Extract from
Physical History and Analysis Section
Historic Structure Report
Rose Farmhouse
Historical Significance
Appearance, occupation, and use
Kathleen R. Georg
Research Historian
Gettysburg National Military Park
May 1982

For the many years since the battle, the Rose Farm has acquired a reputation for having the most battle dead interred in its woods and fields. Various sources supported this claim; the most powerful (because of its visual nature) was the so-called "Elliott’s" Map of the Battlefield of Gettysburg". Elliott was apparently a civil engineer from the Philadelphia area 57 [Letter of Herman R. Friis, Chief Archivist of Cartographic Records Division of the National Archives to Harry Pfanz, March 3, 1960.] who published his map in 1864. His visit to the battlefield was probably during the fall of 1863, before all Union bodies remaining on the field would be disinterred to the new Soldiers' National Cemetery. In addition, Elliott included within his map, a lay-out of the plan for the cemetery. Elliott purported to represent all battlefield burials on his map through a series of specialized symbols which differentiated between Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers, and dead horses. A tracing of all noted burials as they appeared on Elliott's map appears on the page opposite. The most significant of the many trench graves are the two labeled "500 Rebel Graves" in the field just west of Rose Woods, and "400 Rebel Graves" in Rose Woods themselves.

An examination of the remainder of the map reveals that Elliott recorded the burial of 1322 Confederate soldiers within the boundaries of the 230-acre Rose Farm. However, knowing the regiments and brigades of the Army of Northern Virginia that fought within these same boundaries, we can compare Elliott's figures with recorded statistics of the Official Records and in published rosters. We do know that, basically, only the brigades of Anderson, Wofford, Semmes, and Kershaw fought within the boundary fences of the farm. The Official Records state that the combined total of casualties for these four brigades was just over 300 killed, and something over 285 missing (some of whom would have been captured). Even if all the missing were included as killed, we would still be far short of the astronomical figure presented by Elliott's map ( c. 600 burials vs. 1300 burials). Even if some of the official figures were 58 wrong, they are still not as low as some would have us believe. For example, a comparison of the roster notations for the 2nd South Carolina Regiment (which had the highest casualties in Kershaw's Brigade) with the tabulation reported by Kershaw yields a very close relationship between the two figures. Kershaw reported 27 killed in the 2nd South Carolina and 2 missing, who (if killed) would bring the total to 29.

Thus, the roster shows 26 officers and men killed outright, one who may have been killed, and two men missing in action--a total exactly the same as that 59 given by Kershaw. This figure, of course, does not represent those three men who died on July 3, who may also have been buried at Rose's instead of the regimental hospitals along Marsh Creek . However, at most, the 2nd South Carolina could have buried only 32 men on the Rose Farm. [Official Records, Series I, vol. 27, part 2, pp. 363-364; A. S. Salley, Jr. Ed., South Carolina Troops in Confederate Service, vol. 2 (Columbia, 1914), pp. 5- 283. ] If the rest of the figures are as close as these were (and they were chosen without foreknowledge of the outcome, by the way), then Elliott's map is WAY off. We may also want to discount some of those listed as missing in other brigades, especially Anderson's, since almost all of those were known to have been captured. Another aspect of these burial statistics which can be examined is their relationship with the troop strengths of the four brigades to whom the burials could be "credited".
Brigade Strengthn
Kershaw 2,183
Semmes' 1,334
Wofford's 1,398
Anderson's 1,874
Total 6,789
[John W. Busey & David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths at Gettysburg (Baltimore, 1982), pp. 135, 138, l40, 141.]

If Elliott's Map was to be accepted as accurate, representing 1,322 men of these four brigades killed and buried on the field of battle, it would mean that proportionately one out of every five men in the ranks was killed outright. Interestingly, it is hard to find any one regiment in the Union Army throughout the war that could reach this 20% figure, and those, calculations use not just killed (as Elliott has) but the mortally wounded, or those who died of wounds, as well.

