The first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg was supposedly fired at this location, the home of Ephraim Whisler, by Lieutenant Marcellus Jones, Company E, 8th Illinois Cavalry. The marker is seen to the left (west) of the Whisler House. Knoxlyn Ridge is 2.3 miles west of McPherson’s Ridge. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.
The Gettysburg Daily chose the first day of June to photograph the marker for the first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg. It is located at the Ephraim Whisler House on Knoxlyn Ridge, at the intersection of the Chambersburg Pike (Chambersburg Road/US 30) and the Knoxlyn Road. While there have been a couple of competing claims to who fired the first shot of the battle, the most commonly accepted story is that of Lieutenant Marcellus Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry at this spot.
The brick part of the building on the left is original. Some stories have Ephraim Whisler being an elderly man who was frightened by an artillery shell that landed in the road during the battle. He took to his bed, and died a month later. This story does not match the facts from the 1860 census. The census shows that Ephraim Wister (not Whisler) was a Cumberland Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania resident, Gettysburg Post Office. He was born circa 1832 in Pennsylvania. Therefore he was 31 years old at the time of the battle of Gettysburg, not “elderly.”
The 1860 census also shows that he was “white,” a Master Blacksmith, and that he lived in the same dwelling and was part of the same family with Louisa Wister (1834-), born in Pennsylvania; George E. Wister (1855-), born in Pennsylvania; Andrew C. Wister (1857-), born in Pennsylvania. His real estate had a value of $800, and his personal estate had a value of $200. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.
The marker claims the first shot was fired at 7:30 AM. At the Whisler house was a vidette post of four men commanded by Sergeant Levi Shafer. The other members of the post were Privates Thomas B. Kelley, George Sager, James Hale, and H.O. Dodge. Early in the morning of July 1st, Shaffer was able to make out dust clouds on the Chambersburg Pike, and called for Lieutenant Jones. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.
As the Confederates approached Marsh Creek, approximately 700 yards away, Private Sager raised his carbine (accurate at 200 to 300 yards) to fire, but Jones stopped him, say, “Hold on George, give me the honor of opening this ball.” This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.
Jones dismounted, and asked Sergeant Shafer for his carbine. He rested it on a fence rail, and fired it at an officer on a gray horse that had pulled up at Marsh Creek bridge (700 yards away at the bottom of the hill in this picture, approximately where the vehicle is in the west bound lane) to allow Confederate infantry to pass. This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.
Jones didn’t hit his target, but he probably didn’t expect to at that distance. One of the main jobs of the vidette posts are to be an early warning system, and Jones’ shot certainly warned both sides that they were closer to each other. This view was taken from the east facing west at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.
The Confederates were slowed down as they halted and deployed a line of skirmishers, and couriers were sent back through the Union lines informing their commanders of the Confederate’s approach. Knoxlyn Road runs north to south, and intersects the Chambersburg Road/Pike at this location. This view was taken from the north facing south at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.
We know that early in the morning of July 1st, there were scattered rainshowers. Later that day, however, there were bright blue skies and cumulous clouds (white puffy clouds). But what time did the skies begin to clear. As the Confederates crossed Marsh Creek, and began to head to Knoxlyn Ridge at the top of the hill in the distance, were they looking into the sun? How long that morning were other Confederates looking into the sun as they attempted to pick out their targets? This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 8:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, 2008.