The John Kuhn House is located at 221 North Stratton Street, on the east side of the street. It was built circa 1859, and has an artillery shell stuck in its south wall. This view was taken facing east at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
An artillery shell is stuck in what, at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, was the John Kuhn House. John Kuhn was a Brickmaker, and his brickyard was the scene of a fight between Coster’s Union Brigade, and Confederates from Hays’ and Avery’s Brigades on July 1, 1863. The shell sticking into the brick wall of the Kuhn House might be an artillery shell fired from Cemetery Hill.
As we do with many local history questions, we went back to look up an article by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Tim Smith that he wrote for the Adams County Historical Society in 1996. Tim is also a research assistant at the historical society, and his article in that year’s bulletin, “A Tour of Gettysburg’s Visual Battle Damage” presents a good overview of the buildings we will feature over the next couple of weeks. We highly recommend that you pick up a copy at the Adams County Historical Society on Seminary Ridge in Schmucker Hall, or order a copy ($6.95) from the Adams County Historical Society. Click this link for their online giftshop.
This map shows the buildings with visible battle damage that we will be featuring over the next couple of months. We have marked the locations with red stars. #1 is the McClean House at 11 Baltimore Street. #2 is the Wills Building at 9 York Street. #3 is the Kuhn House at 221 North Stratton Street. This map was created at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, January 1, 2009.
The house (229 North Stratton Street) with the red bricks on the left (north) of the Kuhn House has a Civil War Building plaque on the front. However, that building was not there in 1863. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
The 1860 census shows that John Kuhn was “white,” a Brick Maker, born circa 1811 in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, and that he lived in the same dwelling and was part of the same family with Marie A. Kuhn (1811-), born in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany; Peter Kuhn (1843-), born in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany; Adam Kuhn (1845-), born in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany; John Kuhn (1852-), born in Pennsylvania; Mary Kuhn (1853-), born in Pennsylvania; Samuel Kuhn (1855-), born in Pennsylvania; George T. Little (1845-), born in Pennsylvania; John C. Weigle (1846-), born in Pennsylvania. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
John Kuhn’s real estate had a value of $1000, and his personal estate had a value of $200. It appears from an account we will cite later in this post that his brickyard complex was named “Kuhn’s Town.” The artillery shell is stuck in the south wall, and it is clearly visible in this picture. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
Here’s a closer view of the artillery shell. There were more than a few batteries firing from Cemetery Hill during the fighting, but one particular battery stands out, whose guns might have caused this damage: Wiedrich’s Battery I, 1st New York Light Artillery. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
This is a 3-inch Hotchkiss artillery shell. Their diameter was 2.94 inches, and they were fired out of 3 inch ordnance rifles. Wiedrich’s Battery of four 3-inch ordnance rifles was not doing too well if one believes Colonel Charles Wainwright, the Artillery Commander for the First Corps. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
Wainwright was not impressed by Wiedrich’s Battery at Gettysburg. In his diary he complimented some other batteries on East Cemetery Hill for their work on July 2nd, and then stated, “Wiedrich on the contrary made wretched work of it: his Germans were all excitement, and stood well but were utterly ignorant as to ranges, and the old man knew little more himself. I had to go to each piece myself, set their pendulum haussee, and show them just what length of fuse to use. I found one piece firing fifteen-second fuses at five degrees elevation, while another was using eighteen-second fuses for four degrees of elevation.” This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
Wiedrich’s men themselves describe how they were being told to stop firing because they were hitting their own men in this area on July 1st: “When the battery took the position on East Cemetery Hill, General Howard was there, and, addressing himself to the men said, ‘Boys, I want you to hold this position at all hazards. Can you do it?’ When a chorus responded, ‘Yes, sir.’ Just then a shell from a Rebel battery came screeching over the hill, and, as was natural, and from force of habit, some of the men ducked their heads. General Howard, noticing it, exclaimed: ‘Don’t be alarmed, boys, that was an elevated shot, fired at random.’ This view was taken facing north at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
The account of Wiedrich’s Battery on East Cemetery Hill continued, “That Rebel battery was soon silenced, and then the firing was directed at some masses of troops in the distance, towards the York Road, which were evidently part of Ewell’s Corps, when a man on horseback, who appeared to be a courier or staff officer, rode up to the officers of the battery, and ordered them to cease firing, that the troops in the distance were our own men, and that the shells were doing much execution. The order came, ‘Cease firing,’ but was resumed after a few minutes. It looked very suspicious to the men of the battery, and a good deal of grumbling was done, for it was thought that the rider was a Rebel who came through the lines during the retreat of the Eleventh Corps through the town.” This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
One of the civilians also stated that the artillerists were firing on United States soldiers from Cemetery Hill. Elizabeth Thorn, who was six months pregnant and living in the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse, later said that, “When our men lost and the rebels had driven them more this way, they put their cannons on Cemetery Hill and throw some shells over toward Coon Town. And as they fired towards the direction of the Poor House they were firing at our own men, but they did not know it, and I heard them say this amongst themselves, that they did not know it.” “Coon Town” is probably not a derogatory racial term. She is probably referring to John Kuhn’s brickyard complex. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
The plaque on the west wall of the Kuhn House. Elizabeth Thorn stated that the confusion of the artillerists led them to ask for the help of civilians to match their maps with the terrain. They didn’t want Elizabeth to come out on the crest of the hill and show them, first of all because she was a woman, and secondly because she was six months pregnant. This view was taken facing east at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
Elizabeth Thorn’s account continued, “So at last they came to the Cemetery House and wanted a man to go along out with them (a young boy was there about thirteen years, and I thought he was too young, and my father was too old) I offered myself to go along. He refused at first, but I thought there was danger all around, and said I wasn’t afraid so he said ‘Come on.’ We walked through flax, and then through a piece of oats, and then we stood in a wheat field. They all held against me coming through the field, but as he said I was all right, and it did not matter, why they gave three cheers and the band played a little piece, and then I walked a little past a tree to where I could see the two roads. I showed him the Harrisburg Road, the York Pike, and the Hunterstown Road. It was with one of General Howard’s men that I went. Then he took me back home.” This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
We will never know with certainty which battery fired this shell. It is very possible that it wasn’t one of the shots mistakenly fired into Union troops in this area. It could have been a very legitimate shot fired at Confederates pursuing the Union troops after the fight at Kuhn’s Brickyard. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.
We are unaware of any accounts that the Kuhn family related about the fighting here. The first account when one describes a shell in this wall is from 1908 when a veteran of the 154th New York stated that a “cannonball” was stuck in this building. It may or may not have been this artillery shell. But this shell has been in this house as long as any of the “old timers” could remember. So it very well may be original. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 10:45 AM on Friday, December 26, 2008.