Yesterday's Magazette

14 – Gettysburg Patriot

Young Patriot At Gettysburg

By Linda Masek

One of my family’s favorite forms of entertainment when my mother was a child was car trips. She and my grandparents drove all of the country- to California, the Petrified Forest, across the Great Plains and to West Virginia where we had family. The tradition continued when I was a girl back in the early 1950’s. Starting with Cedar Point when I was five, my mother and I expanded our horizons to Niagara Falls, N.Y., Cumberland Falls in Kentucky and nearby Pennsylvania, specifically Gettysburg, over the Fourth of July. In Pennsylvania was where I first heard the story of Tillie Pierce; she fascinated me because of her age when she had her “great adventure.”


Nurse, schoolgirl, author. Tillie Pierce was all of these. Yet she didn’t live in this century but almost 150 years ago.

At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point in this Civil War (1863) Tillie was only fourteen years of age. This young girl rose to the occasion and aided the wounded soldiers, recorded the facts of the battle in a later personal account, and went down in history.

I discovered that Tillie attended a private school, the Young Ladies Seminary in Gettysburg.

She was the daughter of the well-to-do Pierce family; her father operated the local butcher shop in town and lived in a large colonial brick house on Baltimore Street. On July 1, 1863, Tillie and the other girls in her class heard the sound of battle in the distance. All of the children were quickly dismissed by their teacher, who instructed them to get home as rapidly as possible. Tillie Pierce had no intention of going home; she was much too curious to discover what was happening in Gettysburg. Later that same day Tillie watched the Southerners riding “furiously into Gettysburg, yelling and covered with dirt.” The Rebels sacked empty buildings and seized as many horses as possible from the citizens of the town, literally stealing the animals out from under their owners.

As the Confederates and the Northern army came ever closer to Baltimore Street where she lived, Tillie’s parents sent her with a neighbor to the Jacob Weikert house outside of Gettysburg. Here Tillie watched the Union artillery ride by, hurrying madly to get to the battle in the center of town. The next day (July 2nd) Tillie and other members of the Weikert family spent the day bringing water for the Union soldiers in the area as they marched past the house. When not drawing water for the men, the family spent their time in making bread to help the soldiers on their way.


July 3rd, the following day, Robert E. Lee attacked the Union army; the fighting was so violent that Tillie and the Weikert family fled the house, not to return until the evening. Mass turmoil reached the young girl’s eyes upon her viewing the farmhouse. Wounded and dying men lay everywhere. Tillie and the Weikert family collected the linen and muslin cloth in the house to use for bandaging the soldiers still alive. Surgeons worked picking out bullets from the bodies of the men, saving limbs where possible. But the mens’ injuries were severe, and with a limited supply of chloroform, it wasn’t always possible to save the lives of the many young soldiers who were seriously wounded.

I visited the battlefield at little Round Top outside of Gettysburg, which Tillie described in her book written after the Civil War had ended. She talked about venturing out to view this same area where the dead soldiers, horses and abandoned equipment made a horrific spectacle which she would never forget.

Tillie Pierce survived the war and got married in 1871 to Horace Alleman, a lawyer. The couple lived in Selingsgrove, Pennsylvania. Tillie’s memories of Gettysburg stayed with her; these memories or memoirs were published in 1888, under the title of “What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle.” Tillie’s accurate, graphic account of the events and many of the more horrible aspects of war and fighting during the three day battle guaranteed her a place in publishing history and kept her name alive down to the present day.

I learned that the house Tillie and her family inhabited in long ago Gettysburg has remained intact and is now a bed and breakfast. Visiting the battle site, it is possible to visualize the horrific spectacle of the dead and wounded men that made such an impression on the young mind of Tillie Pierce.

The image of Tillie and her heroic achievements stayed with me for years; if Tillie could do so much for her country being a young patriot, how much more could I do because I was older. She became a true inspiration and offers a guiding light to people living in more modern times.

Vol. 39 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – 2012


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