderate and still others an insufficient supply of clothing. The garments of a few were ragged and filthy. Each man had one blanket, but I observed no other bedding nor straw. Nearly all the men show a marked neglect of personal cleanliness. Some of them seem vigorous and well, many look only moderately well, while a considerable number have an unhealthy, a cachectic appearance.”

In early 1865, the Gettysburg civilian POWs finally got their hearing before General Winder in Richmond. “He called some of us disloyal Pennsylvanians. I told him I was loyal to the backbone,” Samuel Pitzer wrote after the war.

This led to their release and they began returning home to Gettysburg in the middle of March 1865.

The return of the prisoners was a surprise to many because most of them had been presumed dead after the battle. Emanuel Trostle’s wife hadn’t given up hope that her husband still lived and was rewarded for her dedication when he returned home. He went on to lead a successful life as a shoemaker and a farmer.

He died in 1914 at the age of 75. He would have been alive to see the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and perhaps, the same men who had captured him during the battle. It is not known whether he attended the reunion, though.

George Cordori’s return on March 13 got a small mention in the Adams Sentinel. The joy of his return lasted only two weeks. He died of pneumonia at the age of 59.

“For a number of years he had had an attack of this dangerous disease almost every winter, but during the past 18 months, though suffering the privations incident to the life of a prisoner of the South, he informed us his health was very good,” the Gettysburg Compiler reported. It is believed he caught a cold riding the crowded transport that brought freed prisoners to Annapolis and dropped them off.

Ironically, three days after Codori died, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate released a joint resolution asking “That the Secretary of War be respectfully requested to use his utmost official exertions to secure the release of J. Crawford Gwinn, Alexander Harper, George Codori, William Harper, Samuel Sitzer (sic), George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle, and such other civilians, citizens of Pennsylvania, as may now be in the hands of the rebels authorities, from rebel imprisonment and have them returned to their respective homes in Pennsylvania.”

Here are the other parts of the story:

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This is the second in a series of articles about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

800px-bird_eye_view_of_the_confederate_prison_pen_salisbury_north_carolina_1864When the Confederate Army left Pennsylvania at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, they left with eight civilians. These men had done nothing wrong except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were captured at different locations around Gettysburg on the suspicion that they were spies for the Union Army.

They weren’t.

They were ordinary citizens caught in the middle of a great battle.

The arrested men were George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

Samuel Pitzer was a Gettysburg farmer who had been arrested on July 2. He wrote that the prisoners were first sent to Castle Lightning prison in Richmond where all of their money except for two cents, their knives and their blankets were taken.

They were then moved to Libby Prison. Pitzer was upset that his hat was stolen there, which he said would have been worth $150 to $200 in Confederate dollars.

“The first thing we hear when new prisoners came in was ‘Fresh Fish,’ to which another would immediately reply ‘Scale him,’ and it was not long they had them all scaled,” Pitzer wrote.

The rations were poor, so much so that even the pigs ate better.

“They raise beans down there on which they fatten their hogs,” Pitzer wrote. “We got a broth with about a dozen of these beans and a little corn bread.”

After a time, they were sent to Castle Thunder Prison where the rations were even worse.

The commander there was a Union army deserter named George Edwards. He had a reputation for brutality. Pitzer wrote that he would make the prisoners stand around him while he swung his sword back and forth coming close to slicing the prisoners open.

After two months in Richmond, the prisoners were sent further south to Salisbury, N.C., where they were imprisoned in an old tobacco factory. At first, there were 500 prisoners in the factory prison, but during October 1863, that number swelled to 14,000.

What little food the prisoners received had a lot to be desired. In the beginning, their rations consisted of a little meat that was “strong and so full of worm holes that we could see through it,” according to Pitzer.

Other days, the guards simply threw a little beef and tripe into the garrison and let the prisoners fight over who got to eat it.

Sometimes the prisoners weren’t fed for two or three days at a time. It was a tactic used to encourage them to join the Confederate army so they could be sent to guard forts and camps.

The prisoners got to the point that they were eating just about anything they thought would fill them up.

“They ate rats, cats and dogs and I saw an Irishman eating the graybacks as he picked them from his clothes,” Pitzer wrote.

Within four months that 14,000 number had dwindled to 4,500 as men died from malnutrition.

“As regularly as the day returned from forty to sixty died,” Pitzer wrote.

The dead were buried in a common grave four bodies deep.

The Gettysburgians endured, though, not knowing when the end would come, but knowing that it would come eventually.

Here’s are the other parts of the story:

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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of three posts about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

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Libby Prison in Richmond, Va., where the Gettysburg civilian prisoners were kept for a time.

In March of 1865, the country was still at war, but the end was near. The Confederacy was collapsing and the Union was pressing its advantage and forcing the Confederate Army to retreat.

They would not surrender easily, though. Just a couple weeks earlier, 40 McNeill’s Rangers had snuck into Union-occupied Cumberland, Md., and kidnapped General George Crook and General Benjamin Kelley from their hotel rooms. They escaped back into Virginia and delivered the prisoners to the infamous Libby Prison where they were promptly ransomed back to the Union.

