For many years during the mid-nineteenth century Carrie Shead ran a school for young ladies in the family home on the Chambersburg Pike, just west of Gettysburg in southern central Pennsylvania.
On the morning of July 1, 1863, Carrie sent the students home at the first sound of gunfire. That afternoon, the Battle of Gettysburg engulfed her home, as Union forces began to fall back from Seminary Ridge.
Colonel Charles Wheelock of the 97th New York Infantry ran into the Shead house, closely followed by several Confederate soldiers intent on taking him prisoner. He fled down to the cellar, but the Rebels followed him. Carrie went, too, pleading for a stop to further bloodshed.
When the Confederates called for his surrender, Colonel Wheelock refused to hand over his sword. Cornering the good colonel, a Confederate sergeant drew his revolver and demanded that Wheelock give up his sword.
“I’ll not surrender my sword to a Rebel,” he replied.
“Surrender your sword, or I will shoot you.”
“Shoot!” Wheelock said.
Just then, a second group of Rebels came thundering down the stairs, herding some Yankee prisoners before them. Carrie seized the opportunity and hid Wheelock’s sword in the folds of her skirt.
After a moment’s confusion the sergeant renewed his demand for Wheelock’s sword. It was gone, Wheelock said, taken by one of the other Confederate soldiers. The sergeant went off angrily, deprived of a souvenir.
Wheelock and the other prisoners were herded outside of town, but during the night he managed to escape. Several days later he returned to the Shead house to pay his compliments to Carrie and recover his sword.
Private Asa Hardman of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry had fought all morning along Seminary Ridge. The Shead house also provided him with temporary shelter, but he was taken prisoner by the Rebels. Eventually exchanged, Hardman also paid a return visit to the Sheads, to marry Carrie’s sister, Louisa.
Copyright © 2007 Maggie MacLean