Feb 26



President John F. Kennedy visited Gettysburg National Military Park on Sunday, March 31, 1963. Kennedy was guided around the field by local teacher, National Park Service Historian, and Licensed Battlefield Guide Jacob M. Sheads, shown on the left of this photograph. Mrs. Kennedy is behind Colonel Sheads at this view taken near the North Carolina Monument. This view was taken facing south at approximately 1:00 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

On March 31, 1963, President John F. Kennedy with some friends and members of his family drove from a church service at Camp David, Maryland to tour the Gettysburg Battlefield. Their guide was Jacob Melchior Sheads, a longtime Gettysburg High School History Teacher and seasonal historian with the National Park Service. Licensed Battlefield Guide Richard Goedkoop follows what we know of the route that the Kennedy party took around the battlefield.

In the first part of this series, Richard Goedkoop covered how the trip was planned and where President Kennedy picked up Colonel Sheads. In today’s post, we discuss the Kennedy party in the area of the Angle/High Water Mark.

To contact Richard Goedkoop, click here to reveal his email address.



This map shows the locations of the videos that we have shot during the Kennedy segments. Videos 1-3 were taken at Edgewood Bowling Lanes on the Emmitsburg Road, which is off the map. Video 4 was taken at the Stony Hill or “Loop” area. Videos 5-6 were taken at the High Water Mark/Angle Area. This map was created facing north at approximately 5:30 PM on Tuesday, February 24, 2009.



Colonel Jacob Sheads had planned his tour with the Secret Service the day before, Saturday, March 30, 1963. He anticipated that a Secret Service agent would be driving the vehicle. The Secret Service also instructed Sheads that he should not let the President get out of the vehicle. However, President Kennedy drove, and he had his own ideas of where and how he would experience the Gettysburg battlefield. This photograph was taken on West Confederate Avenue near the North Carolina monument. This view was taken facing north at approximately 1:00 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.



After President Kennedy picked up Colonel Sheads at the Edgewood Lanes Bowling Alley, they headed up the Emmitsburg Road, and Colonel Sheads began giving the tour. They drove by the high ground at the Peach Orchard…This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 1:15 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



…and past the Klingel Farm with its current white pickett fence. Colonel Sheads, who planned to take the President as quickly as possible to the first day’s field was probably trying to set up the battle by bringing the armies to Gettysburg. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 1:15 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



It was probably near this point of the tour that things began to go wrong for Colonel Sheads. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 1:15 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



Possibly the President was distracted by the monuments near the High Water Mark and new (1962) Cyclorama building on Cemetery Ridge to his right front (northeast). Maybe Colonel Sheads mentioned that they were driving across the fields of Pickett’s Charge. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 1:15 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



Whatever happened, by the time that they reached the National Park Service entrance signs and driveway to the Cyclorama Visitor Center (at that time THE National Park Service Visitor Center), Sheads recalled, “He said ‘I want to turn here.’” This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 1:15 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



Sheads replied, “Yes sir you can turn here.” This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 1:30 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



So the President, with a carload of Secret Service agents and a carload of reporters and photographers behind him began making his way up Cemetery Ridge instead of to the first day’s field. This view was taken facing east at approximately 1:30 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



The President then made a right on Hancock Avenue, which was not a one way road going north in 1963, it was a two way road. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:30 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



The President didn’t want to stop at the new Cyclorama building. He kept driving south toward the Brian Farm… This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 1:30 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



President Kennedy drove past the Brian buildings towards the High Water Mark. This view was taken facing south at approximately 1:30 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



Colonel Sheads continued his narrative, “So he went right up to where the Angle is, you know.” This view was taken facing south at approximately 1:30 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



Sheads said, “The Secret Service said never leave him out. I couldn’t stop the President, could I? He wanted to get out.” This would be the first of at least three times that President Kennedy got out of the car on this tour. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:30 PM on Wednesday, June 25, 2008.



Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Richard Goedkoop picks up our story at the angle where Colonel Sheads began to adjust to his new tour at “The Angle.” As Sheads began talking, a crowd began to gather, and Caroline bent down to pick flowers. This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:30 PM on Saturday, February 14, 2009.

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In Video #5, Rich Goedkoop discusses the events that Colonel Sheads would have covered when he spoke with President Kennedy at the Angle. This view was taken facing west to south at approximately 4:30 PM on Saturday, February 14, 2009.



The Kennedy party probably then got back in their cars. They drove south just past the “clump of trees” or “copse of trees” at the High Water Mark when Colonel Sheads pointed out the monument to the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:30 PM on Saturday, February 14, 2009.



This monument is distinctive to its “pudding stone” surface. This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:30 PM on Saturday, February 14, 2009.

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In Video #6, Richard Goedkoop explains how Colonel Sheads informed the President about the history of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:30 PM on Saturday, February 14, 2009.



Besides the Kennedys, in the President’s car was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Paul B. Fay, and his wife and daughter. Paul Fay recalled, “The knowledge that the President displayed about the Civil War amazed me. When we came to a certain area where a Boston or Massachusetts unit had fought, he [the President] recounted the battle with such detail that I could almost see it taking place.” The President and his party then traveled south to Little Round Top. This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:30 PM on Saturday, February 14, 2009.



The black and white photographs of the Kennedy visit were graciously supplied to us by one of Jacob Sheads’ sons, Tim Sheads. Tim and his wife Debbie own the Carrie Sheads House on Buford Avenue (the old Chambersburg Pike).



Please visit their store, S & S Sutler of Gettysburg, located behind the Carrie Sheads House at 331 Buford Ave Gettysburg, PA 17325. Their telephone number is 717-338-1990.



S & S Sutler of Gettysburg is filled with items for reenactors and others who are interested in Civil War history. This photograph was taken facing northeast at approximately 2:00 PM on Sunday, February 15, 2009.

See our previous posts on the Carrie Sheads House:

Gettysburg’s Carrie Sheads House Artillery Shell on January 13, 2009.
Christmas Decorations on the Carrie Sheads House on December 25, 2008.

See our previous posts on Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides:

Gettysburg Guide Room: The Final Days on March 8, 2008.
Lights Out at the Electric Map on April 13, 2008.
New Guide Room at the New Visitor Center on April 19, 2008.
New Association of Licensed Battlefield Guide Office and Library Opens on August 25, 2008.
Evergreen Cemetery Headstone Damage with LBG Deb Novotny on October 20, 2008.
Camp Letterman with LBG Phil Lechak here.
“Mammy’s Little Baby Loves Guided Tours” with LBG Charlie Fennell on November 23, 2008.
Bucktails on McPherson’s Ridge Part 1 with LBG Rich Kohr on November 26, 2008.
Gettysburg Artillery with Licensed Battlefield Guide George Newton please click here.
Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Exam 2008 on December 6, 2008.
Gettysburg Hawk Hunting with Licensed Battlefield Guide Dave Weaver on December 14, 2008.
Colonel Edward Ephraim Cross with LBG Rich Bellamy here.
Licensed Battlefield Guide Rich Kohr: William Wible’s Gettysburg Quarry on January 21, 2009.
The Gettysburg Electric Trolley with LBG Rich Kohr here
ACHS Battle of Gettysburg Civil War Research Room with LBG Tim Smith on February 10, 2009.
Lutheran Theological Seminary Cupola with LBG Tim Smith here
John F. Kennedy’s Gettysburg Visit with LBG Richard Goedkoop here.
Licensed Battlefield Guide Candidate Training or “Charm School” on February 22, 2009.
Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides Office and Library Grand Opening on February 24, 2009.
John F. Kennedy’s Gettysburg Visit with LBG Richard Goedkoop here.


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