The generals’ incarceration hadn’t even lasted a month. They were lucky.

Around the same time negotiations were underway to free the generals, several men returned home to Adams County, Pennsylvania. They had been missing for 20 months. They weren’t victorious soldiers. They were farmers, postmasters, and ordinary citizens. They were also a secret, or perhaps, a shame of the Confederacy because these men were civilians arrested by the Confederate Army at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg and marched back to Virginia when the Confederate Army retreated.

“The hostages were selected from three target groups. They were agents of the government such as postmasters or tax collectors, they defied or criticized the invaders or they were prominent citizens in the community,” James Cole, a descendant of one of the hostages, said in a 1994 interview.

On July 2, 1863, Confederate soldiers arrested Samuel Pitzer and his uncle, George Patterson on the suspicion that they were spies. The rebel sharpshooters were hidden behind the Pitzer Schoolhouse and surprised Pitzer and Patterson.

The two men argued that they were farmers not spies. The soldiers told them that they would have to go to the headquarters for a hearing.

“As they did not find any firearms upon us they assured us that we would not be held after the hearing. When we reached headquarters however Major Fairfax said it was too late to give the hearing that night and put if off till morning,” Pitzer wrote of his experiences years later and reported in the History of the St. James Lutheran Church.

The following day, the Confederates were defeated and started their retreat. All thought of the hearing was forgotten and the prisoners were forced to march south, accompanied by a guard who stood beside each prisoner.

Emanuel Trostle, was another Gettysburg farmer. He lived with his wife and child on Emmittsburg Road. During the battle, a Confederate colonel rode up to his farmhouse and warned him that his family was in danger because of the battle.

“Mr. Trostle, who was crippled at the time, and walked with the aid of a staff and crutch, told the colonel that he could not pass through his pickets. The colonel told him that he would take him through, and accordingly did so,” the Gettysburg Times reported in 1914 when Trostle died.

Trostle had second thoughts the next morning, though. He worried about some of the household goods that he had left behind and headed back, accompanied by a friend. They got as far as the pickets before they were captured.

“He was taken to the battle-field, expecting to be paroled, but the firing opened before the parole could be made out. He was taken to Staunton, Va., walking the entire distance of 175 miles; was on the road six days, and for three days had not a mouthful to eat,” according to the Gettysburg Times.

When the Confederates left Pennsylvania at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, they left with eight civilians: George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

Here are the other parts of the story:

 

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One of the unique desk sets made by Edward Woodward. He used artifacts collected from the Gettysburg battlefield.

Edward Woodward was a creative man who came to America from England in the mid-1850s seeking an opportunity to display his creativity. What he found when he and his father arrived in Baltimore was a land of simmering tensions that soon erupted into the Civil War.

On April 19, 1861, a regiment of Massachusetts soldiers was transferring between railroad stations in Baltimore. To do this they had to disembark one train and march through a city filled with Confederate sympathizers to another station where they could board a train to Washington.

The sympathizers attacked the soldiers, blocking the route and throwing bricks and cobblestones at the Union men. The soldiers panicked and fired into the mob, which led to a wild fight involving the soldiers, mob, and Baltimore police. When all was said and done, four soldiers and 12 civilians had been killed. These deaths are considered the first of the Civil War.

Woodward was living in the city at the time, and although it is uncertain whether he saw the melee or heard about it second hand, it affected him.

He was a gunsmith by trade and associates who were Southern sympathizers encouraged him to go South where he would be appointed as the superintendent of a gun manufacturing plant.

His reply was, “I will never go against the flag that waved over me when I crossed the boundless sea to this land of liberty—on it there is no rampant lion to devour nor unicorn to gore. Oh may that flag forever wave until time shall be no more,” according to some of Woodward’s papers still with his family.

At 47 years old, Woodward was not an ideal recruit as a soldier even though he knew his way around a rifle. Instead, he went and joined the Union Relief Association and began caring for sick and wounded soldiers. He went into the hospitals and fed them as he spoke with them.

When the federal government took over Point Lookout, Md., and turned it into a large hospital for Union soldiers and a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers in 1862, Woodward volunteered to go and help. However, his time there was cut short when he was severely injured. Though his injury and how he received it is not known, it was severe enough that he had to return home to recover.

Once he recovered, he still wanted to help care for the soldiers. According to family papers, he “volunteered to go to the battlefield of Gettysburg, which he did and remained, until the closing of the hospitals, never making any charge or receiving any pay for his services.” He came to Gettysburg as a member of the Christian and Sanitary Commissions, but when they moved on, he stayed behind to continue helping the sick, but to also start a new life.

He soon resumed his work as a gunsmith in the town. However, he also started a cottage industry in creating souvenirs from the relics of the battle. Woodward created desk sets that contained pieces of artillery shells and weapons. He also made engraved belt buckles from pieces of artillery shells. Some of these items sell for thousands of dollars today.

His obituary in the Star and Sentinel notes, “He was a man of considerable ability, and was known to nearly every student of Pennsylvania College within 25 years.”

