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Remembering Gettysburg

Tamaqua's Amos Moser Whetstone was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and because of it, earned a place in American history.

It was the summer of 1863, and Whetstone was standing on a second-floor porch in Gettysburg when he called out to a neighbor to be careful crossing the street.The Battle of Gettysburg was underway and bullets were flying everywhere.The woman crossed safely, but then, in an instant, it was Whetstone who took a hit.He survived, but the wound may have haunted him for the rest of his life and possibly contributed to his death.Overall, the battle produced shocking results: 7,550 killed, 27,450 wounded and 10,515 missing.But a few thousand civilians, too, were caught in the frenzy. Whetstone happened to be one of them, and a bit unlucky.@Body.bd.head:Shot by accidentIn terms of civilian fatalities, it's believed the only one killed was Jennie Wade. She was struck by a stray shot while indoors caring for a sick relative.Some accounts say she was kneading bread dough at the time.In Whetstone's case, the situation was similarly innocent.Research at the Adams County Historical Society identifies Whetstone as one of about eight civilians to have been wounded during the bloodiest battle ever to take place on North American soil.According to reports, the 25-year-old student clergyman stepped outside to a rear porch and earned a spot in the annals of the Civil War.Historical accounts state that Whetstone was staying in Gettysburg on July 4, 1863, and was wounded at the home of Nancy Weikert."Nancy Weikert operated a boarding house on Chambersburg Street. Whetstone was living there, renting a room," said Tim Smith, Gettysburg, a researcher and expert on the subject of civilians of the battle.Both the historical society and the Gettysburg National Military Museum maintain details of the incident.One account, written by Mary McAllister, a neighbor of Weikert and owner of a shop on Chambersburg Street, is included in her memoirs of the battle. Those documents are part of the society archives and tell the tale of what took place when 165,000 soldiers from two great armies converged on the small town.Whetstone, apparently, was shot in the leg by a sniper during General Lee's retreat.@Body.bd.head:Diary detailsMcAllister wrote this about the events of July 4:"Those rebel sharpshooters were keeping up a show as if to make another charge. I went over to old Mrs. Weikert's and on her back porch there was a man. He said 'Take care, you will be shot! Oh, I believe I am shot!' He looked down and a bullet had just gone through the fleshy part of his leg. Mrs. Weikert had student boarders and this was one of those students."At the time, Whetstone was enrolled at Gettysburg Theological Seminary.His wound was dressed by Sarah "Sallie" Broadhead, a 30-year-old schoolteacher.The boarding house of Nancy Weikert was located in the heart of the downtown, and the gunfire may have come from Confederates still holding position at the Eagle Hotel."About 2,400 residents lived here at that time and many lived in apartments," said Wayne Motts, historical society executive director.The boarding house, situated back a distance from the street, was eventually torn down. The site now hosts a gift and craft shop located adjacent to a corner 7-Eleven store.@Body.bd.head:Late recognitionAccounts of Whetstone's injury were reported in a Gettysburg newspaper and later published in at least one book, "Early Photography of Gettysburg," by author William Frassanito.Interestingly, the incident seemed to have generated little or no recognition in Whetstone's hometown of Tamaqua.The Tamaqua-Gettysburg connection surfaced in Schuylkill County only in the 1990s when Gettysburg researchers contacted Tamaqua's Odd Fellows Cemetery."They wanted to verify that Whetstone was buried here," said Charles Bailey, then cemetery manager.At the time, Bailey spoke with the Adams County group and confirmed the existence of Whetstone's grave site.@Body.bd.head:Photo emergesAlumni records indicate that Whetstone attended Pennsylvania College from 1857 to 1861, graduating from Gettysburg Theological Seminary in 1863, the same year he was wounded. At the time he was shot, he had accepted a pastorate in the town of Greencastle.Seventeen years later, the 1880 U.S. Census reported that Whetstone was age 42 and unmarried.In May 2005, a portrait of Whetstone was discovered by an antiques dealer in a pile of old pictures in Egg Harbor, New Jersey. The image shows Whetstone posed next to a small, carved wooden chair.The old photo is in the form of a CV, or carte-de-visite, a type of visiting card popular during the 1860s and later.The photo had been taken by S.B. Howard of Reading. It includes on the reverse side a few early, handwritten comments, noting that Whetstone had been wounded about 9 a.m. during the famous battle.On June 17, 2005, the photo was listed for sale on the auction site eBay, and eventually purchased by a descendant of Whetstone for $42.50. The purchaser identified himself as George Whetstone of Baltimore, a Lutheran minister.@Body.bd.head:ComplicationsWhetstone recovered from the gunshot wound, but complications from the injury likely remained. Stories of his life handed down over the years suggest he walked with a limp.Bailey heard reports about Whetstone's lingering health problems, an affliction which the minister may have endured for the rest of his life.Whetstone died 120 years ago at age 58.Cemetery records list his cause of death as Bright's disease, a term once commonly used in reference to a form of kidney failure.In Tamaqua, visitors can find Whetstone's tombstone located about 50 yards from the top of the cemetery's concrete steps at the western end of West Broad Street, Lot 87-8, Section 1.His grave marker overlooks the town and its inscription reads: "Rev. Amos Whetstone, Born Feb. 5, 1836. Died March 28, 1894 at Gloversville, NY. Until the day break and the shadows flee."In Gettysburg, visitors can see Whetstone's photo and story on display along the top row of portraits featured inside the main atrium of the National Military Museum.He was a peace-loving theology student who found a place in history simply by walking out onto a porch in Gettysburg at the wrong time.

Tamaqua's Amos Moser Whetstone, who died 120 years ago, is remembered as a civilian accidentally shot on the Fourth of July during the Battle of Gettysburg.