Edward McPherson’s farm was a half mile west of Gettysburg, atop the ridge that also bears his name. (Tour map: Stone and Meredith Avenues) The area was the scene of intense fighting on July 1st, 1863, as Confederate General Henry Heth’s Division advanced towards Gettysburg against defending Union cavalry under General John Buford. Union reinforcements from General John Reynolds’ First Corps arrived and counterattacked, and fighting swirled through McPherson’s pasturelands and two fields planted in corn and wheat, as well as through neighbor John Herbst’s woods. McPherson’s barn became a place of refuge for the wounded, and continued as a hospital long after the battle ended.
McPherson was a lawyer and journalist who had served in the U.S. House of Respresentatives from 1859 until March of 1863. A Radical Republican, he had lost the1862 election, after which President Lincoln appointed him as Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and was living in Washington at the time of the battle.
John Slentz and his family were renting the McPherson farm. They were ordered out as the fighting on the ridge intensified, and took refuge in the town. They returned to find the house ransacked and in use as a hospital, and lived in the nearby Seminary for the next three months while the farm was made livable.
The house burned in 1895. The barn is the last survivor of Edward McPherson’s buildings, restored by the National Park Service in 1978. It is currently used by a local farmer who also leases the McPherson fields.