Meanwhile, the Homestead Orphanage opened in 1866 to national fanfare. There was much to admire about the operation at first, but then Rosa Carmichael was hired in 1870 as the matron of the orphanage. Things soon began changing and rumors spread that the children in the orphanage were being mistreated.

A story about two of the orphans, Bella Hunter and Lizzie Hutchison was one of the early warning signs. When the two girls tore their dresses, Carmichael made them wear boys’ clothing for two months. This seemed to be the tip of the iceberg as other stories started coming out.

“All sorts of stories were told,” Mark H. Dunkelman wrote in Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier. “Mrs. Carmichael was said to have suspended children by their arms in barrels. She had hidden mistreated victims from the prying eyes of inspectors. Most scandalous of all were tales of a dungeon in the Homestead cellar, a black hole eight feet long, five feet deep, and only four feet high, unlit and unventilated, where she shackled children to the wall.”

It was also noticed that the orphans were no longer allowed to decorate the soldiers’ graves in Soldier’s National Cemetery on Memorial Day. It all finally became too much for Woodward who had cared for some of those dead soldiers in their last day.

He expressed his anger in a broadside, simply called “Poem” that he then distributed throughout town. The poem criticized her treatment of Bella and Lizzie, calling her “a modern Borgia” and wrote of the orphans, “They are kept like galley slaves, while strangers decorate their father’s graves.”

He wrote two other poems that have survived. One is titled “Woman’s Sin was a Blessing.” It talks about how Eve should be viewed as a good and gentle woman and not simply as the one who brought about the Fall.

The other poem is called “What Did the Soldiers Endure” and deals with Woodward’s wartime work in hospitals. It reads in part:

“They left their homes surrounded with every pleasure

To defend the flag, their country’s greatest treasure,

The native born American, and the volunteer exile,

Marched to the battlefields in rand and file—

 

“How cheerfully they marched, no fear, wounded they fell,

Devoted to the flag they admired and loved so well.

On the street you see a man with an empty coat sleeve

And another on crutches, oh! how it makes us grieve.”

Edward Woodward died on January, 28, 1894, at the age of 79. Although he had been in ill health for years, the end came quickly. He fell sick on a Wednesday and died on Sunday from “inflammation of the bowels,” according to the Star and Sentinel. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bertel_Thorvaldsen_-_CupidIt was a bit early for Valentine’s Day, but Gettysburg Burgess William G. Weaver was called on to serve a cupid in January 1950.

He announced at a meeting that he had received a letter addressed to the “Burgermeister” of “Gettysburgh.” The letter was “printed in German script,” according to the Gettysburg Times and was from two women in Hamburg, Germany.

Amelie Schmidt, 48, and Margarethe Lange, 45, wanted to correspond with single men in Adams County. Schmidt wrote that she weighed 170 pounds and Lange wrote that she weighed 155 pounds. Both women said that they were good cooks and housekeepers and they included pictures with the letters. However, since the women only spoke German, any interested male needed to be able to read and write German.

“Through a somewhat sketchy interpretation of it, the burgess deduced that the two women think they would like the United States much better than Germany, and would like to come here,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Weaver announced a week later that he had gotten his first “nibble” from a man interested in the “friendship circle.” It didn’t come from an Adams County man, though. An unnamed Carlisle man called the burgess asking for the names and addresses of Lange and Schmidt.

“Adams county men may be more cautious, or maybe they haven’t got around to inquiring yet, but the female of the species has not been backward about expressing opinions,” the newspaper reported.

Weaver said that he had also received calls from two women who were outraged that Weaver announced the letter and its contents. Weaver told the newspaper that the gist of the calls was, “We’ve got enough old maids in Adams county now, we don’t need any more.”

The mail-order bride industry can trace its roots in the United States to the American West. The number of men in the West far outnumbered the women so it was difficult for men to find themselves wives.

Asian workers would arrange with a mail-order bride service for brides to come from China or other Asian countries to marry them. It was the business version of arranged marriages.

Successful western farmers and businessmen would write to churches and family in the East or ran advertisements looking for wives. The women would write and send pictures and a courtship would take place via mail until the women agreed to marry a man they had never met in person. They were willing to do this as a way to gain financial security and even explore life on the frontier.

The 1950 incident wasn’t the first time that the Gettysburg burgess had been asked to help arrange marriages. In the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, a resident of St. James, Mo., wrote to Burgess J. A. Holtzworth in late May. He noted that he and a group of four or five other Missouri veterans were coming to Gettysburg for the reunion. They aged veterans were hoping that the burgess could direct them toward some single women.

The Missourian wrote, “…if you have got a few good widows or old maids who would like to marry and go west, we can accommodate a few. They must be good housekeepers and not too young.”

The Gettysburg Times reported that the burgess would forward the names and contact information of any women who were interested in applying “for the position of unsalaried housekeeper.”

It’s wasn’t reported whether the burgesses had any success in arranging marriages.

Some other Gettysburg stories that you might like:

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