Powers Hill (1/15)

BY JOHN HORNER / JANUARY 2015

A few miles south of Gettysburg, along the Baltimore Pike, stands a topographical feature named Powers Hill. It is so called because it was owned by Solomon Powers, who had a stone yard on the northeast corner of South Washington and East High Streets, in Gettysburg. Powers Hill was his quarry where he mined granite rock to fashion his steps, cemetery monuments and other projects which called for VERY hard material, such as the base of the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse, which was constructed in 1855.

In addition to a wife, quarry and stone yard, it is said he also had five beautiful daughters.

Solomon Powers, a Yankee, was born in Croydon, New Hampshire, within a few miles of the Granite State, Vermont, in 1804. He relocated to Baltimore, Maryland in 1828, met his future wife, Ann Catherine Flemming, and married her in 1833. 1838 found the Powers family in Gettysburg where Solomon established one of the first stone quarries in the area. They would later open their home to many wounded soldiers from both armies, during and after the Gettysburg Battle.

Powers Hill turned out to be one of a half dozen or so lesser known promontories which had an important influence on the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg.

According to Kathy Georg Harrison, former Gettysburg National Military Park Senior Historian, “Baltimore Pike was the most important of the transportation routes General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac used during the Battle of Gettysburg; it connected his army with the railhead and supply line at Westminster, Maryland.” It was an important United States Army artillery position on July 2nd and 3rd. Also located there was the Headquarters of the 12th Corps of Generals Slocum and Williams, and temporarily, Meade’s Headquarters when things got too hot around Widow Leister’s house on the Taneytown Road, during the bombardment preceding Longstreet’s Assault on July 3 from 1-3 p.m. The landscape was much more open in 1863, giving Union Artillery a clear shot in the direction of Culp’s and Cemetery Hills.

In addition, the Hill was an important communications site for Meade’s Command Staff, in direct line with stations on Cemetery Hill, Stevens Knoll and the aforementioned Leister Farm.

Until recent years, it was heavily wooded. Then, in January of 2011, Gettysburg National Military Park acquired 5.5 acres on Powers Hill from the Civil War Trust, adjacent to park-owned land on the summit and southern slope. The Trust contributed $75,000 toward the $310,000 purchase price and the Park paid the Trust $235,000. The Park removed modern buildings and landscape features from the new tract and now have removed non-historic trees, restoring the entire Hill to its 1863 open appearance.

This action has revealed several monuments that were practically indistinguishable before. One of these, a monument to Battery E, Pennsylvania Light Artillery (Knap’s Battery) on the summit is designed to represent a cannon carriage.

Although now under the protection of Gettysburg National Military Park, Powers Hill was, until four years ago, under the care of Cumberland Township residents. To other more recognizable names such as Little Round Top, Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill can now be added the lesser known name of Powers Hill.

John Horner is a Founding Member and Life Member of the Cumberland Township Historical Society.