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.
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.