The Gettysburg Civil War Women's Memorial
Dedicated in 2002, this statue depicts Elizabeth Thorn who replaced her husband as the caretaker of Evergreen Cemetery during the Civil War following his enlistment. Despite being six months pregnant at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, Thorn cared for wounded soldiers and dug graves for over a hundred soldiers and civilians who had perished in the battle. The statue depicts a Thorn as she appeared following the battle, expecting a child as she worked to fill her husband's post as caretaker while also caring for her family and attending to the dead and wounded. Peter Thorn returned after the war and the couple lived together until 1907. Both are buried at Evergreen Cemetery along with many other women and soldiers of the Civil War era.
Backstory and Context
Sculpted by Ron Tunison and dedicated on November 16, 2002 this statue depicts a pregnant and exhausted Elizabeth Thorn as a symbol to honor the unique struggles that millions of women endured during the war. Elizabeth and her husband Peter emigrated from Germany to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1855. At that time, Peter Thorn took a job as the caretaker of the cemetery and the couple lived at the home that is connected to the gatehouse at the entrance of the cemetery.
Peter Thorn enlisted and was assigned to the Union's 138th Pennsylvania Infantry and Elizabeth took on the duties of her husband as the caretaker during his service. The war came to Gettysburg and Evergreen Cemetery in 1863. As the armies maneuvered in preparation for one of the pivotal battles of the war, Elizabeth and her family were ordered to leave their home for safety. Once the fighting moved away from the area, the Thorn family returned to their home and found it almost completely destroyed with most of their possessions stolen while their livestock had been taken or slaughtered.
Discovering wounded soldiers in her home when her family returned, Elizabeth did her best to care for them with the little food and supplies that had not been taken or destroyed. Once the soldiers left the Thorn home, Elizabeth was ordered by the military to start burying the soldiers who perished near her home. Elizabeth was six months pregnant at the time but still hand-dug graves and buried 91 soldiers and 14 civilians.
Peter Thorn returned home in 1865 and the couple lived together they died only months apart in 1907. Both Elizabeth and Peter are buried at Evergreen Cemetery.
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