Where, then, did Elliott get his information? Where did he make his mistake? Most probably the mistake was made at its most dramatic source--those two massive burial grounds of 400 and 500 graves. The 400 graves in Rose Woods would have to belong to Semmes' Brigade, Anderson's Brigade, and perhaps the 7th and 15th South Carolina Regiments of Kershaw's Brigade. The 500 Rebel Graves west of these woods would have had to have been almost all Semmes' Brigade and the 15th South Carolina. Such proportionate loss is not verified by the records. But, did Elliott see them? Or did he only hear about them? The second question is the most plausible to answer with a "yes". There are two possible explanations for Elliott's gigantic exaggeration--he misinterpreted or transposed figures given to him by Dr. J. W. C. O'Neal (See Appendix H), who recorded Confederate graves on the battlefield after the battle; or he merely put down what was told to him by the Roses. Both John Rose and George Rose testified in their claims files for damages that upwards of 1000 Confederates were buried on the farm. Indeed, John Rose went so far as to state that he believed the figure was more in the neighborhood of 2000 graves! If the Roses swore and subscribed to these statements in the decades after the war, there is little reason to doubt that their immediate reactions to the graves and destruction would not have made the figure even higher still. There is also that possibility that Elliott somehow changed the figures supplied him by O'Neal. The doctor had noted in his journal and in his day book that there were 40 or 50 others in unmarked trench graves on the Rose Farm. Did Elliott misread these statements and think instead that there were 40(0) and 50(0) in unmarked trench graves? If we subtract the 400 + 500 graves from the 1322 figure, we arrive at the number of burials north of the house &c, as below:

Graves Location
22 north of house
80 west of barn
82 south of lane
7 west of Emmitsburg Road
18 in meadow
43 below the Loop
79 west end of Wheatfield
3 at Wheatfield Road
88 east end of Wheatfield
422 Total

If we add to this figure of other trench graves and single graves the figure stated by O'Neal of 40 to 50 others in unmarked trenches, we arrive at a total of just under 500. If we add the killed and missing numbers supplied by the Official Records for the four Confederate Brigades, we arrive at a figure of something over 500 (ca. 550). Unfortunately, the 400 + 500 graves is not the only error in the map, even if we concentrate our analysis to the Rose Farm alone. The recorded Union burials from J. G. Frey's Book (See Appendix H) do not correspond with those shown on the Elliott Map. Whereas Frey records nine Union soldiers buried in Rose Woods, Elliott only shows two, and these could almost be credited to Wheatfield burials.

