Gettysburg is a place well-known for unexpected twists and turns. Though it seems like a large battlefield, a visit in the fall or winter with the leaves off the trees will prove that most farms and fighting fields are relatively close to each other . . . yet there are still some surprises you don’t expect to see. One of these little-known spots is the 32nd Massachusetts field hospital across from the Irish Brigade monument. While the monument with its bronze Irish Wolfhound is one of the most popular monuments on the field, the field hospital is not exactly what you might expect.
If you’ve seen previous Gettysburg field hospitals, you’d probably expect a lovely old farm or other venerable brick or stone structure, often with existent outbuildings and a large plaque detailing the property’s uses during and after the battle. Yet this hospital was merely a jumble of prehistoric boulders, and operations took place even while the fight was still raging. Doctor Z. Boylston Adams was afraid that the wounded Massachusetts soldiers would be captured by the enemy and was concerned that there would not be enough time to transfer the wounded to better facilities. He designated this pile of rocks as a “field hospital” and began treating soldiers.
I have visited this spot often, and I believe this is one of the quietest places on the battlefield. Here one is surrounded by monuments, woodland, ancient boulders, and open sky. I’ve often felt uncomfortable or at least alert while standing near the rocks. I could feel that something had happened in this area, something “heavy,” though I didn’t know about the field hospital until recently. It is entirely possible that much of this instinctual discomfort might have come from the area’s proximity to the “Bloody Wheatfield” and the fact that its location (“Stony Hill”) was heavily contested during the battle.
A bronze marker (placed directly in a boulder) reads, “Behind this group of rocks, on the afternoon of July 2nd, 1863, Surgeon Z. Boylston Adams placed the field hospital of the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 1st Div., 5th Army Corps. Established so near the line of battle, many of our wounded escaped capture or death by its timely aid.” The hospital site is mainly reached by taking Sickles Avenue up “over” Devil’s Den along Houck’s Ridge, driving past the Wheatfield, and then taking the “Loop” straight ahead. The Irish Brigade monument is on the left of the road and the hospital marker is on the right.
SGT. EDWIN DARLING PICKETT
Co. G, 17th Connecticut Infantry
Born June 03, 1835 --- Died July 01, 1863 at age 28
Sgt. Pickett was a resident of Ridgefield, Connecticut and was known as a man of high moral character. He was well-loved by everyone who knew him, especially his fellow soldiers. Contemporary accounts emphasize his courage, patriotism, and faithful spirit. He was buried in Titicus Cemetery in Ridgefield. Left behind was his wife of six years, Sarah, and a two-year-old son, Edwin.
(c) 2012 Skies of Blue and Gray