Tillie Pierce

Civil War Heroes / Major Civil War Battles

Tillie Pierce was only 15 years old when the two great armies of the North and South clashed at the Battle at Gettysburg. Tillie was a fourth generation Pennsylvanian and her love of the Union and compassion for others served her well during one of the major Civil War battles.

Tillie very much enjoyed wandering the open fields around Gettysburg in her youth as she wrote in her memoirs, but as the two armies converged on Gettysburg her carefree life was about to change.

At the outset of battle on July 1, 1863, she fled to the Jacob Weikert farm 3 miles south of town. Tillie could hear the distant sounds of musket fire by Seminary Ridge, and then large cannon and knew the fighting was getting closer. Little did Tillie know at the time that this farmhouse would become a field hospital just 600 yards from the fiercest fighting.

tillie_pierce_mainAs the Union army advance forward pouring reserves into the fray, Tillie stood by the side of the road and gave out fresh water that flowed from the springs on the farm. As the casualties mounted, the Wiekert farm was turned into a field hospital to care for hundreds of wounded men from both sides.

That night, Tillie saw for the first time the horrors of war as men lay bleeding and dying as the surgeons did their best to care for the wounded. The scene Tillie witnessed was very typical for Civil War casualties, but for a civilian, the burden was heavy.

On July 2, 1863, Tillie Pierce awoke early to provide water to the passing Union troops and had the opportunity to meet General George Meade, the commander of the Union army as he advanced to the front. The farmhouse was positioned just a few hundred yards behind the Union left flank east of the Round Tops and many field officers requested the use of the Weikert farmhouse roof to view the battlefield.

As the Confederates launched a massive infantry assault just 600 yards west of the farm, it was deemed too dangerous for civilians in the area and Tillie and others were ordered to retreat further back from the lines. They went 1/2 mile east to the Lewis Bushman farm. This location was however more dangerous as Confederate shells were landing all around them. Tillie and her group were forced back to the Weikert farm. From the farm Tillie was able to see the tail end of the fighting on Little Round Top between the 20th Maine and the 15th Alabama.

On July 3, 1863 Tillie Pierce awoke to hear the sounds of fighting far off in the distance, perhaps at Culp's Hill. Later that morning into early afternoon she heard the cannon barrage from both sides preceding the mass infantry assault by the Confederates against the Union lines at Cemetery Ridge about 1 mile north of the farm. Shells began to burst overhead and again Tillie and other civilians were evacuated south, then to the east about 2 miles behind the Union lines. A cavalry fight had just concluded and Tillie saw Confederate prisoners being escorted by Union troops.

Later that afternoon, Tillie made her way back to the Wiekert farm and witnessed the dead and dying strewn about the property. She assisted the surgeons in comforting the men as mass amputations were conducted. As the battle came to a close, and the defeated Confederates left the town of Gettysburg, Tillie remained at the Weikert farm for days and cared for the wounded.

On July 4, 1863, Tillie surveyed the battlefield and later in life, reported the horrors of what she saw. The Gettysburg casualties totaled over 51,000 and Tillie witnessed the carnage firsthand. She continued to nurse the soldiers long after the battle was over up until the last hospital shut down in November 1863.

Tillie authored "At Gettysburg: What a Girl Heard and Saw of the Battle" just 25 years after the battle and it stands as one of the most detailed civilian accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg. Tillie Pierce is considered by many to be one of the great Civil War heroes, and her service to the brave men who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg will never be forgotten.

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