The Shrivers of Gettysburg

George Washingto Shriver

George Washington Shriver was born on July 27, 1836 on his family's farm located eight miles southeast of Gettysburg. It was quite a prosperous farmstead with a sizable farmhouse, bank barn and various smaller outbuildings. George's father was in the business of manufacturing liquor and when he died suddenly in September, 1852, George inherited not only a 200+ acre farm, barn and distillery, but close to 3000 gallons of liquor.  

Less than two miles away from the Shriver farmstead lay another prosperous farm which belonged to Jacob and Sarah Weikert. Hettie was the sixth of their thirteen children, born on March 7, 1836.

On January 23, 1855, when they were both eighteen years of age, George and Hettie married and immediately started a family of their own.     


Henrietta Weikert Shriver

Four years later George sold off a portion of his farm and, in the spring of 1860, paid $290 for a piece of property on Baltimore Street just a few blocks south of the center of town. This was the ideal location to build a new home for his growing family; Sadie was five years old and Mollie was three. This is also where George planned to open his new business: Shriver's Saloon & Ten-Pin Alley. The saloon would be located in the cellar of their home while the back yard was large enough to accommodate a building to house the ten-pin (bowling) alley.               

Sadie and Mollie Shriver
The following spring George sold off the remainder of his farm for $3420. He was twenty-five years old, married with two children, owned a fine home and a business unique to the area and had enough capital to feel secure about his future. At the same time important news was coming out of Washington, DC. Abraham Lincoln had just been elected president and talk of a war between the states was heating up. In April, 1861, after a Confederate attack on Union forces at Fort Sumter, President Lincoln responded by calling for 75,000 troops to put down the southern rebellion and keep the Union together. The conflict which everyone had previously dreaded was now set in motion. The Civil War had begun.          
George Shriver's Home
By the middle of August, Shriver's Saloon & Ten-Pin Alley was completed and ready for business but, unfortunately, the war was still a sad reality. George volunteered for service on August 27, 1861 and mustered into Cole's Cavalry, Co. C in Frederick, Maryland. Not only was the general consensus that the war would be a short one, but George and Hettie held to the belief it would be over by the end of the year. Come Christmas George would be home and his business would be open; it would be the true beginning of their life together with prospects for a bright future. That's what they thought. Sadly, that's not the way things worked out. Almost two full years passed since George left for battle. In June 1863 rumors ran wild throughout Gettysburg because Confederate soldiers had crossed the state line into Pennsylvania. A small band of Confederates passed through the town on June 26th, frightening the citizens of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg began early in the morning on July 1, 1863. At first, residents on the south side of town were not aware of the conflict. Even though Hettie was concerned she went about her daily chores as usual so as not to upset Sadie and Mollie. By 9 am everything changed. The roar of the cannons could be heard and as the noise grew closer Hettie decided it would be best for them to leave and seek safety at her parents' farm about three miles south of town. Before leaving, Hettie called on her next-door neighbors, the Pierces. She suggested their youngest child, Tillie, might accompany her to the safety of the countryside. James and Margaret Pierce agreed.

Weikert farmhouse

Hettie could not have known they were jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Her family's farm sits between Big Round Top and Little Round Top where some of the worst fighting took place during the Battle of Gettysburg. The noise of the battle over the next three days was so defeaning they had to shout to talk to each other inside the Weikert farmhouse which shook from the cannons firing all around them. When the fighting finally stopped there were wounded and dying men everywhere. Hettie stayed at the farm to help her family and the hundreds and hundreds of wounded that filled and surrounded the Weikert farmhouse. At one point the surgeons had mounded a pile of amputated limbs higher than the garden fence!

On the morning of July 7th, Hettie decided to return to her home in town. What she and the girls saw along the way would be etched in their minds forever. More than 7000 soldiers and 5000 horses and mules were killed during the battle. They walked by, and stepped over, rifles, swords, canteens, belts, broken wagons, shattered caissons, ammunition, cartridge boxes, blankets, shoes and knapsacks. They saw buildings which were destroyed, bloody scraps of uniforms, and body parts as well. The wells were contaminated and there was barely a crumb of food left in the entire town. Confusion was everywhere!  

 Hettie found that, like her parents' farmhouse, her home and the ten-pin alley were also being used as a hospital. Confederate soldiers had occupied her home while she was gone. In addition to the items they confiscated to build a barricade in the street in front of her home, soldiers helped themselves to all the food found in the Shrivers' kitchens, unripened fruits and vegetables in the garden (since it was early in the growing season), supplies, clothing, blankets, linens, curtains, tools, and any "booty" they spied such as money, silver or liquor.

Confederate sharpshooters in garrett

James Pierce told Hettie that on several occasions during the battle he went to his attic window to observe the fighting in the street directly in front of their homes. From there he could see into the Shriver's attic window where he witnessed a number of Confederate soldiers had set up a sharpshooters nest. He watched the soldiers knock two 10" holes through the south side of Hettie's attic wall in an effort to pick off Union soldiers in the direction of Cemetery Hill. He saw one of those sharpshooters being carried through Hettie's garden after being shot and killed. Another neighbor told Hettie he knew of at least two sharpshooters who were killed in her home.

Five months after the Battle of Gettysburg, George Shriver was granted a four-day furlough giving him the opportunity to spend Christmas with Hettie, Sadie and Mollie. George was a changed man when he returned. He had been away for almost two and a half years and saw things he could not even begin to describe to Hettie. George returned to duty near Brandy Station, Virginia, on December 29, 1863. For the next several days Cole's Cavalry engaged in off-and-on fighting with the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, an elite guerilla unit led by John S. Mosby and more popularly known - and dreaded - as Mosby's Rangers. When the melee ended, Confederates killed, wounded or captured 57 Union soldiers. One of the captured was George Shriver, taken prisoner on New Year's Day, 1864, near Rectortown, Virginia. George was sent to a prison named Camp Sumter, which has become more commonly recognized as Andersonville.