The Jacob Hummelbaugh Farm may not get the attention of many other Gettysburg farms – the Bliss Farm, Codori Farm, Rose Farm and the Brian Farm. But it, like most other farms tucked on the backside of Cemetery Ridge – it played an important role as a field hospital, this one for the Union’s Second Corps under General Winfield S. Hancock.
Today, if they aren’t careful, visitors might miss the Hummelbaugh Farm as it sits at the corner of Taneytown Road and Pleasanton Avenue, not far from the Pennsylvania Memorial.
The farm was used most on July 2 and 3, 1863, and strangely enough, the hospital’s most famous patient was William Barksdale – a Confederate general from Mississippi.
After fierce fighting on July 2 against the Union’s Third Corps, Barksdale was mortally wounded and his men were forced to retreat without his body. He was taken to the Hummelbaugh Farm and was said to have died before dawn on July 3.
Barksdale’s body was buried in the yard outside the Hummelbaugh house, and this is where the story gets interesting, if not odd.
It has been said that much later, but before the war ended, Barksdale’s wife made the trip from Mississippi to Gettysburg to retrieve her husband’s body. With her, she brought her husband’s favorite hunting dog. She would later regret bringing her traveling companion.
As written on CivilWarTalk.com …
“In unearthing the burial site, the dog whimpered and acted strangely. This grew into a full wail by the dog. Once the general had been recovered, the dog refused to leave the gravesite and no coaching would work. Finally, the animal had to be left behind. Residents recalled seeing the dog as he remained steadfast by the site.
Some say the dog guarded the grave and became vicious when anyone approached. The dog would accept neither food nor water. Each night, the poor animal could be heard howling and whimpering. Finally, there was silence. The dog had either starved to death or had died of a broken heart.”
A different account reads … “Before the war was over, Misses Barksdale traveled to Gettysburg to retrieve the body of her husband. She took William’s dog along. When they reached the grave where Barksdale was buried, the dog began to act peculiar. When they began digging, the dog began to behave irrationally. Once the body was removed and placed in the wagon, the dog could not be coaxed away from the grave. Misses Barksdale spent the night in Gettysburg and before leaving the next morning attempted once more to take the dog home. Still the dog would allow no one to approach the old grave. Barksdale’s wife was forced to leave the dog in Gettysburg and return home to Mississippi.”
Others reported that this lasted a week before the dog’s death and even more accounts claim that the dog was buried in the grave where Barksdale was removed. One questioned whether Mrs. Barksdale went home with the right body.
Meanwhile, Barksdale was reburied in a cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi where he remains today.
On your next visit, make a stop at the Hummelbaugh Farm, now owned by the National Park Service. If you’re on the Self-Guided Auto Tour, you’ll drive by on your way to stops 13 and 15.
For more on Barksdale’s military actions throughout the war, click here.