Gettysburg Off the Beaten Path: Wesley Culp

Part of a Series.

Wesley Culp
Wesley Culp

Many visitors to Gettysburg are familiar with the story of Wesley Culp, the boy who grew up in the town of Gettysburg. He hunted on his cousin Henry’s farm, learned the leather trade in Gettysburg, and moved to Shepherdstown, Virginia (today West Virginia), before the war. Wesley enlisted in Company B of the 2nd Virginia Infantry, which was part of the famed “Stonewall Brigade.” The popular story goes that Wesley’s unit attacked Culp’s Hill on July 2nd and 3rd, and in the fray Wesley was killed. The true story is that Wesley’s unit did not attack Culp’s Hill on the 2nd or the 3rd. On the 2nd they were held out of the action on Culp’s Hill while his brigade dealt with a Union cavalry threat along Brinkerhoff’s Ridge. On the 3rd, his regiment went into action on Wolf’s Hill, not Culp’s Hill. Thus, Wesley was killed close to his family’s property, but not on it.

Supposedly, Wesley did have interactions with his family during the battle. On the evening of the 1st he was given a pass to go into town to see his sisters, Barbara Anne and Julia. He likely passed over or near his family’s property that evening.

Wesley Culp is a great enigma to Gettysburg historians. It is clear that he did not fight on Culp’s Hill. What is unclear is the date of his death. Some people think that he was killed on the 2nd in the Brinkerhoff Ridge fight, while others think that he was killed on the 3rd, while engaged with 6th Corps troops on Culp’s Hill or the Zepheniah Tawney farm.

What is also unclear is his place of burial. One story states that after Wesley’s death, his sisters came to the field to retrieve his body after nightfall of the 3rd. The women supposedly buried him in the basement of the Culp farm…insert ghost story here. While others think that the Yankee turned Confederate was secretly buried in Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery. Most seem to believe that he was simply buried on the field in an unmarked grave.

Culp Farm
Modern view of the Culp Farm

The Culp Farm complex, which became famous due to Wesley and the hill that bears the family name, is situated at the edge of the town today, near Gettysburg Middle School. The farm was owned in 1863 by Henry Culp, Wesley’s cousin. During the battle, the house and barn were used as divisional field hospitals for Edward Johnson’s and Jubal Early’s Confederate divisions. Confederate brigade commander Colonel Isaac Avery was taken to the Culp property after his mortal wounding on the evening of July 2nd.

To reach the Culp Farm from the square, follow York Street two blocks. Turn right onto Liberty Street. Follow Liberty Street until it turns into East Confederate Ave. The Culp Farm will be on your left-hand side as you enter the park property. Although the Culp Farm is on public land, the home is a private residence. Please DO NOT go to the door and knock to get in.

Culp Map

9 Responses to Gettysburg Off the Beaten Path: Wesley Culp

      1. Might be a very good book to be written about his exile! I was on a battle walk last fall with Garry Addleman and Tim Smith, and they mentioned it as just that a story, tale or even theory. On another note the Taney property is a pretty interesting place to visit.

      2. I heard he fathered Nancy Culp of Beverly Hillbillies.

  1. Thank you for setting the record straight! It’s great to see a good article about a Gettysburg civilian / soldier.
    Since I’ve written about Gettysburg civilians, I’m constantly asked if I know about “that girl who got killed” (Virginia Wade) and “the guy who died on his family’s property” (Wesley Culp). Sometimes I think I spend more time debunking myths than talking about other interesting Gettysburg topics.
    It’s wonderful to read a blog post that has the real history of W. Culp and acknowledges the questions that remain regarding his death and burial.

  2. What about the story of a letter from Johnston Skelly that Wesley Culp supposedly carried for Jennie Wade? Truth or fiction?

  3. Henry Culp was not Wesley Culp’s uncle. Henry Culp was Wesley Culp’s second cousin. Henry Culp and Jesse Culp were cousins. Jesse Culp was Wesley Culp’s father. Jesse’s father was Christian Culp. Henry’s father was Peter Culp. Christian and Peter were brothers. That makes Jesse a cousin of Henry and Wesley a second cousin of Henry. Another Gettysburg legend has Wesley Culp being buried in the basement of 141 York Street, a home owned by Jeremiah Culp at the time of the battle. Jeremiah Culp was a casket maker and knew Wesley’s sisters, Anna and Julia. Which is another correction. Wesley Culp’s sister’s name was Anna not Ann.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!