The case of the exaggerated burials was made even more popular by a newspaper serial in the late nineteenth century entitled "Little Stories of Gettysburg" by a native son of the area and, at that time, a respected classical teacher, J. Howard Wert. Wert's description of the Rose Farm at the aftermath of the battle (See Appendix W) concentrates on the 1500 fallen Confederates buried where they fell. While we cannot fault Wert himself for inventing this figure (he apparently got it from an 1866 advertisement by Rose), it is noteworthy that most of the rest of the article by Wert contains notable errors and a strange sense of fictionalized "history", which makes the article unreliable as an historical source. For example, the article tries to present George and/or John Rose in the light of "gentleman farmers". Rose is called a "Baltimorean, a man of culture and educated tastes." As we have already seen, the Roses were from Germantown, Pennsylvania, and not from Baltimore, Maryland. And, while we do not know much of the education or tastes of either George or John Rose, we can infer from their professions as tradesmen (butcher and grocer) that they probably had the vernacular tastes and education of their time and place. Wert contends that the farm was "run-down" when Rose purchased it, a victim of Adams County's misuse of its farm lands wherein the farmers pulled "all they could out of the land" without putting anything into it. This was not true, since Adams County had an agricultural society of long-standing in the community, and the newspaper is constantly filled with notices of farmers heavily liming their fields in those years before the Civil War. His description of the Confederate burials included a summary of those buried about the immediate house grounds--175 behind the barn and wagon shed, 100 buried in the garden, and one colonel buried "within a yard of the kitchen door." Whereas the figure of the graves in the vicinity of the barn may be correct, and the 100 burials in the "garden" probably refers to all of the others buried beneath the orchard trees in the vicinity of the house and yard, there is no record of a Confederate Colonel being buried on the Rose Farm. The only burial of an officer of similar rank would have been Lieutenant Colonel Francis Kearse of the 50th Georgia (Semmes' Brigade), who is recorded by O'Neal as buried in "the orchard" near a fence and in another book attributed to either Rose or Weaver as buried in the "orchard near the springhouse". Since the springhouse is quite some distance from the kitchen door of either the house or the washhouse (about 100 yards), we still cannot be certain of whom Wert is speaking. Indeed, the entire Wert article seems to overplay the May 31, 1866 "editorial" by John McIlhenny's Star. We have been unable to uncover a copy of this newspaper for that, or any other date, but those portions quoted by Wert bear a striking resemblance to advertisements which appeared in both other Gettysburg newspapers within the following months. We wonder if Wert did not merely elaborate upon a brief advertisement notice for sale, adding his own flowery discourses concerning its similarity to the "Garden of Eden". His sarcastic style tends to convince the reader of the article that McIlhenny and Rose were overdramatizing the significance of the farm. An example of this type of style would include the remarks that "Even the spring house, the corn crib, the wagon shed and the hog pen are eulogized in a reckless expenditure of capital letters. "We suppose that since Wert was writing in a different era he did not choose to enlighten himself or his readers concerning the prevailing style of advertisements in 1866. A look at any advertisement for real or personal estate in the newspapers of that day reveals the capitalization of almost all structures, farm equipment, livestock, etc., probably as a carry-over from the earlier writing styles wherein almost all nouns were capitalized: However, up until recently, the Wert article has been the only source of information about the Roses or the farm before, during, and after the battle. Because of that reason, many historians and writers as well as park planners have relied on it as being accurate and trustworthy, especially since J. Howard Wert was not only a local native, but had written other treatises concerning park history and monumentation which are solid pieces of narrative andinformation. Key phrases in the Wert article concerning the farm have been interpretedout of context with the inaccuracies and exaggerations of the text. The Park has singledout such phrases as "scientific farming" , "a man of culture and educated tastes", "hospitable house", and "accomplished and cultured daughters". From such key phrases as the above a general theory concerning the nature of the farm was developed. The Rose Farm was a unique farm on the battlefield, one on which scientific methods of farming were used and on which the most recent machines and crops were introduced. Because of the Wert article, the Rose family is seen as something different than what it was. Rose, according to Wert, was a "gentleman farmer" who used the farm as a "retreat" where he could live "one long drawn-out dream of enjoyment." The statement that Rose "had the means, and he would enjoy bucolic simplicity could only be interpreted in the context of the Wert article that Rose was a man of wealth who was looking for a place to spend his money so he could have a simpler life in "paradise".

One wonders how much means a butcher from Philadelphia could have which would elevate him to a status of becoming a "man of culture and educated tastes". How much means would a Philadelphia butcher need to be able to afford this demi-paradise described by Wert, while retaining his other home and business in Germantown? We do know that George and Dorothy Rose paid over $8,000 for the farm, and the terms (while not specifically revealed in the deed) appear to have been in cash. Jacob Benner made quite a handsome profit from his transaction with these city folk, having sold them 80 acres less than he had purchased but for almost $3,000 more!

Apparently, even more money was invested by George Rose before his farm met his satisfaction. The damage claims file for George and Dorothy Rose (See Appendix K) reveal that he had built new post and board fencing down the lane from the Emmitsburg Road to the farm buildings, and that he had enclosed his yard with a new paling fence. He may have had additional improvements in mind for the house when the battle interrupted his plans, for the claims file mentions that 1000 feet of flooring boards and 1000 feet of board for weatherboarding which were stored in the barn were lost. And John P. Rose had himself invested some expenditure into the farm by furnishing the large stone house with what was mostly new furniture (See Appendix J, John Rose claims file). An examination and compilation of all three claims files (for George and Dorothy Rose, for John Rose, and for Francis Ogden), gives us a fairly good picture of the appearance of the farm fields during the historic time period. We also can get an idea of the number of stock on the farm, as well as buildings, fencing, crops, etc. These claims files, coupled with the burial journals of O'Neal and the re-interment records of the Richmond and Charleston organizations, also allow us to envision the appearance of the farm messuage itself.

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